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Christ on a Pogo Stick, Why Is Any Unretarded Media Columnist Quoting Steve Freaking Brill?: This lousy Tim Rutten column, among its many sins, tries to bolster its nah-dudes-newspapers-need-to-charge-money-for-their-content argument by invoking former Brill's Content impresario Steve Brill.

Entrepreneur/journalist Steve Brill agrees, and this week told the American Journalism Review that "newspapers have basically destroyed themselves by giving it away for free." He called the unwillingness of most to charge for visiting their websites "totally insane."

Entrepreneur/journalist? I guess that's one possible description. Another, just maybe, is "sanctimonious conflict-of-interest referee who flushed 100 percent of his stated principles down the toilet in a last-ditch lunge for dot-com cash, and failed, in part because his business model relied on charging people for content online."

I mean, that is relevant to the topic, isn't it?

Quoting Brill about online business-model pricing without referencing his abject failure in online business-model pricing is like, I dunno, quoting an Inside.com exec in the same way on the same topic. Which is to say, it's a notch or two below maximum service to readers. As is stating, even in an op-ed, that "the fact remains, though, that Keller, Brill and Osnos are right." That is not a "fact," that is authorial hope, which really are two different things.

Some half-fun and wholly forgotten (by me most of all!) Brill stuff from the Welch vault:
* My "Bye Bye, Brill" column when his goofy "Contentville" experiment was announced.
* An examination of Brill's Content Contentville disclosure according to the mag's own hyper-anal disclosure philosophies.
* A column on this topic that Brill's Content assigned to me, then rejected on phony grounds of "overkill." (I never accepted the kill fee, on principle, even though I was broke.)
* A final here's-mud-in-yer-eye to useless BC "ombudsman" and erstwhile "conscience of journalism" Bill Kovach.

02/07/2009 07:09 PM  |  Comment (1)

Me and My Former Boss, Andres Martinez, Talk About a Bunch of Stuff, Including the Trouble With Mexico, and the L.A. Times:

02/04/2009 06:29 PM  | 

When Ego-Surfing Really Hits Paydirt:

and this form boston.com (my comments: "just handed a matt welch article on the robohuman ahnold . . . homeless automaton turning tide? and welch the babysitter/CIA death name form he early 1970s? - see previous entries. . . and then this - from january 1997? hmmmm . . .and a prius! from clinton country"):
Guilty as charged!

02/04/2009 05:23 PM  | 

Buzzie Bavasi's Original Sin Against the San Diego Padres: I never did much like Buzzie Bavasi, the longtime general manager of the Dodgers (during their glorious run from 1951-68), who ran the Angels front office for most of 1977-84, coinciding with their first flush of success. He was a loudmouth cheapskate (both by his own admission) who had retrograde ideas about baseball economics, and he was always ready to trade good young Angel talent (Brian Harper, Willie Mays Aikens, Rance Mulliniks, Dickie Thon, Carney Lansford, Tom Brunansky, Jason Thompson) for a bucket of tobacco spit. Also, he wouldn't stop yammering about the Dodgers.

But it wasn't until recently reading Bavasi's biography, Off the Record, that I realized the team with the biggest complaint against Bavasi is the San Diego Padres, for whom he was the GM from 1969-72, and the president from 1973-76.

As the Pads' founding chief executive, Bavasi had one job that was most important of all: Come up with the best possible expansion draft. Since he had spent the previous few decades in the organization that featured the best scouting and minor league systems in baseball, the Padres probably had every reasonable expectation that Bavasi would maximally tap into that expertise for the draft. Instead, he did the Dodgers one last favor while helping strangle the Friars in the crib.

To set the scene: The Padres were awarded a new franchise in July 1968. "I still had some business to take care of with the Dodgers, so I did not resign immediately,” Bavasi wrote. “However, [Dodger owner] Walter [O'Malley] wanted me out immediately." So he was gone. Nearly three months later, Bavasi "received a call from O'Malley, who needed help in determining which 40 players in the organization he should protect" in the expansion draft. Astonishingly, Bavasi agreed to help his former employer by screwing over his current one, spilling the beans to the Dodgers' Fresco Thompson on which three Blue Crewers he had been lining up in his sights:

"Bill Russell, Jeff Torborg, and Jim Brewer," I said, mentioning three players the Dodgers were not planning on protecting.

"Oh, you can't do that, particularly Russell and Brewer. Russell's a fine prospect."

"That's why I'm taking him," I said.

"You can't do that," Fresco pleaded. "Buzzie, don't do that to me, really."

"Who do you want me to take?"

"Why don't you take somebody like Al Ferrara and Jim Williams?"

He told me the three players to take. "OK, I'll do it for you," I said [...]

