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Monday, August 08, 2016

SABR46 Recap

By Mike Webber

SABR 46 in Miami will always be remembered as the year we had “The Greatest Ballpark Experience of All-Time”.  We’ve had good seats before at SABR conventions, but this year we were 40 rows from the field, between home plate and the first base dugout.  The Cardinals pounded the Marlins 11-6, so it wasn’t much of a game, but Ichiro was just two hits from 3,000 yet as I write this a week later he’s still just two hits away.

But the event that made this “The Greatest Ballpark Experience Of All-Time” was finished two hours before the first pitch was thrown.  Prior to the game, SABR had arranged four 20 to 30 minute interviews with Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, Tony and Eduardo Perez, and finally Barry Bonds.  That’s a mind boggling lineup, and SABR member Barry Bloom did an excellent job of making them comfortable and getting them to open up in the interviews.  Mattingly gave a fairly standard manager’s interview, but he did give insight about Mr. Steinbrenner when telling a story about his arbitration victory over the Yankees. Dawson talked about the Hall of Fame election process and his experience with collusion in the winter of 1986.  Eduardo Perez interviewed his father Tony, which made for lively banter and was entertaining. Then Bloom returned to interview his friend Barry Bonds. Bonds spoke primarily of his experience as a hitting coach this year. Barry was laughing and engaging.

Following Barry was Claude Delorme, VP of Operations. How would you like to be that guy, following the manager, a couple of Hall of Famers and the all-time home run king?  But he gave a great talk on how the Marlins built the stadium and tried to justify the insane color scheme the park has. I’m sure it is the talk he’s given to every Optimist, Lions and Rotary in South Florida, but still it was very entertaining.

While Delorme is talking, a big guy named Fernandez jumps in the batting cage and starts pounding the ball 50+ feet over the left field fence power. I double checked his number, and sure enough it’s pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez hit balls further than Giancarlo Stanton did when his turn in the cage came around.  When the pitcher’s home run derby finally comes about, put your money on Fernandez.

Miami Hyatt Regency was a solid convention hotel, though the bar shut down at midnight, even on the weekend.  I’m assuming local blue laws weren’t the issue, just a lack of understanding of what kind of revenue they could have generated by staying open one more hour.  The Whole Foods across the street made for a convenient, quick breakfast/lunch spot and there were several good restaurants within a half mile walk. The week included Peruvian, Italian, Ball Park and Cuban food.

If you haven’t been to a SABR convention in the past half-decade or so, you may not realize how much the quality of the presentations and player panels have improved. Michael Hill, former GM and current President of Baseball Operations for the Marlins, started the convention and was more forthcoming than most in similar positions about his team, including answering a couple of questions about the big contract he signed Stanton to and the process involved with it.  That was followed by a 2003 Marlins panel with Jack McKeon, Juan Pierre and Jeff Conine.  Other panels included former players Ozzie Guillen (who did not cuss through an hour long panel which lost me a bet), Mike de la Hoz, Leo Posada and Jackie Hernandez.

Some of the better presentations included our own Chris Dial’s history of modern defensive statistics, Michael Haupert’s “What would Josh Gibson make; How to calculate a wage that was never earned”, and Mark Armour’s presentation about the MLBPA boycott of Topps in 1967 and 1968, which explains why Johnny Bench looks to be about 14-years old on his rookie card.

Other than Ichiro’s drive for 3,000, the biggest talk of the convention was the next convention. SABR is returning to NYC for the first time since 1991 – assuming the Mets or Yankees are at home. I believe that 726 attendees in St. Louis in 2007 is the record for the most to ever attend a convention. One well-connected SABR member suggested that next year we should not only break that record, but possibly clear 1,000 attendees. 

While this year will likely be the GOAT ballpark experience, next year if we can clear 1,000 attendees and include the BBTF Softball game that same weekend, maybe that will be The Greatest Convention Of All-Time.

Mike Webber Posted: August 08, 2016 at 08:47 AM | 28 comment(s)
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   1. JoeD has the Imperial March Stuck in His Head Posted: August 08, 2016 at 09:29 AM (#5280403)
Great recap Mike! It was a great time. Great to see everyone and the game experience was phenomenal.

By his third round of BP, I noticed what Fernandez was doing too and took video of it. It was incredible to see him just bombing away like that.
   2. Hans Van Slooten Posted: August 08, 2016 at 10:08 AM (#5280429)
Great writeup, Mike.

