Ed Barnes is the head of research for the Padres telecasts on Channel 4 San Diego. He also works on Outta Left Field, which airs before each Padres night home game Monday through Saturday. Ed is an integral part of the engine that drives the machine at Channel 4. Recently Ducksnorts had the opportunity to sit and chat with Ed about his work at Channel 4, his heroes growing up, the proliferation of statistical resources available on the web, and more.
Ducksnorts: You are the research guru for Channel 4 San Diego, supplying the broadcast team with all kinds of great information during Padres games. You also are part of the Outta Left Field team. Describe your daily routine. You get to the ballpark, and what happens?
Ed Barnes: My day starts long before I get to the ballpark. Between 11 and 12 I arrive at the station to work on that night’s Outta Left Field and my game notes. For Outta Left Field, Michael Saks and I have to prepare the Top 5, fantasy and trivia segments. As Troy [Johnson] mentioned in his interview, he does his own research to supplement the script that we give him.
As far as my game notes, my job is to make sure that Matt [Vasgersian] and Mark ["Mud" Grant] know what’s going on with the opposing team. I’ll scan the local papers for the opposition and then get into finding interesting stats that hopefully provide some context as to what is making opponents good or bad as a team or individually.
Once I get to the park, I head to the booth and check in with Matt and Mark to see if they have anything that I should look into for them. By 5, I’m out at the Hall of Fame Bar and Grill for Outta Left Field. On the set I’m mainly responsible for making sure the people that we are having on the show are in the right places from guests to trivia contestants. Also, I am responsible for bringing three pens, two for me and one for Troy since he always forgets to bring one.
When OLF ends at 6:30, I head back to the booth to catch up on anything else that Matt and Mark want me to look into.
During the game, I’m listening to the broadcast to hear what Matt and Mark are talking about and try to supplement it. It might be about Russ Ortiz and his tremendous ability to walk batters. It might even be finding out that according to Baseball-Reference’s search feature, Ramon Hernandez and Ramon Vazquez not only were the first two Ramons to homer in the same game but homer for the same team in the same game last year.
Also, I am not the only person providing research and statistics for the telecasts. Associate producer Bob Wehrsdorfer handles graphics and is responsible for many of the great charts that you see on the broadcast every night. Also, statistician Mike Trussel–better known as “The Angry One”–does a great job with keeping up with official scoring, changes and balls and strikes. That allows me to do all of my research. Mike is also great to have around to hear him make horrible calls on celebrity look-alikes like Fred McGriff and Terrence Long.
DS: How did you get involved in your current line of work?
EB: My friend Elizabeth Christensen was an intern for Jane Mitchell and ran into Matt at a game. He told her that he needed an intern. When she told me about this, I asked her to pass my name along. Elizabeth was nice enough to do that and got me an interview with Matt. I guess I managed to keep my composure enough to convey how much I read about baseball for pure enjoyment of it.
The interview was on a Saturday night before a game against the Rockies, and the team left town next week for Colorado, Chicago and New York. From the web sites that Matt gave me as a starting point, I started to compile the first of my game notes, which are quite rough compared to what I produce today. Still, it was a lot more than I think was expected of me. I was happy enough that I had gotten any opportunity involving Major League Baseball so I wanted to make the most of it. Now I’m in my third season.
DS: Going back a little further, what is it about baseball that first sparked your interest in the game? How did you catch the disease, so to speak?
EB: My dad played minor league baseball and I grew up with a bat and ball in my hands. I would be the kid throwing a tennis ball against a wall if I couldn’t find someone to play with to practice my fielding. But, nothing was better than playing catch with my dad. I would love when he came home so we could go out in the backyard and play or go to Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and hit.
DS: Who were some of your favorite players growing up, and what characteristics of theirs did you admire?
EB: As I mentioned, I grew up in San Francisco and was raised a Giants fan. Despite playing ball in the Dodger organization, my dad went to the second San Francisco Giants game ever. He’s truly a diehard so you can only guess who I was rooting for while growing up in that environment.
I was raised on Giants like Chili Davis, Hac Man [Jeffrey] Leonard, Jose Uribe and I guess Mark Grant pitched there too. I don’t really remember him. Anyway, the two players that were my favorites growing up were Will Clark and Matt Williams. I hit left handed and every kid in San Francisco loved Will Clark anyway. Think about it? The guy arrived in the big leagues by homering in his first major league swing off Nolan Ryan!
