FanGraphs Q&A and Sunday Notes: The Best Quotes of 2017

In 2017, I once again had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of people within baseball. Many of their words were shared via the FanGraphs Q&A series, while others came courtesy of my Sunday Notes column. Continuing what has become an annual tradition, here is a selection of the best quotes from this year’s conversations.

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“Jerry (Dipoto) is extremely professional about returning calls and texts, open to ideas, and not afraid to make moves, particularly in terms of trading prospects. It’s amazing how many conversations get shot down almost immediately, but Jerry will listen and engage.” — John Coppolella, Braves GM, January 2017

“I think you’d be surprised. There are a lot of hitters in the big leagues right now that can’t hit a good fastball. Because of their status, everybody thinks they can crush a fastball, so pitchers are reluctant to throw it to them. They don’t have to be.” — Jim Leyland, former manager, January 2017

“You end up with a really ugly, flat slider. It’s basically a nothing fastball that doesn’t do anything except go about 400 feet. To the hitter, it’s a cookie. As a pitcher, you don’t want to serve up cookies.” — Larry Andersen, Phillies broadcaster, January 2017

“Bobby (Valentine) left him in. Sojo gets a hit, and we lose. They win and the World Series is over. The first thing Bobby says to me is, ‘Hey, don’t forget now; you’ve got to cover my ass.’” — Dave Wallace, former pitching coach, January 2017

“I’m used to using numbers to paint a picture. A lot of guys only know the numbers side. There are a lot of quantitative guys, and there are a lot of qualitative guys. Being able to use both is basically what Econ is.” — Burke Badenhop, Diamondbacks baseball operations analyst, January 2017

“We’ve been actively trying to interweave our analytics folks and scouting folks. We’ve been goal-setting, and pairing that goal-setting with investment in technology so that we truly have as much of an internal process — a fully-functioning internal process — as we can.” — Jeff Bridich, Rockies GM, January 2017

“We actually created a department, so we have a couple of pitching coordinators, of different iterations. That’s wise, because it’s a huge undertaking for one person to really tackle the entire situation.” — Brandon Gomes, Dodgers pitching coordinator, February 2017

“The important thing to remember is that pitchers are going to change over time. It’s the opinion of the scouts, and their insights, that are going to drive the conversations on how much these pitchers are going to change, and how and why they’re going to be able to get better.” — Mike Elias, Astros assistant GM, February 2017

“Studying the game from a player’s perspective would be drastically different from that of somebody hired out of an Ivy League school into a front office. I don’t bring my calculator to the box with me.” — Harrison Bader, Cardinals outfielder, February 2017

“Math and statistics are a good way to figure that out, but at the same time, launch-angle data is essentially going to tell me to hit hard line drives. It’s going to say, ‘Hit like Miguel Cabrera.’Guess what? I’m trying to hit like Miguel Cabrera.” — Charlie Blackmon, Rockies outfielder, February 2017

“If I have to I have to, but that’s just like asking somebody if they’d ever do something, and they say no. You can’t say that. You might have to. I don’t know how else to answer that question.” — Craig Kimbrel, Red Sox closer, February 2017

“Another goal is to reduce stress. That is especially true in environments like Boston and Chicago. Kevin Youkilis talks about having been called a truck driver, and the hate he sometimes felt. Jake Arrieta told me that he was followed in Manhattan, for 10 blocks, by 60 people… There’s all of this pressure, so we practice meditation.” — John Baker, Cubs mental skills coordinator, February 2017

“I think we have a chance to have a bounce-back season. I believe these guys have a chance to kind of tell their own story, and create… it would be unfair to compare it to what happened in Boston in 2013, but in some ways I believe the ability is there to bounce back and prove people wrong.” — Amiel Sawdaye, Diamondbacks assistant GM, February 2017

“Something our management team has talked about a lot is the mistake we made our first year here, in 2006. We were caught in the middle. We convinced ourselves that if A, B, and C went right, we had a chance to win, and… it’s not a sustainable strategy.” — Jon Daniels, Rangers GM, February 2017