Ichiro's hits from when I got to Miami on Tuesday and saw the game with Dial to Ichiro becoming Mr. 3000:

Rk   Gcar    Gtm   Date    Tm Opp  Rslt Inngs  PA  AB  H   Pos
85   2442    100 Jul 26   MIA PHI  W5
-0    CG   5   5  1    CF
86   2443 102
(1Jul 28   MIA STL  L4-5   7-8   1   1  1    PH
87   2444    103 Jul 29   MIA STL L6
-11    CG   4   4  0    LF
88   2445    104 Jul 30   MIA STL W11
-0  6-GF   2   2  0    RF
89   2446    105 Jul 31   MIA STL  W5
-4   7-8   1   1  0    PH
90   2447    106  Aug 1   MIA CHC  L0
-5   7-7   1   1  0    PH
91   2448    107  Aug 2   MIA CHC  L2
-3   7-7   1   1  0    PH
92   2449    108  Aug 3   MIA CHC  L4
-5   7-7   1   1  0    PH
93   2450    109  Aug 5   MIA COL  W5
-3   7-7   1   1  0    PH
94   2451    110  Aug 6   MIA COL L6
-12  8-GF   2   2  1 PH RF
95   2452    111  Aug 7   MIA COL W10
-7    CG   5   4  1    CF 


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/8/2016.

Would've been awesome to be there when it happened.
   3. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: August 08, 2016 at 10:32 AM (#5280445)
Thanks Mike! I must say that the ballpark event was incredible. Mattingly was clever and charming; Hawk was surprisingly frank about the '87 strike (Including bits I had never heard), and Bonds was honest and interesting. Barry Bloom (the MLB writer) hosted those, and I was surprised when he brought up, to Bonds, Bonds' off-field distractions. Bonds talked about how coaching has made him appreciate a lot of things in terms of communication styles.

Guillen, after his panel ended at 230, sat in the hotel bar with friends and family and had a good time. When I saw him at the ballpark on Friday, he gave me a big high five.

Tony Perez was entertaining, but he joked with lots of cycnicism in his voice - "its more about money now" etc. Eduardo Perez did a great job with it. Perez talked about Pete Rose, and what a competitor he was, and in a complimentary way. It was interesting to hear.

Bloom basically revealed how close Bonds and Gwynn were - I was surprised to hear them both talk about how well those two guys got on.

We had a few A/V issues in some presentations - maybe next year MLB Network can wire the place, and really put on a next level show.
   4. Neal Traven Posted: August 08, 2016 at 12:11 PM (#5280515)
Bringing out the players one by one turned out to be much better than the standard player panel. None of that "Tall Tale #12, insert appropriate names" stuff. Dial is spot on about Dawson and Bonds. I don't think I'd previously heard more than about 3 words uttered by Hawk, so it was very nice to learn that he's a reflective, thoughtful sort. And Barry was so much more the wide-eyed, engaging kid I saw grow up in Pittsburgh (I lived there throughout his time as a Buc) than the guarded, beleaguered man he became as a Giant.

Bonds truly seems to relish his role as a hitting coach, as a man who can help others improve their game. Unlike many other superstars, who are often incapable of explaining their own abilities (much less impart information to others), he espoused a straightforward approach -- "Ichiro, Gwynn, and I all hit the same way ... I just hit a few more out of the park." To my eye, there is virtually nothing about Ichiro's swing that resembles Bonds's, but I think I understand that Barry is talking more about concentration, mindset, and understanding of pitchers than about swing mechanics.

I was surprised at the quality of the research presentations. We didn't have a whole lot of submissions this year, so we had to go deeper than usual into the list to come up with 32 talks. Even so, just about everything I saw was pretty damn good.

Don't know whether Mike was referring to me as the "well-connected SABR member", but I do think it's possible that we could draw as many as 1000 attendees next year. And maybe 100 research abstracts too. Which means that Scott Fischthal and I will be very busy next February-April. Hopefully, all SABR Primates will help us out by reviewing some of them.
   5. Steve Treder Posted: August 08, 2016 at 12:23 PM (#5280526)
Damn it was a great time.

The first SABR national convention I attended was in 1985, in Oakland. I certainly haven't made all of them since, but a whole lot of them, and never once regretted it.

Make sure you get yourself to NYC next summer. It's gonna be YUGE.
   6. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2016 at 01:04 PM (#5280561)
Thanks for the great writeup, Mike. I agree with everything everyone has said about the ballpark, the game, Ichiro, etc. One of the concerns I had with the schedule was that we had a solid two hours at the ballpark after the celebrities left and the game itself. Fortunately, they moved us all out to CF where we could drink and watch BP. The time advanced, as it does.

