FanGraphs Book Club – Up, Up & Away by Paul Swydan September 17, 2018 Jonah Keri’s history of his boyhood team was a national bestseller. Hi everyone! Welcome to the second live chat of the FanGraphs Book Club! We’ll get started at 9 pm ET, and Jonah will join us at 9:30. That’ll give us all 30 minutes to talk about the book amongst ourselves, and line up some really great questions for him. So, I would say, don’t put questions in for Jonah now, let’s save those until he logs on to the chat. I hope you all are as excited as I am to talk baseball books! As a reminder, if you want to join our Facebook Group you can do so here. Chat transcript: 9:02 Paul Swydan: Hi everybody! 9:02 Andrea’s Fault: What’s the best beer to go with this chat–and I hope it’s not just Labatt’s or Molson. 9:03 Paul Swydan: How about a Molson 5X? You know Canadian beer is like moonshine. 9:04 Paul Swydan: So, I’m excited to chat about this book! I remember getting an early copy of this book to review it for The Hardball Times. It was pretty thrilling. 9:05 Paul Swydan: “The Extra 2%” was a good book, but I sort of knew the broad strokes, having been in the sabermetric world for most of the success part of the story. But the Expos? I didn’t know much about the Expos before they wanted to acquire Casey Fossum for Pedro Martinez. 9:07 Gabe: This book is so good it’s in the curriculum for a class I’m taking on baseball in Canadian culture. 9:07 Paul Swydan: That’s awesome! 9:08 Paul Swydan: I could easily see the parts about how the team started and got their stadium deal as authoritative accounts. 9:09 JT: So this is more a comment than a question, but I think Jeffrey Loria is a ****. 9:09 Jonah Keri: Hi gang! Figured I’d jump on early, since I’m watching the Cardinals annihilate the Braves and my dog is scrapping with my cat (whose name is Pedro Martinez). 9:10 Paul Swydan: Well, it’s a well-said comment. It still feels kind of odd that MLB is rid of him. Say what you will about how Jeter is running the Marlins, but it does seem like he’ll at least try. 9:10 Paul Swydan: Hi Jonah! 9:10 Jonah Keri: Hey Paul, thanks for inviting me! Happy to answer any questions anyone has. 9:11 JT: Realistically, is there hope of a return to Montreal? 9:14 Jonah Keri: JT, it’s funny you ask that. For some background, the editor of my first book The Extra 2% was an American who’d gone to McGill in the late 90s and thus became a huge Expos fan. While we were working on the Rays book he’d egg me on to write an Expos book. I kept laughing him off — I thought there was no way anyone would care about a team a decade after people already didn’t care about them. Then Gary Carter died, then reunions and events started happening, then exhibition games popped up every spring in which 50,000 poured into the Big O, and now we’re at the point where well-heeled companies and investors are working behind the scenes to try and bring baseball back. The real kicker is that every time Commissioner Manfred gets asked about relocation or expansion, he always cites Montreal as the top available market to be filled. So yes, I think there’s a realistic chance. Problem is, it’ll cost about $2 billion Canadian to make it happen, between franchise acquisition costs and a new ballpark. 9:14 Andrea’s Fault: Hi, Jonah–it’s too bad you didn’t get to interview Warren Zevon on Bill Lee (one of the best songs related to baseball, if you ask me). 9:15 Jonah Keri: That would have been awesome for sure. My wife Amy and I are huge Zevon fans, so that would have been perfect for all kinds of reasons. I guess the consolation is I got to play “Montreal reporter” in the movie Spaceman about Bill Lee. Still waiting for my Oscar. 9:16 Paul Swydan: Jonah, speaking of the reunions, what was it like revisiting the book when you wrote the afterword? 