Daily Archives: November 25, 2011

Interview with Bruce Spitzer: Author of Extra Innings

Friday November 25, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Q&A with Bruce Spitzer, author of the novel Extra Innings about Ted Williams returning to life through cryonics, to be released this spring.

Q.        In Extra Innings, cryonics and science bring Ted Williams back to life in 2092. What was your inspiration for the concept of the book?

A.        I never saw him play but always admired the man. I have friends who knew him well and every one of them has a story about his larger-than-life persona—good fodder for a book. Then one night five years ago I was watching a Red Sox game on TV and Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy were talking about Ted Williams. In between innings I was channel surfing a bit (who doesn’t?) and landed on something like the Discovery Channel, maybe the History Channel. The program was about mummies and a belief in life after death. I connected the dots:  the real-life cryonic preservation of the late Ted Williams and the human desire for life after death and began to imagine what it would be like if indeed Ted was successfully reanimated one day. Thus Extra Innings the novel was born.

 

Q:        Why Ted Williams, and why the year 2092, any particular relevance?

A:        If you’re going to fictionalize an account of a famous person I can’t think of many better than Ted Williams who in real life (or death), as most people know, was cryonically preserved when he passed away in 2002. For a novelist, he was a wellspring of source material. I did a lot of research so that when I placed him in a particular situation I would know how he would react—even his verbal patterns, in particular, his famous cussing. The year 2092 was chosen to set the novel in because it is far enough in the future to believe that science may make cryonic reanimation possible, but not too far out to make verisimilitude difficult.

 

Q:        You chose to write about baseball as your first novel. Why baseball in particular? What is your baseball background?

A:        I played the game only as a boy but, obviously, you need to know something about it to write a baseball book. As an undergrad I did play-by-play on the radio and took a sports reporting track for a while. I’ve been a writer my entire professional life and have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. But Extra Innings is my first foray into fiction. So, after developing “the hook” for the story in my mind, it seemed like it was a mountain I was ready to climb. I have a journalism degree and use it every day. I’ve also been a PR executive for a long time. Quite a few novelists have worked in PR and advertising, which, historically, require good writing skills. The PR types include Danielle Steele and Kurt Vonnegut; and James Patterson is a former copywriter and ad exec. Far be it from me to compare myself to these authors, but as a writer and PR person, you must master the skill of quality research, which was invaluable in writing Extra Innings.

 

Q:        Your novel has been five years in the making. Please describe the process of creating this book from beginning to end.

A:        The first draft took a year to write and I rewrote and revised for another four years. I rise at 4 a.m. each day and write for 2 ½ hours before going off to work at the job I love in Boston where I write and edit other stuff. I also work on fiction for at least a few hours on one day each weekend. So, it is basically a six-day-a-week passion, but because I do it so early in the morning I still have time left for my family, career, friends and other interests.

 

Q:        Would it be fair to say that this book falls mainly into the categories of baseball and science fiction. How would you describe the genre of the Extra Innings?

A:        The novel is general fiction, and commercial fiction, but it has elements of speculative fiction (a subset of sci-fi), a sports novel (of course), and a military thriller (mirroring the “first life” of Ted Williams).

 

Q:        Will a traditional baseball fan enjoy this book?  Most baseball readers tend to enjoy reading about the history of the game, its players and statistics.  For those baseball readers, how will they feel about this book?

A:        I believe baseball fans (and not just Red Sox fans) will revel in it. As a baseball reader myself, it was a joy to research and write—what fun to re-imagine a new life for the greatest hitter of all time and see him play baseball again. However, EI is more that just a baseball book. It’s a story about second chances and redemption. For all of his success on the field in his real life, Williams was flawed in many ways off of the field. In his second life he is compelled to answer the question, what’s more important, a chance to win his first World Series or a chance to be a better man? In addition there are numerous subplots to draw-in a variety of readers. The narrative resonates with the consequences of the major issues we face in our world today—the steroids debate in sports, global warming and flooding, corporate greed, technology run rampant, and the moral ambiguity of war. One of my female beta readers even said, “This is a love story disguised as a baseball book.”

 

Q:        Did you consult with any baseball officials in writing the Extra Innings?

A:        There was a lot of research done at such disparate places as the Boston Athenaeum; the New England Sports Museum; the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown (who put up with me traipsing in on the morning after induction weekend); The MIT Media Lab and its Personal Robots Group; and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center (to check out the fighter plane Ted pilots). The authors who provided terrific background material included Leigh Montville (Ted Williams: The biography of an American Hero); Bill Nowlin (Ted Williams at War); the late David Halberstam (The Teammates); John Underwood (It’s Only Me:  The Ted Williams We Hardly Knew); and, of course, Ted Williams the author (The Science of Hitting and My Turn at Bat—The Story of My Life), both with John Underwood.

 

Q:        Can you tell us more about your research process studying Ted Williams? Did you have a focus on the player only or the game during his era?

