A daily baseball columnist for ESPN.com, Rob Neyer has written five books, including his Big Book of Baseball Blunders, which hits shelves this month. The Heckler talked with Neyer about Chicago’s GMs and his World Series predictions.
The Heckler: How much of the Big Book of Baseball Blunders is based on the 2004 and 2005 Cubs?
Rob Neyer: [Laughs] There is a chapter about Dusty Baker. Jason Brannon, a friend of mine, is from Peoria, Ill. When I asked him about ideas for the book, he mentioned the Cubs hiring Dusty Baker. We led off the chapter with a quote from Dusty about players not reaching their peak until ages 32 through 36, and beyond. That last part is the most important: beyond. Beyond 36?
TH: How many blunders are in the book?
RN: About 50 chapters based on individual blunders. Every chapter has a sidebar, so there are well over 100. I just wanted to write about the blunders people still talk about. I want to be in the middle of the discussion. There’s a sidebar about Dusty not pulling Mark Prior in the 2003 NLCS. The point of the book is that it’s the blunders that stick with us. When it’s a lopsided trade, we talk about the team that came out on the short end. Nobody talks about the Cardinals getting Lou Brock. They focus on the Cubs trading him.
TH: If there was a Big Book of Something based on the Cubs, what would it be called?
RN: The Big Book of Dashed Hopes. There’s no reason why this team hasn’t won more pennants over the years. The fan base is there.
TH: You got your start working with Bill James. When did people begin taking him seriously?
RN: I think the public began taking him seriously in 1982 when he released Baseball Abstract. Inside the game, [then Oakland A’s GM] Sandy Alderson was one of the first in the ’80s, but it wasn’t until the last four or five years that James’ work gained currency, when people who subscribed to his theories actually started being in positions to implement them.
TH: What do you think of Jim Hendry?
RN: One of the hallmarks of a good organization is the ability to grow talent. And the big name there was Corey Patterson, which didn’t work out. Another hallmark is keeping young pitchers healthy, and they haven’t done that either. Then you look at this past off-season. Juan Pierre was a good move, but Jacque Jones was a horrible signing. I wouldn’t say Hendry is as bad as [Royals GM] Allard Baird, but he’s not one of the best.
TH: What about Kenny Williams?
RN: He basically made a believer out of me. I don’t think his first couple of years went well, but the decision to hire Ozzie Guillen was good, and his other moves have worked out. He was aggressive this offseason, which I like. Some championship teams just stick with what they have, but he went out and made some big moves.
TH: Who is going to win the Series?
RN: It’s impossible to predict, but I was forced by my editor to do so before the season, and I said the Dodgers over the Twins, which isn’t looking very good.