Pull up a chair while we talk about all things Blue Jays-related.
Healthy discussion is always encouraged!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Mulliniks’ Moustache #18 – Pitch: Talks on Baseball #3

As I mentioned in my previous entry, Pitch: Talks on Baseball #3 was held last Monday night. My Rain Man-like math skills tell me that I’m almost a week late with this recap. Oh well.

This most-recent edition, the third in a series of baseball speaker events, was jam-packed with presenters, featuring Richard Griffin and Brendan Kennedy from the Toronto Star, Cathal Kelly from the Globe & Mail, Scott MacArthur from TSN Radio 1050, Alexis Brudnicki from the Canadian Baseball Network and Cashew Mirman Videos.

Before we get into it, I feel I should say that I wrote a more-detailed first-draft of this recap, which turned into a 3,000-word opus that no one would have the time or inclination to read. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Therefore, I pared it down and relayed the goings-on with broader strokes and included only a few noteworthy juicy bits so as to not bore that holy living hell out of you. So, with no further adieu, here we go.

As the assorted crowd of baseball-loving Torontoites sipped there Left FieldBrewery beers and sweated through a stifling-hot room, Cashew Mirman stepped up. Short, sweet and to the point, Cashew simply explained that he made Blue Jay-themed videos, and didn’t like public speaking, so on we went to watch a series of his short videos. Simply put, they were hilarious. Here’s one of my favourites for your viewing pleasure: (Please make note of the picture adorning the wall in the opening scene).

Next up was Alexis Brudnicki who gave a brief* overview of her career and how she’s trying to break into a very tough industry, especially for a woman, and particularly for a young, attractive woman. She relayed her various exploits with the Blue Jays and her foray into Australian baseball (“We had four employees: a GM and Assistant GM, another guy and me. I did every job you can imagine, we set-up the field, we made the mound…I was even the mascot for a day, the worst day of my life”). *not brief

Brudnicki told a story about the now-AAA-exiled JP Arencibia. It was yet another story about Arencibia being a sophomoric, immature jerk – he would continually speak into Brudnicki’s microphone while she was trying to conduct interviews with other Blue Jays players. “He wouldn’t do that with Bob Elliott or Richard Griffin, or anyone else,” she said.

It seems trying to maneuver the minefield of a male-dominated world is tough at times, including Brudnicki being propositioned on two separate occasions, once by a scout and then by a fellow journalist, even though she simply thought they were being helpful to someone relatively new to the industry. “I always give people the benefit of the doubt” Brudnicki said with a laugh and slight shake of the head.
Terrible pic of Alexis Brudnicki

All-in-all, it was interesting to hear how Brudnicki was breaking into the business (apparently, stepping on Bob Elliott’s proverbial Canadian baseball toes is a good way to get noticed), and trying to make a name for herself.

Next up was a combo, a 2-for-1 for the ages – Brendan Kennedy, baseball beat writer for the Toronto Star and Cathal Kelly, sports columnist from the Globe & Mail.

First off, I have to point out the my mind was absolutely blown at the revelation that “Cathal” is pronounced “Ca-hal” or “Ca-haul” depending who’s saying it. Bottom line: the “T” is silent. Whodathunkit?

Anywho, Kennedy and Kelly were there to talk about the importance (or lack thereof) of journalists speaking to players before writing their game reviews. Kennedy actually had a full multimedia presentation prepared, the likes of which you’d see at sales pitches to Fortune-500 companies, complete with PowerPoint and images edited with MS Paint, including this glorious piece here, which I’m single-handedly trying to turn into a Blue Jays meme via twitter:

The image to the left elicited this quip from Kelly in regards to interviewing the not-too-forthcoming-with-information Brett Lawrie “I don’t think you want to go too far into that head.” For some reason, I think that’s dead on.

Kennedy even had sound clips from the Official Major League Baseball Historian, John Thorn, whom Kennedy called to learn the reason why journalists started interviewing players after games. The reasoning was actually pretty interesting in that Major League Baseball was the reason. During the 1940s and 50s, journalists who were writing game recaps would write flowery, grandiose recaps where “bats” became “mallets” etc. MLB started making players available to journalists in order to make the stories, in essence, more accessible to the general public because players’ quotes would feature much more down-to-earth and easy-to-understand wording.

Both Kennedy and Kelly gave a few, mostly humorous examples of a journalists life in a MLB clubhouse, including waiting for players, trying to get interviews, living through scrums, and most importantly, not asking
John Farrell the same question multiple times in relation to Joel Carreno. It was actually pretty enlightening stuff for those of us who don’t live that uber-glamorous lifestyle. In essence: players don’t like partaking in interviews
Brendan Kennedy & Cathal Kelly
(& some dude's giant head)
and journalists, for the most part, don’t like it either because players rarely provide any actual, useful insight. However, both parties realize it’s a necessary evil so they make it work, as long as it’s not AJ Burnett or BJ Ryan that the journalists have to speak with.

Next up was another two-fer, Scott MacArthur and Richard Griffin to discuss advanced statistics in baseball. This paring was a little bit confusing considering that neither man was all they enamoured with advanced statistics.

That’s not to say they’re dinosaurs who refused to learn these new stats and ignore their relevancy altogether, they merely feel that some baseball fans, journalists, and front office staff, who pray at the altar of modern stats, might be putting too much stock in them, while at the same time putting too little stock in the other tried and true elements that have been a part of baseball for many decades. For example: the unmeasurable, like luck, and the heart and feel of the players. As an aside, I agreed with much of what they said – I feel there is a place for advanced stats, but not at the expense of the “eye test”, which is what I often use.

Scott MacArthur & Richard Griffin
MacArthur gave the example of Colby Rasmus versus Anthony Gose, a debate that is raging amongst Blue Jays fans (and apparently high-up front-office staff with the Blue Jays, so says MacArthur). MacArthur simply made the point that while some stats may show that Rasmus is a better player, maybe, just maybe, Gose is a better complement to this Blue Jay team at this particular time. It was good point, especially given that the Blue Jays started playing pretty well when Gose showed up, which was the result of Rasmus hitting the disabled list.

MacArthur also asked the assembled crowd who amongst us felt that Brett Lawrie was having a bad season. Many felt that Lawrie’s season was sub-par, but MacArthur had a different take on things: that Brett Lawrie was the lynchpin to the Blue Jays hot streak – paying third when a lefty was on the mound and installing SteveTolleson at second, or sliding over to second and allowing Juan Francisco to play third when they were facing a righty. Once again, at the very least his insights provided interesting food for thought.

I’m not trying to shortchange Richard Griffin here, but what can I say about him – the man, the myth, the legend? He’s an institution unto himself. As you might assume, he was simply as old-school as they come. Read his weekly mailbag, bullpen or online chats and you’ll have an idea of what it’s like to hear him talk. Just don’t ask him about Andrew Stoeten, but make sure you ask him about his start in social media.

All-in-all, it was another fun, interesting evening that any baseball fan would enjoy. Next up is PitchTalks #4 on Thursday June 19th, featuring Jonah Keri from Grantland, Michael Grange from Sportsnet, Morgan Campbell from the Toronto Star and the Drunk Jay Fan himself, Andrew Stoeten from thescore.ca.

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