ESPN recently announced its new coverage strategy for Sunday Night Baseball as it begins the first year of a long-term MLB rights extension. As part of that strategy, ESPN unveiled a new Sunday Night Baseball main broadcast team to begin the franchise’s 33rd season dating back to 1990.
Karl Ravech becomes just the fourth-ever voice of Sunday Night Baseball; veteran analyst coach and player Eduardo Perez begins his first season on Sunday Night Baseball; and five-time World Series champion and Cy Young winner David Cone joins ESPN as an analyst.
Ravech, Perez and Cone, plus ESPN Senior Vice President of Production and Remote Operations, Mark Gross, spoke to media during a conference call on Monday. Below is a transcript of the call.
MARK GROSS: I’ve been at ESPN a long time, and this must be the first time we’ve met with media on a baseball call in January. You’re part of history, I think.
I’ll be brief because I don’t think you’re looking to hear from me, but just real briefly, Karl has obviously been a part of our baseball coverage almost since he walked in the door at ESPN, so it’s great that he’s getting this well-deserved opportunity. He has driven baseball content across all platforms for many years.
Eduardo—may not be a better teammate in the building in Bristol, or anywhere for that matter. Just a fantastic person on and off the air and embraces everything that we’re trying to do with baseball.
David Cone, incredibly respected across New York, across the country. Nobody seemingly has anything negative to say about him based on everything I’ve read. Amazing credentials, and if you haven’t heard him on the YES Network, now you’ll get a chance to hear him nationally, which is a real treat, and we’re thankful to John Filippelli and the Yankees for allowing us to make this all work.
We think we’ve got a great team. We’re super excited. We’re looking forward to games. I think that the beauty of this team in short is able to take — is able to embrace the traditional aspects of Major League Baseball and mix in the more modern aspects, whether that be analytics or something else of Major League Baseball.
That’s what I have. I’ll be happy to answer any questions along the way. But again, thanks for coming, and we couldn’t be more excited to get going here with the booth.
Q: David, when you look at the Hall of Fame vote, are you surprised at the way allegations of steroid use are being held against Bonds, Clemens and to Alex and to some extent Ortiz?
DAVID CONE: You know, when you look at the history of what’s gone on with the voting, it’s not a big surprise, although it does sort of break along demographic lines. Some of the younger writers are more, I guess, lenient or more willing to look at the bigger picture of about that era, does that era deserve an asterisk, do we need to play police or police who was in or who was out or who did what, especially considering there was a whole era affected and maybe some players are already in the Hall of Fame that might have used steroids.
It’s a tricky matter. I certainly feel like — I’m sort of an advocate of the asterisk. You have to document what happened rather than just erase it.
Certainly I think all those players were great players. Maybe they deserve a different look or maybe there’s a different way to go about it, to be able to chronicle exactly what happened, what you think happened, what was proved, who passed tests, who didn’t, and go for more of an era sort of an outlook as opposed to trying to police individual players along the way.
Q: David, obviously you’ve been well regarded in what you’ve done with the YES Network over the years. What does it mean to this post-playing media career of yours to now have this kind of national platform, and also, how many fewer games do you expect to do on YES Network this year?
DAVID CONE: The second part first. We’re going to try to shoot for about 50 games on the YES Network. I was inching towards 100 games in the last year or so, and then previously before COVID. We haven’t hashed it out as of yet, but probably around 50.
For me, this particular platform, ESPN and Sunday Night Baseball, it means a lot. I mean, it’s such a great platform. It’s just a star in our industry. To be able to have that kind of exclusivity and to be a part of that crew, maybe I’m dating myself, but ESPN started back when I was a sophomore in high school, so to me it was like, wow, you can do a sports station? You can make a living doing this? That may sound corny, but when you’re a sophomore in high school and you see something like this happen and you watch SportsCenter for the first time, it really does impact you, and it impacted my thinking. It was motivational for me as a kid in high school thinking, wow, I really can make a living in sports somehow, some way.
At that point I didn’t know if I could make it as a player or pitcher, but it opened up other opportunities that I thought potentially at that point were pretty exciting for a kid who’s 15 years old.
Q: Karl, when you look at the overall makeup of your booth now, why do you think it will work?
