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Getting to Know the BtB Writers: Satchel Price

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Dave Gershman: Satchel, thanks for taking the time to sit down with me and do this interview

Satchel Price: Hey Dave, sorry this took me so long to respond, but, well, here we go.

DG: Talk about your love of the game and how you got in to baseball from the time you were a kid and now:

SP: Jeez, I see we're really starting with a bang here. I was always one of those sports-crazy kids growing up, playing baseball and basketball while dabbling in other sports like soccer and lacrosse. I'm not a big guy, though, so I avoided football on the basis of not wanting to get my ass kicked frequently. I loved playing travel baseball and all that stuff, but I also wasn't particularly great as a 5-9 half-Jewish kid. So when I reached high school, and I went to a massive, highly-competitive public school with over 4000 students, I never really stood a chance of getting playing time on the baseball team. My high school's best player at the moment, outfielder Charles Tilson, is considered a potential first-round pick this year after going deep as a 17-year-old at last year's Area Code Games.

So yeah, I probably wasn't going to beat him out for playing time. But I always seemed to gravitate towards baseball; as I got into junior high, I eschewed the back of baseball cards in favor of the Internet and Excel spreadsheets. And that led to this little obsession with the inner workings of the game, and obviously that's led me here. I'll always wonder if I could have been the next David Eckstein, but alas, my lack of grit proved to be downfall.

DG: Can you explain what got you in to baseball writing/blogging? Are there any specific teams that inspire you to write about baseball or them?

SP: For me, baseball writing was sort of an outlet during a rough time in my life. During my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I was into some pretty bad stuff and I was having trouble in school, which obviously impacted my relationship with my parents. I got in trouble a lot with them during my sophomore year, and as an alternative way to spend my time I began to comment frequently on MLB Trade Rumors and other sites. I know that the commenters on MLBTR are pretty brutal sometimes these days, but back in 2007-2008 it was loaded with some very knowledgeable people. And over time, I realized that I really loved to discuss baseball, and it was something that I wasn't too bad at. I got really into the sabermetric movement and writing and all of that jazz, and I started my own blog during the fall of 2009.

It lasted about a month before I shut that down and moved over to SB Nation, where I began to write for MLB Daily Dish. But my saber-oriented content didn't really fit in with what Eli was trying to do over there, and after about a month at MLBDD I got in contact with Tommy Bennett, currently of Baseball Prospectus fame, over at BtB. Tommy was the manager of BtB at the time, and after reading some of my work he brought me aboard in December of 2009. I've been writing here ever since, and I've loved pretty much every minute of it.

DG: Writers in general, who are some of your favorite writers. Do you ever try to emulate certain writers?

SP: I think that this is probably one of the places where I deviate from other BtB writers a bit. I definitely love the numbers, and I think that there's an incredibly wealth of information to be learned from them, but I also think that scouting has to be one of the most fascinating things about baseball. So I frequently read guys like Keith Law, Frankie Piliere, Kevin Goldstein, Jason Churchill, Mike Newman, Jason Parks, the guys over at BA, and other guys like that. I've always believed that the best evaluation is one that combined statistics and scouting, and limiting yourself to only one or other types of information will ensure that you're not getting the whole picture. So I try to read tons of scouting reports, to really get a grasp of what these guys look like beyond the results of their on-field play. And there are some other guys that I try to read everyday, too: Craig Calcaterra, Rob Neyer, MLBTR, the guys at FanGraphs, THT and BPro, etc. There's just such an incredible amount of great writing going on these days that it's almost overwhelming.

DG: Talk about your work. How does someone recognize your work from say, mine or Bill's or Justin's or Adams. What makes your work and writing so unique?

SP: I almost like to view my work as a change of pace from a lot of the content that BtB produces, in that it's less statistically intense than a lot of the content that goes up on our site. Obviously the graphics help to do this as well, but as you guys can probably tell, I'm far more of a language guy than a visuals guy. So for me, it's really about applying saber-concepts to the happenings of baseball without loading up on numbers.

