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« January 16, 2005 - January 22, 2005 | Main | January 30, 2005 - February 05, 2005 »

This Iraq War Vet (and Newlywed) Will Die in a Few Days Unless He Gets a Liver Transplant: On the extremely remote chance that any of you can do anything about it.

01/29/2005 10:40 AM  |   |  Comment (8)  |  TrackBack (0)

Here's a Long, Pluralistic List of Links to Iraqi Weblogs: From Jeff Jarvis.

01/29/2005 10:39 AM  |   |  Comment (1)  |  TrackBack (0)

Come See Me Moderate an All-Star Sports Journalism Panel Next Wednesday! I'll be discussing "21st Century Sports Journalism" (specific enough for ya?) with ... drumroll please:

* L.A. Times Columnist J.A. Adande!
* DodgerThoughts.com Writer & former Daily News staffer Jon Weisman!
* KSPN 710 "Big Show" Co-host Steve Mason!
* KCAL-9 Lead Sports Anchor Alan Massengale!
* Dodgers Public Relations Director John Olguin! (Where's yer website, John?)

It's $5 for Press Club members, $15 for non. Meet & greet (including booze & snacks) begins at 6:00 p.m.; discussion kicks off at 7:00 p.m. sharp, and should last 90 minutes (after which we'll probably take it to the Cat & Fiddle next door). I'll only be asking a couple rounds of question, then throwing it open to the audience, so it shouldn't be too boring. Other details:

Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Los Angeles Press Club
6464 Sunset Blvd., 8th floor
RSVP: 323-469-8180 or info@lapressclub.org

Come on out if you can, and leave question suggestions (preferably comical) in the comments.

01/27/2005 05:44 PM  |   |  Comment (7)  |  TrackBack (0)

Maggie Gallagher's Elitist Anti-Elitism

01/27/2005 01:42 PM  |   |  Comment (5)  |  TrackBack (0)

Please Note the Second BlogAd Over to the Left, and Consider Donating to Their Tsunami-Relief Efforts: Thank you. My pal Doug Arellanes has worked with those Radio 68H guys, and says they're great.

01/26/2005 07:14 PM  |   |  Comment (2)  |  TrackBack (0)

New Reason Online Column -- "C'est Rien: The great transatlantic rift may end with a shrug, not a bang": In which my point seems to be that, despite anything I might have previously written to the contrary, the French-American relationship just doesn't matter that much. Mostly because it does; but also, because 10 years is a long time.

01/25/2005 05:35 PM  |   |  Comment (9)  |  TrackBack (0)

E-mail Hinky Again: Ack. When I'm done with the deadlines, I'm switching servers; in the meantime don't be alarmed when I don't respond to your e-mails, since I might not be receiving them, etc.

01/24/2005 03:43 PM  |   |  Comment (3)  |  TrackBack (0)

Introducing a New MattWelch.com Feature -- "Infrequently Asked Questions!" First up, Rich Lederer: During my Christmas vacation, I concocted a new, hopefully regular feature here, called "Infrequently Asked Questions," in which I e-mail some carefully selected person 10 questions (actually more, when you include the sneaky compound-questions), and then publish their answers. Revolutionary! The idea is to introduce you to people you might not otherwise know, and/or subject people you might know to a strange mix of queries in an informal setting. Hopefully soon, I'll learn the "CONTINUE READING" feature of Moveable Type, because these things will be long.... Anyway, future targets will hopefully include a U.S. guvmint Afghan-policy mover-shaker, an L.A. City Councilman, and an author of a book about Kosovo, and so on. But batting leadoff for your Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, is ...

NAME: Richard A. Lederer
WEBSITE: Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT
AGE: 49
LOCATION: Long Beach, CA
JOB: President & Chief Investment Officer, Lederer & Associates Investment Counsel
EDUCATION: University of Southern California (Bachelor of Science, Business Administration); San Diego State (MBA program)
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE WHAT RICH HAS TO SAY, EVEN IF YOU DON'T FOLLOW BASEBALL: Because he has demonstrated how an individual amateur human with no particular connections can influence and perhaps even permanently alter such important & closed institutions as the Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, we grew up on the same street.