KARL RAVECH: I think it’s going to work because of the personalities involved. Having watched Cone forever and now listening to him on a podcast, there’s a conversational nature about him. I basically have covered both of their careers, certainly Eddie’s in its entirety and Cone for a long, long time, so I got to know them a little bit, but you get to know a different side of them broadcasting.
I think it was Mark who prefaced this whole thing by saying Eduardo is such a great teammate, but their ability to converse — to me baseball is a game that takes three hours to play, there’s all sorts of opportunities to dive into topics that may not be related to the game, if it’s 7-1 in the second inning, and these two guys are, in my mind, as good as any that I could have imagined sitting next to, to have that conversation, and whether it’s about history, whether it’s about the future, whether it’s about analytics, sabermetrics, David Cone’s pitching style, why Eduardo was a better hitter than he was a fielder, all these different subjects, these two guys are going to make it very, very easy and very compelling for the viewer to listen to.
So I don’t have any doubt this is a success already.
Q: Mark, what was your thought process in Alex shifting to Kay-Rod from the regular broadcast?
MARK GROSS: I think that was of it was his schedule, candidly. He’s running a corporation. He’s running or owns the Timberwolves. Being on the road 25 weeks out of the year, it just gets to be a lot with not just the games but the prep for the games, et cetera.
The window of time, and here’s eight Sundays for the alternate telecast, I know they’ve got to do a couple other games, and the opportunity to work with a guy that he has a great relationship with and a long-standing relationship with, Michael, it seemed like the perfect fit for both of them, to be candid with you.
Q: Mark, what’s going on with the Buster role, the dugout reporter? What’s the situation there?
MARK GROSS: Still sorting through it. We just wanted to put all our energy into the booth on ESPN and Kay-Rod on E2. So more to come, but certainly Buster and Tim Kurkjian for that matter, great company guys in one form or another, obviously they’ll be involved with Major League Baseball at ESPN across all platforms.
Just have not gotten to the point of reporter, no reporter, but certainly they are on the Major League Baseball team.
Q: David, if there was one move that you’d like to see the Yankees make this offseason, what would you say it is? What do you think it should be?
DAVID CONE: It’s obviously going to be on the position player side. I believe the Yankees and their pitching staff as a whole is in pretty good shape, particularly their bullpen. Pretty loaded. When you have two relievers like Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loaisiga that can throw 99-mile-an-hour demon sinkers, that’s a pretty good combination before you even get to the closer in Chapman, so I think their bullpen will be as strong as it has been in the past year. So obviously you need a shortstop. You need Aaron Hicks to come back and be solid in center field, and you have to find that out.
So some things you know you need right now as far as a position player and a shortstop. Another thing you need to find out in Spring Training when we eventually get there is how Aaron Hicks looks and whether he can play a full schedule and stay solid or not.
Obviously you look at shortstop, that’s a big deal for them, whether they’re going to sign one of the big guys that’s still out there or a stopgap situation and wait for some of their prospects to get ready.
Q: Eduardo, just wanted to ask, what does this mean to you, just kind of the flagship show? I know you’ve been broadcasting games a long time, but to get to this level in your broadcasting career.
EDUARDO PEREZ: It means the world to me. Again, this is to me — since 1990, since ESPN introduced Sunday Night Baseball, you look at the booth of Jon Miller and Joe Morgan, for so many years they represented ESPN so well, and I represent being in college, not in high school like David but being in college, and every Sunday it was our entire team would get together and watch it.
To now be a part of it — and I had a lot of my college teammates reach out to me and go, oh, my gosh, you’re going to be a part of Sunday Night Baseball. That right there just brings it all together. I learned so much from everyone that’s participated in Sunday Night Baseball to Baseball Tonight, the family in general. Just checking every box, not being that superstar guy in uniform but being as a team player, making everybody better. What better trio, just to be able to be together with Karl, who I’ve entrusted a lot of my career to, always in the booth, or on Baseball Tonight, and now being with David, as well. Big fan. Love that he embraces not only the new baseball but also the past and is able to gel it together.
I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. The beauty of it is we all understand that still the heroes of all of this, the guys that are going to get the attention is the players. This is about the players. To me that’s the most important part is the product that is being put out there on Sunday Night Baseball is going to be elite, and that we entrust our entire team.
It’s not just us three in the booth, it’s going to be our producer Andrew Jacobson and everyone else that is going to be a little piece, a major piece, in making sure this production is as good as it’s always been since 1990.