“Circumstance dictates so much of your opportunities. Saying, ‘I have this five-year plan and this is how it’s going to unfold’… the real world just doesn’t work that way.” — Farhan Zaidi, Dodgers GM, February 2017

“I wish I was a spin-rate guy, but that’s not what I do. With my arm angle, and the way the ball comes out of my hand, it’s kind of… not demoralizing, but you see guys swinging and missing at fastballs that are the same velocity as mine, and mine don’t get swung through.” — Brett Anderson, veteran southpaw, March 2017

“Initially, I just talked to some of our guys about certain guys’ pitches. I wanted to become fluent in spin axis, so if somebody said, ‘It spins at X [rpm],’ I would know what that means. I would be able to visualize it.” — Adam Ottavino, Rockies reliever, March 2017

“Some things are only crazy if you approach them from the perspective of, ‘What was done before was totally sane.’ That makes the new stuff sound crazy, but maybe we should challenge the notion that everything we were doing before was sane.” — Dick Williams, Reds GM, March 2017

“In the last 7-10 years, the amount of innings being pitched, and the amount of pitches being thrown per game, has decreased, yet we haven’t seen a decrease in the amount of injuries in professional baseball. So I don’t think putting these kids in bubbles and limiting them is necessarily the right answer. How do you develop pitchers if they’re not allowed to throw the baseball?” — Bryan Price, Reds manager, March 2017

“You’ve got Kyle Hendricks who is ‘a pitcher.’ He’s a game manager. He’s a sinkerballer-changeup guy who goes out there and really commands the strike zone. I say he’s a diet Greg Maddux. He’s that good.” — Jason Hammel, Royals pitcher, March 2017

“I don’t do the chopping wood. I don’t like to look at it like that. If I thought about it like chopping wood, I’d probably hit the ball like I was chopping wood. I mean, they don’t really mean ‘Hit it like you’re chopping wood,’ but you kind of get what they’re trying to say.” — Terrance Gore, Royals speedster, March 2017

“I can’t teach you how to hit… It’s like riding a bicycle. I can tell you where to put your feet on the pedals and how to hold the handlebars, but from there you have to learn it on your own. Ice skating. Roller skating. You have to learn it, feel it.” — Pete Mackanin, Phillies manager, April 2017

“I remember Kevin Appier. For years, everybody talked about his delivery and how he wouldn’t last. He pitched for 100 years.” — Buck Showalter, Orioles manager, April 2017

“On paper, I wasn’t, but in actuality, I was. It does make for a good story, because not many people get traded for a non-player. It is what it is.” — Trevor Williams, Pirates pitcher, April 2017

“Usually, where I line up, that little starburst we have on our dugout is right by my cheek. If I’m starting here, and then I go back in my load and come forward, and it’s behind me, I know my head is moving forward too much. Does that make sense?” — Logan Morrison, Rays slugger, April 2017

“That’s who I am. I like land, and I like the thought of having cows all over that land.” — Chase Whitley, Rays reliever, April 2017

“My interests might change, but my major would probably be business-related or medical-related. I’ve always been interested in the heart. That’s been my dream since I’ve been a little kid: I want to be a heart surgeon.” — Triston McKenzie, Indians pitching prospect, May 2017

“If you include the shuuto, there are actually three versions of the two-seamer. If you talk to the Japanese guys, it’s a real pitch… The shuutu is more side to side, a sinker is more downwards, and a two-seamer is kind of in between.” — Tony Barnette, Rangers reliever, May 2017

“I touched 100 once, which was a pretty cool moment… I always ask, ‘When are you going to let me get an inning in?’ but I don’t think it will happen any time soon. If they do let me do it, they might not let me hit anymore. In a way, I’m kind of scared to go on the mound, because I might be too good.” — Joey Gallo, Rangers slugger, May 2017

