Part Two: Henry Schulman on Predictions, Anti-Predictions and Pro Tips for Fan Fest

You can read part one of this interview here.  Yesterday, we discussed the tempers of General Managers, Henry’s career, social media in journalism and Michael Lewis’s potential Stockholm Syndrome.

I’m not much for predictions, so let’s do some reverse predictions here if you don’t mind.  Who do you think will finish in last place in the National League West next season? 

I think the Padres will finish in last place.  I think that structurally, with their revenues they just can’t compete.  I think everyone’s gotten a little better- I mean, the Dodgers didn’t do very much to improve, but their pitching is so much better- that I think they’ll end up in last.

And which team do you think will be the first to be eliminated from the playoffs?

Well, remember this year there will probably be a one game playoff between two wildcard teams, so it’s really going to depend upon who’s pitching for those teams.

It’s such a crapshoot, with a one game playoff.

It is.  But it’s a funny question so I’ll say… Atlanta again, I think.

Always!  So, with the offseason coming to a close, which team or teams would you call the winners in the game of the offseason?  Which would you call the losers?

I think you’d probably have to say the Marlins in the National League and the Angels in the American League.  I mean simply, for the Angels, from the fact that they got Pujols.  They still don’t have a great great lineup but Pujols can be such a difference-maker and I can’t say Detroit, because they picked up Fielder, but they lose V-Mart.  And Miami just had a lot of money to spend and they weren’t an awful team to begin with.  They went out and got Reyes, for starters and spent some other money, picked up some other folks.  I think probably the Marlins did more to help themselves than any other team.

So what do you think of the CJ Wilson deal with the Angels?  Do you think it will pay off or do you think CJ will fade?

What was it, a four year deal?

I think it was longer.  Five, maybe?  [Editor’s note: Five, indeed.]

Yeah, I’m not a big fan of long term deals for pitchers, but if you’re going to give a deal to somebody, somebody like Wilson would be a good guy to give it to.  I don’t think he’s had much history of arm trouble, if I’m not mistaken.

No, that’s right about him.

The other thing is that, like the Giants, the pitching staff is so strong that Wilson can come in and he doesn’t have to be number one, because they already have Weaver, so it’s a lot less pressure when you can come in and you don’t have to come in and be number one.  You can just come in and do your thing.

Of all the baseball players and executives you’ve interviewed over the years, who was the most fun or easiest to interview and why?

I get that question a lot.  I loved dealing with Rod Beck, he was a heck of a lot of fun and Omar Vizquel, too.  I know a lot of your blog readers will be happy to know that he was really a sweetheart to work with.

There really aren’t a lot of executives.  It’s not that they’re not nice, they’re just wary and they really don’t want to be friendly with reporters too much.  Same with managers.  You have a respectful relationship with them, but you don’t go out and hang with them.

On the current team, I like dealing with Matt Cain.  He’s dry, you’re not going to get an inflammatory quotes off him, but he’s a really good guy to deal with.  In fact, he and I have this running thing going, because he has such a dry sense of humor and such a good way of doing a straight face.  He gives me grief all the time and I keep telling him to this day, “I never know when you’re being serious or when you’re joking.”  And then he just smiles and walks away, like, “I gotcha.”  So Matt is good, that way.  I liked dealing with Andres Torres also, he was great.  He would always end each interview by thanking us and we would say, “No, we should be thanking you.”

Just to name a few!

Honestly… do you think we will ever see another commissioner of Major League Baseball who is not named Bud Selig?

The reason he keeps getting rehired is that he’s making the owners a lot of money with the TV deals.  Really, everything Bud has done helped the owners, who are reaping bajillions of dollars, so they love him.  But in answer to your question, I think there’s going to come a time when Bud really wants to spend his last years not dealing with all of these thirty owners every single day and all of the headaches.  I’m shocked that he signed this extension- they must have had to talk him into it, I would think, because he doesn’t need the money.  There’s no real issue hanging fire, aside from how they’re going to redo the playoffs and they certainly could have continued that, they’re already on that path.  So I would think this is going to be the last extension.  He’s not a young guy.

So how do you feel about playoff expansion- an extra wildcard, one game playoff, all of that?

I don’t think there’s a problem with the ten teams getting in, because it’s still ten out of thirty, which is still the fewest teams in major sports and I have no problem with creating more excitement.  I just don’t like a one game playoff.  I mean, I don’t even like a one game playoff that has been in place in case two teams tie for the division in a 162 game season.  What I would rather see them do is shorten the regular season to 154 games, which is what it was like before expansion and have the first wild card round be a best of three and then make the other three rounds the best of seven.  It’s like what we were talking about earlier, when you asked me who was going to be the first team eliminated.  Let’s say you’re the Giants and you need Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum to win the last two games of the season, just so you can get to that one game wildcard playoff.  Now, all of a sudden, you have to have your third starter.  I realize that in the case of the Giants that is Madison or Vogelsong, so it’s not chopped liver, but after six months and 162 games, I would want my best pitcher at least involved in the process of the playoffs.

