Sports And The City

It was 4-1.

Back to basics

with 24 comments

Writing in this space used to be easy. Writing, in general. It isn’t anymore. At least it isn’t right now. (Also, it’s official: I hate the words “blog,” “blogger,” and “blogging.”) It’s been a wild 12 months for me, personally. I haven’t been around much. I feel like I have to make up for lost time, except I’m not sure how to do that. I also feel, mostly due to Twitter, like I’m drowning in information. That if I’m not bringing a distinct opinion and voice to the conversation, there’s no point to any of this. That if I’m not writing about WAR, or xFIP, or showing you a graph of some sort, I’m bringing something to the table that’s utterly unreadable, and a waste of your time. And I’ve never felt that way before. I’ve gone as far as to comb through my own archives, in search of, I think, inspiration. Sure, some people find my writing and my twittering — surely my twittering — annoying. But that’s always going to be the case.

I read a lot. If you can’t write, read, right? In the aftermath of the Shaun Marcum for Brett Lawrie trade (or is it the Lawrie for Marcum trade?), I’ve read an inordinate amount of blog posts and columns devoted to the transaction. I’ve seen Lawrie’s infamous Eminem-inspired tattoo, and his abdominals. The amount of content out there — instant content — boggles the mind. I think it’s amazing how much, and how well, Joe Posnanski writes. Every. Single. Day. I only wish I could. I want to. And, yet, I open my RSS reader, and log on to Twitter, and I’m overwhelmed. By all of it.

On January 29th of this year, just a few days before I took off for a jaunt through India, George Packer, one of my favourite writers, wrote about Twitter (which he doesn’t use):

The truth is, I feel like yelling Stop quite a bit these days. Every time I hear about Twitter I want to yell Stop. The notion of sending and getting brief updates to and from dozens or thousands of people every few minutes is an image from information hell. I’m told that Twitter is a river into which I can dip my cup whenever I want. But that supposes we’re all kneeling on the banks. In fact, if you’re at all like me, you’re trying to keep your footing out in midstream, with the water level always dangerously close to your nostrils. Twitter sounds less like sipping than drowning.

The most frightening picture of the future that I’ve read thus far in the new decade has nothing to do with terrorism or banking or the world’s water reserves—it’s an article by David Carr, the Timess media critic, published on the decade’s first day, called “Why Twitter Will Endure.” “I’m in narrative on more things in a given moment than I ever thought possible,” Carr wrote. And: “Twitter becomes an always-on data stream from really bright people.” And: “The real value of the service is listening to a wired collective voice … the throbbing networked intelligence.” And: “On Twitter, you are your avatar and your avatar is you.” And finally: “There is always something more interesting on Twitter than whatever you happen to be working on.”

This last is what really worries me. Who doesn’t want to be taken out of the boredom or sameness or pain of the present at any given moment? That’s what drugs are for, and that’s why people become addicted to them. Carr himself was once a crack addict (he wrote about it in “The Night of the Gun”). Twitter is crack for media addicts. It scares me, not because I’m morally superior to it, but because I don’t think I could handle it. I’m afraid I’d end up letting my son go hungry.

Packer’s writing, for some reason or another, has always spoken to me. But never, ever like those three paragraphs did. I’m who he’s talking about; I’m on Twitter crack. From The Hardball Times, to Baseball Prospectus, to Drunk Jays Fans, to Dustin “Fuck Off” Parkes’ new and impressive Getting Blanked, to Pension Plan Puppets, and Down Goes Brown, to The Tao of Stieb, and MLB Trade Rumors, and Ghostrunner on First, and The Blue Jay Hunter, and RaptorBlog, and The Basketball Jones, and FanGraphs, and NotGraphs (have you subscribed yet?), and T. Jose Caldeford … You get my point: Information overload. I’ve tweeted almost 9,050 times. That’s a lot of characters. A lot of, essentially, posts here at Sports And The City. And here I am, one of those people worried about people’s shortening attention spans, and the dying art of long prose. Have you even made it this far?