9:16 Paul Swydan: I’ve been told that once you finish a book, you never want to see it again. Was writing the afterword hard? 9:17 Jonah Keri: It was jarring. We released the book 4 days before that first Jays exhibition game at the Big O. Then suddenly I was in the stadium hawking books with a little stand, and 50,000 people were milling about. I’m generally an optimistic guy, but no way did I think there was so much pent-up demand for baseball in Montreal. So I just wrote the afterword from that perspective, about how much had changed over a 2-3-year span. 9:19 Jonah Keri: The afterword felt like a totally new chapter, and didn’t really require revisiting anything else I’d written, so it wasn’t hard at all to write. I think the biggest thing about writing a book is that it can be so all-consuming, it’s the notion of writing another book (of any kind) that becomes overwhelming to imagine. 9:19 Happy: now that you helped tim raines get into the Hall, what kind of projects are there that you can put together to help preserve Expos history? 9:20 Jonah Keri: Raines got in on the strength of his numbers, the whole thing about me getting credit was massively overblown and not really deserved. No real projects of that ilk on the horizon, though I do believe that Larry Walker is just as worthy of induction. Terrific player who got dinged for playing in Coors Field, which has caused people to ignore his terrific body of work! 9:20 JT: For an ownership group, could you see Bell wanting to get an alternative to Rogers’ Jays broadcasts? 9:20 Paul Swydan: Yeah, I’ve heard that too! I know authors who are working on multiple chapter book projects at the same time, and it makes my head spin. 9:21 Jonah Keri: Nothing speculative about that — Bell is widely known to be the leading light behind a push to bring baseball back to Montreal. For Americans who aren’t familiar with Bell (or Rogers), imagine ESPN and AT&T having a baby, and you can see the clout that both companies can have in the Canadian sports/media landscape. 9:22 Jonah Keri: Paul, I was working at day jobs during each of the books, and that alone was overwhelming and extremely dumb. Writing multiple books at the same time would permanently fry my brain. Hats off to anyone who can pull off that crazy trick. 9:22 Andrea’s Fault: Are there any stories from all your interviews that you loved but just couldn’t work into the flow of the book? 9:23 Jonah Keri: There was stuff about ummm…off-field behaviours that I didn’t include, because I’m not being on being salacious for no good reason. That said, let’s just say that there’s a Bull Durham-esque romance involving one ballyhooed Expos rookie that was quite enjoyable (and by all accounts no harm came of it). 9:27 Dutch: Was it more fun interviewing and researching the stars whose names made it into the subtitle, or the less glamorous players? 9:27 Jonah Keri: My favourite book interviews in order: 9:28 Jonah Keri: Felipe Alou. I’m not religious at all, but listening to Felipe talk for an hour about…I’d call it more spirituality than anything else, and also how his family made a name for itself with he and his brothers, and how proud he was of the legacy of Dominican baseball, and how much he adored Vlad and Pedro, it was just so cool. Hard to explain why, but I was near tears the whole time. 9:29 Jonah Keri: I spent 2 hours in a Miami coffee shop interviewing Cliff Floyd. He was so awesome, after about 30 minutes every other customer had pulled their chairs up to our table to listen in. 9:29 Jonah Keri: Former Expos PR man/now Toronto Star columnist Rich Griffin told me some terrific stories at the winter meetings. Ditto for former Montreal Gazette beat writer/now Toronto radio host Jeff Blair. 9:30 Jonah Keri: Ellis Valentine was amazing to talk to. Pedro took a while to track down, but the wait was totally worth it. 9:30 Jonah Keri: And here’s my favourite random interview story. 9:31 Jonah Keri: I went to track down Jamey Carroll at Dodger Stadium. He was a bit player on the later-year Expos teams, and I didn’t have many guys from that era. Before the clubhouse was renovated at Dodger Stadium, it was crazy cramped. So everyone could hear every word of my chat with Carroll, even though we weren’t talking loudly. 9:31 Jonah Keri: Finally after about 10 minutes of this, Casey Blake, sitting at the next locker, interrupts us, smirks, and says: “Are you seriously fucking talking about the fucking Montreal Expos?!??!” 