A:        All of the above. There are situations I put him in that draw specifically on his baseball (and military) history. It was an important part of the plot and resulted in enjoyable twists in the story as he tries to harness some of his old skills and memory while trying to adapt to a new baseball paradigm and a dystopian future-world in general.

 

Q:        With the book now at completion, looking back, would you have done anything different?

A:        Not too much. I had an outline in my head and pretty much followed that map. I actually wrote the ending first, which, for some reason, many authors do, probably because it gives you a target to shoot for. There were a few surprises along the way—things that I hadn’t anticipated. For example, after starting the novel it dawned on me that the first person in the world brought back from the dead is going to know if there is life after death, having nothing at all to do with cryonics. That is, knowing if there is an afterlife and if God exists. People are going to want to know what you know!, particularly religious folks. As the only person who knows, Ted Williams is presented with numerous challenges in the novel.

 

Q:        When is the book set for release? How did you pick the release date?

A:        Extra Innings will be released to coincide with the beginning of baseball season this spring, which, in New England, should be interesting because we will be celebrating the 100th birthday of Fenway Park. Fenway plays a central role in the novel 80 years from today.

 

Q:        What is your planned schedule in promoting the Extra Innings?

A:        We’re working on that now. When the schedule is set you’ll see it announced at http://www.extrainningsthenovel.com/ and on Twitter@BruceSpitzer1.

 

Q:        Where will the novel be available?

A:        You will be able to order Extra Innings as a traditional book or an ebook at Amazon and Barnes & Noble online and other select distributors, and it will also be made available in select independent bookstores. Check out http://ExtraInningsTheNovel.com for a list sometime after the New Year.

 

Q:        Can readers contact you?

A:        Yes! That would be great. The email address is Bruce@BruceSpitzer.com.

 

Q:        Will we see another baseball book in the future from Bruce Spitzer?

A:         Never say never. But the next book is not about baseball. However, I can tell you that it is another high-concept novel.

 

Q:        If Ted Williams were alive today, what would he think of the current game of baseball? Do you believe that he would want to play Major League Baseball in 2012?

A:        Oh yeah, I think he’d want to play today. Any player would if he still had the skills. I’ve talked to enough ex-players to know that most everyone misses it. The question is, how would he like playing in the year 2092?

 

MLB reports:  A big thank you to Bruce Spitzer for taking the time to speak with us today on Extra Innings.  Personally, I can’t wait to read this baseball thriller!  Extra Innings will be available this coming spring.  Keep an eye out for our review of Extra Innings, coming soon.

 

About the author:  Bruce E. Spitzer has been a writer and editor his entire professional life. Spitzer’s writing has won awards from the New England Press Association, the International Association of Business Communicators, and the Publicity Club of Boston. His writing has appeared in newspapers, magazines and online. He is a public relations executive and writes the “Dollars and Sense” business column for the MetroWest Daily News, and is also the editor of a business trade journal, Massachusetts Banker Magazine. Spitzer is a graduate of Boston University and Rutgers and lives in the Boston area with his wife and young son. Extra Innings is his first novel.

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Understanding the New MLB Collective Bargaining Agreement

Friday November 25, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports):  With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement signed between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, comes an opportunity to see where baseball has failed and succeeded.  While many have said that the agreement hurts small market teams or is unfair to teams with bigger scouting departments, I believe it affects all teams in a grand way.  By now, most of you have heard the details of the agreement, so I will only touch upon a few of the main points.

Houston Astros will move to the AL West in 2013. There will be 15 teams per league and interleague games played all year round.

Interleague all year round can be a tricky subject.  Especially if an AL team is playing interleague games in the last week of a playoff race, and their pitcher has to hit.  This may cause a major headache, where teams will want the designated hitter in both leagues.

A second wild card team will be added no later than 2013.

The two wild card teams of each league will play in a one game winner take all sudden death playoff.  This can give a distinct disadvantage to the winning wild card team, as they will only be able to use their ace once in the LDS.

The Elias system of ranking free agents as Type A, Type B or Type C (unranked) will no longer be used to gauge compensation for the teams losing free agents.

The only way a team will receive compensation for losing a free agent is if they make a guaranteed qualifying one year contract equal to the average salary of the top 125 highest paid players.  This is approximately $12.4M for this year.

The minimum salary will rise from $414,000 in 2011 to $480,000 in 2012. It will also rise to $490,000 in 2013 and $500,000 in 2014.

Major League Baseball Amateur Draft Signing Deadline will not be between July 12 and July 18, depending on when the All-Star Game is played.

This pushes the deadline for drafted players to sign up a month.  Seeing as most players wouldn’t sign until the last minutes of the deadline in the past, this will make a huge difference.  Signed players can be assigned to teams and get their professional careers started.  Teams will be able to develop them for longer and put their stamp on them sooner.

Each team will be assigned an aggregate signing bonus pool for their first 10 rounds of the draft.