I used to write for me, and you. But mostly me. I believe I’m a better writer today because of it. I’m going to try and get back to basics.

Opening Doors

You didn’t think I was going to write all of that, and not tell you how I feel about the Lawrie for Marcum trade, did you? You so crazy. It’s why I appreciate you.

I love the trade. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough to see Marcum go. North of Steeles, forever. Well, hopefully not. I really miss living in the city, personally, but you know what I mean. Marcum pitched with pride. Not only for himself, but for his teammates. I’ll never forget how angry he was after the Balitmore OriLOLes, in late September, threw at Jose Bautista. Make no mistake about it: Shaun Marcum was taking names. I’ll miss his confidence, his leadership, and his swagger. An Opening Day starter for the Toronto Blue Jays, I trust he’s left a competent set of men to follow in his footsteps. The Marcum era will be looked upon fondly, and I wish Shaun well in the National League, where it’s even easier to pitch like a man.

To get, you’ve got to give. In return for Marcum, Brett Lawrie brings a different kind of swagger to Toronto, and as Parkes pointed out at Getting Blanked, there’s nothing wrong with that. Lawrie is a high ceiling, high reward type of ballplayer. Is he worth the risk, in dealing Shaun Marcum? If the Carl Crawford contract with the Boston Red Sox proves anything, it’s that, yes, Lawrie is worth the risk. And so is Anthony Gose. For the Blue  Jays to climb a mountain that only seems to grow higher and higher, Alex Anthopoulos has to reach. He has no choice but to play high stakes; high risk, high reward.

While it hasn’t publicly, to these eyes, the Lawrie deal puts an end to the Zack Grienke-to-Toronto speculation. The 2011 season isn’t about “going for it.” Lawrie’s all about upside, and versatility. Lord knows he can hit. Now it’s up to the Blue Jays to find him a position, and make a big leaguer out of him.

In his 1988 Bill James Baseball Abstract, James wrote:

What I wanted to write about… is a very basic question. Of all the studies I have done over the last 12 years, what have I learned? What is the relevance of sabermetric knowledge to the decision making process of a team? If I were employed by a major-league team, what are the basic things that I know from the research I have done which would be of use to me in helping that team?

Number one on his list was:

Minor league batting statistics will predict major league batting performance with essentially the same reliability as previous major league statistics.

Here are Lawrie’s and Travis Snider’s numbers from their seasons in AA-ball, when both were 20 years young:

Snider: 362 ABs, .262/.357/.461

Lawrie: 554 ABs, .285/.346/.451

Most, if not all of us, are ecstatic about a season for Snider freed from the shackles of Cito Gaston. And if you’re as excited about Snider as I am, how can you not be excited about Lawrie? He’s got a bat, and wheels. The fact that he’s Canadian is a bonus. I could care less where a ballplayer is from, Canada, Cuba, or India. Bring me the best baseball players, period.

The 2011 season is about Snider finally getting a full season under his belt. It’s about Kyle Drabek earning his stripes in the ultra-competitive American League East. It’s about J.P. Arencibia becoming a big league catcher. It’s about Adam Lind learning how to play a competent first base, and Aaron Hill returning to form. What I love most about the Lawrie for Marcum trade is that it proves that Alex Anthopoulos isn’t trying to open a window from which the Blue Jays can contend. He’s trying to open a set of French doors, overlooking the ocean.

Image courtesy This Isn’t Happiness.

24 Responses to 'Back to basics'

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  1. I love this article! Thank you for getting back to the basics.


    9 Dec 10 at 4:23 am

  2. I will absolutely miss Marcum, but the fact is that there are a lot of young players with high ceilings in the works on the team and on deck. I think it is just as easy to be depressed when you look at the holes (and the Gonford signings by the Sox) as it is to be optimistic, but if the Rays can offer us anything, it’s that youth and having everybody firing on all cylinders can provide some happy times.
    Let’s play some ball already.