9:32 Jonah Keri: I laughed for a week after that. 9:32 Youppi is my homeboy: You’ve written two books that have landed “bestseller” labels, and were the driving force behind another. If you did write another book, what would it be about? 9:33 Jonah Keri: Honestly I wouldn’t mind trying a political book. Not a partisan one per se, just a reported one. But who knows what the future holds. Possible that’s the end of my book life too. 9:33 Walker for the HoF: Does 1994 still hurt? If so, will it ever stop hurting? 9:34 Jonah Keri: I’m over it, just because I’m in my mid-40s and it’d be a little weird to let it take over my current existence. It was a royal screw job that didn’t need to happen, though. Never underestimate how much damage greedy owners can do to sports. 9:34 GYatch: As someone a decade older than you, I got to live through much of the Expos era but from a Mets-fan perspective (how I dreaded when they faced Steve Rogers). And, of course, our teams both got to enjoy Gary Carter and Rusty Staub. While Carter is a HOFer, and Staub really shouldn’t be, is there a reason, you think, Rusty is still underrated despite how good he was? 9:35 Jonah Keri: Staub reached base more than 4,000 times! He was a wonderful player who derived a lot of his value from walks/OBP, and also performance relative to very weak league norms in the late 60s and early 70s, so we don’t fully appreciate how good he was. Dude could rake though. Maybe not quite a Hall of Famer, but better than like 20 guys already in there. 9:35 David: How much research on other teams that moved – specifically, the Brooklyn Dodgers or Boston to Milwaukee – did you do, if any? Did you find a specific thread in any of those that encouraged you to explore ideas in your own book? 9:37 Jonah Keri: I did do some Brooklyn Dodgers research, but more as it related to the Montreal Royals and Jackie Robinson, both subjects in the early pages of the book. Beyond that, I could’ve definitely gone down that road (Seattle Supersonics, Hartford Whalers, you name it), but it took 3 years of research just to get what I got, so even though I’m a maniacally intellectually curious person, I had to cut it off somewhere! 9:37 Paul Swydan: How did that process of cutting off go? Was your editor key in that process, or did you map it all out yourself? 9:39 Jonah Keri: It was me. My editor was awesome in helping me figure where to stick specific blocks of text and topics. But in terms of how much research I wanted to do, who I wanted to interview, and what I wanted to cover, that was just about all me, for both books. The biggest addition my editor (Paul Taunton) made was insisting that I include personal anecdotes in “Up, Up, & Away”. I kept resisting, telling him that the players and coaches are interesting and I’m not at all, but he thought even a sprinkle of autobiographical stuff would resonate. So…I mean I tried, anyway! 9:40 Vic: You mentioned that Staub was underappreciated. Are there any other former Expos that you think we would look at in a different light today? 9:41 Paul Swydan: I would agree! I thought the same thing helped Russell Carleton’s recent book. 9:41 Jonah Keri: Go look at the regular-season stats of Dennis Martinez, Steve Rogers, and Jack Morris, then explain to me how Morris is in the Hall and the other two guys aren’t. It’s pretty hilarious. 9:42 Jonah Keri: Bob Bailey was something of an on-base fiend too. 9:43 Paul Swydan: Rogers: 49.8 WAR in 2837.2 IP. Morris: 55.8 WAR in 3824.0 . Pretty hilarious indeed. 9:45 Jonah Keri: I think one of the WARs (maybe BRef?) those 3 are like dead even in WAR. 9:45 Danny: Was there any one chapter that took more research or work than the others? 