It's not about presenting the numbers, but about explaining exactly what those numbers mean in a more casual way to appeal to fans that aren't interested in pouring over spreadsheets and comparing different metrics. And I certainly wouldn't come here to claim that I've perfected this entire bit, because it's really been an ongoing learning experience for me. Obviously other writers out there are much better at this than me at this point. But I'm not the same writer that I was a year ago, and I don't expect to the same writer that I am now in May of 2012. I expect to get better, and really, that's what this is all about.

DG: What are some of your goals and aspirations in life given that you are only in college and baseball writing is something you love to do?

SP: Assuming that you guys don't want to hear about my thoughts on children, marriage and other things that most 19-year-old college students don't concern themselves with, let's talk about my goals in terms of baseball and writing. Given that I'm a journalism major, writing is clearly the direction that I'm going in at the moment. I just absolutely love to argue, and for me, there's no better medium for arguing than the written word. In an ideal world, I'd be able to do something similar to what I do now for BtB, but on a far more substantial basis, and for a living. And yet, I'm also willing to acknowledge that it's an incredibly tall hill to climb, and that the industry is rapidly changing. But the way I see it, I'm pretty much at the forefront of many of those changes in the industry, and I have a lot of faith that things will work out nicely in the end. But the idea of watching and writing about baseball for a living sounds ridiculously awesome.

DG: Can you talk about your personal life? Where are you right now and what do you do?

SP: Well, I'm about to finish my freshman year at American University, which is both awesome and kind of sucky. I've only got three years left of college, and from what I can tell, college is pretty much the bee's knees. But I'm putting in a lot of work now so that things are easier when I'm older, and I'm pretty excited about what the future is going to bring. I like to see myself as a pretty responsible guy, but I do my fair share of dabbling in the craziness that's so easily associated with the college experience. It's a really great time, though.

DG: What got you started with BtB? Since you are the 2nd longest tenured BtB writer, talk about your experiences at BtB.

SP: BtB has basically been the home of my writing from the very beginning. As I said before, Tommy Bennett brought me on as one of his final moves before leaving to join Baseball Prospectus. I'd have to say that, in retrospect, it was one of his better moves as BtB manger. The site has been through a lot since I've joined, hitting some serious peaks (like the past few months) and some legitimate lows (like when I was basically the only regular writer last year). But I've met some truly incredible people through these channels, including Justin and Sky Kalkman, who have done nothing but encourage me and my work, and it's definitely challenged me to improve as a writer by surrounding myself with such a great array of talent.

If you told me in December of 2009, when I signed on to join BtB, that I would still be writing here in May of 2011, I probably wouldn't have believed you. But I'm still here and loving it; these days, BtB is only getting better and better. And after sticking around for all of the not-so-great times, I'll gladly stick around now.

DG: Last question. What do you find as one of the biggest challenges of being a writer and at BtB? Do you ever approach roadblocks? If so, what kind?

SP: For me, the biggest challenge is trying to stay true to saber-concepts while posing my writing in a way that won't turn off people that aren't interested in statistics. Obviously, given how sabermetrics and stats often go hand-in-hand, this can be a difficult thing to do. But there are ways to analyze different situations in non-saber terms while staying true to saber-concepts, and I'm always trying to figure out what they are.

I absolutely love everything about the sabermetric movement and what it stands for, but realistically it often manifests itself in ways that simply will never appeal to the mainstream, and all of this effort is pretty much for naught if the mainstream never buys into it. So trying to bridge that disconnect between the saber community and the mainstream baseball world is really, really important to me, and I think that it should be one of the highest priorities of the entire community. As for hitting roadblocks, I never really run out of things to write about, because there are literally billions of topics to be covered, and new topics pop up every day. 

DG: Thanks so much, Satchel. I really enjoy your work and keep it up, good sir.

SP: Same to you, Dave. Thanks for taking the time to do this.