This past weekend for the 4th consecutive year I traveled to Boston to attend the Sabermetrics, Scouting and the Science of Baseball Conference, better known as SaberSeminar. Now in its 6th year, SaberSeminar is a two-day weekend conference that brings together dozens of top baseball people to discuss the science of baseball. Perhaps the best aspect of this event, 100% of the proceeds go to charity, specifically benefitting The Jimmy Fund and the Angioma Alliance.
This year’s list of speakers was headlined by current Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and Arizona Diamondbacks Assistant General Manager Bryan Minniti. While each of the 30+ presentations over the two days was incredible, for the sake of brevity I will highlight a few of the standout speeches.
Ryan Westmoreland (Left) & Mike Ferrin (Right)
The leadoff hitter at SaberSeminar this year was Ryan Westmoreland, who passionately spoke of his personal battle fighting cancer. The 26-year-old was one of the top prospects in both the Boston Red Sox system and major league baseball until his health turn a downturn. He told the audience about how difficult his journey has been through 18 different surgeries and losing his identity as a baseball player. Needless to say, it became very dusty in the room during his speech, as there was not a dry eye in the audience.
Saturday afternoon Dave Dombrowski took the stage to perform a Question-and-Answer session with the audience. He began his talk joking that he is probably the only person to be the general manager of two teams that no longer exist, the Florida Marlins and the Montreal Expos.
Probably the most interesting nugget Dombrowski dropped during the talk was when he reflected upon the expansion draft for the Florida Marlins. He said that if Colorado had decided to pass on selecting Brad Ausmus from the Yankees, Florida’s next pick was poised to be Mariano Rivera. Because the rules stipulated a team could only lose one prospect, Ausmus’s selection made Rivera ineligible for selection. Imagine how different the Yankees’ dynasty would have been if they did not have the best reliever in baseball history anchoring their bullpen. On the flip side, how different is Rivera’s legacy if he pitched in Florida for the Marlins his entire career.
Later Bryan Minniti also performed a Question-and-Answer session and impressed me with both his quick-wit and candor. Bryan was kind enough to field a question from me, as I wanted to hear him reflect on his time in Washington, as he helped oversee the transformation of the franchise from a perennial cellar dweller to winning the National League East. He spoke glowingly of Mike Rizzo and the close relationships he developed with those in the front office during the difficult seasons with the Nationals.
Additionally, someone in the audience asked him about the Stephen Strasburg shutdown and if the Nationals were able to leverage this decision with other pitchers potentially facing Tommy John surgery. He stated that there was a time where they sold this as an organizational strength, specifically the excellence of their rehabilitation team with helping pitchers return to form. He specifically mentioned Chien-Ming Wang as a player with a major shoulder surgery that their people were able to help get back on the mound and how this helped their reputation around the game.
Live Effectively Wild Taping – Sam Miller (Left) Ben Lindbergh (Right)
The final event Saturday afternoon was a live recording of the Effectively Wild Podcast with hosts and New York Times Best Selling authors Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller. Ben and Sam answered past emails from listeners and took advantage of the presence of John Baker and David Aardsma to gain specific insights into the game from the players’ perspective. I assume they will publish this podcast soon and I highly recommend everyone download this (and every) Effectively Wild episode.
Obligatory CITGO Sign Picture
The 2016 SaberSeminar easily surpassed the past three conferences I have attended and has quickly become my favorite weekend each year. Special recognition needs to be given to the co-Master of Ceremonies for the event, Mike Ferrin and Alex Speier, who kept speakers on schedule throughout the weekend. Additionally SaberSeminar founders Dr. Dan Brooks and Chuck Korb must be commended for their tireless efforts to put together an impressive list of speakers and the finest baseball conference possible while raising money for two tremendous charities.
SaberSeminar is my favorite baseball experience and I eagerly await seeing everyone again in Boston next summer!