9:47 Jonah Keri: The beginning of the book for sure. I was born in ’74, so everything about how the team came into existence in the first place, all the political stuff happening in Montreal and Quebec in the 60s…I knew some of that stuff second-hand, but to really master the material I had to find as many people as I could who lived through that era, then just do a ton of reading. Related: That was my favourite part of the book to research and write. To me being a journalist means learning about a cool story, then taking the reader by the hand so he can see everything you’ve just learned. So as much fun as it was to write about Raines or Walker or Vlad, the early stuff stood out for me. 9:47 Marcus: Is Warren Cromartie still involved in the effort to get baseball in Montreal back? He’s probably one of the most interesting ex-Expos that had a lot bigger impact away from Montreal. 9:48 Jonah Keri: How to say this delicately? Cro has a lot of enthusiasm, but at this point he isn’t close to being a major player in the efforts to bring a team back. 9:48 GYatch: BRef WAR: Martinez 49, Rogers 44.9, Morris 43.9. 9:49 Jonah Keri: Bingo. Morris pitched that great Game 7 in 1991 and also had more Winszzzz than anyone in the 80s. Yippee-doo. Where are the plaques for my homies Cy and El Presidente? 9:51 Jonah Keri: Got time for one more question! 9:53 Shane: If you had one game with your pick of any Expos in history, what would your starting nine be? 9:54 Jonah Keri: I first read that as what’s my favourite game in Expos history, and was excited to report that today is the 25th anniversary of that game! https://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/september-17-1993-expos-fans-shower-cu… 9:54 Jonah Keri: But OK here’s my Starting 9, and I’m going to cheat a bit because holy moly this franchise had some insanely good OF 9:54 Jonah Keri: C Carter – Easy one. Best player in franchise history. 9:55 Jonah Keri: 1B Walker – This is my cheat, as you’ll soon see why. Walker did play some first with the Spos though. 9:56 Jonah Keri: 2B Vidro – He could really rake in his prime. Worked his ass off to get into good enough shape to become Vlad’s second banana. 9:56 Jonah Keri: SS Brooks – Couldn’t field worth a lick, but he hit a ton for a SS in the 80s 9:56 Paul Swydan: Quickly butting in with this old George Michael Sports Machine clip on Curtis Pride: 9:56 Jonah Keri: 3B Wallach – Holds way more franchise records than you’d think. A really good, really steady two-way player who wore the Expos uniform for a LONG time. Helluva guy IRL too. 9:56 Jonah Keri: (Best clip, Paul!) 9:57 Jonah Keri: LF Raines – As if I’m going to leave out my guy 9:57 Jonah Keri: CF Dawson – Cubs fans may remember Hawk better as a slow-footed slugger, but he was a Gold Glove centre fielder who amazing speed in addition to great power and hand-eye coordination. The Big O turf killed his knees. 9:57 Paul Swydan: (The relevant clip starts at ~3:37.) 9:58 Jonah Keri: RF Vlad – Read this: https://deadspin.com/vladimir-guerrero-had-hubris-and-he-had-balls-168… 9:58 Jonah Keri: SP Rogers has the best overall resume, but Pedro in 1997 was a human killing machine. Before he became PEDRO in Boston, that ’97 season was a testament to his impossible greatness. What a pitcher he was. 9:58 GYatch: But then Walker can’t throw guys out at first after they thought they hit a single to right! 9:59 Paul Swydan: hahaha 9:59 Jonah Keri: This is very true. Can always put Raines at 2B. 🙂 9:59 Paul Swydan: Imagine the relay of Guerrero from RF to Walker as the cut-off man to Carter? Hooooo boy. 10:00 Jonah Keri: OK that’ll do it for me. Thanks so much for having me, Paul and the gang! Really a lot of fun. I’m honoured and flattered that you guys read and enjoyed “Up, Up, & Away”. Definitely a passion project for me, so it’s really gratifying to see all the support. 10:00 Jonah Keri: Enjoy the stretch run of the season, and the playoffs!!! 10:00 Paul Swydan: Absolutely, thanks Jonah! 10:00 Paul Swydan: Really appreciate you joining us! 10:00 Jonah Keri: And I appreciate the invite! Thanks again! 🙂 10:00 Paul Swydan: I think we’ll call it a night here, gang. I’ve opened up a thread in the Facebook group for our next book: https://www.facebook.com/groups/212934659314950/permalink/290948861513… 10:01 Paul Swydan: I think I’d like to switch it up and pick a newer book. Maybe Russell’s book, maybe the new book “Baseball Cop” or anything else. Let’s dig in the crates a little! 10:02 Paul Swydan: Thanks for hanging out tonight, everyone. Be safe on those internets!