Who am I and what am I doing here?

Credentials for a sports blog are pointless exercises in self-gratification. You can have a long list of credits and absolutely nothing intelligent to say. (Case in point: the majority of the local press.)

But it can be helpful to know where the person is coming from– especially if they do come at things from a specific angle.

My name is Geoff Beckman. I’m blind in one eye, so I’ve never been able to play any sport that requires following the path of a moving object. I tried to compensate by knowing all the rules and records– being the guy people asked if they wanted to know exactly who the Indians received for Gaylord Perry (Jim Bibby, Jackie Brown, Rick Waits and $100,000).

In 1982, I was in a bookstore in Ann Arbor and discovered The Bill James Baseball Abstract. I inhaled it and had an essay in the 1986 edition– and was working as a freelance sportswriter (a good way to become an expert on ways to prepare ramen noodles).

Eventually I realized that computers– and consulting– paid better. When Al Gore invented the Internet, I started using it to publish some of my writing– and to badger sportswriters around the country. I’ve decided to stop sending email and start blogging.

I do three things:

1. Moneyball stuff and historical research. I try never to assume anything. I count things and see if they have any connection to winning. I check conventional wisdom to make sure it makes sense. I check history to make sure what we remember is accurate.

2. Use consulting techniques to analyze teams and leagues. A sports team is a business. Some teams are run well; others are run badly. I treat teams the same way I treat clients. I study processes. I analyze decisions & outcomes. I try to understand the history of a decision and the reasons it was made. Then I try to figure out how to make them better.

3. Think outside the box. I like to ask “Why?” or “Why not?”– or “Why did we start (or stop) doing this?” Sometimes there are very good reasons we don’t do things: If you ask a starting pitcher to throw more than 100 pitches consistently– or to work every four days– their arms will blow up. It’s a physical limitation.

Sometimes there were very good reasons we did things– but things changed and made the rule obsolete. There was an era when pitching was 90% of the game. A series of rules changes have reduced it to less than 50%.

Other times there is no reason. I grew up hearing that you had to establish the run in order to pass– even though people like Don Coryell and a Bengals assistant named Bill Walsh seemed to be doing fine with a pass-first offense. Now I hear that if you can’t throw the ball you can’t win.

That’s what I try to bring to a table. Unfortunately, I do it in a city where logic and ratrionality is virtually unknown.


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