I have been to 23 conventions, including the past 19. I can not stress enough how much better the program generally has gotten -- the presentations are better, the panels are better, the banquet is better, the guest speakers are better organized. Time is much more important -- if something is supposed to start at 10:00, it starts at 10:00. Years ago, when these conventions were largely run by local chapters, you might have a room that was 15 minutes behind, or more, which screws up things royally for a double-tracked schedule.

I recall the 1998 convention near the San Francisco airport. Some people refer to this as the SF convention, but other than the bus ride to Candlestick Park we could have been in Fresno, or Kalamazoo, for all we knew. It was a Hotel Convention. In 2002 we had a bit of good fortune. It looked like we were going to be staying in the Boston suburbs (ugh), but after 9/11 all the hotel rates collapsed and we ended up near Copley Square. After this, SABR and its members realized, staying downtown makes all the difference in the world. Better food, better nightlife, better atmosphere.

Because of the above, when I think back to the best SABR conventions I have been to it does not take me long to focus on the location of the hotel. Boston, Denver, Toronto, Washington, Chicago. The problem in DC was almost that the city was TOO enticing. I was heading into some panel one morning, and someone talked me in to bailing and taking a tour of the White House ... which was RIGHT NEXT DOOR. This is my biggest worry for next year, to be honest. "Hey Mark, let's go have pizza at Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge." Boom.

I brought my son this year, Drew (14). He is probably not destined to be a SABR guy -- he went to all the meals, saw my talk and a couple of others, went to a couple of ballgames, and watched movies in the room. His biggest memory of the weekend was the near brawl we almost got into thanks to the wit of Chris Dial. Definitely an all-timer.

The SABR convention has become like a high school reunion filled with people you actually like. Although I have been to 19 in a row, I have had a few close calls -- years when off-field events or distractions looked like they would cause me to miss out. And that is always in play. But if I keep having the time and the money I am going to be there every year no matter where it is. Being in one of the greatest cities in the world, like next year, is a (very large) bonus.
   7. Steve Treder Posted: August 08, 2016 at 01:14 PM (#5280573)
I recall the 1998 convention near the San Francisco airport. Some people refer to this as the SF convention, but other than the bus ride to Candlestick Park we could have been in Fresno, or Kalamazoo, for all we knew. It was a Hotel Convention.

I remember that. It would be hard to choose a worse location within the greater SF Bay Area. It was clearly chosen because it was cheap (by Bay Area standards, anyway), and ya get what ya pay for.

But as you say, at least for the past 10 years or so, nearly every location is in a downtown/interesting place, with plenty of representative local stuff to so. Through attendance at these conventions I've been able to get acquainted with downtown Cleveland, Minneapolis, Atlanta, etc., places I might have been to before on a business trip but never been able to really experience. It's a distinct bonus.
   8. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2016 at 01:29 PM (#5280584)
I remember that. It would be hard to choose a worse location within the greater SF Bay Area. It was clearly chosen because it was cheap (by Bay Area standards, anyway), and ya get what ya pay for.

In the 1990s the first, second, and third most important things for the SABR hotel were price, price and price. It is all anyone talked about. A decade earlier, convention goers stayed in college dorms. This was true at my first convention in 1984 in Providence when we stayed at Brown University. Although I did not attend, SABR also stayed at Loyola-Chicago one year. So an airport hotel near SF seemed an improvement. I recall that SABR did not want to break the $99-per-night barrier, and we did not for many years. DC shattered it, and we have not looked back.

Although I am happy we have not looked back, I suspect we have lost some people over the years. SABR conventions are decidedly more expensive than they used to be. If you are used to attending high-tech conferences, or medical conventions, or lawyer conventions, this all seems relatively normal, maybe even cheap. But my hotel bill in Miami (I stayed five nights, which is more than normal) was $1000.

   9. villageidiom Posted: August 08, 2016 at 02:17 PM (#5280621)
While this year will likely be the GOAT ballpark experience, next year if we can clear 1,000 attendees and include the BBTF Softball game that same weekend, maybe that will be The Greatest Convention Of All-Time.

I'll put in the plug now, since you brought up the topic... It's not too late to join in for this year's BBTF Softball game. It won't compare to a live interview with Barry Bonds*, but it will be fun.