    9 Dec 10 at 6:40 am

  3. I feel your consternation, Navin. As you told me, doing this takes work. Hard work. And often that work seems like it brings little rewards. Sometimes it doesn’t come easy. I’m in one of those dry zones too. The thing to remember is that we’ve done this because it felt correct in our destiny and our destination. Keep moving.

    Someone once told me that faith is like the rudder of a ship: It’s useless unless you are moving forward. Keep moving forward. I, for one, can’t imagine life without your writing.


    9 Dec 10 at 6:51 am

  4. Twitter has pretty much killed my blogging as well. (Although I’m about to start a new blog – go figure.) And like you, I too hope to move back to Toronto. And I’m going to miss Shaun Marcum – he was my favourite Jay (but Doc will always be my fave ex-Jay).

    So basically, welcome to the club.


    9 Dec 10 at 10:35 am

  5. Let’s form a support group, b/c I feel the same way. Not new-stat savvy enough to hang with the big boys of the blogosphere, not clever enough to entertain.

    Forgot about Marcum’s OriLoLe outrage. Good times. I’ll miss that.

    the ack

    9 Dec 10 at 10:53 am

  6. The first half of this post has inspired me to get back to writing on my own blog much more frequently.

    Twitter is crack. I’m a fiend. I’m the Bubbles of twitter.

    As for Marcum, loved the guy. However, I trust in AA. I think Lawrie would make a great corner outfielder where he can utilize his speed.

    25th Hour

    9 Dec 10 at 11:07 am

  7. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Navin Vaswani, Navin Vaswani. Navin Vaswani said: Late night #sportsandthecity: [...]

  8. Woah, I’m totally on twitter crack. I’d never thought of this concept before and it’s so accurate, so obvious now that I feel silly for not having realized it before.
    It’s hard to feel relevant online nowadays, there’s so much repetition, so little originality. Writing for yourself is the only way to go. Glad you’ll be keeping that up.


    9 Dec 10 at 12:29 pm

  9. “That if I’m not writing about WAR, or xFIP, or showing you a graph of some sort, I’m bringing something to the table that’s utterly unreadable, and a waste of your time.”

    Forget stats. I’d much rather hear what you think. That’s truly individual.


    9 Dec 10 at 12:30 pm

  10. @ Shaner: So much enthusiasm!!!1

    @ QJays: I totally agree, you can either be optimistic or, in light of Bo$ton’s signings, be depressed. I’m choosing the former. Like I said, it isn’t about opening a window, it’s about opening doors. I’m very excited to see Lawrie in spring training; I’m actually hoping to get down to Florida to see it for myself. AA dealt from a position of strength, and I absolutely think it was the right move.

    @ William: “Keep moving.” Amen. Thanks for the kind words, and for reading. I appreciate it.

    @ MK: Good luck with your new blog. I hope you’ll promote it on Twitter, and give me even more to read.

    @ The Ack: I’m glad I’m not the only one, mate. But trust me, you do your thing, and you do it well. Looking forward to you running the show while Tao is galavanting down under.

    @ 25th: I introduced you to Twitter. I’m sorry, man. As for Lawrie, 3B or OF seems to make sense. I say try him at 3B first. It’s just impossible to not be excited about his bat, especially when you read what guys like Keith Law (GOSPEL!) have to say about him.

    @ Karina: I felt the exact same way when I read the Packer article. I immediately emailed my best friend and said “Read this, he’s talking about me.” And I always wondered why Packer wasn’t on Twitter. Now I know why, and it makes complete sense. But thanks for the support. It’s appreciated.

    @ Fergus: I appreciate the feedback, and when you put it that way, you’re absolutely right. Thanks Heather.

    Navin Vaswani

    9 Dec 10 at 2:04 pm

  11. Nav, first off – not trying to blow smoke up your ass or anything, but I love reading your stuff. Keep doing what you’re doing, brother.

    I totally understand what you’re saying about the whole Twitter thing. At times it does feel like a bit much, but that’s the way things are progressing now. It’s all about immediacy rather than details. Like any new medium, you take the good with the bad.

