Well, crap. Now that the Tampa Bay Rays’ miracle season has come to a premature end, we’re 100+ days from spring training. Don’t worry – your friendly neighborhood BertFlex is here to keep the baseball chatter going during the long, cold, miserable offseason.
To wit: John Sickels is the auteur of minorleagueball.com and way too classy to speak with a fourth-rate blog like us. But don’t tell him that. We sat down with the Hammerin’ Sickels for another of our trademark, Jim Rome-approved interviews.
1. We at BertFlex are big fans of Brett Wallace. Some of us don't know if he can stick at third defensively. What's your expert opinion?
Well, I absolutely love the bat. I think he would be a better fit at first base, but obviously that's not an option for the Cardinals unless Albert has a catastrophic injury of some kind. From what I saw of Wallace in college, he has the arm for third base, and he is actually a pretty good athlete for his size, but his range is no better than average, and as he gets older and slows down that could deteriorate further. However, if he hits as expected, the tradeoff of mediocre defense/outstanding hitting is likely worthwhile.
2. Sticking on the Cardinals front: After Colby Rasmus's disappointing 2008 (granted, injuries played a major factor), have your thoughts on him changed at all? Do you see him as a sure thing or just the best the Cards have right now? Or is he even that?
I still love Rasmus, and I'm not worried about him at this point. The balance of skills is still there. He didn't lose his strike zone judgment. 2008 was the equivalent of his junior year in college, so just be patient. I think he will be fine.
3. How many minor league games do you attend in a season? Does one particular game/memory stick out?
Not enough. I live in Lawrence, KS, which is now about 150 miles from the nearest minor league city thanks to Wichita losing their team in 2008. In most seasons, I do a lot of driving around the Midwest and get good coverage of the Texas League, the Pacific Coast League, and the Midwest League, plus the Arizona Fall League, 25-30 games in a good year. But in 2007 and 2008, we had some family deaths and other tragedies that prevented me from traveling much during the season.
Hopefully, we can get some stability back in 2009 and I can get back on a normal schedule. This is a handicap at times, but it is what it is. I prefer to see players in person, but I have sources I trust who can see players that I can't see and who give me good information when needed. The explosion of video now available on the Internet has helped immensely.
As for 2008, probably the most interesting game I saw this year was a Texas League game in early April between Tulsa and San Antonio, featuring numerous strong prospects on both clubs. Will Inman of the Padres showed me one hell of a breaking ball in that game.
4. (Editor’s Note: The fourth Q&A has gone missing, possibly due to a cut-and-paste mishap. We believe in a hard nine rather than a hard eight (that’s what she said), so we’re including this placeholder. We hope to recover the missing question in time for inclusion on the BertFlex 30th Anniversary DVD.)
5. How much would I have to pay you to get my own entry in the 2009 Prospect Handbook? What's your process for putting that book together each season?
Well, I'm working on the book right now. It will have reports on more than 1,000 players, so space is at a premium ... sorry, at this point we aren't taking custom player orders.
Basically, I write it team-by-team. I usually start off with a list of 50-60 players in each system worth writing about, based on stats and scouting reports. The hardest part is paring that down to 36-38 players per team. Someone cool always gets left out, but if I included everyone the book would take five months to write instead of three, and would be so big no one could carry it to the bathroom to read. (Editor’s Note: Methinks he misunderestimates the BertFlex crowd.)
6. Judging by your SBNation profile, you're a big politics and history buff. Has the current election cycle bolstered or deflated your faith in Americans' ability to handle the responsibilities of democracy?
We will know in another week. Yes, I am a big history buff; I have an MA in European history and worked on my PhD for three years before giving it up for baseball. American history is the long story of our struggle to live up to the ideals enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I try to keep my politics out of my baseball writing, but it sneaks in sometimes, and anyone who has read my work over the years can probably figure out where I stand on things.
7. Better classic rock drummer: Keith Moon or John Bonham? (Hint: The correct answer is John Bonham.)
I'm sorry, the correct answer is Nick Mason, circa 1973-1975.
8. Bold prediction time: Who will be the Evan Longoria of 2009?
Matt Wieters, who will hit .279 with a .353 OBP and 25 homers.
9. Do you play baseball/softball in any capacity? I only ask because we're going to be playing in a wiffle ball league this winter and could use another body.
I play catch in the spring and summer with my son, and was a decent wiffleball player in my youth. I had a good arm and could hit a little, but was an awful fielder, a slow runner, and a poor athlete overall. I never did much with actual Little League, which was too structured for my tastes. When I was a kid, I used to play whiffle ball with some neighbors across the street. One of them was Mike Mahoney, who eventually ended up playing some in the majors.
The BertFlex crew sincerely thanks Mr. Sickels for his time and tolerance.