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Monday, February 06, 2017

New York Mets pitcher Robert Gsellman’s secret, exposed

Watching pitchers hit isn’t very entertaining; reading an article about a pitcher who couldn’t hit, surprisingly, is.

jimfurtado Posted: February 06, 2017 at 09:14 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets, robert gsellman

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   1. PreservedFish Posted: February 06, 2017 at 09:30 AM (#5396432)
I love this kind of stuff.

A decade or more ago when Rob Neyer and writers of his ilk were seeming kind of stale and before video was widely available I was not optimistic about online baseball stathead journalism. How many times can you write 500-1000 words on managers or GMs being stupid? It seemed like a moribund genre.

Pieces like this are the wonderful new world of online baseball stathead journalism. I think they were first found on Fangraphs and then probably Baseball Prospectus, and now everywhere. Liberal use of video, modern statistics, the raw Statcast stuff, but also an imaginative way of finding new topics, exploring new little corners of the game, a breezy and humble tone, and creatively structured. I think it's terrific.
   2. sotapop Posted: February 06, 2017 at 09:52 AM (#5396437)
Amen, PreservedFish. There's a way to write stories about baseball that are insightful and entertaining. This is one of them. Still reading it, but laughed aloud at this line:

The umpire has to give Garcia a new baseball. It's literally wasted. A cow died for that baseball. Carbon was emitted to manufacture, transport, throw and discard that baseball.


   3. DL from MN Posted: February 06, 2017 at 10:07 AM (#5396440)
The dig at Ryan Howard is better
   4. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 06, 2017 at 10:44 AM (#5396456)
Ironically the Mets seem to have a fleet of pitchers who can actually hit, not just in the bigs but also in the minors.
   5. GordonShumway Posted: February 06, 2017 at 11:10 AM (#5396464)
Wonderful writing. My favorite part:

Look. You have expectations when you walk out the door every morning. You expect basic competency: The chef at the restaurant knows the difference between cooking oil and bleach. You expect basic self-preservation: The guy driving in the opposite direction as you isn't suicidal. You expect that cause and effect will follow predictable rules: The cashier will give you a handful of change, not a raccoon.

You expect to turn on a baseball game and see two capable, self-interested teams. And you end up with a batter who can't (and shouldn't) swing a bat, a pitcher who can't throw a strike and Ryan Howard standing 15 feet behind the bag. Mathematically speaking, all three of these men are better at their job than your doctor is. Cheers.
   6. Der-K's tired of these fruits from poisoned trees Posted: February 06, 2017 at 11:20 AM (#5396473)
Excellent
   7. Ron J Posted: February 06, 2017 at 11:25 AM (#5396477)
Yeah I enjoyed this one. I particularly like this bit.

3. But with Gsellman then coming to bat with two on, acting Nationals manager Chris Speier looked out at the defense for a minute, as if considering where everybody should stand against a non-swinging batter, and then he put both hands out like "I don't know."

After about a minute more thought, he put a hand up and motioned the defense to come in. He knows.
   8. Fist Pumping Maniac Posted: February 06, 2017 at 11:47 AM (#5396494)
Eh, I'd be more impressed if the reporter had bothered to interview Gsellman. That's journalism. Otherwise, it's a lot of cutesy one-liners that hide what this story lacks - quotes from the subject.
   9. Baldrick Posted: February 06, 2017 at 12:46 PM (#5396519)
Agreed. A great read. Really fun take on the little moments of joy that emerge when our baseline expectations break down.
   10. dlf Posted: February 06, 2017 at 12:52 PM (#5396522)
#8 - Why does this need quotes from Gsellman? I think that one of the problems in journalism is that often it becomes unpaid PR for the subject of the story. Maybe the story could have been better with his comments, maybe not, but in my opinion, it is not a necessary part of any article.
   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 06, 2017 at 12:58 PM (#5396524)
Cool.
   12. DL from MN Posted: February 06, 2017 at 02:19 PM (#5396606)
Quotes from athletes are nearly always useless anyway.
   13. Fist Pumping Maniac Posted: February 06, 2017 at 02:20 PM (#5396612)
"Why does this need quotes from Gsellman? I think that one of the problems in journalism is that often it becomes unpaid PR for the subject of the story. Maybe the story could have been better with his comments, maybe not, but in my opinion, it is not a necessary part of any article."

Sorry, I don't agree. Good reporting means actually interviewing, asking questions, gathering facts - not just grabbing stuff off TV. No doubt this is a unique story, but Miller wasted an opportunity to take us in the batter's box, via Gsellman's first-person description.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: February 06, 2017 at 02:23 PM (#5396617)
It definitely could have been even stronger with quotes from Gsellman. But it was still great.
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 06, 2017 at 03:18 PM (#5396660)
Quotes from athletes are nearly always useless anyway.

That's not true - how else are you going to know who is too much of a jackass to put in the Hall of Fame?
   16. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: February 06, 2017 at 03:20 PM (#5396662)
Actually, I think interviewing Gsellman might have ruined the piece. As Yogi would have said, the article is about what you can (or should be able to) observe just by watching. Insider info sort of spoils the fun.
   17. Rally Posted: February 06, 2017 at 03:48 PM (#5396687)
A quote from Tanner Roark, or some of the other pitchers who faced him might be interesting. Or not, since athletes sometimes go out of their way to avoid saying anything interesting.