    Finding your own “voice” is still the hardest thing in blogging, I find. It’s a constant journey in discovering your own niche in the blogosphere, and I think you’ve found it.


    9 Dec 10 at 4:32 pm

  12. Twitter crack is the best kind of crack.

    Thought the baseball part was great too.

    I know how you feel. I try to write for the same reason (and in part for a select group of people whose opinions I want to hear) but the other one is that I like the idea that I can chronicle my thoughts on any given Leafs-related topic.

  13. Nav, this is the hardest part of any creative art.

    My advice / experience? Write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write.

    And then edit out all the shit that you can’t stand to look at. Maybe that will leave you with 1,000 words or 5,000 or 50. As long as they’re the right ones it won’t matter.


    9 Dec 10 at 5:47 pm

  14. Well said, monsieur. I’m facing the prospect of getting back into regular music blogging after putting it aside to finish my thesis (and even toying with the idea of doing a blog about the upcoming Vancouver Canadians season), and the sheer volume of info to keep abreast of before actually taking up your own subject is intimidating, to say the least.

    It was a treat to read your stuff this season, and I’m looking forward to more.


    9 Dec 10 at 6:20 pm

  15. Navin I’m a first time commenter, admittedly because I couldn’t believe what I was reading in the first paragraph of this post.

    I found this site through Drunk Jays Fans a year or two ago. I looked through every link on DJF and eventually settled in on checking you, Wilner, Tao, Ghostrunner, and Southpaw on a frequent basis. Everyone brings something different to the table, and I enjoy reading all of it. I open your website last because I enjoy reading my favourite article at the end, which yours most often are.

    Yes, I can go to Fangraphs to read about how Arencibia will have a .260 average because Las Vegas has hot air or who knows what. And yes I can go to Ghostrunner for excellent graphs and stats, that take me an hour to understand, about how awesome Romero is.

    But do you know what I really love? I love reading that the Raps will have a good year because Bargs is about to break out and average a double double. And I love checking in after a Jays game to see a post about Bautista’s swagger and violent swing.

    And about your tweets? I sure don’t find them annoying. The night we traded for Lawrie, this was the first tweet I saw:

    “No. Cuban. RT @dustinparkes: Wait a minute. Is Brett Lawrie Canadian?”.

    I smiled, had that exciting feeling in my stomach, and spent the next hour scouring the web for scouting reports. And do you know who’s twitter I was obsessively checking as Morrow nearly pitched a perfect game? Yours.

    You’ve become part of the Toronto sports experience for me because you are the eternal optimist and very humourous. Please don’t change, and please don’t stop.

    Next time you need something to write about, just shoot me up an article about how Snider is going to become the greatest Blue Jay of the next 15 years. You don’t have to mention his OPS or OPS+ or WAR. Just talk about that beautiful swing. I’ll be sure to leave the article for last. And I’ll smile the whole way through.


    9 Dec 10 at 6:54 pm

  16. what Ian said. Word for goddamn word.

    "Dave Schultz"

    9 Dec 10 at 7:59 pm

  17. All, I can say is, keep writing. You’re good at it. And I’m with the others–the advanced stats are nice, but the meat and potatoes are when you write from the heart.

    Are the Brew Crew coming to T.O. this year? We need to give Marcum a salute. Truly, he pitched like a man.

    Escaped Lab Rat

    9 Dec 10 at 9:32 pm

  18. I’m not sure the Lawrie/Snider comp is fair even going by minor league statistics. Snider had .100 OPS on him in A ball, and posted 900 and 1.00 OPS in AAA when he was 20-21. I’m going off memory, but I’m pretty sure Snider was playing hurt while in AA.

    I think Lawrie will be a good hitter, but Snider was still ahead of him at that point in his development.


    9 Dec 10 at 9:57 pm

  19. @ Ian: Thanks, mate. Appreciate it. Totally agree: it’s a constant journey, this whole thing. I think the good outweighs the bad on Twitter, which is why I love the medium, but I think it’s easy to get snowed over by the information. I don’t even follow that many people, and I feel that way. It’s crazy.

