Larry Dierker Chapter meeting recap – 8/17/2020

Thirty-five baseball fans participated in a virtual meeting of the Larry Dierker Chapter on Monday, August 17, 2020.

As people joined in the Zoom meeting, our technical host Joe Thompson posted two warm-up questions to get everyone involved. He may share the results with us in September. Chair Bob Dorrill announced that our membership has reached 154, as our Zoom meeting encourages SABR members from other areas to participate. He also reminded us that longtime Chapter member and former Major Leaguer Larry Miggins will celebrate his 95th birthday this week!

The evening’s first presenter was Tom Stone of Rochester, New York, discussing his first book, Now Taking the Field: Baseball’s All-time Dream Teams for All 30 Franchises. Tom’s fascination with baseball began in his childhood; even then he was intrigued by statistics and by measures of greatness. Years of research and analysis resulted in this book, in which he creates a 30-man “dream team” for each of the 30 franchises, which he follows through continuous operation and changes of name and location.

For each ”dream team” he selected 16 position players (2 per position) plus two extra, 12 pitchers (7-10 starters and 2-5 relievers) and 4 managers. In making his selections, he focused on a variety of criteria, including WAR, traditional statistics, honors and awards, and post-season play. He also reviewed starting lineups, depth charts, fan surveys, and previously published books. He named four players who were so successful that they each earned a spot on three different “dream teams:” Roger Clemens, Rollie Fingers, Nolan Ryan, and Alex Rodriguez. For fun, he added a DH for each team. For our group, he shared the Astros Dream Team and supplemental depth charts. Of course, this prompted many comments and questions! His concluding activity was to show silhouettes of 30 players which our attendees then tried to identify.

Many comments and questions were offered, and Tom was gracious in responding to all; his presentation earned high praise from member and former Major League General Manager Tal Smith. The book is available from the usual outlets and Tom plans to issue an update following the 2021 season.

Our second presenter was Kris Gross, Scouting Director for the Houston Astros. Kris played minor league and independent ball before becoming a scout with the St. Louis Cardinals, where a combination of “old school scouts” and sabermetric analysis were blended. Though this year’s draft was cut short, Kris is excited about our new signees. He pointed out that the current situation presents significant challenges for those just coming into the game, as well as for those minor leaguers whose future is uncertain. Kris described the pace of a typical year for the scouting team and the impact of technology on their task. He confirmed that while the latter is important in evaluating a player, so too are the valuable “eyes” of an experienced, knowledgeable scout.

Next, Sam Quintero shared a brief portion of a video from Game 2 of the 1978 World Series which featured a duel between pitcher Bob Welch of the Dodgers, with his fastball, against hitter Reggie Jackson of the Yankees. Sam was inspired to present this after reading a Tom Verducci article about how the fastball is disappearing in favor of the slider.

Our final remarks came from Ira Liebman, who is now living and working in the Atlanta area. With no activity in the minor leagues, he is learning on-the-job to call hockey games. We are glad he hasn’t forgotten his friends in Houston.

To conclude the evening, Maxwell Kates offered a Trivia Contest which focused on a wide range of Hall of Fame players. When results were tallied and bonus points added, Scott Barzilla emerged the winner.

A YouTube recording of this meeting will be available soon.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 21.

— Marsha Franty