A conversation about MLB, on the field, off the field.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

From the basement February 16

OTTAWA RAPIDS

I'm listening to Singin Ed Nottle while I'm typing this. He does a killer version of " That's Life ", a song I really like ( unfortunately the MP3 is truncated, 1 minute in length ). It was announced earlier this week that Mr. Nottle will manage the Ottawa Rapids this season. May 22 is opening day for the inaugural season of CanAm League ball in Ottawa. Mr. Nottle may be the most distinct ( this is Canada ) professional baseball manager employed here over the past 16 years - and I mean that in a good way. I hope to have a martini with him ( listen to the music, you'll get it ).

The press conference was a lot of fun. Unlike the mood of doom that hung over media day last year for the AAA Lynx, the atmosphere for the Rapids introductory press conference was cheerful and optimistic.

I was fortunate to meet two baseball legends. Jacques Doucet, the french language voice of the Expos for 33 years ( now voice of the Quebec CanAm franchise ) was very gracious. Equally as notable was the opportunity to meet CanAm commissioner and Ottawa franchise owner Miles Wolff. Mr. Wolff's accomplishments in the baseball industry include starting independent pro baseball in 1993 with the formation of the Northern League. Mr. Wolff was also the owner & publisher of Baseball America for 18 years. Mr. Wolff reacted to my compliments concerning his accomplishments with humility. He did allow himself a smile when I told him I admire his chutzpah.

A couple of Canadian players with plenty of professional experience are on board already. Ottawa native Mike Kusiewicz has played minor league baseball - both affiliated & independent - for the past 13 season. Returning to Ottawa is former Lynx OF Jeremy Ware . Ware is a veteran of 12 minor league season - both affiliated & independent.

I thank Ottawa blogger Carl Kiffner for the tremendous amount of time and energy he has devoted to preserving professional baseball in Ottawa. Mr. Wolff thanked Carl publicly at the press conference for his critical contributions in bringing CanAm to Ottawa. Obviously well earned. My Canada includes Carl.

Also an excuse to see Neate and eat lunch together.

BASEBALL DIGEST DAILY - BEYOND THE DIAMOND

My weekly baseball industry column - Beyond the Diamond - continues at Baseball Digest Daily. I think column # 6? will be posted soon.

Recent columns have discussed:

February 10: Salaries - out of control? hurting competitive balance?
January 31 : Rule IV draft - what is Selig doing? is it time to allow the trading of picks?, MLBAM & local digital rights.
January 24: CDM Fantasy Sports case, Congress & the supplement industry, mixed use stadium development

Thanks to BDD I attended a Jays season ticket holder event in Toronto earlier this month. It was a lot of fun. I had a good conversation with fellow BDD writer Jonathan Hale about baseball data - or more specifically the range in quality of data being collected - and baseball on the internet - how many of us geeks are there? Anyway, Jonathan is really into baseball data. He's been invited to some baseball data conference in northern CA. As I told him, in a broad sense I'm aware of what he and his peers are up to but I can't get into the math. Also, as I told him, recent history has taught us not to underestimate the baseball math geeks.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Blair. Jeff is the only Canadian baseball writer I read regularly - and I'm a Blair completist - and one of my favorites period. Jeff was really friendly and pleasant. His rep as a curmudgeon might be overstated - or part of the schtick.

Me being me, I had a really interesting discussion with the Jays VP of ticketing, Patrick Elster. Ticketing is a really hot topic ( honest ) and I plan to write about it soon @ BDD.

Following are some comments I left @ BDD the day following the Jays event.

Re: Blue Jays' State of the Franchiseby Pete Toms on Wed 06 Feb 2008 09:57 AM EST Profile Permanent Link

Jonathan, some random thoughts on last nite's " State of the Franchise ".

Competitive balance / imbalance was a prominent theme. Some fans as well as Godfrey & Ricciardi expressed their frustration with having to compete in the AL East with the Yanks and Red Sox. Godfrey was unequivocal in his support of a salary cap in MLB, he blamed the PA for the absence of one. Godfrey also expressed support for a balanced schedule, he's tired of playing the Evil Empires 38 times per season. This ( as well as the outdated Rogers Centre ) is the #1 problem that faces the Jays short and long term. Godfrey did mention that maybe the VP of Ticket Sales - Patrick Elster, also in attendance - might be happier than Ricciardi to see the Yanks and Red Sox as often as Toronto does. That's the flip side of the coin, so to speak.

Mr. Elster mentioned that ticket sales are well ahead of last season's pace. I'm not certain why that is but I wonder if secondary ticketing is having an impact...

The natives are restless....the faithful need a playoff appearance. Gibbons bashing and talk about 85 wins not cutting it anymore from the faithful were met with very positive responses... Godfrey was asked about the decline in popularity of baseball as a spectator sport in Canada and what the Jays were doing about it.... Expos, only one affiliated team remaining in the country -
A Ball in Vancouver -, the flop of the CBL, Ottawa.....He laid the blame squarely on the communities that haven't supported it, Edmonton, Calgary & Ottawa and was completely unapologetic. There have been rumors in the Ottawa press of Jays AAA coming but Godfrey's comments about Ottawa's lack of support for AAA certainly don't support that.

What the fans didn't ask about....Mitchell, PED's, McNamee, Clemens, Zaun, Glaus.....I think this is revealing. The hardcore don't care about it. For that matter, neither do the casual...tempest in a teapot.

Ricciardi's comments re. Ryan. None of the fans called him on it but he famously lied last offseason about Ryan's health so why believe him now?....The rule on TJ surgery is that velocity returns before command. Ricciardi mentioned that McGowan was pitching again a year removed from the surgery but that's to say he was performing up to his potential a year later. Two years later, last season, McGowan obviously did meet expectations.

Fun event.

So, the baseball season starts soon and golf and summer with my kids....and if last year was an indication there won't be a whole lot written here for several months. The weekly BDD column seems to more than sufficiently satisfy my pretentious urges.

Later.