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Rob Bradford is the author of Chasing Steinbrenner, which is an in-depth look at the 2003 season of both the Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox. In Rob's words, "it is about the journey two teams (and the people who run them) take through the 2003 season in baseballís most warped division. From the inside, it looks at the highs, the lows and everything in between that these particular professionals are forced to deal with on a daily basis." Rob was quite taken by the epic nature of the baseball season: "former Red Sox manager Grady Little said it best when he compared the campaign to not 162 games, but 162 seasons. Spending the time I did with the people involved on both sides makes you realize there couldnít be a more true statement."

Chasing Steinbrenner is due to be released on May 21 and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.ca and Amazon.com. I initially spoke to Rob during the winter; the frenetic activities of the Red Sox and Yankees this past winter resulted in Rob telling a little more story than he had originally planned and a new publication date. So we caught up again recently and invited Rob to "step into Da Box" for a Q&A about the Sox, the Jays, and Chasing Steinbrenner.


ROB BRADFORD

Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Born: 9/3/1969
Resides: Beverly, Massachusetts
Major-League Comp to Little League Career: Frank Catalanotto
Favourite Player (all-time): Carlton Fisk (third cousin)
Best Game Attended In Person: Game 7, 2003 ALCS
Favourite Baseball Book: The Catcher Was a Spy
Favourite Plays in Baseball: 9-2 put-out on sacrifice fly (on the fly, of course).
Favourite Ballpark: Fenway Park
Striding-To-The-Plate Music: Damn Yankees
Three Unshakable Baseball Beliefs: 1. There is no excuse for not being able to bunt. 2. There is no excuse for throwing an unsolicited 0-2 strike. 3. There is no excuse for believing you know everything there is to believe about baseball.


Was there a particular idea or incident that led you to this project?

First, I wanted to write a book that I thought might be original. The initial idea was to chronicle the season of three general managers, two in the majors and one in the minors. I knew J.P. like a lot of people around the game know him, well enough to share a meal and conversation at the ballpark. The one common bond we used to have back when he was roaming New England for the Aís was that we were both high school basketball coaches. So I called him to gauge his interest. I didnít know Theo at all, but J.P. helped serve as a go-between, they agreed to give it a shot and we played it by ear. The story kind of took its own path (ditching the minor league aspect, while focusing on more than just the general managers).

I should mention that I believe that the project had two lives, before Moneyball and after Moneyball. Before Moneyball was when the baseball world was very approachable about everything having to do with a book concerning this kind of topic. After Moneyball was appreciably different, with every source and subject putting up their guard at least a little bit as to not to get the Moneyball burn. There was also a necessity to dance away from/around some of the kind of things that were referenced in Moneyball. But these two things have never changed: 1. Moneyball is one of the best reads a baseball fan could hope for; 2. Billy Beaneís best friend never wavered and always stood by my vision.


What was your biggest surprise in researching and writing the book? Can you hint at what the biggest surprise for Jays fans might be?

Besides the aforementioned reluctance stemming from Moneyball, my biggest surprise was some of the things the media doesnít know. As a reporter coming from such an intense atmosphere as the Boston area, you like to think that all is usually uncovered when it comes to the world of a baseball team. There is so much more than what is dished out in interview sessions and press conferences, some of it might be of interest to many, some of interest to just a few. Take for instance a lunch I had during the final days of spring training at Irisí Restaurant in Dunedin with some of the Blue Jaysí brass. In about a 10 minute span there was about four or five things that these guys had to deal with without the public knowing anything about them. It was just a bunch of down-to-earth guys sorting out the dayís multi-million dollar problems. It has made me look at the information flow coming out of organizations in an entirely different light.

Also, the desire for different camps to take sides when it comes to running a baseball team was mind-boggling. Largely because of Moneyball the arguments that, Ďstats are the only way to goí or Ďscouts are the only way to goí permeated every ballpark. In my mind that was ridiculous. It was like with the Blue Jays, people wanted to paint them in the 'stats' corner when it came to every single transaction or decision. J.P. explained it best when he gave the analogy of someone buying a house Ė you arenít going to just look at one aspect of the purchase, you are going to get all the information possible (schools, structure, ect.). In my opinion, running a baseball team isnít as black and white as some want to think.

