Q. What is your take on the failed trade of Ryan Dempster to Atlanta?
A. I think my friend Bruce Miles put it best when he wrote that it's not Ryan Dempster's job to fix the Cubs. That's what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are paid to do. Dempster's 10/5 rights gave him all the leverage. The old adage, "It's just business," works both ways. Having said that, Ryan is paying the price in the blogosphere and on Twitter among Cubs fans who think the reportedly nixed trade could have helped the team long-term. I understand both sides. He doesn't owe anybody any explanation for exercising his rights, but he also now has to deal with the consequences in terms of public perception as a result.
Q. Did we hear you correctly the other day when you said Alfonso Soriano is having a Gold Glove caliber season?
A. You did. Remember, the Gold Glove voting for outfielders has changed -- no longer do the top three outfielders win the award. Votes are based on specific position now -- left, center, right field. And that makes this a fun debate because left field is considered one of the the easiest of the defensive positions on the so-called defensive spectrum. If you rank all the positions by general difficulty to play, only first base would be considered an easier position to play. And this season, Soriano has been statistically among the elite. I won't bore you with the details, but his fielding percentage and Ultimate Zone Rating/150 (which is a good Fangraphs.com stat) stack up really well. Then there's the eye test. He has shown way better range this season, especially on balls hit over his head. As Bob Brenly has said, he's made several plays that other left fielders wouldn't make. Alfonso gets most of the credit for his improvement, but give an assist to new outfield coach Dave McKay, who has really meshed well with all the outfielders. I'm not claiming Soriano will win the Gold Glove. I'm just saying that if I had a vote, he would get it.
Q. Who's your NL Central favorite?
A. It has to be Cincinnati right now, based on (and you might want to be sitting down for this) the Reds' pitching staff. Yes, the Cincinnati Reds are among the leaders in the majors in team ERA. I do think the Pirates can hang around for a while, but I just don't know if their offense is good enough beyond Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. The Cardinals intrigue me because of their high-powered offense, which has done a ton of damage this year without Albert Pujols and, for the most part, Lance Berkman, due to all his leg problems. Plus, they've been there before. My wild guess in terms of the final standings in the division: Reds, Cardinals, Pirates.
Q. What's the best and worst part of your job?
A. The best part is just about all of it -- getting paid to watch big-league baseball, doing what I dreamed about as a kid, traveling to fun cities and ballparks, and on top of it all, working for the greatest fan base in the best city in the country. The only downside is being away from my family on the road. The travel and accommodations are always first-class, so those things are never an issue. Being gone for over 100 days a year is hard at times. This job can cause a strain on your family life and I hate missing big moments in my son's life. But, the flip side is that I get to be home all winter, so that makes up for it.