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Thursday, October 20, 2005 An interview with Tal Smith, the Astros President of Baseball Operations

Maury Brown Posted: October 20, 2005 at 06:01 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: astros

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   1. Maury Brown Posted: October 20, 2005 at 04:06 PM (#1694497)
I, personally, like this Q&A the best:

BizBall: What do you like about SABR? And, making a case for it for those who are not members, what do you think they gain from it?

SMITH: Well, I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity or time to be more involved. In the early years, I actually served as an Officer and I enjoyed that. I’ve got great respect for the people in SABR. Obviously, we share a common interest. The research work and the literary efforts by SABR members are extraordinary. That’s the principal benefit I get out of it today. I’ve been unable to attend the annual conventions in the last several years. I hope that, as time goes on, perhaps I can pick that up again.

I heartily endorse SABR to anybody that has baseball interest. From the standpoint of the local regional meetings, the national convention, and the publications, the research, I just think it’s a fantastic association for anybody that has a deep and abiding interest in the game. I certainly encourage anybody to join. As I said, I wish I was able to participate to a greater degree, and perhaps down the road I will be able to.
   2. Go Banana Posted: October 20, 2005 at 05:16 PM (#1694691)
I would've asked....hey do you miss being able to make 11 player trades that somehow involve Brad Ausmus with your idiot son?

And since we are talking about the Astros, can you believe that Phil Garner will be the NL All-Star manager next year?
   3. Maury Brown Posted: October 20, 2005 at 06:03 PM (#1694831)
And since we are talking about the Astros, can you believe that Phil Garner will be the NL All-Star manager next year?

I want more suicide squeezes in my All-Star games. That was great last night.
   4. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 20, 2005 at 06:10 PM (#1694858)
Does Tal Smith still keep in touch with Bill James?
   5. Maury Brown Posted: October 20, 2005 at 06:17 PM (#1694880)
Does Tal Smith still keep in touch with Bill James?

Don't know, but I don't see how he couldn't. Tal's got his own business outside of the Astros to do all the arbitration work.
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: October 20, 2005 at 06:47 PM (#1694962)
Another thing I've been wondering about - from reading Helyar's Lords of the Realm, Tal Smith seems to have been quite open with Helyar. Did Smith ever suffer any repercussions in baseball for that?
   7. Maury Brown Posted: October 20, 2005 at 07:05 PM (#1695004)
Jeez, I don't see how, Dan. Smith was MLB's White Knight when arbitration came on the scene. He's the only guy on management's side of the table that was able to take on the agents and lawyers for the players. I know you've read Helyar's book, so you know that Smith is one of the few from Lords side that got high marks. He was the only one that saw what an advantage good solid comparitive statistcal analysis would have, and many GMs didn't want to have anything to do with it. As he said in my interview
BizBall: In the early days of arbitration you seemed to adapt where others did not on management’s side of the table. You seemed to grasp that statistical analysis played a key role in presenting your case to the arbiter. Did you try and pass on what was working for you to others to try and get owners and GMs to understand how the arbitration process worked?

SMITH: At one time, we were representing 13 clubs. In one year, as you know, 1986, we handled 96 filings and actually presented 25 cases. I really suspect—at that time I think—that the union was trying to test us and see if they could break us perhaps from the standpoint of volume.

I have certain theories, beliefs and philosophies as to how to approach this and how the salary structure should be determined. Some people embraced it and others didn’t understand it, I don’t think. I think they really clouded the distinction between someone that’s got additional service—that has six years—and has earned the right to be a free agent is different from somebody—a third-year player— eligible for salary arbitration. The Basic Agreement, to me, clearly distinguishes on service and affords and grants players various rights depending upon that service. Those rights should have different value. As I said, all that’s been clouded and, as time went on, we had to adjust because there were too many examples of clubs ignoring that or doing things that just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. You know, frankly, a lot of the problem is that Clubs are responsible for the actions of others, whether deemed appropriate or not.

Back to whether it was somehow damaging... He's never been for lack of work in MLB, and on top of that he's been going strong with Tal Smith Enterprises... he seems to have come out ahead.
   8. Rear Admiral Piazza Posted: October 20, 2005 at 07:22 PM (#1695047)
Plus, he has a hill named for him.
   9. Maury Brown Posted: October 21, 2005 at 02:00 AM (#1695681)
He's been working a while at this game. Personally, I like the guy for offering, without prompting, to loan me research material out of his personal library.

That's when I knew the "SABR Member" thing wasn't just window dressing.

I want to see him get a ring. He is, as I mentioned in my lead-in for the interview, a Baseball Man's, Baseball Man.

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