As for the biggest surprise for readers, I think people will be interested to see just how witty, creative and passionate the people in the Jaysí front office are. These are genuinely good people who complement each other extremely well. For myself, it was interesting because while guys like Tim McCleary and Keith Law are great at recreating stories and anecdotes, J.P. is simply about the moment. Cleveland G.M. Mark Shapiro described J.P. as "dynamic" and I have to agree. Whether it was watching a game from his box, playing Wiffle Ball with his kids, dodging tornadoes on scouting trips, or seeing the guys he drafted for the first time, J.P. was a fun guy to be around.

Did you follow the entire season?

I did, from the off-season, through spring training and then the season. My biggest challenge was to pick stories, not rehash the schedule. The first four months of following the Jays were an unbelievable series of highs and lows (as the readers obviously realize). One of my favorite moments of the season came during one of the Jaysí most ultimate highs, the final day of May when they had beaten the Red Sox and set the record for most wins in a month. The scene in J.P.ís box that day was something that really left an impression.

Do you think the Red Sox and Blue Jays stories would be as compelling if they weren't in the same division as the Yankees?

I think so, although I donít know if the rest of the world would think the same. The Yankees just fit the role as the 'heavy' so well. I just really got lucky in the sense that both teams had that taste of hanging with the $180 million payroll for at least a brief moment. Of course, if the teams werenít in the same division it would have been a whole lot harder to tie the whole package together (Aaron Boone take a bow here).


What are the biggest differences you saw between the Boston and Toronto organizations?

First, and most obvious, is the intensity surrounding each game. To go what Theo went through as a 29-year-old, first-year general manager in a baseball meat-grinder like Boston is something nobody can relate to. I grew up following the Red Sox, but I have never seen a season that was so scrutinized on a day to day basis like last year. Forget trades and transactions, very few people in this world could have handled the hand dealt Theo as adeptly as he did.

Second, is probably how much more streamlined the Blue Jaysí front office is compared to the Red Sox. With Boston, there are a lot of very qualified people each giving opinions and suggestions, although I can vouch that Theo has the final say. In Toronto, J.P. seems to have a smaller inner-circle. Some of that can I think can be attributed to resources available in each organization. For instance, I remember asking J.P. who his Director of Scouting in the Far East was (for the Red Sox it was a guy named Jon Deeble). He said he was. That about sums it up.


J.P. Ricciardi spoke with us just before the season and he said you were "a great guy". What's your take on him as a GM?

I'm flattered that J.P. would say that because after neglecting my wife and three kids during the book-writing process I was starting to think I was anything but.

It should be obvious from my previous answers how highly I think of J.P. as a person. The same can be said for my take on him as a GM. If I'm a fan of the Blue Jays I should feel confident that this guy has the keys to the car. First, I think he has already built a solid enough of a track record in his two-plus year stint in Toronto that anybody should be impressed. Even those who feel obligated to be critics are seemingly coming at him with a much less substantive line of fire. Listen, he has a team with a $50 million payroll that was being at least mentioned as possible competition with a team paying its players three times more. But, to me, what is more impressive is that he has been able to construct this roster while holding together virtually every piece of a highly-regarded farm system. Patience and aggression don't usually get along to well when it comes to general managing, but J.P. seems to have found a pretty good balance.

Another thing that really impressed me regarding J.P. was his determination to stand by his beliefs. For instance, there was an college player who the Jays expressed an interest in taking in the second round of last year's draft, but, while talented, he had a bad history of jumping from school to school because of off-the-field issues. This was a tough one because it was obviously a player the Jays liked, and the kid's problems were such that some would consider them not that serious. But, after a night of sleeping on it, he told the adviser that the Jays were going to pass. It would have been easy for J.P. to let his philosophy of bringing in a certain type of guy slide for the sake of a talent upgrade, but the GM stayed the course. Another example was the Kelvim Escobar sweepstakes. Without going too much into it, J.P. wasn't going to settle when it came to getting the right player back. The same could be said for Mike Bordick. I know there was some frustration on the Red Sox side when it came to the Jays' demand regarding the player whom they wanted back for Bordick, but, potential retirement or not, J.P. was sticking by his guns. Now, that didn't necessarily work out because Bordick retired, but it did set a precedent regarding how the Jays were going to conduct business when it came to future deals.


What did you think of the Red Sox letting go of Grady Little?