* I worded this statement in a way that allows the possibility that I meant it as a positive. If that's what you need to believe in order to go to the softball game, I approve!
   10. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2016 at 02:47 PM (#5280648)
One bit of cold water. If you did not sit in the first handful of rows for the ballpark talk, you generally did not hear anything. There were a few attempts to correct this, but people did not really feel ... comfortable yelling "LOUDER" to Barry Bonds or Andre Dawson. So people just sort of tuned out. It was a very solvable problem -- hold the mike up to your mouth -- but no one did it.


   11. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2016 at 02:48 PM (#5280649)
Is there going to be another thread that focuses on the BTF chapter generally? The BTF "chapter" has zero internal communication (as far as I can tell) and this might be a way to help that along. Of course, having a chapter do literally zero for several years might be the GOAL in which case never mind.
   12. Neal Traven Posted: August 08, 2016 at 03:04 PM (#5280662)
Hmmm, something for the BTF Chapter to do ...

We could call all research presentations by chapter members at the convention "BTF Chapter meeting presentations". Probably not in any official manner (i.e. it won't appear on the pocket schedule or anything). Maybe that'll encourage Primates other than Treder and Armour to submit abstracts. (Remember, Dial, you don't have to write a full paper before submitting.)
   13. Mark Armour Posted: August 08, 2016 at 03:07 PM (#5280665)
I have a few ideas, but I first need to know if someone is going to start a permanent SABR thread where such ideas would go. I had heard that this was going to happen?
   14. villageidiom Posted: August 08, 2016 at 04:15 PM (#5280722)
I have a few ideas, but I first need to know if someone is going to start a permanent SABR thread where such ideas would go. I had heard that this was going to happen?


DONE.
   15. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: August 08, 2016 at 05:21 PM (#5280793)
Fun time by and large.

Only downside: probably the worst batch of presentations I've seen at a convention. To be fair, I missed Thursday, but the ones I saw..... some were good, but nothing was better than that, and some were worse than that.
   16. Steve Treder Posted: August 08, 2016 at 05:51 PM (#5280808)
To be fair, I missed Thursday


Thursday's were stupendous. Amazing. Brilliant in every way. Especially the one at 3:45 in the Brickell Room.
   17. Mike Webber Posted: August 09, 2016 at 12:12 AM (#5280981)
I saw 12 presentations, but did a poor job scouting which would be honored by the judges. I did see David Smith, the founder and president of Retrosheet, who won the Pappas Award for his presentation, "The Myth of the Closer,"

Smith is kind of like the Willie Mays of presentation. His presentations are basically the best ones every year, but usually he doesn't win the MVP award, the surprise guy does. This was kind of a weird year, in that while I didn't think this was Smith's best presentation, it really was the best one I saw in Miami. It's like Clemens' 1998 Cy Young Award, it's like the 7th best season of his career, and not really that different than his 10th best season. It's still as good or better than anything anyone else did. Joe Dimino can explain to you why he thought the conclusion was crap though.

I saw none of the Honorable mentions for the oral presentations which were:

Dirk Lammers, "No-Hitters Gone Global: Even Johnny Vander Meer Draws Company with the Breakdown of Borders"
Thom Henninger, "The Bay of Pigs and the Cultural Isolation of 1960s Cuban Players"
Ronnie Socash, "The Hidden Value of Competitive Balance Picks in the MLB Draft"

The first was simultaneous with Dial, the second was while I was doing my poster judging, and the last was while I watched Peter Bjarkman present "The Five Greatest Myths of Cuban Baseball" which was entertaining and informative. That's the way it goes at every double tracked conference, good things are going on at the same time.

Thursday Chuck Hildebrandt's "The Hall of Famous" was fun, entertaining and well researched, but not exactly the type of research that will win awards. He's definitely a presenter worth checking out.

Robert Garratt and Steve Treder gave back to back presentations about the Giants ownership from the early 1900's through today - though chronologically out of order, come on scheduling department!! Both were solid and informative, and while Treder is a friend I'll honestly say his was better - his graphics were better and just the story there was to be told was more interesting.

Friday morning Allison Levin gave an intriguing presentation, "Boys Will Be Boys: The Implicit Acceptance of Domestic Violence in Baseball" Maybe this presentation will be the jumping off point for some interesting future research and discussions.

Baseball and the Yellow Peril: Waseda University’s 1905 American Tour by Robert Fitts was also interesting. It probably had the most interesting slides of any presentation, the way the Japanese club was portrayed by newspapers of the time was amazing/horrific/the most gawd awful racist thing. It was right out of a 1944 Captain America comic book. According to Fitts the Japanese were actually on a popularity upswing at the time due to their war with Russia.

