Via BTF, Lance Berkman spoke at a church event with Andy Pettitte and other former ballplayers on Tuesday night. Here’s what he had to say about what it was like to be traded to the Yankees during the 2010 season:
“The hardest time in my professional life was when I was traded to New York. I had been in Houston a long time. I was very comfortable, played at Rice, a native Texan, so it was like a dream come true. For the first two weeks (following the trade) I literally wanted to cry. I felt so bad. I was having a bad season, and was in a completely new and alien environment. I just felt overwhelmed. Fortunately, I did have one friend in New York, and that was the main reason I waived my no-trade clause and went up there because Andy (Pettitte) was there.”
I suppose some of you will mock the big strong athlete admitting to wanting to cry, but my takeaway from this is just how much we underestimate how trades and moving and change affect ballplayers.
Sure, they know the deal. Moving teams is inevitable. But some people don’t deal with change as well as others. And no matter how much they anticipate it and no matter how handsomely they are compensated to accept it, it doesn’t always make it easier.
If you are old enough and lame enough as I am, you may have lurked around on sabermetic message boards in the 1990s. If you did, you may have heard of Sherri Nichols, who back in the day, was a significant contributor to the advancement of statistical analysis, particularly defensive analysis.
While it’s probably better that not everyone is as old and nerdy as me, the downside of it is that most people haven’t heard of Nichols and know nothing about her contributions. That changes today with Ben Lindbergh’s excellent analysis of Nichols and her work over at The Ringer, which I recommend that you all read.
The short version: Nichols is the one who planted the seed about on-base percentage being valuable in the mind of Baseball Prospectus Founder Gary Huckabay, back in the late 80s. She’s also the one most responsible for the rise of zone-based defensive metrics in the 1990s, such as Defensive Average, which she created and which served as the basis for other such metrics going forward. She also played a critical role in the development of RetroSheet, which collected almost all extant box score and play-by-play information going back to the turn of the 20th century, thereby making so much of the information available at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs possible. A key contribution there: making the information free and available to everyone, rather than closing the underlying data off as proprietary and either charging for access or keeping it in-house like some recent data collectors have chosen to do. Ahem.
A larger takeaway than all of Nichols’ contributions is just how loathe the baseball community was to listen to a woman back then. I mean, yeah, they’re still loathe to listen to women now, as indicated by the small number of women who hold jobs in baseball operations departments, but back then it was even worse, as evidenced by Lindbergh’s stories and Nichols’ anecdotes.
A great read and a great history lesson.