But as is this was a great article. I agree with Gordon #5 - those were some great lines.
   18. You can keep your massive haul Posted: February 06, 2017 at 04:55 PM (#5396752)
Ryan Howard is the one who needed to be interviewed preferably by Keith Hernandez.
   19. QLE Posted: February 06, 2017 at 05:05 PM (#5396761)
Good reporting means actually interviewing, asking questions, gathering facts


And, in terms of sports reporting, how often has talking to athletes ever served as a way of gathering facts of value? If anything, the obsession with having access to athletes has done more to hinder serious sports journalism than aid it.
   20. DL from MN Posted: February 06, 2017 at 05:32 PM (#5396773)
I'm thinking Gsellman just took it one at-bat at a time.
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 06, 2017 at 05:43 PM (#5396778)
This legit made me LOL:

"Gsellman clearly has no confidence in his ability to swing that bat," says Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen, after Gsellman attempts to bunt for a hit with two strikes, two outs and a runner in scoring position. This is either coded language -- Cohen knows but is too cautious to say -- or proof that even the Mets' broadcasters don't know his secret, and that what they are seeing is just profoundly weird to them.

Let's see if we can tell which it is by Keith Hernandez's response:

"Hahahahaha."
   22. Baldrick Posted: February 06, 2017 at 08:15 PM (#5396882)
Sorry, I don't agree. Good reporting means actually interviewing, asking questions, gathering facts - not just grabbing stuff off TV. No doubt this is a unique story, but Miller wasted an opportunity to take us in the batter's box, via Gsellman's first-person description.

Strong disagree. This is a terrible way to think about reporting.
   23. Howie Menckel Posted: February 06, 2017 at 08:25 PM (#5396887)
Actually, I think interviewing Gsellman might have ruined the piece.

this is rarely true but that said, every once in a while you come across something like this that works well on its own.

I once flew to Boise, Idaho for a story and got so much color before getting to my target that - well, I still wanted to get the guy, but it didn't break my heart that an outside force prevented that from happening that weekend.

clearly there will be followups soon with Gsellman's input that also may be really good. with any luck, this author will get first crack at that.

   24. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 06, 2017 at 10:15 PM (#5396938)
I don't know why anyone is treating this like a serious piece of journalism that warrants quotes. It is clearly tongue-in-cheek. And delightfully so.
   25. Zach Posted: February 07, 2017 at 02:13 PM (#5397287)
Interviewing Gsellman changes the point of view of the piece dramatically.

As written, the point of view is external: will anyone notice that he can't swing the bat? How will they adjust? The subjects are the broadcasters and opposing players.

If you interview Gsellman, the point of view is Gsellman's: how does it feel to stand at the plate without the ability to swing? That's a different article.
   26. Scott Lange Posted: February 07, 2017 at 02:44 PM (#5397306)
Seems like a semantic argument about what constitutes "reporting." Does anyone doubt that it is a very strong and entertaining piece of writing, whether or not you label it "reporting"?
   27. Rally Posted: February 07, 2017 at 03:09 PM (#5397327)
Ryan Howard is the one who needed to be interviewed preferably by Keith Hernandez.


Who would be a better defensive 1B today? Howard is probably done, and has never been a good fielder. Hernandez was the greatest of all time, but is 63 and has been retired for 27 years.

I think I'd still take Hernandez.

Don't think that would work given the athleticism required of other positions. The worst defensive shortstops and center fielders who played in 2016 would be better than the ~60 year old versions of Ozzie Smith and Willie McGee. But I bet a first baseman like Hernandez can still pick it.
   28. Ron J Posted: February 07, 2017 at 04:04 PM (#5397380)
#27 Could be. But I've always had genuinely very good hand/eye coordination and it's starting to slip noticeably in my 60s.
   29. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: February 07, 2017 at 04:14 PM (#5397389)
Gay Talese turned his thwarted efforts to get access to Frank Sinatra into "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold."
   30. Ron J Posted: February 08, 2017 at 04:59 PM (#5398109)
Further to #28 when I was reffing touch football I encountered a number of former pro players and could compare them to some of the best amateur athletes in the area.

A former CFL backup QB played in the top division. He had easily the strongest arm of any QB I ever worked with (and I worked several Touch Bowls -- national championship) and used it to take the snap way deeper than any other QB. Made him essentially impossible to successfully rush. He wasn't the most effective QB I saw (more mobile QBs could beat the rush and extend plays. Others actually had better field vision). Probably had to stand that deep for his receivers to be able to catch the ball. As I said, really strong arm by amateur standards (and considered below average at the pro level)

Outside of his arm he was nothing special as an athlete compared to the best amateurs a moderate sized city could come up with.

And I reffed a couple of excellent linebackers who had been retired for well over a decade (Jerry Campbell and Mark Kosmos if it matters). They had lost all their speed by then and were carrying some extra weight (not fat by any means though). Read the play well still but were not close to being impact players.

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