“The pitching coach comes out to the mound. He says, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ I told him ‘I’m getting my bleep, bleep, bleeping butt kicked out here.’ About the time I’m delivering the speech, per se, the umpire comes walking up. He starts laughing so hard at what I’m saying that he has to turn around and walk away.” — Dave Burba, former big-league pitcher, May 2017

“I never had a mound visit that did a damn bit of good… I told (pitching coach Roger Craig) that there was no reason to say anything when he came out, because I already knew. So the next time he came out, he just stood there. And I stood there, looking up in the air. Lance Parrish comes out and looks at us. Then Roger walks back to the dugout. Never said a word.” — Jack Morris, Hall of Fame pitcher, June 2017

“Some guys can actually be better in the ninth inning — they know that it’s three outs and the game is over — but for others, it’s a burden. How do you recognize the guys that can do it?… Until you see him do it, you don’t really know.” — Larry Rothschild, Yankees pitching coach, June 2017

“Could you walk across this table? What about if I put it a thousand feet in the air? Could you walk across it then? That’s the difference between pitching the sixth and pitching the ninth. Anyone who says that pitching the ninth is the same as pitching any other inning is out of their mind.” — Brad Ausmus, Tigers manager, June 2017

“A lot of guys will have an ABC swing. A is the launch position, B is kind of a cast, or a drop of the hands, and C is point of contact. I like A to C. To me, B is bad. That means your hands get away from your body.” — Matt Stairs, Phillies hitting coach, June 2017

“Castro tells me to not shake him off, so I definitely don’t do that. Of course, only throwing a fastball kind of helps me out there.” — Chris Gimenez, Twins catcher, June 2017

“When (Tim Worrell) was setting up with the Phillies, Billy Wagner was the closer… the bullpen phone would ring in the eighth inning and it was, ‘Worrell is in the game.’ Wags used to look at him and just laugh, because it was the middle of the lineup.” — John Gibbons, Blue Jays manager, July 2017

“With my slider, instead of having my fingers on the inside part of the two seams, I have them on the outside, and then I cross over the seam, right where the knuckle of my middle finger is. It crosses over the lace, onto the horseshoe. It’s a grip I found way back in my junior year of high school.” — Tanner Houck, Red Sox pitching prospect, July 2017

“The only thing I can compare it to is picturing yourself sitting on the beach. If you can close your eyes and picture yourself on the beach, you can start to hear the waves, and feel the sand, and the warm air. It’s kind of like a daydream. It’s, ‘OK, Chris Davis is coming up, and here we go.’” — Taylor Rogers, Twins pitcher, July 2017

“I grew up having this mysticism, this legendary aura, surrounding a Major League Baseball player. Now I’m here, and I don’t feel like I thought I’d feel. I’m the same guy. I’m the same idiot I’ve been my whole life.” — Joe Biagini, Blue Jays pitcher, July 2017

“I hadn’t really thought about it, because this was kind of impromptu. I didn’t know we were going to have an interview. I figured if you asked me something, it’s because it was a question you wanted to know the answer to. And if you weren’t asking a question, that was probably something you didn’t want to know.” — Manny Margot, Padres outfielder, July 2017

“You watch the video and see what the guy likes to do, and you kind of create your workout and your game plan for that day… (But) you can’t put too much mind to it, because you really don’t know what’s going to happen until that first at-bat and you see how he’s attacking hitters. It can be a surprise. That’s the beauty of baseball.” — Manny Machado, Orioles infielder, July 2017

“We make our living playing to end up in first place. I could pretty much tell you where every team is. Not only is it my job, I enjoy it. I’m a baseball fan. I look up at the scoreboard all the time. It kind of helps me relax.” — Terry Francona, Indians manager, August 2017

“Obviously, launch angle and lifting the ball helps, but I don’t want to create my lift by trying to lift it. That could get me into bad habits. Peoples’ minds work differently. You can tell one guy to lift the ball and he may change his slot to the right spot, and another guy might try to get underneath it with his shoulders, and he ends up making his swing longer.” — Mikie Mahtook, Tigers outfielder, August 2017