Rich began his writing career only in June 2003, but already his work has been singled out for praise by the likes of respected baseball analyst Rob Neyer and The Wall Street Journal, which named this Jim Edmonds piece as one of the 10 best sports columns of 2004. Most influentially of all, he has led a one-man campaign to convince the Baseball Writers Association of America to elect former pitching great Bert Blyleven to the Hall of Fame, mixing a series of patiently well-argued columns with the novel approach of actually contacting individual voters, and trying to persuade them one-on-one. Some have admitted changing their mind specifically because of Lederer's work, and earlier this month Blyleven received his highest vote total to date.

I did not know Rich and I grew up together when I first linked to his website last July. I was more interested and thankful that a guy had collected all of Bill James' annual Abstracts -- the Dead Sea Scrolls of baseball's sabermetric revolution -- and was excerpting from and writing skillfully about each of the 12 editions from 1977-1988 (go to the right-hand column on Rich's site, under "Abstracts from the Abstracts"). We exchanged e-mails, and discovered that, yes indeed, these were the same Rich Lederer and Matt Welch who lived on Pepperwood Ave. in Long Beach, attending all the same schools and breathing the same baseball-saturated air. As I explain in this post, our families were close growing up, and shared not just baseball (my Dad coached Rich's brother Gary on the Little League All-star team, for one of many examples), but a lifelong devotion to the frequently hapless but recently competitive California Angels. Rich's father George, a good friend to our family, was a great sportswriter who covered the Dodgers for the Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram from 1958-68, and then joined the Angels as Public Relations Director until his tragic early death in 1978. Re-acquainting the Lederer/Welch clans has been a kick. Here's the interview:

1) So ... what's your reaction to Blyleven's vote total this year? How would you assess his chances going forward?

My reaction is one of mixed feelings. On one hand, his vote count increased by 32 to 41%, a 5.5% gain over the previous year. His vote totals have gone up for six consecutive years and have more than tripled since the low in 1999.

On the other hand, I realize Blyleven has a long ways to go to get to 75%. However, if Bert continues to gain over 5% per year (which he has for each of the past two years), he will be elected in his last year of eligibility. I don't think Bert should have to sweat it out for another seven years though. That would be grossly unfair. Based on his credentials, there is no reason that he shouldn't have made it in his first year of eligibility. He is the most overqualified player of anyone not in the Hall of Fame.

2) Describe a bit how you became the one-man Blyleven lobby: When did you become convinced of his worthiness, how did you decide to make it your crusade, and when did you start contacting individual sportswriters?

Oh, there are others out there who also feel strongly that Blyleven should have been elected to the Hall of Fame long ago. I just may be the most vocal. Or the most persistent. But there are a lot of smart people out there, including Rob Neyer, Joe Sheehan, Dayn Perry, Michael Wolverton, Jay Jaffe, and Tim Marchman (just to name a half dozen), who have sung his praises, too. It's just unfortunate that none of us have a vote. I'm hopeful of having a say in the matter by putting Blyleven's record and his rankings out there for all the voters to see.

I have been convinced of Blyleven's worthiness ever since he retired. He was much more than just a good pitcher who happened to pitch for a very long time (as his critics seem to point out). Bert was one of the elite pitchers of the 1970s and was highly effective throughout the 1980s as well. He won 287 games in his career, playing for teams that collectively had more losing than winning seasons. He pitched superbly in the postseason (5-1, 2.47). He threw a no-hitter and five one-hitters. He won 15 games by a 1-0 score (only Walter Johnson and Christy Mathewson won more). He was the A.L. Rookie Pitcher of the Year and the Comeback Player of the Year. My goodness, the guy ranks fifth in strikeouts and ninth in shutouts. There is no question that Blyleven's resume has Hall of Fame written all over it.