Q: What’s kept you in media broadcasting? I know you’ve had coaching opportunities over the years. What’s kept you in this role?
EDUARDO PEREZ: Karl. I mean, he’s pointing at himself right now, so…
Look, at the end of the day, I grew up around this sport. You grew up around it, as well. I’ve been married for 21 years, but I’ve had a life partner in baseball my entire life for my 52 years. I grew up with just being on the on-deck circle as a kid, growing up watching an unbelievable organization in Cincinnati and being a fan of the game.
The media has allowed me, ESPN has allowed me to be a part of what I love, and that’s baseball. If it was coaching, if it was managing, if it was whatever it may be, I love where I’m at right now because of the teammates that I’ve always had.
To me, that’s the most important part. Being a part of a team, Tim Kurkjian would always say being a part of a team is important, but this is not just work. This is a family.
I think David is going to enjoy the 25 plus games that we’re going to do together because at the end of the day, those two guys to my left, to my right, or if they’re both to my left, those are going to be the most important guys for the entire season as far as I’m concerned, and that to me is winning. That’s winning baseball. Winning baseball will be in the booth.
But again, baseball has always been part of who I’ve been since the day I was born.
KARL RAVECH: Eddie is a producer, too. He just told you where you’re sitting in the booth without anybody else consulting. That’s Eddie the producer.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I gave options, man. I gave options.
Q: Karl, I’m wondering if the way you’ll call a broadcast will be different being now on the Sunday Night broadcast as opposed to the weeknight games. I think the Sunday Night broadcast has taken some criticism recently in the past for maybe deviating from the game a little too much as opposed to focusing on what’s going on, on the field. I wonder if you had any thoughts on how you’ll approach this broadcast differently from how you have in the past and what you think it might hold for the future.
KARL RAVECH: I think that I’m probably not going to change my own style. Somebody there has allowed me to stay for 30 years almost doing what I do. I tend to be real dependent and reliant on my analysts. I’m not an “I” or a “me” guy, I’m a “we” guy, and this group of three is what makes this succeed.
I do think baseball lends itself to more conversation. At the same time, having called World Series games at the Little League and college level, you do recognize there are points in every game where you do focus on the game. There’s no doubt about that.
Having both of these guys there, I’ll be attentive if not reminded, like whoa, you don’t need to hear from me right now; in the second, third, in the sixth inning let alone the eighth or ninth inning. We’ve got to focus on the pitches that are coming in and the way the guy is approaching this at-bat.
I think the conversational nature, I’ve said that word a lot, works really well in baseball. It’s served me really well. My goal is to get these two guys to be as good as they can be, and that comes from kind of recognizing where their strengths are and what they could be better at.
But with regards to your specific question, I think the game dictates when you focus really on the game and other times where you veer into broader subjects, baseball related and sometimes not baseball related.
DAVID CONE: That’s perfect, Karl. I did my own scouting report on Karl Ravech. We’ve known each other a long time. He covered my career. He’s got that similar dry sense of humor, so we’re going to have pop cultural references, we’re going to go back and forth with proper humor at times, but we’re going to be on the edge, too, at times. That’s the part Karl is going to have to do is understand he’s going to have to pull me back from the edge sometimes when I’m right there looking over.
Q: Karl, the chemistry between you and Eduardo, how important is that coming into the booth? We haven’t talked about the lockout; are we going to have a Spring Training? And David, for you in particular, you were involved in the ’94 strike. What would you advise the players today?
KARL RAVECH: I’ll just go first quickly. Science was not my strength, but if there’s a compound that mixes well everything, Eddie is that compound. You walk through airports, restaurants, get into cars, Eduardo knows everybody, and they like him, which is hard for me to understand, and I’m guessing Cone has a similar — not everybody likes me and I don’t think everybody loves Cone. Everybody in the world loves Eddie.
The chemistry is real simple. I know David will fit right in. It sounds cliche about this whole family thing, but I know having been at ESPN since ’93 when they were in high school or college watching, there’s no closer knit group than the baseball group at ESPN. It doesn’t mean that other groups aren’t close, but there’s no closer group than the baseball group, and as you know, we’ve stuck through some highs and some lows and some changes.