Little actually wasn't fired, his contract just wasn't renewed. The reason I mention this is because, as I touch on in the book, Little has only been fired once in his professional baseball life and that was by none other than Bobby Mattick back in 1985. As for the Little leaving, it didn't surprise me. There were problems with his approach to game management that didn't fit with the new regime, although it was Larry Lucchino who was the one who originally brought him in. Was he fired because of Game 7? No. But it didn't help. In fact, there were a series of Little-isms that transpired in the playoffs that didn't help his quest for a new contract. The funny thing about that Game 7 decision to leave Pedro in the game was that I really wasn't surprised. For the previous month Grady had been doing this thing where he would come to the mound when it looked as though his starting pitcher was done, only to give him a pat on the back and leave him in. I think this was becoming his ploy to re-energize his pitcher while sometimes feeding the fans in the stands. The bottom line is that Grady Little seems like a good guy who did a admirable job of keeping the Boston clubhouse together (which sometimes is the most important trait of a big league manager).


Are you considering going back and writing another book on baseball?

I remember talking to Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe about the process back on opening day and he said the only two good times in writing a book is when you finish the writing and when you are actually holding the finished product in your hands. At the time I thought he was being a bit too cynical. I had just finished a day where I followed around Theo for his first game as a general manager, a terrific story had unfolded which I was excited to tell. A few months later I knew what Dan was talking about. It is such an all-consuming process on a lot of levels. Especially something like this, where you live and die with each day and each subject's success, mood or frame of mind. (That late June collapse in Baltimore by the Jays was a kick in the stomach for someone who was starting look at a September pennant race between Boston and Toronto as a possibility).

I will say this, no matter what the topic or how the finished product turns out, I will never look at a book's author with any kind of cynicism. It is a life-altering, blood-letting, sledge-hammer-to-the-head kind of deal. It is also something I would love to do all over again and undoubtedly will in the very near future (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).


All of us at Batter's Box would like to thank Rob for his patience in getting this interview together. Don't forget you can pre-order Chasing Steinbrenner at your favourite website now.
An Interview With Rob Bradford | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
_David Armitage - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 02:24 AM EDT (#20531) #
Great interview Craig, yet another reason why this site remains as popular as it is. Rob seemed very candid and I'm sure this will be the must read for Jays fans this year. I've already got my copy pre-ordered, can't wait. Now if only my Elitists can hold off the Archivists the rest of the week everything should be fine...
_Keith Talent - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 08:58 AM EDT (#20533) #
I'm sold on the book.
Pistol - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 08:59 AM EDT (#20534) #
Good stuff.

I obviously follow the Jays , but living in Connecticut I'm right at the dividing line between Red Sox and Yankee territory and have both teams on my cable (and the Jays on Extra Innings) so I see all 3 teams that are the subject of the book pretty closely. I'm really looking forward to the book.

I wonder who the player was that the Jays passed on in last year's draft? Of course Josh Banks is working out quite nicely.

But, to me, what is more impressive is that he has been able to construct this roster while holding together virtually every piece of a highly-regarded farm system. Patience and aggression don't usually get along to well when it comes to general managing, but J.P. seems to have found a pretty good balance.

Well put.
_coliver - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 12:28 PM EDT (#20535) #
Can't wait to get the book...there hasn't been a good book about the Jays since "Glory Jays" by S. Brunt. The "Tale of Two Cities" approach also will lead to very interesting reading.

I guess I have my plans for next Friday evening: Go to my Barnes and Noble bookstore, purchase "Chasing Steinbrenner", and spend the evening into the wee hours of he morning reading it. My wife will be thrilled, lol.
_Brent - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 12:43 PM EDT (#20536) #
The same could be said for Mike Bordick. I know there was some frustration on the Red Sox side when it came to the Jays' demand regarding the player whom they wanted back for Bordick, but, potential retirement or not, J.P. was sticking by his guns.

This is an interesting passage. Was any of this published? I recall something about the Jays expressing interest in Nixon when Escobar's name was flying around, but I don't have any recollection of this. Perhaps the Jays were holding out for the Greek God of Walks?

Ah, the fantastic dream world that I live in.
Pistol - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 01:47 PM EDT (#20537) #
This is an interesting passage. Was any of this published? I recall something about the Jays expressing interest in Nixon when Escobar's name was flying around, but I don't have any recollection of this. Perhaps the Jays were holding out for the Greek God of Walks?


Toronto was rumored to want De Los Santos (or something similar that I can't remember). He was included in the Schilling trade, and then traded to Milwaukee in the Sexson trade. He was a AA All Star last season.
Pistol - Friday, May 14 2004 @ 01:49 PM EDT (#20538) #
I probably should have looked it up first. The player I was just referring to was Jorge De La Rosa.
An Interview With Rob Bradford | 8 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.