The irony of it all is that Bert has been overlooked in the Hall of Fame voting by some of the very same people who overlooked him in the Cy Young voting during his career. Blyleven not being in Cooperstown is much more about the writers than about Bert. There is simply no justification for keeping him out. Unfortunately, there are just too many voters who are either stubborn or unwilling to do their homework. That said, I have been contacting writers one at a time and am going to continue making the case for Blyleven until he gets elected.

3) How would you characterize the evolution of the responses you've received from Hall of Fame voters?

Well, my first attempt was with Bill Conlin. That didn't go over particularly well. But I was so amused by his reaction that I was more motivated than ever to contact others. Jeff Peek of the Traverse City (Michigan) Record-Eagle was the first voter who I convinced to vote for Blyleven. To his credit, Jeff was open-minded enough to re-consider Bert after categorizing him as a "near miss" the first time he had a vote. It's younger and newer voters like Jeff that give me hope. I know Jim Caple and Ken Rosenthal have also come around. Another well-known, national writer who will remain nameless is considering Blyleven despite having never voted for him in the past. There are others who are looking at him more closely than ever before. Bert's case is so compelling, it makes my job rather easy. It's just gonna take some time, that's all.

4) You had breakfast with Bill James recently. Tell us about it! Were you tongue-tied, was he in magnanimous or irritable mode, and was he aware of your heroic "Best of the Abstracts" project, etc.?

Yes, I had breakfast with Bill on a Sunday morning during the Winter Meetings. We met for about two hours. He was aware of the Abstracts From The Abstracts series and, in fact, thanked me for keeping the old books alive. However, Bill hasn't read the articles because he makes it a habit of not reading anything about himself. Bill doesn't really like to talk about himself either. Nonetheless, the two of us hit it off. Bill was generous with his time and absolutely brilliant with his comments. Although known to be terse at times with others, he responded enthusiastically to questions about the Baseball Abstracts and his theories. Reviewing the Abstracts and interviewing Bill has been a truly enriching experience. James is an icon. Next to a John McGraw or a Branch Rickey, I would argue that he has had about as much influence on the game and how we think about it as anyone in its history. It was my distinct pleasure to interview him and I am looking forward to publishing the first part on Monday, January 31st on Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT.

5) Before the Weekend Baseball Beat, had you published any baseball writing? What, if anything, was your outlet for sabermetric tinkering?

Prior to the advent of my website in June 2003, the extent of my baseball writing was generally limited to emails with my brothers, son, and friends. The audience was pretty small. I received feedback occasionally but perhaps not as much as I had anticipated. Maintaining a baseball website just seemed like the way to go. With not much more effort (or so I thought at the time), I could reach a larger readership. Plus, I thought it would be fun to network with other bloggers, which, as it turns out, has undoubtedly been the most rewarding aspect of it all.

Writing about baseball has always been in my blood. My Dad was a sportswriter for 20 years. He covered the Dodgers from 1958-1968. He was also the team's statistician and served as one of the official scorekeepers at home games. I actually wanted to follow in my Dad's footsteps and was the sports editor and editor-in-chief of my high school newspaper, but he discouraged me because he felt like there was too much travel and too little pay. I went to USC, took some finance and investment courses, and became hooked on the numbers. Whether it was batting averages, earned run averages, or the Dow Jones Industrial Averages, I loved the numbers and the stats. While I was in college, I played APBA and joined the Greater Los Angeles APBA Association along with my older brother Tom. It was right then and there when I began to appreciate the virtues of on-base and slugging averages over batting averages. I mean, if you wanted to build a winning team, you had to draft and acquire players who could walk and hit home runs. It was shortly thereafter when Tom and I got into Bill James as well as fantasy baseball, and I have been tinkering with sabermetrics ever since.

6) How did you get involved with All-Baseball.com? And what is it, exactly?