The chemistry aspect of it is the last part of my concern. This will be a group that gets along really well, and it will show, I hope.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I’m going to add to that. Again, it’s the people behind the scenes that make it work. The people that — Coney is going to get to know a lot of them from — all the way down. It’s to the point where even the first time you meet them, you get to know their names right away, and they’re not forgettable because they do all the little things right.
Again, I mentioned it before, teamwork. The only way I’m going to look good is if my teammates are on point and they look good, as well. So that’s important to me, and that’s the way I was able to play parts of 13 seasons in the Major Leagues is because of my teammates.
Again, it’s an honor to be next to always, as I said, the legend in Karl, and now it’s going to be the legend in Coney as far as I’m concerned because I think the entire country is going to really enjoy the aspect that he will give and the point of view he’s going to give, and I can’t wait to just be able to knocking elbows with them during the game. Sometimes we’re going to knock each other out on a play that we’re astonished by, by the players, because again, it’s about the players, but we’re going to try to bring it to life as much as we can at home.
DAVID CONE: It’s fantastic, it really is. Just to piggy-back on those, Eduardo and I will provide the classic pitcher-and-hitter analysis, and even almost — Eduardo has been pretty close, I don’t know how many times he’s been interviewed but I know a lot of organizations have considered him for a managerial prospect, as well. I’ve interviewed for a pitching coach job at least once. So that’s the dynamic we’ll bring is that pitcher-hitter kind of dynamic, and also you’ve got two guys that love the game and love today’s players.
That’s really important, I think. In a lot of the baseball broadcasts around the country, you hear a lot of, yeah, the game was better back when I played. That’s not the case here. I’m a huge fan of today’s player and how they go about it. It’s different than when I played, but it doesn’t mean one way was better or not.
You’re going to see us genuinely get excited about today’s game at a time when that’s really needed on a national broadcast.
The second part of your question, as far as the labor situation goes, I think there is the framework for a deal. Back in the mid ’90s there was two completely different frameworks. There was a hard salary cap and there was the players trying to fight off a hard salary cap and a whole different framework of reference.
They are within the same framework: Where does the luxury tax fall; can the players address control issues and competitive teams instead of tanking, or service time manipulation certainly is an issue. So control issues on the player side, but the framework I believe is there for a deal. At some point I believe it’s going to happen.
Q: For all of you because you’ve been involved in MLB coverage in some sense for a while, how has it changed since you started working on TV, and how do you foresee it changing in the future?
DAVID CONE: You know, it has changed in terms of trying to keep up with what’s going on in the game and the front offices. I think it’s incumbent upon us to cover that, even though it’s difficult when you have some people that don’t like the numbers or don’t want to hear about analytics or don’t want to have new theories shoved doubt their throat in a broadcast. They want to tune in on a Sunday night and watch a game and be entertained and just have the focus on the game.
But at the same time, we have to understand that side of the game in order to inform the viewer what’s going on, how these decisions are being made, how these players are being trained, how the coaches and the coaching staffs are being designed in terms of three pitching coaches or three hitting coaches or biomechanics lab or everything that’s going on behind the scenes. I think we need to understand and cover and be able to integrate that into the game.
It certainly needs to be used judiciously in terms of, if I don’t really understand some of the theories then I probably shouldn’t even discuss it. So I try to keep it pretty simple. But there are opportunities to show, hey, this is what this guy did with his grip and this is how it affected his spin rate and this is how he’s shaping his pitches. This is what they’re trying to do and this is how he used high-speed cameras and this is how they used their biomechanics lab to improve his movement.
I think all these things are things that a lot of fans want to hear and know about, especially young, aspiring players, amateur players want to understand the sort of thing, how do they do it in the Big Leagues, how are they going about it, how does Max Scherzer hold a slider, how did he improve it, on down the line. There’s example after example of pitchers that have trained to increase their velocity and increase the shape of their pitches, and there’s ways to explain that.
I think that that’s incumbent upon us to be able to understand that and be able to do it concisely in the course of a game without detracting from the baseball game itself.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I’m going to add on to that. The beauty of it is, I’ve watched Coney do his games, and I’ve worked with Karl, that we won’t be afraid to also be vulnerable. We will be self-deprecating at times but understanding where the game is going and sometimes predict to where the game is going, but most importantly also is — I’ll use Coney as an example.
When I used to face him I was like, this is a guy I always wanted from the wind-up, and people would be, why. Well, he used to tip early on in his career. So I wanted that. I couldn’t hit righties, but I knew if he dropped his hands and went down and then came back up, it was going to be a heater; if he didn’t do it, it was going slider, one way other the other.
