Notes from Underground: Wrapping the Feed and Game Outing
Bill Bavasi put me in a headlock, threw one fan’s hat in the trash, and told another “I’m right, you’re wrong — get lost.” Jim Caple brought bats identical to the ones Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Shoeless Joe used. It was revealed that David Cameron is on steroids.
Suffice it to say, tonight’s USS Mariner/Baseball Prospectus outing was eventful. With a 3-2 win sealed in last of the ninth, it was enjoyable as well.
First, to the Mariners’ general manager, our special guest.
Tremendously likable, Bavasi nevertheless projects an air of authority. He was joking when he responded to a fellow’s question with the aforementioned “get lost,” but there was resolve behind the gag. He was clever and funny throughout the evening, playfully taking one attendee’s retro trident cap and throwing it away. The hat’s bad luck, Lee Pelekoudas told him, because the trident’s facing the wrong way — all the luck drains out of it.
So Bavasi strode over, removed the hat from his head, and deposited in a nearby trash receptacle. This hat:
After the feed, he got the guy a couple of new hats to replace the one he’d eliminated. This is a man who would be a good time at a restaurant after hours and a man who can be very intimidating when he wants to be.
One of reasons Bavasi is so easy to respect is that you never get the impression he is trying to deceive you. Politic when he wants to be, the guy can be downright blunt if he so chooses.
There were a significant amount of insights that he provided in an extremely candid nature, most of which we’re not going to be making available for public consumption. He was far more open than he would be with the media around, and we aren’t going to take advantage of that. Among the things we can share:
The team does consider history of steroid use in player evaluation. They look for signs, such as new hair growth. This is how Bavasi concluded that our own David Cameron — sporting a freshly minted beard — is on steroids.
That’s not to say he’s just going to spill family secrets. After Derek Zumsteg asked Bavasi a question about prospect development, the GM gave a long, detailed answer that involved his opinion that Yuniesky Betancourt “is the most gifted young shortstop we have” and at this point in his development, “he compares favorably to Cesar Izturis.”
Then, he noticed I was taking notes. “Not fair,” Bavasi said.
So he put me in headlock. A simple and effective solution.
Our other surprise guest was gifted writer Jim Caple, formerly of the P-I and now with ESPN. When I say “gifted,” I don’t just mean as a wordsmith. I mean that he has a special talent for talking his editors into letting him do such stories as “Jim travels across Europe and goes to sporting events” or “Jim parties with college kids during March Madness.”
His upcoming piece is a tremendous idea I wish I’d thought of: the Louisville Slugger people keep records on file of every bat they’ve ever made — so Caple brought replica bats for four of baseball’s most famous historical figures. People were able to take
“I feel like I could take over the world with the Babe Ruth bat,” said Jeff Angus of the Seattle Times after taking a few hacks. Here’s my man Jon with it:
Caple says Miguel Olivo was openly musing about using the Ruth bat in a game. Let him try it, say I — it’s not like things can get much worse. Also, Caple took video of current Mariners taking batting practice with the replica sticks. Adrian Beltre homered a few times with the 42 oz. Jackson bat. So Scott Spiezio took a few hacks, Caple said, and Spiezio managed to knock a few homers, too.
“You’re kidding,” Bavasi deadpanned.
Like I said, equal parts witty and “wouldn’t want the guy mad at you.”
Look for Caple’s bat story, which sounds fascinating, in the next week or so on ESPN.com. Also, watch for his next series of stories on hot-tubbing with supermodels as an athletic activity.
When I just watched the M’s win a game in the bottom of the ninth, and all I want to talk about is the feed, you know the event was a success. Many thanks to Bill Bavasi, Jim Caple, Jonah Keri and everyone who attended the feed. It was a night to remember.