Just got back from Baseball Prospectus's second annual appearance at the Yogi Berra Museum, on the campus of Montclair State University. The Yogi as we call it, is a great place with a great staff--we're really lucky to have these folks open up their museum to us and let us basically have run of the grounds for a whole day. This time, I was on the panel with twelve other BP authors--Will Carroll, Jay Jaffe, Christina Kahrl, Steve Goldman, Jim Baker, Kevin Goldstein, Clay Davenport, Will Weiss, Neil deMause, Marc Normandin, Ben Murphy, and John Erhardt, who decided to watch the proceedings from the crowd, as did BP.com editor Alex Carnevale and Salon.com's Allen Barra, who was on the panel last year. We did about two and a half hours' worth of talking to (and with) the substantial crowd that made it out Upper Montclair, and afterward we had a rare get-together of a quorum of Prospectus's active workforce at a great restaurant called Gaucho's in Montclair. I hadn't met a number of the guys before, most notably Baker (who has a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor), Davenport (who looks quiet, but when he answers a question speaks with that special self-confidence that only scientists display), and Goldstein (who's the very spirit of understatement--it was like being on stage with Dean Martin). Normandin and Murphy look so young, that when I first saw them on the stage I thought they might just be fans who mistakenly followed us to our seats (I hadn't yet been introduced to them).
For me, this was a whirlwind weekend which featured an appearance at the Columbia University bookstore with Goldman, Kahrl, Jaffe, Weiss and deMause on Thursday, and hosting a small party for Alex Belth, Will Carroll, Kahrl, Jaffe and Jay's wife Andra, and his friend Nick Stone and Nick's date. I haven't had this kind of...baseball holiday, for lack of a better word, since I was a teenager playing in the Inwood Table Baseball League, dropping in at Yankee Stadium at gametime and getting good tickets, and going to Strat-o-Matic Tournaments. Definitely good times.
The times are not so good in Tampa, where the big story was Chien Ming Wang's strained hamstring, which will keep the pitcher out for a month. To show you how quickly things move in baseball, Wang came into 2006 hardly assured of a spot in the starting rotation, thirteen months later, he's the Yankees' ace, and news that he's injured is an agita-inducing event. He'll now start the season on the DL, missing at least the first three weeks of the season.
In Wang's absence, it looks like Can't Play Carl Pavano is the Opening Day starter. This is also...unexpected. Not necessarily the optimum circumstances for Can't Play Carl to re-introduce himself to the Yankee Stadium crowd. Apparently, it was judged that given the issues each is dealing with, it wouldn't be a good idea to take Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, or Kei Igawa off their established schedules to pitch the opener against Tampa Bay, a week from Monday.
Of course, the idea of Carl Pavano, Opening Day starter, makes one huge assumption--that Can't Play Carl will somehow survive the last week of Spring Training without turning an ankle, bruising his buttocks, getting knocked unconscious by a line drive, burning the roof of his mouth by eating a microwave pizza too fast, or contracting the deadly Mutaba virus from an illegally-imported capuchin monkey. As always, the attitude with Can't Play Carl should be "I'll believe it when I see it." Heaven willing, I'll be at Yankee Stadium for the opener to make sure that's actually Carl Pavano and not some CGI superimposed by the YES Network.
Wang's (and Pavano's) misfortune is Jeff Karstens' gain, since Karstens looks on track to break camp with the big club. Tomorrow's start against the Tigers could be enough to seal the deal.
In better news, Bobby Murcer is reportedly "clear" of the brain tumor that he was diagnosed with over the holidays. I hope Bobby is well enough to make it out to the Stadium for the opener. If not, he will be in our thoughts, there. It's just good to hear he's feeling better.