All those little things are things that I believe we’re going to bring to the game and not be afraid of being able to do it, and being able to have that guy that was there on the bump that’s had over 1,000 strike-outs in the National League and 1,000 in the American League and be able to ask him questions, because it’s sometimes easier from upstairs because the game slows down a bit, but when you’re on the field that game is going pretty quick, and having an understanding of the players in those situations I think is something that is going to make the audience just that much aware of what’s going on in the game itself.
We’ll press the issue a little bit more, and sometimes just make ourselves, as I said earlier, vulnerable.
KARL RAVECH: I think just lastly, I think the other part of this in the future is accessibility by the players. We’ve had years now where you get to hear from the players, whether it’s wearing microphones or somebody on the bench is wearing a microphone. Two of the highlights of ESPN’s broadcast the last couple of years, one was Mookie Betts in Spring Training when he had a microphone on, was going back for a ball, and certainly Freddie Freeman — Anthony Rizzo chasing down Freddie Freeman this past season.
I think the players are more open to it. I think it’s a huge play for the fans at home, wherever they’re watching on TVs, tablets, et cetera. That type of access. It would be great if that were part of this collective bargaining agreement, but that’s sort of the biggest change for me over the years, interviewing Adam Wainwright during a game, to understand sort of the mindset, what they’re thinking about, getting to know them as people. That’s a big deal.
Lastly the college connection, the college impact on the Major League game is growing and growing, whether it’s pitching coaches that get hired. They’re using the same technology. Many of the big schools that Major League Baseball does. So the connection that at least Eduardo and I currently have to the college game serves us really well at the Major League level.
Q: Karl, you’ve been around long enough to know just how prominent it is to get a lead play-by-play broadcaster job for a national package, whether it’s Al Michaels or Jon Miller, some pretty distinguished names. I was curious, at least as much as you want to reveal, how much did you advocate for this position within management? How much did you feel like you had to make the case to a Mark Gross or a Norby Williamson?
KARL RAVECH: Well, I think it would go back probably to the last time this position became available, and like other people, and I don’t think it’s any secret at least some of those that were considered, whether it be Boog Sciambi or Jason Benetti or Dave Fleming, it was clear then that I was interested in doing something like that, and I was candidly disappointed then that it didn’t happen.
I think you probably have some idea, my trajectory or career at ESPN, like Tirico and Fowler, Steve Levy, a whole bunch of other guys that started in studio and then moved into play-by-play, and I’ve done that with whether it was Little League World Series, College World Series, college basketball, those things have kind of — there’s been somewhat of a roadmap to see this was a natural progression for me if it became available.
I didn’t necessarily do I don’t think any more pleading on my own behalf than anybody else who was after the position, and I’ll be honest, I don’t think that it’s hit me yet what this position means because I do when you say it and you say it like that, it’s a little bit awe-inspiring. But I know that I’m comfortable in doing it and look forward to working with these guys, and it won’t be — having done two years of Major League games, I don’t look at it any differently.
I worked in Binghamton, New York, and if somebody asked me what the difference between Binghamton, New York, TV and ESPN television is, the number of people watching, but there’s still a camera, there’s still lights, things still go wrong, so I’m very comfortable in moving into this role, but I don’t think I was a self-advocate more than anybody else was.
Q: On YES Network, you’ve always been a great ambassador to the sabermetrics side of the game, and I imagine you’ve had a little bit more time to do some reading this off-season. I’m curious what aspect of analytics do you think is the next great frontier for better public understanding, particularly on a national level?
DAVID CONE: I really believe that people generally try to use the term analytics as if it’s all-encompassing. But there’s so many subsets within analytics, whether you’re talking about high-speed cameras, charting your release point start to start or even pitch to pitch, the real-time information during a game on your spin rate or your vertical or horizontal movement is different than a sabermetric theory or whether to bunt or not. It’s completely different subsets.
I’m a little leery of just throwing everything under that umbrella of analytics.
To me probably what everybody is doing, and what Karl referenced earlier on the college level, if you’re a young pitcher, Wake Forest has probably one of the best biomechanics labs in the country, and that’s why some of these college pitchers are being hired right out of college, because they are advanced. They can come into an organization, build you a biomechanics lab. The Yankees have one they call The Garage that Matt Blake helped design. To me that’s the real change. It’s how the body moves, being able to observe in real time how your body moves, how efficient you are with your delivery as a pitcher.
