Monday, February 01, 2010

I saw Peter Gammons speak in Cambridge last Thursday night. Gammons, of course, is probably the best baseball writer of his generation, and has written for publications such as the Boston Globe and Sports Illustrated, been a regular on ESPN, and currently works for the MLB Network and NESN.

Gammons was the leadoff speaker in the Cambridge Center for Adult Education's Home Run in Harvard Square series. The series will pick up again in late March with a number of speakers of great interest to me. I will post the schedule down below.

The talk went on from 6 PM until about 7:20. A moderator asked questions and then Gammons took questions from the audience. Here are some highlights of what he said:
  • Gammons thought the Red Sox had improved themselves this offseason. The upgrades to the pitching and defense are pretty obvious (Peter mentioned that by most defensive metrics, the Red Sox were the second worst defensive team in baseball last year.) He also thinks they have substantially upgraded the bottom of the order, with additions like Scutaro, Beltre and Cameron offsetting, to some extent, the loss of Jason Bay.
  • Peter mentioned that he had been in Cleveland and was shown a software program the Indians use that calculates, among other things, an estimate of how many games each team will win. The program had the Red Sox winning 110 games. It also had the Yankees winning 110 games. Sounds like it will be quite a summer!
  • Of course, steroids were a major topic of conversations. Gammons said that players who tested positive after the testing program was in place in 2005 should automatically be excluded from consideration for the Hall of Fame Manny and Rafael Palmiero's names were brought up specifically.
  • Gammons also talked about how sportswriters missed this story when it was happening. He said that when Brian Downing came to Spring Training in the late '80s all pumped up, he and two investigative reporters from Sports Illustrated looked into whether Downing (or anyone else) was doing PEDs. They found a few clues, but nothing that Time, Inc's lawyers would let them publish. He said that a lot of writers who were around in those days feel badly that they didn't pick up on things a lot sooner than they did.
  • Funniest lines of the night: One person asked when (if ever) Mariano Rivera was going to start to slide. Gammons started telling us about Mo, saying that Rivera was one of the most distinguished people he had ever met. The guy asking the question said, "Oh, so he's just like our closer in that way!" Needless to say, the room broke up.
  • My other favorite: Gammons was talking about how Scott Boras' failure to take an earlier offer from the Yankees probably cost Johnny Damon millions of dollars and a chance at 3,000 hits playing a few more years in a ballpark that was practically designed for his swing. However, he said that Damon was "probably not smart enough to figure that out."
So, it was a great night of baseball talk on a snowy, late-January evening. Here's a list of what is coming up this spring at the Home Run series:

March 25: Larry Tye, author of Satchel (a great biography of the great Paige that I read recently).
April 1: Sam Kennedy, Red Sox Chief Operating Officer
April 8: Writers Steve Buckley and Amalie Benjamin and NPR's Bill Littlefield
April 15: Tom DiBenedetto, Red Sox partner and Larry Silverstein, LA Dodgers attorney
April 22: Thomas E. Brady, Sr. (Gisele's father-in-law), former Pawsox 3rd baseman Todd Carey and his mother Pamela, author of Minor League Mom
April 29: Jed Lowrie
May 6: "Designing Great Ballparks" guests TBA (I'm hoping for Janet Marie Smith)
May 13: Ben Cherington, Red Sox VP for player development
May 20: "The Science of Baseball" guests TBA


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