Interview: Steve Poltz, Part 3

In the previous installment of our chat with singer/songwriter/Padre fan Steve Poltz (poltz.com), we talked about Celine Dion, great places to play music, and the effect James Taylor had on his love life in the ’70s.

This time, Steve muses on the connections between music and baseball, his work with Jewel, and what it was like to open for the Ramones…

***

Ducksnorts: My wife came up with this question. A lot of musicians are also baseball fans. What sorts of connections do you see between the two?

Steve Poltz: It’s really weird because when the Giants were in town, Barry Zito was on his off day and [Tim] Flannery came down to the dugout. I was there early and played him [Zito] some music. I’m looking at him, going, “Wow, that’s Barry Zito.” I always wanted to be a baseball player and I can’t do it, so I look at those guys with awe. For me, they’re gods. I don’t want to get too close to them — my girlfriend calls people like that “pedestal people” because we put them up on a pedestal. I kind of do that.

DS: It’s hard not to.

SP: And they always like music, which is weird. Wally Joyner used my song “Silver Lining” when he batted, and I couldn’t believe that he did that. All these baseball people for some reason love — I wish I could give you a better answer; that’s a lame answer.

DS: Back in the early-’90s, remember Jack McDowell? Eddie Vedder, that whole thing?

SP: I know him well; Black Jack, yeah.

DS: My theory is there’s so much art to both. Baseball is a sport, but there’s so much art in it; there are layers of complexity to it that don’t exist in other sports.

SP: I wish that was my answer [both laugh]. Okay, ask me that question again; I want a do-over… Baseball is musical. If you think about it, it’s a musical game… This is the worst answer ever; tell your wife this is a very hard question. Okay, you have the rhythm — the sound of the ball, the whack of the bat, the sound of the ball hitting the glove, how far you step, what you listen for, whether a runner hits the bag first or the ball hits the glove (what the ump hears), the sound of the crowd, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

One of the worst things that’s ever happened to the game is singing, “God Bless America.” Give me a break.

DS: Thank you. We already sang the national anthem.

SP: I understand the whole 9/11 thing, but keep your politics out of my game. I don’t want it in there. [We have] the anthem before the game. And when you play a Canadian team, you get to hear the Canadian anthem; I love that.

DS: It’s a beautiful song.

SP: When we played in Montreal, it was in French. Tom Flannery can sing it in French — Tim’s brother… It is a musical game, the sound of [in vendor voice] “Cracker Jack, get your Cracker Jack.” Maybe I’m drawn to the music. That sounds cooler.

DS: Absolutely… You don’t want to know my wife’s other question.

SP: I do; what is it? I do want to know.

DS: She said, “Ask him what Jewel is really like.”

SP: [laughs] I love it. That’s a good question, and I like it. She’s somebody who grew up skinning her own cattle, taking a crap in an outhouse — with no electricity. [She didn't know] who the Beatles were, who the [Rolling] Stones were. She was a country bumpkin who was a real artist; she could make stained glass, paint, and draw. She was raised yodeling in Alaskan villages since she was six.

She came out to San Diego — and really did live in her van, and worked as a waitress at Java Joe’s — met me. We happened to write some hit songs, she moved in with me, became my girlfriend for a few years, and then she got a tremendous amount of accolades and stardom by the age of 20. She was on the cover of Time magazine, Rolling Stone a couple of times — all these different magazines; [she] sort of got swept up in all the hype. Everything in music is timing. She was talented, and it was time for women [singers].

It was a backlash to grunge and everything else going on. People were sick of — I call them “goat singers.” Then you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing women. Then she became very aloof and almost became kind of snobby; I saw it because I was on the road with her.

Now she’s got a great boyfriend, who I love, who’s a friend of mine, and she’s out there grinding, working, trying to make a living playing casinos or wherever. She’s got a crazy work ethic.

She’s really sick and twisted. That’s what she’s really like. She has the sickest, darkest sense of humor… You can say anything — the sickest stuff — and she’ll laugh. That’s what Jewel’s like.

DS: Very cool.

SP: I used to sit down with her and say, “This is the Beatles” — swear to God — “This is the Stones”; she couldn’t tell them apart. “This is the Replacements; they have a record called Let It Be. So do the Beatles.” Then I’d be playing the Beatles, and she’d go, “Is that the Replacements?” It was awesome. She really didn’t know and really didn’t give a s***.

Then we moved and did that first record at Neil Young’s ranch… That first record really captured her, where she was at; then they just wore that whole [scene] out…

[Rambling discussion about the San Diego music scene from the early-'90s; people we knew, places we'd played, etc.]

SP: I was on the road once, and one of the weirdest things that happened to me was, I was on this morning radio show and the morning radio guys are, like, “Hey, we’re the wacky morning radio guys.” They would stay stuff like, “Why doesn’t Jewel fix her teeth?” I’m really patient with people — for some reason I was given that gene… They were, like, “Steve Poltz — Steve Poltz is playing here.” And the way they were saying my name, people thought they were saying “Steel Pulse,” so all these reggae fans showed up. Then I come walking out and they’re, like, so bummed when they see me walk out — who the f*** is this skinny white guy? So I was, like, trying to do my songs with a reggae beat.