Or at least for the team to have a chance at more than one game.

Exactly.  But they’ll never go back to an 154 game schedule, because of TV.

Who do you think us Giants fans should be watching closely in Spring Training, in particular?

I think it’s the same guy as last year and that is Brandon Belt.  He’s such a wildcard on this team right now and he could be anything from the Opening Day first baseman in San Francisco to the Opening Day first baseman in Fresno.  He supposedly fixed some hitches in his swing in the Dominican and he had a good Dominican League season, so I think he’s going to be a guy who will constantly have eyes on him.

You didn’t ask for two, but the other guy would be Wilson, because he has really spent the last six months with a bad elbow and trying to get that back into shape, so until we actually see him throw and throw consistently, we aren’t going to know who the closer is.

I read your blog with tips to Fan Fest (you can read that here, if you missed it), so I am wondered if you have any other tips you would add to that, for Giants fans who are going on Saturday?

Well, I know I sound like one of those radio traffic reporters, but I think the key thing is to take public transit.  Don’t try to drive.  You’re either going to be in a long car line or you’re going to pay an arm and a leg for parking in a private lot, somewhere.

I would also say, although it might not be high on most people’s list, but take a tour of the press box and the broadcast booths and the clubhouse as well.  Those are kind of behind the scenes things.

And like I said on the blog, stay away from the autographs.  It’s not worth your time.  Unless you happen to be one of the lucky few to get a Lincecum or a Wilson when they happen to be at the station you happened to be standing in line at for two hours.

And bring water, too.  It’ll be a warm day.

In a similar vein, for fans who are going to Spring Training this year, any pro tips?

First of all, if you don’t have accommodations or tickets now for the two busiest weekends which are the weekends of the 9th and the 17th, then it’s probably too late.  People always tend to come around those two weeks because the Giants have their investors down there one weekend a year and because of that they schedule nothing but home games for the whole weekend, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday so a lot of fans pick that time because all the games are in Scottsdale and everything is a zoo.

So if you have the time and you’re available, I would actually recommend coming for the first weekend of games because not only will it be less crowded, but you’ll get to see a lot more of the kids coming up.  You might actually get to see Andrew Susac catching an inning or Gary Brown playing four or five innings in center field, which you might not get to see later on.

Another tip which I don’t know if I’ve ever written is that if there’s any restaurant that you’ve heard of or think you might want to go to, make your reservation now.  Like if you want to go to Don and Charlie’s, the steak and rib place that a lot of baseball people go to, don’t wait to make a reservation.

Another tip is that I know everyone wants to hang out in Scottsdale, but it can be a lot easier to get tickets and autographs if you go on the road, with the Giants.  If you happen to be in town when they’re playing the Reds in Goodyear, because Goodyear is so far out and you don’t have a lot of people from Cincinnati living in the Phoenix area, it’s fairly easy to get tickets and then the team shows up an hour or 45 minutes before the game starts and they’ve got nothing to do and no clubhouse to go into, so they’ll stand out there and sign autographs.

I don’t know how closely you’ve looked at the schedule yet, but what is one matchup in the coming season for the Giants you think we should looking out for?

The first one that jumped off the page for me was that we’re in Florida, right off the bat, in late May or so and it’s the one year anniversary of when Cousins ran into Posey, so that’s the one that jumped out at me.

Opening Day is also going to be intriguing for me because we’re opening in Arizona and the Giants always tend to start with the Dodgers, more years than not, and it always seems to be Lincecum and Kershaw (or for a while it was Zito and Kershaw) and Lincecum doesn’t do very well against Kershaw so, it’ll be interesting to see what it’s like on Opening Day, Lincecum against Kennedy.

What is one thing nobody asks you that you wish they did?

I think one thing is how long I want to stay at the Chronicle.  I’d be honored to stay there as long as I’m still kicking.  I’ve been the Giants beat writer at the Chronicle longer than anybody else except Bob Stevens who was the first Giants beat writer there and Bob was kind of a saintly guy to me, so if I could actually catch him, which would probably take another six or seven years, I’d be thrilled.

Lastly, what do you think is the rewarding part of your job and what is the most difficult part?

I always answer the second part of the question first, so I would say the most difficult part is the travel, there’s no question about that.  It’s just very wearing, the constant being on airplanes and in hotels.  It sounds glamorous, but when you’re in Cincinnati for the 34th time… you can see everything in Cincinnati the first time, no offense to them.  But that’s really the hardest part.  I’m not married now, but when I was married it was difficult, always being away.

And the most rewarding part is that I really do not only give people information they want but I entertain them as well.  The feedback I get from readers like yourself is great.  Sometimes when I write a 30 paragraph story and I say something in the 30th paragraph that’s controversial and then I get an email from someone saying, “What the heck are you talking about?!” I realize that person read the whole story.  Really, a whole generation of Giants fans at various papers kind of grew up with me as their main conduit between the players and the readers and that’s the most rewarding part, no question.

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