    @ PPP: Twitter crack is pretty intense. As for the writing, I think we all go through something similar, every now and then. Especially when we’ve all been at this for years now.

    @ Archi: Write. That’s about all you can do, absolutely, even when you can’t.

    @ Contrasoma: Totally understand where the intimidation comes from. In a sense, that never goes away, I think. But it can also help, in keeping yourself on top of things. I think that’s the issue: where to draw the line in terms of information, before it becomes information overload. And thanks.

    @ Shane: Wow. Thank you. Seriously. Intense appreciation.

    @ Schultz: Thanks, Jen.

    @ Escaped: Thanks, mate. You’re right; stats are the value-added portion of the post. As for the Brewers, they’re not in town in 2011. No matter when Marcum comes back, he’ll get his his due.

    @ Mark: I used that comparison because they were both 20 years old when they spent time in AA-ball. For Snider, he went through high A, AA, and AAA in 2008, at 20, but the majority of his bats came in AA, like Lawrie in 2010. Same age, same league, at the same, hence the comparison, and both of them did well. You’re right, though, re: Snider; he ripped the hell out of the ball in A-ball in 2008, AAA-ball in 2009, and AA-ball, again, in 2010. But both of them are high end hitting prospects, and that’s what led me to that comparison. I’m high on both of them, while agreeing that Snider’s definitely ahead of the curve in terms of development.

    Navin Vaswani

    10 Dec 10 at 2:27 am

  20. @Shane, I think that’s the greatest comment I’ve ever seen on any blog ever.


    10 Dec 10 at 4:44 pm

  21. The written word USED to be the most carefully thought out and accurate information source. It’s permanence makes writing the most powerful information dissemination medium, and before the internet it also kept a healthy limit on how many words were available. It thusly enforced a rigorous (or at least existent) editing process prior to publication. The advent of things like twitter allows us to publish and distribute on a whim, it’s the baking soda (if you use baking POWDER people will have muffins coming out of their noses) to the written word’s cocaine. I personally can’t stand the twitter twats, it’s too much. As interested as I am in the acquisition of a high ceiling prospect, I don’t give a flying fuck (pardon my french) what Joe Blow who writes his daily thoughts on which is what I understand your concern to be Navin. There are no identifiable roles in these information production machines (a daily blog is just that) leading to repition and redundancy. The reason I read sportsandthecity, besides the fact that you once posted on my aborted attempt at a mapleleafs blog (the only response to a matt stajan couplet), you opine from the heart and with a level of candour that is lacking in the anonimity laden “blogosphere”. I don’t come here for news, so don’t bother worrying that you don’t provide us with Travis Snider’s line drive frequency or breaking news on Drabek’s developement, that isn’t why we read. This post hit home for me, if you couldn’t tell by this comment. Anyway, thank you.


    10 Dec 10 at 7:28 pm

  22. @ Aki: Thanks for taking the time to write what you did. Most appreciated. For real.

    Navin Vaswani

    11 Dec 10 at 2:59 am

  23. I can’t really add much to this that hasn’t already been said except for maybe this: writers write. They can’t help themselvs. They do it every day. This is what seperates them from the thinking about writing crowd.

    I used to be one of you in a slightly different capacity. I’m lucky enough to still be collecting some royalties however(thank you SOCAN). I’m happy to be an anonymous commenter so I’ll leave that alone.

    But sometimes I miss that world. I don’t like to have regrets, but walking away from large offers in the name staying away from the corporate side sometimes haunts me. I’ve got more important(to me anyway) things to do now and I’m happy with the path I’ve chosen.

    Now to get to the point that I already made: writers write. And you sir, are a writer…


    13 Dec 10 at 12:53 pm

  24. Mattt, I appreciate the comment, especially from someone who’s done it before. Seriously. Thanks.

    Navin Vaswani

    13 Dec 10 at 4:16 pm

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