DS: That’s hilarious.

SP: One time when we were the Rugburns, we had to open for the Ramones in Cleveland at this [large venue], which is a shed — sheds are what Coors Amphitheater is — they call them sheds… If you do a shed tour, it means you’re big — Pearl Jam big, something I’ll never be, which I’m glad. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’d be cool to be Dave Matthews or something, but I’m really happy with what [I do].

We were opening for the Ramones, and our promoter comes backstage — we were getting a lot of radio play in Cleveland for “Hitchhiker Joe” and “Me and Eddie Vedder” — and our promoter is, like, “Hey, man; I just want to say to you guys, don’t be bummed if people start throwing s*** at you — like shoes, lemons — because Ramones fans don’t like anybody but the Ramones. So, just take it as a compliment if somebody throws a shoe at you or something; they don’t mean any harm.”

Then the Ramones’ manager came in to tell us that this had been happening every night. Ramones fans only want to see the Ramones — and rightly so, the Ramones f***ing rule — so when we come out on stage, I knew [what to expect].

The first thing that came was a shoe. I remember looking around, just like — you have to be really agile — maybe that’s what baseball players and musicians have in common — we both have the ability to dodge flying objects. So I dodged this shoe, and then somebody threw a lemon and it hit my guitar — my Taylor acoustic — and put a crack in it; I treat my guitars really rough, so… I picked up the lemon, put it in my pants, and rubbed it around; then I took the lemon and squeezed it on my mouth, and the audience went, “Yeah!” From then on, I swear, the crowd was with us. Talk about the highlight of my life — it was opening for the Ramones.

When I got off [stage], they let us stay on the side of the stage because they liked us. I watched Joey Ramone vomit in a trash can that they had on the side of the stage. Everything is so fast with them — they never say one word between songs — it’s just 1-2-3-4 and the songs go into each other. I watched them come running off after one song…

[The club is filling up and getting very loud; they've just received a favorable review in the San Diego Reader, which is great for Steve's business but not so great for trying to decipher the rest of his answer.]

***

In Part 4, Steve talks about singing the national anthem at Qualcomm before a playoff game, getting signs from third-base coach Flannery, and being banned from the Padres hotel…

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79 Responses »

  1. 50: Thanks for responding. However, I don’t think that Bell’s success can solely be attributed to Petco. I’m not able to pull up the stats right now, but I’m almost positive they would bear this out.

    In terms of a reliever being untouchable, I’d say that Bell has the stuff to grant him that status. Without Bell, there’s no way the Padres would have even played game 163. Bell allowed the Padres to trade Linebrink for a collection of potentially valuable arms.

    As for the farm system, I definitely think the Padres have got to be rated at least middle of MLB now. I obviously don’t follow other farms as closely as ours, but it seems that we have players coming up that could make an impact either as starters or through trades.

  2. 51: According to Baseball Reference, here’s a brief breakdown of Bell’s home/road splits:

    Home: 2.64 ERA/.88 WHIP/8.8 K/9/ 3.58 K:BB
    Away: 1.46 ERA/ 1.04 WHIP/ 10.8 K/9/ 3.28 K:BB

    I would certainly argue that Bell was just as effective on the road, if not more so. The only HR he gave up all year were at Petco, and his ERA is higher in the one environment where it should be lowest.

    I’m not sure if this argument alone disqualifies your opinion that relievers should never be untouchable, but I think it’s safe to say that Bell is an extremely valuable reliever.

  3. Bell is great inside of petco and outside of it, however I don’t think that was his point. I think what he was saying is that Bell is replicable (especially with KT as our GM), and if someone will overpay for him (see Linbrink, Scott) then you have to take the deal.

  4. Keith, it’s cool that you stop by blogs like this .. very different from most writers I’ve come across. Heck, it’s surprising if many guys even respond to stuff on their own sites, let alone visiting other blogs. I always enjoy your writing, whether I agree with you or not. And I just got insider again, so I’ll be able to check out some more of it : )

    Regarding Bell, I’m not sure if he’s as replaceable as the next guy (the Linebrink/Brocail type). I mean, with the Mets he was putting up good peripherals all the way up and even in the bigs. To me, it just seemed like he needed more innings to let the high average on balls in play settle down. As much as people say that aquisition was good scouting by the Padres, it seems it was a stat oriented move, as well. Anyway, I think MGL has him projected as like the second best reliever in the NL or something. Guys like Bell don’t exactly grow on trees. But sure, I’ll agree that he isn’t untouchable … nobody is if the right deal comes along, especially a reliever.

