The Orioles featured prominently at the conference, but humor takes precedent here.
The Orioles hosted the annual SABR convention last week in Baltimore, much of which I already wrote about. Since there was so much to go over, I left out many of the memorable lines from the convention. Some of these are connected to the team, some relate to the people involved, and others are stories about notable figures in baseball.
This will be a companion piece featuring the funnier and more meaningful things people said. It will be helpful to look back at the first article for the full titles of speakers and the context in which they are speaking, but I will also provide the necessary amount here.
All the quotes in this section come from Orioles AGM Sig Mejdal.
A Giants fan in the audience asked what happened in the Mike Yastrzemski trade, prompting Sig to glance away and say, “next question…” He then answered the question for real, saying that getting the trade wrong “is a reminder we’re imperfect” and the front office had “conversations on what we missed.”
In regard to holding back top prospects: “we want to win as quickly as possible. The transition [from AAA to MLB] is the biggest and having them fail is tremendously costly. Players and writers don’t know that. Service time is insignificant compared to the leverage of playoffs. I would hope the players know we’re all in this together.”
When an older Orioles fan pleaded for the front office to someday keep the young stars, Mejdal had a fair answer that probably didn’t make the fan happy: “A win to us does not return the financial gains. It doesn’t make sense to outbid the bigger teams [who do make money just by winning games].”‘
On the ownership lawsuit: “John [Angelos] addressed it in a town hall meeting. Family squabble, team isn’t leaving, business side is fine…I don’t think the players really pay attention.”
What is the next competitive advantage? “Biomechanics data is coming…no shortage of ideas on how to fix a pitcher…we’ll see how many [ideas] hold up.”
All the quotes in this section come from writer and recent Hall of Famer Tim Kurkjian.
“You guys [SABR members] are completely out of your mind.” On why baseball research is important, “we do a lot of things wrong, and we need someone to correct us.” But “somedays I wonder if we have too many numbers.”
Little League World Series is “baseball at its purest.”
A few years ago, a Little Leaguer told Tim that he hits 360 days of the year. What Kurkjian regrets not asking is “which five days don’t you hit?”
Kurkjian once talked basketball with Sandy Koufax, a sport both of them love. When asking if he could dunk, Koufax said “of course I could, look at my hands.”
Tim once heard a minor league pitcher yell at his third baseman for catching a popup because “my only way to the big leagues is with a high K-rate.”
When Terry Francona managed the Phillies, “I had to teach them how to play. Our closer came into a game with ketchup on his jersey. ‘A fan threw a hotdog at me.’ And we were at home.”
When Tim told David Ortiz he’ll see him in Cooperstown, Papi responded, “oh, you’re coming to see me?”
When Johnny Bench said Tim needs a picture will his family on induction weekend, Bench took the picture. But “Johnny, we need you in the picture with us.”
Bench also told Kurkjian, “it’s moments like this that take you back to Little League, and let’s face it, you can still fit in a Little League uniform.”
Joe Spear was the lead designer of Camden Yards, but before building a new stadium, he said the Orioles looked into renovating Memorial Stadium, but that wasn’t good enough: “It’ll be a B+…Memorial Stadium will never be what it should be.”
Greg Bader is Orioles VP of Administration & Experience and has no qualms about the new wall in left field: “The wall is doing exactly what we wanted it to do.”
Orioles team historian Bill Stetka added that moving the wall back has “opened up the field, brings in more singles” because the left fielder has to play further back. I think this is a quirk few have talked about or even noticed.
Women in Baseball Panel
Jen Grondahl is VP of Community Development & Communications and had the most reassuring line regarding the Orioles: “we’re incredibly bullish on Baltimore.”
Eve Rosenbaum is officially an AGM, but Grondahl introduced her as “a future GM for a team to be named later.” When Eve talked about her time with the Astros, Jen chimed in that “all her exes live in Texas.”
Talking about the 2020 season, Head Groundskeeper Nicole Sherry is not a fan of the fake sounds pumped into empty stadiums: “Loof of fan noise? Torture.”
As a high-ranking woman in the front office, Rosenbaum has a specific mentor to look up to in Marlins GM Kim Ng. Ng gave her the advice to “write down what you see in terms of leadership qualities. Write down my opinions on players, what I get right, what I get wrong.” Rosenbaum explained that over time she can look back and see if any patterns stand out regarding traits that consistently lead to success or failure. She also added that Ng is “cool as a cucumber.”
Grondahl had one of the more affirmative lines of the conference on making it in the industry: “there are a lot of people who thought I don’t belong…and I didn’t listen to them.”
MASN broadcaster Kevin Brown, in comparing his career to longtime radio voice Joe Castiglione, said “my story starts like a week ago.” He first called a game when he was eight, and “the couple next to me must have been perturbed.”
Brown added that “like every other white male play-by-play I went to Syracuse.”
Before calling Red Sox games, Castiglione did play-by-play in Cleveland with Bob Feller, who was “not politically correct.” Castiglione has some TV experience, but “right now I have a better face for radio.”
Both commentators also had things to say about the 2020 season. Working from the studio instead of in the stadium Castiglione said the “toughest thing was, is that a replay or is that live?”
Brown complained that the lack of fans created a lot of dead air. When he did not have things to say, the only idea was, “let’s move the slider up on the fake crowd noise.”
Joe knows better than anybody about the necessity to prepare for games: “You can’t fool a baseball fan…they think they know it all and that’s all that really matters.”
The rest of the quotations come from Orioles Hall of Famer Boog Powell.
Dizzy Dean told Boog to his face, “‘son, that’s the worst nickname I’ve ever heard.’ And this is a guy named Dizzy.”
Believe it or not, Powell was not immediately a fan of the Frank Robinson trade. That changed when he and Andy Etchebarren watched batting practice. “Milt Pappas was one of my really good friends. How is Frank going to help us? I saw him take batting practice and said, ‘Andy, I think we just won the pennant’.”
Powell really like Hank Bauer, the manager before Earl Weaver. Bauer was a straight shooter who had them wear suits when they traveled. “We looked like major leaguers, not some hippie.”
In regard to the 1969 World Series, “I still don’t know how [the Mets] beat us…I think we were flat” after easily clinching the pennant. When the Orioles flew back home after the series, thousands of fans were waiting at the airport. It meant so much to Powell, “I tried to touch every one of them.”
When Boog was traded to Cleveland in 1975, “I looked like a giant bloody Mary” in the red jersey.
Powell also gave the highest praise to Brooks Robinson while providing some perspective: “If he was playing in New York, he could have run for president.”