I went to Dodger Stadium and met with Walter O'Malley and Walter Alston. I said, "You can't leave Brewer on the unprotected list. If you leave him there and I don't draft him, people are going to crucitfy me."

Brewer had had 14 saves in 1968. I talked them into including Brewer on the protected list, which took the heat off me. Leaving Russell unprotected was OK, because nobody knew him at the time.

We did not draft Russell, who went on the play in more games than any Los Angeles Dodger in history. The three players we settled on were Ferrara, Williams, and Zoilo Versalles.


Torborg was a no-hit backup catcher and future manager. Good clubhouse guy, but no big loss. Jim Brewer, though, would be one of the league's best closers for the next five years, saving 103 games and posting ERAs like 1.88 and 1.26. And yeah, Bill Russell might have been useful on a team whose starting shortstops proceeded to hit .176, .222, .222 again (with 12 extra-base hits in 549 ABs!), .195, .238, and .232. (The OPS+s tell an even more brutal story: 42, 57, 61, 46, 63, and 62.) Bill Russell wasn't God, man, but he was a contributing half-timer already in 1969 at age 20 (hitting much better than whatever Pony Leaguers Bavasi was throwing out down south), a regular by age 23, and an All-Star by 24. He'd hit his .270 with 25 doubles, and the Dodgers were set up at shortstop until the early 1980s.

What of Bavasi's three replacement picks from the Dodgers? The shortstop, former MVP Zoilo Versalles, was spent as an offensive force already by 1967, when he hit a gruesome .200/.249/.282. For the Dodgers in 1968 he hit .196 and mostly watched Don Drysdale throw shutouts. The Padres traded his hollowed-out husk before the season even began, for the immortal Bill Davis, a 1Bman who gave them 57 ABs of .175 hitting before they packaged him in May 1969 with backup shortstop (and think for a second just how bad you had to be to be a backup shortstop for the Padres at this point) Jerry Davanon, for 22-year-old 2Bman John Sipin and 23-year-old catcher Sonny Ruberto. These were not prospects. Sipin hit .223/.251/.319 in 229 ABs for the '69 Pads, and that was the extent of his Major League career (though he did spend nine seasons in Japan). Ruberto went 3-for-21 (all singles), and managed three final hitless at bats for the '72 Reds. So to sum up -- instead of a guy who would play more games at shortstop than any other Dodger, the Padres got 307 ABs of lousy hitting from three nobodies who promptly disappeared. Hi-five, Buzzie!

Pick 2 was 22-year-old outfielder Jim Williams, who gave Buzzie 39 whole at bats over two seasons before retiring.

Pick 3 was an interesting-sounding cat I'd never really heard of before named Al Ferrara, "an outfielder who once played piano at Carnegie Hall." Ferrara, a handsome, muscular Italian nicknamed "The Bull" who played on Gilligan's Island, Batman, and Baretta, couldn't break into those Tommy Davis/Willie Davis/Ron Fairly/Lou Johnson Dodger outfields of the mid-'60s, though he could hit. In 1967, when the post-Koufax Dodgers collapsed to 8th place, they let the kid (by now 27) play a bit at the corner outfield spots and he raked -- .277/.345/.467 with 16 homers in pitchers-era Chavez Ravine. Injuries must have felled him in '68 since he started the first two games then missed the rest of the season. By the time Bavasi got his hooks into Ferrara he was a 29-year-old with less than 600 career ABs, but immediately ready to contribute, and he did, posting OPS+s of 124 and 122 for two productive years before collapsing.

All told, Bavasi got two seasons of good play from his three expansion picks from the Dodgers, plus about a half-season worth of putridness. The guys he let get away? Torborg played five years as a crappy-hitting backup catcher, Brewer pitched most of eight years as one of the National League's most effective relievers, and Bill Russell racked up nearly 2000 hits, retiring only after Bavasi had already retired from the Angels. The Padres, meanwhile, were the second-worst expansion team in Major League Baseball history (behind only the Mets), averaging 100 losses a year for their first seven seasons. (To give you some context, the Angels have never lost more than 95 games in a season.)

The final insult for you abused Padres fans out there? Bavasi famously gave a special assist to the expansion draft of the Angels back in 1960, sharing Dodger scouting reports with a club that had just one week to prepare. Behind such gems as Jim Fregosi and Dean Chance -- arguably the best hitter/pitcher combo in expansion draft history -- the Angels were in contention as soon as their second year of existence. Which was then mischaracterized as a once-in-a-lifetime fluke rather than the high point of a promising team brought low by degenerate alcoholism, but that's a story for another day.

02/03/2009 08:15 PM  |  Comment (5)

Hi! What are you doing down here?

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