That is something we’re seeing immediate dividends being paid off, pitchers from year to year making big jumps in their mechanics and understand the shape of their pitches and pitch design. To me that’s the most interesting part. That’s the part I wish I had when I played that I really missed or that I would have loved to have kind of learned a little bit more about.
Yeah, that’s part, I think, that will be interesting to dive into and explain a little bit, especially if you’ve got a perfect example of a pitcher who’s made a big leap from year to year, and he talks about it himself about the impact of what he’s learned in these biomechanics labs that are being designed. There’s so much to glean from that sort of information, just how efficient your body moves.
That to me is what is really making a difference in real time for these pitchers and also for the younger pitchers trying to develop and how they go about it.
These motions when you’re throwing a baseball and generating arm speed or bat speed for that matter, it happens too fast to see with the naked eye. If you’ve got old pitching coaches, the old-school pitching coach is saying, hey, I saw something. You didn’t see it; it happened too quickly. The guy just threw a 95-mile-an-hour fastball, and his arm was so quick you couldn’t see the release point.
If you’ve got the help of these high-speed cameras, you can actually tell from start to start where your release point was. It can be a precursor to injuries; hey, your arm is dropping a little bit slightly, your release point is a little different from your last six starts or even last year or even three years ago. You can really learn a lot from that and make adjustments on the fly much quicker, as opposed to an old pitching coach sitting on a stool watching you throw on the side and saying, hey, do this or do that.
Not to be demeaning to some of the old pitching coaches, but they were guessing. You just can’t see it; it happens too fast. That’s why the technology can really help.
EDUARDO PEREZ: Can you guys imagine David Cone’s Baseball Savant page right now when he used to drop down and come up, release point sideways? It would have been very long.
KARL RAVECH: The other part of that is, too, where the heck is all these tools for the hitters? Baseball has got an issue with pitchers and all these advancements that they benefit from, I was at Wake Forest when they were installing that thing. There wasn’t anything still but batting cages for the hitters. I’m hopeful that somebody is smart enough to come up with ways to improve the hitting the way we’re doing with the pitching.
DAVID CONE: It’s a great point, Karl. Right on the nose, too, by the way, and hitters are playing catch-up right now.
Q: I just wanted to touch on this because no one asked this. There’s kind of rumors with the Kay-Rod kind of series going on here, I don’t want to compare sports like football to baseball, but is the idea kind of behind this side to go kind of like the Payton and Eli where you have guests on, it’s been rumored in a few articles, and bring in a new aspect for the younger audience, because I know that worked really well in football. Is that somewhat of a goal here?
MARK GROSS: I think it’s just another example, honestly, like even tonight there’s a MegaCast for the National Championship for college football. We’re looking at Kay-Rod not as a MegaCast but really as an alternate way to watch the game.
I’m sure there’s going to be guests, obviously, but there can be guests, there can be demos, there can be analysis on the game. There’s probably going to be half a dozen other things that I’m not even thinking of right now.
We’re not really comparing or contrasting it to the Mannings, which has been obviously a big hit. I’m a big fan. We’re looking at it as here’s an alternate broadcast that is different than what is being produced on ESPN.
Q: You guys were talking in that last question about analytics, pitching. Rapsodo and slow-motion cameras are a huge thing for pitchers. How do you explain to the audience for baseball how important these tools are and how important things are like spin rate and spin efficiency just from pitching and then understanding not overcomplicating it?
EDUARDO PEREZ: One thing that I did learn when I left ESPN for two and a half years to go coach with the Marlins and then went to the Astros where the analytics and the numbers were big, I think they were very much forward thinkers a lot, and one thing that they emphasized a lot was, okay, we have all this data, but we’d better have people that understand how to communicate this data to the players.
The coaches had to buy in, but most importantly the players have to buy in and understand it.
I think from where it’s been from 2013 to where we are now, the players have really embraced it. They’ve grown up with it. We talked about college, a lot of college players, all this data has been already fed to them. We’ve seen it also when it comes to all the travel teams, as well. They want this data.
Is hitting behind pitching? Absolutely it is. It’s a cat-and-mouse situation. But the important part still has to do with the information; how do you communicate that to the players.