I really only saw one clunker this year, but even it had a good premise the execution was just poor.
   18. DJS, the Digital Dandy Posted: August 09, 2016 at 10:44 AM (#5281132)
I'm just waiting for BOGUS-ER BATTING TITLES!
   19. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: August 09, 2016 at 10:20 PM (#5281715)
The SABR convention has become like a high school reunion filled with people you actually like.

Definitely true. One thing I like is that there is a steady group of 10-15 Primates that go each year, and there are always a few extra that show up for the first time because it is close, or return for the first time in a while, etc. The circle is always expanding.

As for the park, I really, really wanted to hate it. I hate the team and hate watching games at the park. That said, I was very pleasantly surprised -- I liked it, despite myself.
   20. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2016 at 08:07 AM (#5281778)
Miami Hyatt Regency was a solid convention hotel, though the bar shut down at midnight, even on the weekend. I’m assuming local blue laws weren’t the issue, just a lack of understanding of what kind of revenue they could have generated by staying open one more hour.


Here's a tip for SABR. Whatever you want get it put in the contract. If for some reason they won't, get it put in the Group Resume and go over it in your pre-convention meeting. If you forget to do it then have your meeting planner bring it up during the convetion. The hotel probably would have had no problem staying open longer if it was requested.
   21. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2016 at 08:20 AM (#5281782)
It's only taken a half a decade or so but it's good to see that SABR has gotten around to my way of thinking when it comes to convention sites. :)

One more tip for 2018. Baltimore. Perhaps with NYC in 2017 it might get viewed as too much NE but room rates should be pretty cheap as compared to NYC or DC or sites in California. The hotel is right next to Camden Yards, Babe Ruth's musuem is next door, and his home is within walking distance. You've got the inner harbor, Little Italy, and Fells Point, all within walking distance or on a free commuter bus, a casino in walking distance/free shuttle, and the airport is something like 8 miles away. Plus I believe by then the renovations to Lexington Market will be completed. You can't really go wrong with putting conventions on the East Coast. You'll always get a large amount of attendees.

Anyone know the amount of people that showed up in Miami?


And for purely selfish reasons you guys need to go back to Atlanta as well.

   22. Dag Nabbit at ExactlyAsOld.com Posted: August 10, 2016 at 09:03 AM (#5281795)
One more tip for 2018. Baltimore.

No chance. SABR went to DC in 2009 -- and the game for that convention was in Camden Yards. (In order to get hotels by the Washington Mall, they had to pick a weekend before the MLB schedule came out, and they wound up with a weekend the Nats were out of town).
   23. McCoy Posted: August 10, 2016 at 10:48 AM (#5281865)
Well then, you can train down for a Nats game and even it out! Perhaps go to the ASG. I'd also say that 2009 is going to be a long time away once 2018 rolls around.
   24. Mark Armour Posted: August 11, 2016 at 05:29 PM (#5282891)
No chance. SABR went to DC in 2009


FWIW, I would love to go to Baltimore. I think the game is way overrated -- the 2009 convention was very much a "DC experience" even though we bused up to OPCY. Having a true Baltimore convention should be a goal for SABR.
   25. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 12, 2016 at 09:55 PM (#5283675)
Personally, I think 2018 should be west of the Central time zone (and not because it would make it a shorter trip for me, Armour, Traven, and Treder). Of the last 10 conventions - now likely 11 in 2017 - only one (Long Beach in 2011) has been outside of the Eastern and Central time zones. SABR was last in the Bay Area in 1998, Arizona in 1999, Colorado in 2003. San Francisco/Oakland, Denver, and Seattle (2006) should be ahead of Baltimore/Washington in any rotation. (I can get not wanting to come to Phoenix in the summer.) Heck, going back to Boston (not since 2002) would be ahead of DC/Baltimore, too.

-- MWE
   26. Mike Emeigh Posted: August 12, 2016 at 10:00 PM (#5283678)
If you are used to attending high-tech conferences, or medical conventions, or lawyer conventions, this all seems relatively normal, maybe even cheap.


The convention cost itself is still cheap, but the hotels are pretty typically priced. New York is going to be $199 a night, which is about what I expected; when you add in room taxes you're going to be close to $225 or so.

-- MWE
   27. Chuck H Posted: October 06, 2016 at 09:51 AM (#5315653)
BBTF Softball game?! I'm in! Can I borrow a RH thrower's glove, or should I bring my own?
   28. villageidiom Posted: October 06, 2016 at 10:00 AM (#5315661)
Probably can borrow one.

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