Matt Williams was a favorite not only because he was really good but he was a third baseman and that was the position I played growing up. Aside from their ability, both players played the game hard every time out. As much of a cliché as that is, Williams was truly a rock at third base and Clark was known for his intensity.
Outside of the Giants, it was easy for me to like Tony Gwynn. I mentioned my affinity for left-handed hitters, and who was a better lefty hitter than Tony?
DS: Shifting gears, Matt and Mud sometimes mention Baseball-Reference.com on air during the game (which I know makes B-R owner Sean Forman very happy). How helpful have resources such as B-R and David Pinto’s Day by Day Database been in terms of getting interesting and useful information into the hands of the TV guys?
EB: Baseball-Reference.com, retrosheet.org and the day-by-day database and invaluable tools to me on a daily basis. I mentioned the quirky note about Ramon Hernandez and Ramon Vazquez being the first Ramons to homer in the same game. It would have been very difficult to find that without the easy player search that baseball-reference has.
Retrosheet’s old boxscores with play-by-play are great to find other types of information like Mud’s career hits.
The day-by-day database has been great just to make everyday things so easy to find. Like start charts by opponent for Padres pitchers or the note I had about Luis Gonzalez and Melvin Mora‘s batting performance before and after the birth of their triplets and quintuplets.
I can’t say enough good things about all three of those sites.
DS: On a more general note, Matt and Mud seem like they have a real good time calling the games on TV. What’s it like working with them?
EB: They sound like they are having a great time because they make sure to have fun while doing the games. We’ll throw around movie lines and jokes and all sorts of things to keep laughing as we do our jobs. Of course, in the later innings of close games, those tend to stop as the game moves to its more important moments but that is to be expected. As fun as baseball is, doing games every night can get to be a real grind so it is nice that they do their part to keep it light.
What is great about Matt and Mark is they don’t take themselves too seriously and they are great to the people around them, which makes working with them very enjoyable.
DS: I asked Troy, and I have to ask you, too: You’re the skipper. What do you do with Xavier Nady?
EB: I’m surprised that he hasn’t gotten a shot at third base, especially since he was all conference at Cal as a third baseman. However, I’m sure Boch [Padres manager Bruce Bochy] has his reasons for not playing [him] there. He hasn’t really shared what they are but I hope that if Bochy really thought X was a viable option at third, he’d have gotten more time there by now.
Still, he has to keep getting more at-bats, not just against lefties. Even if that means just leaving him toward the bottom of the lineup because of his numbers with runners on and RISP. That might not be practical if Ramon Hernandez’s wrist becomes even more of a problem and people might have to be shifted in the lineup. But I really thought that after getting one start at third much earlier in the year, he’d get some more shots there as the season progressed.
EB: I think how the failed deal impacts the team will depend on how Nevin reacts to his new situation. So far he has said the right things and his willingness to catch the other night was a sign that he is willing to sacrifice for the team. If he continues to act in the best interests of the team, then it could turn into a positive, especially if his bat wakes up down the stretch.
At the same time, it is easy to see how Nevin could be frustrated with his new role on the team after being a team leader, sulk, and have it negatively affect the team.
At this point, Bochy has stated that Nevin will still [get] some at-bats so his performance on the field will have an impact on the team but I think the greater impact will come from how Phil carries himself off the field.
DS: Name one guy in baseball you never got to see play that you wish you’d seen. Why?
EB: I think everyone wished they could have seen Babe Ruth. But, I really wish I could have seen Willie Mays play. A lot of that has to do with the influence of my dad, who grew up watching Mays, and the stories he told me about him. Mays really could do anything on a baseball field and from 660 home runs to the catch on Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series, the guy looked like he would have been incredibly fun to watch.
DS: Blazing Saddles or Animal House?
EB: Blazing Saddles is great but I have to go with Animal House. It is such a classic and there are so many quotable lines from it. Last night after the Padres failed to score in one of the later innings I walked up to Mud and said, “What happened to the Delta I used to know?” Animal House is easily one of the most quoted movies in the booth.
Thanks again to Ed Barnes for stopping by and chatting. See the fruits of his labor on Channel 4 San Diego’s Outta Left Field and Padres telecasts. And be sure to check out his writings at TheMirl.com.