“I was at a holiday party. Kenny called me and said we could get the deal done, but we’d have to give up Paisano. I was like, ‘Really. Paisano, huh?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, what do you think?’ I take a minute, then say ‘Kenny, I’ve got to tell you I don’t know who the hell Paisano is.’ He goes, ‘Good, because neither do I.’” — Rick Hahn, White Sox GM, August 2017

“I went to the boss and he asked, ‘What’s it going to take?’ I told him the figure, and he came back about a week later and said, ‘We can’t take him.’ Can you imagine if we would have taken him? The Astros would have had Bagwell, Biggio, and Jeter.” — Mark Servais, longtime scout, August 2017

“Every day, for his training, the coaches would be out there by the mound with a basket of balls. They put padding on his right side — his legs, his hips, his shoulder. They would wrap him up, and he’d stand there in the left-hander’s batter’s box. They’d throw balls at him, literally at him, and have him turn into them, turn into them, turn into them.” — Darrin Jackson, White Sox broadcaster, August 2017

Babe Ruth could walk out of the grave and throw his coffin on the field in protest, and there isn’t an American umpire alive that would hesitate to throw him out. In fact, they might relish the opportunity to toss the undead legend from a game, something to tell their spawn.” — Lars Anderson, Kochi Fighting Dog, August 2017

“(Jim Kaat) was probably the best centerfielder I ever saw in batting practice. He caught everything, and he loved it.” — Lee Stange, former big-league pitcher, August 2017

“As far as I’m concerned, everything up in the zone becomes hittable. The curveball hangs, the slider hangs, the changeup is not where it’s supposed to be, the forkball becomes more of a spoon ball and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do.” — Chili Davis, Red Sox hitting coach, August 2017

“(Zach Britton) is mostly just the sinker, but it’s 97. By the time you figure him out, he’s in the clubhouse having a beer.” — Don Cooper, White Sox pitching coach, August 2017

“One thing about my sinker is that I don’t manipulate it. I just grip it and throw it, so what I have to ask myself is, ‘Why is it spinning more?’ Again, the velocity is the same, so I think it goes back to my delivery. Where is my arm slot?” — Zach Britton, Orioles closer, September 2017

“I don’t really call it anything; I just call it a breaking ball. Sometimes it has more slider spin, and sometimes it has more curveball spin. Honestly, I just try to throw it as hard as I can. If I try to lob it in there, it’s not going to be very good.” — Chad Green, Yankees pitcher, August 2017

“What an old hitting coach said about the high fastball is that it’s chocolate mousse. It looks so good, but it’s so bad for you.” — Danny Jansen, Blue Jays catching prospect, September 2017

“I’m striving to have that quiet, calm clarity in every at-bat. That can be a challenge, because it’s an emotional game at times. There can be situations that make you a little more amped, a little more anxious.” — Paul DeJong, Cardinals infielder, September 2017

“I mean, the (Robin) Ventura story is, like, one of my favorite things. The dude came right at him and he put him in a choke hold and started waling on him. That’s how I like to envision myself. I want to be that guy out there.” — Mikey York, Rays pitching prospect, September 2017

“If you want to be a role model, you’re not allowed to make mistakes. But the more role models you have — just in general — it’s going to be for the betterment of our community, our environment, and the world. My advice is to have the ability to speak out, but not be outspoken.” — Chris Archer, Rays pitcher, September 2017

“I’ve kind of been the guy who had the raffle ticket — my name was in the hat when something happened up at the next level and someone was going to be promoted. I seemed to keep getting those shots, and then I pitched well enough to stay there until my name was back in a hat.” — Brent Suter, Brewers pitcher, September 2017

“I need movement or I need speed. I’ve never been a great pitcher. I’ve been a good thrower. I need stuff to get outs.” — Charlie Morton, Astros pitcher, October 2017

“Sometimes you need to give a good shout-out to the guys who are short. In baseball, height doesn’t matter… So, to the guys out there who are short and want to continue their career, don’t listen to the outside noise. Silence that noise.” — Tony Kemp, Astros infield prospect, October 2017