Alex Belth recommended me to Christian Ruzich, who founded All-Baseball.com, about a year ago. All-Baseball.com is an aggregation of baseball blogs, but it is about to become much more. We expect to unveil All-Baseball 2.0, a new and improved site design, prior to the start of the 2005 season. We have a collection of some of the best and most talented baseball writers on the internet. Jon Weisman covers the Dodgers as well as anyone in any medium on his Dodger Thoughts site. Alex Belth does a marvelous job writing Bronx Banter; Christian, Alex Ciepley, and Derek Smart team up on The Cub Reporter, the most widely read and entertaining Cubs blog around; Peter White and Jeff Shaw co-author Mariner Musings, one of the leading websites for Seattle baseball fans; Mark McClusky and Ken Arneson cover the A's; Bryan Smith is one of the up and coming authorities on prospects; Mike Carminati rants about a wide variety of baseball topics; Will Carroll and Scott Long have the most eclectic blog among us; and Christian also maintains The Transaction Guy. Put it all together and you've got one of the most heavily trafficked baseball sites on the web.

7) You and I come from arguably the most baseball-mad area of the United States, from Herbold's Hustlers for 8-year-olds, to playing in front of dozens of scouts at Blair Field, to playing with & against plenty of future Major Leaguers. How old where you when you realized that Long Beach wasn't like the rest of the country?

When I was growing up, Long Beach was a rather sleepy suburb of Los Angeles. When I was a kid, I didn't think of it as anything but home. Heck, we were too busy playing baseball everyday, whether it was at the schools, the parks, or the ballfields. I am a native of the city and have lived almost my entire life right here. Believe it or not, Long Beach is now the 34th largest city in the nation. It has produced a plethora of major league baseball players, from Hall of Famer Bob Lemon to Hall of Famer-to-be Tony Gwynn. The level of play in Little League, Pony League, high school, and college is as good as it is anywhere in the country. Southern California has always been known for its baseball prowess and Long Beach is simply the creme de la creme. We have great youth programs, fields, coaching, and weather. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."

8) You (like me) were raised in a baseball tradition that drilled into you fundamentals, smart baseball thinking, and a general approach that is frequently snickered at by the post-Bill James crowd. And yet you A) were an early James fanatic, and B) a lifetime fan of the Los Angeles Angels of productive-out-making Anaheim. Does this make you feel schizophrenic, or is that part of the creative dissonance that makes life interesting?

I was privileged to learn the fundamentals and how the game should be played on the field as a kid but equally fortunate to learn how to think about the game as an adult. Like the scouts vs. stats debate, it doesn't have to be either/or. In fact, it shouldn't be either/or. Combining an understanding of the basics and the techniques along with an appreciation for the more advanced strategies, methodologies, and statistics is what we should all be aspiring to do. One isn't better than the other. If anything, this is one of those situations where one plus one might equal more than two. The creative side of my brain likes this and the analytical side likes that. The key to success is putting them together so you can benefit from the inherent advantages of each. Call me crazy but I find that challenging and stimulating.

9) What websites do you read every day?

Well, I would be remiss if I didn't mention those I use for business everyday, such as the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo finance, CBS Marketwatch, and Bloomberg. However, when it comes to baseball, I spend most of my time reading All-Baseball.com, Baseball Primer, Baseball Prospectus, and ESPN. I also visit Baseball-Reference.com daily. Other than email, it just might be the single-best thing about the web. There are also several other sources and blogs--too numerous to list here--that I refer to no less than weekly. My favorites can be found in the sidebar on the right-hand side of my website.

10) Please recommend a book and a CD that you have enjoyed in the last 12 months.

One book? How about a dozen? (Smiles) I re-read every word and every page of all twelve Baseball Abstracts, starting in July and finishing in December. I enjoyed them the second time around as much as I did the first time. If you don't have access to the books, I highly recommend reading the Abstracts From The Abstracts series. The CliffsNotes version isn't nearly as good as reading the books themselves but you will feel as if you have earned a graduate degree in sabermetrics upon completion. As far as a CD goes, does the Dodgers '59 CD that my brother Tom reproduced from the original LP and gave to me for Christmas count? Or the USC 2004 National Champions CD that my younger brother Gary created and also gave to me for Christmas? If so, those would be my favorites.

01/23/2005 11:41 PM  |   |  Comment (7)  |  TrackBack (0)

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