The Times ran their Baseball Preview over the weekend and there were several notable articles...
Jack Curry has a good profile on the ace of the Atlanta Braves, Greg Maddux, who is always interesting, no matter how boring he might seem:
"Why am I so good?" Maddux said, repeating a question. "I think it's probably because I understand myself as a pitcher, somewhat. I have an idea of what I can and can't do on the mound. That's probably the only reason I've lasted for the last five or six years."
...While Maddux's fastball rarely exceeds 89 miles per hour, it is a pitch he hones extensively and a pitch that enables him to be so masterly. Maddux's fastball has tremendous movement and he can usually hit a one-inch box from 60 feet 6 inches. Since he controls it like a yo-yo, it enhances the rest of his repertory. Maddux counsels teammates to spend more time controlling their fastballs and less on curveballs or sliders.
"It's unbelievable the amount of time he puts on perfecting the command of his fastball," Mazzone said. "It's his No. 1 priority. In his mind, if you can command your fastball and change speeds, there isn't a heck of a lot more you have to do."
..."I think what separates him is he's so much better at recognizing what the last pitch dictated and gathering information from that than most guys are," Glavine said. "Most guys say: `I threw a fastball in. Now I'm going to throw this.' Why? They don't know. It might not have anything at all to do with the last pitch. I think that's what he's good at. Seeing the hitter's reaction and using that information on the next pitch."
Allen Barra, one of the best baseball writers around, has a column on Barry Bonds. I don't know if this is just a guest shot for Barra---who regularly writes for the Wall Street Journal and Saloon.com, but the Times sports department would improve significantly with someone like Barra on board.
Lastly, Michael Lewis wrote an amazing article on Oakland GM Billy Beane in the Times Magazine yesterday, detailing the art of the deal.
The story centers around Beane's last-minute moves before the trading deadline last summer.
Having kept the team close enough to hope, he could now go out and shop for whatever else he needed to get to the playoffs. When he set off on this shopping spree, he kept in mind five simple rules:
1) No matter how successful you are, change is always good. There can never be a status quo. When you have no money, you can't afford long-term solutions, only short-term ones. You have to always be upgrading.
2) The day you say, ''I have to do something,'' you're in trouble. Because you are going to make a bad deal. You can always recover from the player you didn't sign. You may never recover from the player you signed at the wrong price.
3) Know exactly what every player in baseball is worth to you. You can put a dollar figure on it.
4) Know exactly who you want and go after him. (Never mind whom they say they want to trade.)
5) Every deal you do will be publicly scrutinized by subjective opinion. If I'm the C.E.O. of I.B.M., I'm not worried that every personnel decision I make is going to wind up on the front page of the business section. Not everyone believes that he knows everything about the personal computer. But everyone who ever picked up a bat thinks he knows baseball. To do this well, you have to ignore the newspapers.
Beane, who looks like a younger, more attractive Kevin Spacey, comes off like a character in a David Mamet play, minus the contrived Mamet-like cadences. This article is long, but well worth it. It's the best profile I've read on Beane to date.