After talking with Peter Gammons about his feature on Jeff Allison for MLB Network, ThePostGame had the opportunity to chat with the Hall of Fame baseball writer on some hot topics and personal tidbits. The longtime Bostonian and former ESPN fixture has been working with the MLB Network since 2009. He will be part of MLB Network’s First-Year Player Draft Coverage starting Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.
ThePostGame: There’s been so much going on with Red Sox -- they've been a surprise team in baseball, and of course, there was the Boston Marathon bombing and a moving ceremony at Fenway Park. What do you think this year has been like in Red Sox Nation?
PETER GAMMONS: In the last couple of years, people really grew tired of them. They had some players that groused all the time about how Boston was so hard to play in -- Carl Crawford couldn't take it … he just didn't want to play -- people kind of came to hate that team. They went out in a very negative place, and they went out and got a lot of players who were very enthusiastic. Maybe not great players, but everybody has sort of fallen in line behind Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz and really loves the city. They're totally refreshing personalities that people have grown to like.
I don't know if people really have any idea how good they are. I think there's always that worry that come the second half of the year that Tampa Bay is going to end up being the power. But they've placed so hard, they're really good guys and I think there's a lot to be said for that. Fans would like to think that players enjoy the game the way [fans] would if they could play …
Because I’m from Boston, I was really touched by the way the players responded to the whole marathon bombing. They were so wrapped up that I actually suggested that they have one of those Duck Boat parades – they do it for the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins Celtics, and I suggested they do it for the police and the first responders … and then the whole Ortiz thing, it was all emotion. It played so well because he said whatever people would like to say, and it was like the right thing – that somebody cares enough not to be politically correct. And actually, that Monday I [was a guest on the MSNBC talk show] "Morning Joe" … I think it was Joe Scarborough who said ‘actually maybe the NBC overnight poll said David Ortiz is the most popular man in America …
TPG: You have a long history with the city of Boston, but maybe little-known fact about you that you’re also a big enthusiast for the indie rock scene there and that you play the guitar yourself. Do you have a favorite band and some favorite songs to play on your own?
GAMMONS: As a kid, the Rolling Stones were my first favorite, and they still remain there. I still play a lot of Stones songs, whether it's "Around and Around" [originally performed by Chuck Berry] or “Spider and the Fly.” “Give Me Shelter” might still be the greatest rock and roll song of all-time. Huge Little Feat fan – Paul Barrere is a great friend, and there are so many there … "Apolitical Blues" was one of my all-time favorite Little Feat songs.
I would say my other favorite band is The Derek Trucks Band. I think Eric Clapton was right when he always introduced him as the greatest guitar player who ever lived. And also the fact that his great-uncle, Virgil "Fire" Trucks not only has the organized baseball record for strikeouts in one season, but Ted Williams used to tell me that he was the hardest-throwing righthanded pitcher he ever faced. So they have the baseball and rock and roll tie-in with the Trucks family.
TPG: Getting back to baseball, you made some comments on Twitter a little while back saying that you disapprove of the Houston Astros' strategy, basically where they're tanking to take advantage of the new draft slotting system [which allows teams with higher first-round picks more room for spending in the draft, per the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement]. I was wondering, with the draft coming up, can't that strategy be seen as exploiting a market inefficiency similar to what Billy Beane's A's and Andrew Friedman's Rays have done?
GAMMONS: I think it can be. I think the difference of course is in the markets. Houston is [one of the bigger markets] in the game. But I talked it all out with Jim Crane, the owner, and I think he fully understands that it's not good business just to lose. I don’t know if there was some misunderstanding -- I think they’re really trying -- I think [General Manager] Jeff Luhnow is a brilliant guy, and I think he's very creative. There’s something to be said for having one of the top three picks three or four years in a row.
Problem is, if you're paying 100 dollars for a ticket, and a team loses 120 games, what does that do? They can take advantage of the whole system. But I think after this year, you’re going to see them not veer to the other direction. You’ve seen them step up the development of their farm system, so they are now set to become pretty good in another two years. I’ll tell what you what I didn’t like was if they were going to be that bad, does that guarantee that two teams come out of the American League West for the wild card. But as it’s turned out, and I actually tweeted this [Sunday], Oakland is 9-0 and Texas is 5-1 against Houston … but Houston has a winning record against Seattle and the Angels.
TPG: I'm from L.A., so I've seen first-hand the destruction they’ve done to the Angels. The Dodgers have been terrible too [Editor's note: interview conducted before Yasiel Puig’s debut].
GAMMONS: The Dodgers – that's an interesting situation. I feel very badly for Don Mattingly – he’s one of the finest people I’ve ever known. They’ve just had so many injuries, and I feel terrible for Matt Kemp because the lead shoulder is what controls your swing. His left shoulder is not right. I actually feel that it’s a blessing in disguise that he ended up pulling a hamstring because now he can spend some time building the strength back in his shoulder which he couldn’t do before. I'm a big Matt Kemp fan. I love Kershaw, love Greinke – Greinke’s a fascinating guy – he’s so smart, it’s incredible.
A friend of mine who works for the Dodgers called me about something else, and he said ‘do you know how many games the [projected Opening Day lineup] has played this year?’ I said, ‘No. I don't.' He said, ‘None.’ That's what Mattingly and company are fighting.