The paperback version of 2015’s “In Pursuit of Pennants” has been freshened up with the stuff readers seemed most curious about when talking to authors Mark Armour and his Minnesota-based co-writer Dan Levitt.
“When the hardcover came out, we ranked the top 25 general managers on our blog,” said Levitt, whose day job is senior vice president of capital markets at Ryan Cos. “When I talked to people about the hardcover, all they wanted to talk about was the rankings. So in an appendage to the book, we ranked the top 30 general managers in baseball history. We also added a new epilogue to take the story from 2014 to 2017 because so much has happened relative to baseball operations.”
Q: Based on your analysis and critiques as a baseball historian, do you know why the Twins haven’t won the World Series since 1991?
A: [Long laugh] They were good teams during the 2000s. They won a host of division titles. I think there’s a lot of randomness involved in these short series. But you look at 2015 or 2014, the Twins had something like 15 baseball operations people in the front office, which was way less than most other teams. Now they have expanded their baseball operations department tremendously under this new regime. I think they are getting up to par with everybody else. You need to have the bandwidth of people in the front office to deal with all the things coming down with technology, for help both on the field and off the field. Computer databases are getting much more complete and sophisticated. One of the newer technologies is Statcast — a system that combines multiple high-speed cameras, Trackman radar, and high-speed computing. Baseball games now turn out terabytes of data.
Q: Do you ever find baseball games boring?
A: I have a 20-game season ticket to the Twins and I really enjoy going, but certainly I would say that these 3-2 counts start to get a little bit tedious. It’s nice to see the ball get put in play once in a while. I love watching games but games where there are a lot of strikeouts and walks get tedious. The pitcher-batter matchup has become much more the focus of baseball. Used to be strikeouts were interesting, but you’d get a 2-1 count and a player would put the ball in play.
Q: What would you do to shorten games?
A: One of the things I think that’s lengthened the games is the number of relief pitchers who come in mid-inning. Mid-inning pitching changes just take a long time. Maybe something like if you bring in a relief pitcher in the middle of an inning, they have to face — pick a number — at least four batters unless they’re injured. So you can’t bring in a righty to face a lefty and then a lefty to face a righty. Another way to do it, is there are 25 people on a major league roster. It used to be you had 15 batters, and 10 pitchers. Now a lot of teams have gone to 13 pitchers and 12 position players. If you got back to 15 batters and 10 pitchers, you couldn’t switch pitchers all the time or you would run out.
Q: On ESPN’s “Around the Horn” last week, sports columnist Woody Paige expressed outrage that Congress may pass a bill that allows minor league players to make less than minimum wage. Is this right?
A: Clearly, minor league baseball players are underpaid, and the lawsuits filed under the minimum wage laws seem to have been an effective way to force some action on the part of organized baseball. That said, the application of minimum wage laws to minor league baseball would be awkward at best. For example, what happens when a player wants extra batting practice? In return for an exemption, baseball should be required to come up with some other acceptable solution.
Q: Could you write a racy novel that is a behind-the-dugout look at baseball, I’m thinking “50 Shades of MLB?”
A: I’m not sure I’m the right guy to write that. [He laughed long and hard.]
Q: What’s the most expensive piece of memorabilia you own?
A: I’m not really a memorabilia guy. I have a couple of signed baseballs — no idea if they are worth anything.
C.J. can be reached at email@example.com and seen on FOX 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.