“If you look at the generation of players today, you have guys like Trevor Bauer who are almost pushing front offices to go faster, because they’re utilizing information and technology in ways that players never have before.” — Jeff Luhnow, Astros GM, October 2017

“No matter how technical this game gets, it’s still going to be a people business. Players, at least in the foreseeable future, aren’t going to be robots.” — Jed Lowrie, Athletics infielder, October 2017

“I wouldn’t say I was stubborn before then, it was more sticking with what works. The time when I wasn’t healthy kind of opened my vision and my landscape a little bit.” — Justin Verlander, Astros pitcher, October 2017

“I believe that players, no matter their level, respond first and foremost to give-a-shit. They need to know that their coach cares about them and is putting in at least an equal amount of work. These factors don’t often follow an aging curve.” — Gabe Kapler, Dodgers director of player development, October 2017

“There are all these new undiscovered countries out there that we’re still trying to conquer. And sometimes your eyes and your mind can trick you. Analytics are there kind of like bumpers in a bowling alley to keep the ball in play, rather than have it go in the gutter.” — Brian Cashman, Yankees GM, October 2017

“In my heart, I’m Venezuelan. We talk to my relatives there all the time, trying to get them out. At this point, all you can do is sit back and pray, and hope for the best. It’s in God’s hands.” — Jesus Luzardo, Athletics pitching prospect, November 2017

“Am I well known? Not one bit. I can walk anywhere, any street, in any part of Australia, and not get recognized. If I was an Australian Rules football player, I would be… That’s OK. I’m happy to just sit back and not be famous.” — Peter Moylan, Royals reliever, November 2017

“In a lot of situations you’re going to say ‘focus on hitting,’ or ‘focus on pitching’ — choose one — and that the game is hard enough to where you have to go down that path. By keeping the door open to do both, you do introduce some risk. If he doesn’t pan out, people can look back and blame that decision.” — Eric Neander, Rays GM, November 2017

“The generation that’s on the horizon will probably also be met with tension at the outset. Even so, when you look up 15-20 years from now, you’ll see a handful of people who haven’t worn uniforms before, but they’re wearing uniforms now in dugouts.” — Thad Levine, Twins GM, November 2017

“I can’t sit here today and tell you which way it’s going to go. We need to continue to add and acquire, and quite frankly, if we do make any more trades down the road, it’s going to be one of those young guys — maybe.” — Al Avila, Tigers GM

“Numbers are numbers, and in the development world, they don’t tell the whole story. As a matter of fact, they tell very little of the story… This was just a small part of the global developments scenario for Riley. He made strides.” — Zach Wilson, Rockies director of player development, December 2017

“Frankly, everybody is asked to do that. Your phone makes you consume more information on a daily basis. Everybody has access to more information, so players are used to consuming more of it. They do it in their everyday lives.” — Craig Counsell, Brewers manager, December 2017

“They’ve understood all of those things for last 100 years. We’re really just trying to drill down a little deeper. We’re just quantifying what has been believed anecdotally for years.” — Neal Huntington, Pirates GM, December 2017

“I am of the belief that Cooperstown isn’t simply a place to lionize elite players, but to honor the people who shaped the sport. One’s full contributions to the game should be considered, not simply one’s on-field performance… Tommy John changed baseball forever, and for that he deserves a plaque.” — Jared Diamond, Wall Street Journal, December 2017

”His broadcasts were a symphony. Whatever the sport, he was tone-perfect. He had that magical way of complementing the game without becoming the story and his talent for selecting just the right phrase, the exact word needed, set him apart from all the rest. Dick is the model for anyone who ever dreamed of sports announcing.” — Dave O’Brien, Red Sox broadcaster, December 2017

“Unfortunately, I made the window out of pine wood, not factoring in that I was going to hit it a few times. It didn’t stand up to that very well. It got destroyed and put into a dumpster about a month after I finished it.” — Tom Hackimer, Twins pitching prospect, December 2017

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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