You may be surprised to find this out since I am a blogger, but I like talking about baseball. I especially like talking about baseball with people that know a lot more than I do about the game. I talk about it with my friends, my dad, my son, and even clients at work. I’ve even had the fortune to be able to talk a little baseball with some pretty interesting famous people - beat writer Rustin Dodd, former pitcher Bret Saberhagen, writer Rany Jazayerli, broadcaster Dan Shulman, and former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest. And I know a few readers have gotten the chance to talk to people like Frank White, J.J. Piccollo, and even the man himself, Dayton Moore.
But there are still so many people I would love to chat about the game with, particularly when it comes to Royals baseball. Let’s say you get a dream lunch with 1-3 people of your choosing, but you must talk baseball. Who do you pick? Here are a few of my candidates.
The big kahuna himself! I would love to sit and talk about “The Process”, what it is truly like to run a baseball organization, and find out what is next for the franchise. I would love to know how much analytics and scouting factors into decisions, and how it is all integrated into the decision-making process behind transactions. I would love to hear him make the case for and against a rebuild for next year, and what factors will have to be considered. We could also talk about the changing nature of the game, how it has evolved with the home run spike and bullpen usage and changes with the new CBA, and how it all impacts the Royals.
Of course, Dayton Moore would likely keep things very close to the vest. This dream lunch would not necessarily require the participants be forthright or even honest (unless maybe you slip them a few martinis?) So the conversation may be washed in vague, obfuscating platitudes with no real insight. Still, even his public statements can point to where this franchise could be headed, and perhaps an off-the-record conversation can shed some light.
I was not kidding when I said I would absolutely rush out and buy a book of the Royals Bob Dutton covered when he was with the Kansas City Star from 2000 to 2013. Heck, I would gladly be his research lackey if he needed one. That period is right in my sweet spot of Royals fandom, and learning all about the highs (not many) and lows (and lower) of that era would be an absolute treat. Dutton even has the perfect amount of sardonic wit to be able to punctuate the on-field foibles of Ken Harvey, the tales of maddeningly poor judgments by the front office, and the depths of 100-loss teams. If you haven’t already listened to this podcast of Rustin Dodd talking to Dutton talking about the Allard Baird years, treat yourself.
Dayton Moore may give you one version of the story, but Sam seems to be able to dig deeper and give you the fuller context. In a short period of time, Sam seems to have developed contacts both in the organization and around baseball and can flesh out a story to give the reader a better idea of what is going on. If you don’t already read his regular column, you should, and his Mellinger Minutes frequently has some of the best tidbits of information and insight. If Sam says Eric Hosmer is the key to the Royals off-season, Eric Hosmer is probably the key to the Royals off-season.
There are so many others I could list. Rustin Dodd has done a terrific job covering the Royals the past few seasons, and Andy McCullough certainly saw some things in his brief tenure covering the team. Jeffrey Flanagan certainly has his pulse on the inner-workings of the organization.
If you have never listened to Negro League Baseball Museum President Bob Kendrick speak, you are missing out. I don’t always agree with Bill James, but he certainly still has interesting things to say about baseball. There may not be a better historian for baseball than John Thorn. There are terrific writers and analysts at Fangraphs like Dave Cameron, Eric Longenhagen, and Jeff Sullivan I would love to talk to. There is Nate Silver and David Schoenfield and reporters like Buster Olney, Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark, and Jon Heyman.
The players themselves may be interesting lunch dates. What is Eric Hosmer thinking as he embarks on free agency? How will Salvador Perez deal with the loss of some of his dear teammates? Just how handsome is Whit Merrifield up close? And former players may be even more interesting. What does Brian Bannister think about pitching? What can Mark Teahen tell us about those lean years? Will Jason Kendall tell us to “rewind ourselves”?
Who would you talk baseball with at your dream lunch?