TCB is the home of Astros bloggers. That's why I'm surprised that we haven't talked about new GM Jeff Luhnow's blogger friendly past. As an executive with the Cardinals, Luhnow had a number of notable interactions with fan bloggers. That has to be a welcome trend for those of us who write for TCB and spend time reading other baseball blogs. It's possible that the GM role will change how much interaction Luhnow can have with bloggers, but it's still nice to know that he sees value in the fan blogs. In an earlier period, before the days of team social media directors, Luhnow's interaction with bloggers probably was frowned upon by some of the traditional baseball guys. So this friendliness was not immediately cost-free for him.
In a 2007 interview, Luhnow said he frequently reads fan blogs and message boards:
Any input is valuable if the person puts some thought behind it. I read the blogs and message boards all the time and there is tons of good stuff in there, mixed in with some "puh-leeeease" stuff as you call it.
If you have been following along here at TCB, you may have already read Luhnow's previous interviews at the SBN sabermetric blog, Beyond the Boxscore, as well as Baseball Prospectus. Perhaps even more interesting is the two interviews he gave TCB's sister blog, vivaelbirdos, in 2007. The first is here and the second ("letter from luhnow") is here. (I joined TCB around then, but I was already aware of the VEB interviewer, "lboros," or Larry Borowsky, who I considered one of the best writers in the baseball blogosphere at that time.)
Luhnow's willingness to give meaty, thoughtfull answers--not just courtesy time--to a fan blog is impressive. Though many of the questions are specific to past tense Cardinals' prospects, I think you will find some of his explanations of scouting and farm philosophy interesting.
Some answers in the VEB interviews that I found particularly thoughtful...
Although Luhnow admits to being a good fantasy baseball player for 10 years prior to joining the Cardinals, he disagrees with the suggestion that the popularity of fantasy baseball was a force behind sabermetrics:
I'm not buying it. Bill James is not a fantasy guy, nor is MGL, Tango or any of the other titans. Branch Rickey wasn't thinking about fantasy baseball when he came up with his formula which was published in Life magazine in the 50s. Fact-based analysis is a part of all other industries . . . why should baseball be any different? Now, fantasy baseball did pique many people's interest in the numbers behind the game, and that is a good thing.
Luhnow discusses some hard lessons he has learned in his job:
Much as we try to make it so, life in baseball is not always fair. There is a lot of talent in our organization. The scouts do a tremendous job of identifying young men who have the potential to succeed in professional baseball. Oftentimes, what separates those who achieve their potential and those that fall short is simply the opportunity. The opportunity is scarce and valuable, and determining who gets those plate appearances and those innings is an important decision. There are tons of guys in the minors who never get the opportunity to prove themselves in the big leagues, and some of those guys would have success. It's impossible to always make the right decision, and that is a painful realization that drives me to agonize over every decision.
Luhnow has been interviewed by other Cardinals' fan blogs, like this 2008 interview in Future Redbirds. Although this answer follows from a question about a specific prospect, I think the general comment about drafting "sexy players" is noteworthy:
If we wanted a "sexy" pick, we would read Baseball America, read Keith Law’s articles, and pick based on their opinions. But we don’t, and neither do any other clubs, because while the journalists are doing a good job of expressing their opinions based on the information they have, we have to live and die with our selections and the future of the organization is impacted by these picks. If the journalist is wrong, he just admits it (maybe) and keeps writing about the next guy or the next draft. They will still sell papers or get eyeballs. If we are wrong, we’ve missed a huge opportunity to make our organization better, and nobody wants to do that.
One of the more interesting blog interactions was brought up at the Baseball Think Factory (BBTF) thread related to the Astros' hiring of Luhnow. A commenter remembered and linked this March 31, 2004 thread from deep within BBTF's archives. As stated in that 2004 thread, Luhnow asked bloggers at Redbird Nation to discuss how much the Cardinals should be willing to pay their shortstop Edgar Renteria, who would be a free agent. (Renteria ended up signing a big contract with the Red Sox.) Many Cardinals fans wanted Renteria to be re-signed, and perhaps Luhnow was interested in getting the well informed fans to think more objectively about Renteria's value. It's interesting that comment no. 49 on the archived BBTF thread purports to be a comment from Luhnow, even though it is unknown whether the identity is real or not (apparently this was before BBTF had a registration process).
Oh, and by the way, Luhnow uses twitter. Here is his twitter link.
Are you glad that the Astros have a GM who recognizes the value of baseball blogs?