The number of money available to be spent is dependent upon a team’s standing in the draft and how many picks they possess.  Therefore, if a team picks 1st overall and has 14 picks in the first 10 rounds, they will have more available money to spend than a team that drafts 30th and has only 10 picks.  After the first 10 rounds, teams may only sign players for no more than $100,000.  If a player signs for more than that amount, the excess gets counted against the pool of money for the first 10 rounds.  What this means is that if a player is drafted in the 18th round and signs for $125,000, the extra $25,000 goes against their spending pool.

It is possible to go over this threshold; however MLB has placed very large penalties for doing so.  If a team goes over their allotted pool by 0-5%, a 75% tax is implemented.

  • 5-10% over equals a 75% tax + loss of 1st round draft pick in the following draft
  • 10-15% over equals 100% tax + loss of 1st and 2nd round draft pick in the following draft
  • 15%+ equals 100% tax + loss of 1st round draft pick in the next two drafts

While this seems like it could be a recipe for disaster, the MLB recommended slots will be higher and more realistic than in the past.  The top 10 picks in the draft will have slots of the following:

1 – $7.2M
2 – $6.2M
3 – $5.2M
4 – $4.2M
5 – $3.5M
6 – $3.25M
7 – $3M
8 – $2.9M
9 – $2.8M
10 – $2.7M

This represents approximately 1.5 times the slot from previous years, so the cap will not be as drastic as most would assume.

There will be a new Competitive Balance Lottery to award draft picks to small market and low revenue teams.

The 10 teams in the smallest markets with the lowest revenue will be entered into a lottery for 6 draft picks after the first round, with the teams with the lowest winning percentage the previous year having a higher chance of picking first.

Each club will be given a pool of money to spend on International free agents.

For 2012 and 2013 international free agent signing period, the soft cap will be $2.9M.  After that, teams will be given more or less money dependent on record in the previous year.  There will also be penalties for going over this limit, which are as follows:

  • 0-5% – 75% tax
  • 5-10% – 75% tax and will not be able to spend more than $500,000 on one player
  • 10-15% – 100% tax and will not be able to spend more than $500,000 on one player
  • 15%+ – 100% tax and will not be able to spend more than $250,000 on one player

Players, managers and coaches are prohibited from using smokeless tobacco anytime that fans are permitted into the ballpark.  They also must not be visible in interviews or club interviews.  They may not carry the product on them or in their uniforms.

Most see this as a deterrent for the players from using the products and giving less exposure to impressionable youth.  While this may be true, players will still continue to use smokeless tobacco, they will just keep their wads out of sight.  No more seeing guys like Nick Swisher with his lip stuck out halfway to the pitcher, that’s for sure.

HGH Blood testing will be implemented starting in Spring Training 2012.

There are many arguments for and against this, and I agree with both.  It eases the minds of millions of people that the “Steroid Era” is behind us, yet if testing is done during Spring Training, it gives ample time for someone to get off HGH and resume normal workouts before tested.  Tests will also be administered with reasonable cause throughout the season, and random, unannounced testing could be done as early as next off-season.

New helmets designed by Rawlings will be used by 2013.

These helmets will protect up to speeds of 100mph, as opposed to the helmets used now, which protect a batter up to speeds of 90mph.  Previous versions have been worn by players coming back from concussions such as David Wright, but players disapproved because they were too bulky and uncomfortable.  This version will apparently be much sleeker and more comfortable.

If a player is selected to play in the All-Star Game, he must attend, unless excused by the Office of the Commissioner.

There will be a Social Media Policy in place for all players, coaches and executives.

The policy is being drawn up, and there is a chance that you could see fan favorites on Twitter such as Logan Morrison of the Miami Marlins slightly more censored.  His new manager, Ozzie Guillen, could also see censorship or face penalties.  I think that part of the allure of the game is that players speak their minds.  From Dirk Hayhurst opening up about life in the minor leagues, to Logan Morrison saying what he feels on Twitter, it is something that can bring more youth to the games.  Censoring these players may not be in the best interest of the game, but I will reserve judgment until I find out the exact parameters of the policy.

Instant replay will be expanded.

Replay will be used on plays involving “trapped” catches, as well as fair or foul ball calls.  While everyone loves the human element of the game, and most argue that more instant replay will slow the game down, I am of the ilk that it will speed the game up.  Rather than a manager visiting the umpire to argue a call, yell for five minutes, kick dirt on him and get ejected, the umpire crew can simply go straight to replay, and the play is withheld or upturned in a matter of a minute.

This is basically a very condensed version of the whole CBA, but radical changes are certainly abound in the MLB.  While some are seen as good changes, and some are seen as bad, I am fairly neutral on the matter.  Whereas the MLB achieved close to its goal of having a hard slotting system, the MLBPA also received higher minimum salaries and less restrictions on free agents.  It is a give and take system, and it will take a few years to really see how it affects teams.  Expect teams and agents to find loopholes in the agreement and exploit them to their greatest benefit.

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

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