Q: Do the Mariners end the drought this year?
KARL RAVECH: They’re heading in the right direction.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I think it depends on the collective bargaining agreement. We’ll find out how much of the postseason will be allowed. But they did have a great strong showing last year, so no reason why not.
Q: A former teammate of you guys, Buck Showalter, is back in the dugout this time with the Mets. How do you think he’ll do?
DAVID CONE: Well, since he was my manager at one point, and he was a manager in 1995 when I was traded to the Yankees in the middle of the season, and then the final game of Buck Showalter’s career I was on the mound for 147 pitches and walked in the tying run in the eighth inning in Seattle in Game 5. Every time Buck and I see each other, it’s left an indelible mark on both of us, that particular game. It was Buck’s last game managing the Yankees. That was a bitter pill for him to swallow.
Since that point in 1995, and when I was allowed to throw 147 pitches, he’s changed a lot, obviously. He’s evolved. That’s the thing that I think people don’t realize about Buck Showalter. There’s not such a clash between old school and new school with Buck. Everybody perceives him to be, oh, he’s going to be this old school guy, is that going to blend in well with what’s going on across baseball.
I think it will. Buck is an information hound. He wants to know everything about everybody. He wants to understand every little facet of analytics so that he can push back against it. He understands that part of it. You can’t bash something if you don’t understand it.
Believe me, Buck is going to do everything he can to understand every aspect of what’s going on in terms of biomechanics and any aspect of analytics you want to discuss.
He’s much more progressive than he’s been given credit for, and he will be surrounded and the infrastructure is being built there with the Mets because of their resources now and their new owner that this is going to be an interesting guy to watch.
I think everybody is looking for balance. You look at what’s going on with some of the coaching hires, yeah, there’s a lot of young guys, there’s kids out of college being hired, but there’s also kind of that push-back of do we need somebody with Major League experience on the coaching staff somewhere. Everybody is searching for that balance, and Buck Showalter is no different than that.
He’s going to be an exciting guy to watch and a really important manager to watch this year for the industry because baseball has always been kind of a copycat sport. The success of Dusty Baker, Tony LaRussa, it’s going to be interesting to watch Buck Showalter because he’s the type of guy that really can impact the decision making on an industry-wise basis.
You can count me as one of his fans because I’ve seen him evolve over the years. He was different in ’95 with the Yankees his last year. He was different in Arizona. He was really different in Baltimore. He really evolved in Baltimore in terms of allowing the players to be themselves, allowing the players to show more emotion.
The days of criticizing Ken Griffey Jr. for wearing his hat backwards taking BP are over, and Buck understands that. Even though he might have been on the other side of the fence years ago, he’s clearly evolved in that area and understands that today’s players, it’s different. It’s a different game, and I applaud it, they should be able to show legitimate emotion on the baseball field, and there’s a big difference between legitimate emotion and the in-your-face kind of disrespectful type of things that we’ve seen at times.
I think Buck is going to surprise some people, and he’s much more progressive, just to reiterate that point. He’s much more progressive in his thinking than he’s been given credit for.
KARL RAVECH: I’ll just add to it, two things about Buck. We think he evolved when he came to work for us at Baseball Tonight and we kind of got his personality to shine a little bit because he’s a funny guy and he’s obviously a smart guy.
Assuming the players stay healthy, I think they compete for a World Series and win one within the next three years. I think they’re that equipped with him there. It’s like the last piece to the puzzle for me.
And more importantly when we were at the All-Star Game in Seattle, I think it was ’01, he was working with us. I ordered some Chinese food to the hotel room, and I had a shellfish allergy, and the chicken and broccoli was made in oyster sauce, which I did not know. So an hour later I had swollen up like a blowfish and I called Buck, and I said, You’ve got to take me to the hospital. So Buck drove me to the hospital and hung out with me — he and his son were hanging out with me when I had a shot of adrenaline.
I always tell Buck that he saved my life. I saved his career, he saved my life, so we’re kind of even that way. I’m a humongous fan of Buck Showalter as a person and as a manager, no doubt.
EDUARDO PEREZ: I’d echo every sentiment, every sentiment. The only thing he won’t change, though, is when he goes out to change the pitcher and David probably knows this because he probably saw him do it often, that handle go in the back pocket as he walks towards the mound. That will not change, and he doesn’t even know that he does it.