Forty-three members and guests attended the Larry Dierker Chapter monthly meeting on Monday, December 3, 2018, at the Spaghetti Western Restaurant on Shepherd Drive in Houston.
Scott McCay introduced our speaker, Ben Reiter, the Sports Illustrated writer who predicted the Astros would win the 2017 World Series back in 2014. Ben was kind enough to hang around after the meeting to sign copies of his book.
Ben started by reading from his preface in his new book, Astroball: The New Way To Win It All. He said he had petitioned most of the MLB teams to let him observe their inner draft working “like a fly on the wall.” The Astros were the only team to give him this opportunity.
Ben was impressed by what he saw in the pre-draft meetings. It appeared the Astros had figured out how to harness Big Data and still use the “soft data” coming from their scouts.
He was asked if the team gave him any limitations on what he could report, and he said the Astros were more interested in getting their story out. The only restriction, he said, was on not revealing medical information about any of the players.
He went on to tell us how he had sought to catch up with Jeff Luhnow during the 2017 World Series. He wanted to be in the GM box with Jeff when the Astros recorded the final out. Jeff agreed, so Ben was in the box when Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel recorded the last out in Game Seven at Dodger Stadium.
Ben thinks the Astros will be fine despite losing a top executive, Sig Mejdal (a former SABR member who spoke at our 2014 SABR convention), to the Baltimore Orioles. Sig is leaving a very successful machine behind. The Astros will still focus on process over outcome.
Ben also shared the story of how he got an exclusive interview with Chris Correa, the former St. Louis Cardinals executive who was sentenced to 46 months in prison for hacking into the Astros database for 2 1/2 years. Ben's story on Correa appeared in the October 8 issue of Sports Illustrated.
Ben was asked if he thinks the Astros' championship window is closing and he said he doesn't think so. He thinks the Astros have a strong succession in place until at least 2021.
Bob Stevens did a presentation about his son Matthew’s FanGage site, where fans can engage their favorite players.
Fred Rodgers, who is a good friend with umpire Joe West, showed us his giant Excel spreadsheet with the MLB umpire schedule for 2019. Fred made the schedule. He told us that Joe West has the second-most MLB games umpired in history.
Bill Brown asked Fred if the umpires' ranking affects postseason assignments. According to Fred, Joe says if you are good enough to be a MLB umpire, you are good enough to umpire in the postseason and everyone should have that opportunity.
Our trivia contest, created by Tom White, was won by the team of Mike McCroskey, Fred Rodgers, and Bob Stevens.
Our next monthly meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, January 21, 2019, at the same location. All baseball fans are welcome to attend.
— Karen Walker