  5. 49: The idea of having “untouchables” is kind of funny, because no one should be untouchable if the trade makes the team better. I agree with the previous comments about Bell that he’s great, definitely not a product of Petco, likely to continue to be awesome, but finding relievers is the strength of this organization. If we can get a good outfielder or starting pitcher for him, by all means, pull the trigger. If Corey Hart is available from the Brewers for Bell, I’d do that trade.

    A quick aside on how awesome Bell is: he was basically the perfect pitcher last year. He struck out more than 1 batter per IP, walked less than 1 batter every 3 IP, and 58% of his balls in play were grounders. (For comparison, Brandon Webb’s ground ball rate was 62%).

  6. 55: I just think the concept of untouchables is an interesting idea. Obviously there’s no such thing as a true untouchable. That said, there are definitely guys you can afford to deal, and guys that you must be severely inclined to deal.

    I guess what I was getting at was more an issue of who could this team least afford to lose? Which five guys would leave gaping holes in this team?

  7. 55: He also threw 93.7 innings — most in mlb for a reliever. On one hand, that’s great as it adds more value. On the other, it may make him a bit more injury prone at the same time, although he very well may be a guy who can handle that kind of work load (he sure is big enough).

  8. 48: I don’t think that makes it common.

  9. 43: Hi DPRAT

    Matts not related to Johnny. People ask us all the time.

  10. Re: 55…yup…no such thing as untouchable…but, those that would be the hardest to give up? Sorry Phantom, Bell does not make the list…there is just WAY too much variability from year to year on relievers.

    AGon has to be at the top…followed by CY…either Kouz or Headley, and I would lean towards Kouz, thus making Headley bait…Bard would be very tough to let go…and…well…uh…hmmmm…that is only 4 and I can’t think of anyone else that I would say you would have to really overpay to get.

    I love me some Peavy, but I really think the Pads could make themselves better for a long time if we considered trading him. Tell me you don’t think we can get 2 legit, “can’t miss” type of guys for him? Oh yea, we would control them for 5 or 6 years…Please, keep the fruit throwing to a minimum, but I think the Pads would be crazy not to at least seriously discuss it. I mean, if the Yanks offered Melky and Hughes, don’t you think that is a legit package you have to consider?

    Phantom, are you shocked that KG did not make my list? In all honesty, he would probably be #5 because of the MAJOR replacement issues that exist today…

  11. You have to think that the Pads would be in talks with the A’s these days…with the all of us focusing on the CF position, it would not shock me to see a deal for a pitcher…

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/11/30/SPH7TLCN9.DTL

    Heck, we might even get the stopgap Kotsay back…

  12. Re: 46 with sledge gone who will play LF and leadoff? oh wait….

  13. It sounds like the Pirates are really fighting hard for Headley, if they offered Bay for Headley straight up do you guys think it would be worth it?

    http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7506740

    Also it looks like the Redsox are offering Crisp for Headley, would you make that move or do you think the sox will have to throw in another player?

  14. 50.

    Thanks Keith! It’s really cool of you to come over and and answer/respond to questions with us. I appreciate it.

  15. Running a little late, will have something posted by 8:15.

  16. Steve…there is no way that Headley goes to the Sox for Crisp straight up…Pretty sure that there would be money and other players involved.

  17. Re: 66 I hope your right, I really hope crisp is not in a Padre uni next year.

  18. Sounds like Loretta may end up with the Yankees

    http://www.denverpost.com/rockies/ci_7595096

  19. #29, 50: Echoing other sentiments, thanks, Keith, for stopping by and saying hey. Good to see that food always brings folks together. :-)

  20. Steve…please don’t read me wrong, I would not be upset with bringing in Crisp…I am just saying it would be a cold day in Tuscon before the Pads trade Headley straight up for him.

  21. Re: 72 I know what you meant, I just really dont want to see crisp in a Padre uni at all. I would much rather see the Pads go young in CF or bring Cameron back for a year.

  22. 60: I actually agree with your list for the most part. After sleeping on it, I could see Bard over Bell, and after I wrote my five, I considered that Bard should have been in there.

    I’m not sure that Adrian is the tops, given that Blanks is ready within a year. But he’s still definitely on the list.

    As for Jake, when the infamous article came out about the Zambrano deal, I suggested the same thing. The Padres should make him a reasonable, public offer, and if he refuses, get the moon in return.

  23. #49: My two cents, with the usual caveats:

    1. Jake
    2. CY
    3. Khalil
    4. Adrian
    5. Kouz/Headley

    Quality starting pitchers and shortstops are so hard to find. Also, given our recent history and the market, we really need to hang onto one of those third basemen.

    #73: I like Blanks a lot, but I don’t think he is that close to being ready.

  24. 74: I gotta admit that the year away figure was an estimate. It seems like he’s done all he can in LE, and if he raked for a full season in San Antonio, he could maybe be ready in 2009. Of course, that would be if the Padres were trying to rush his development, which they obviously don’t have to do.

  25. Blanks is prob 2 years away (full year in AA and full year in AAA) he is only 20 (or might be 21 now) so he has plenty of time to develop.

    If he continues to develop at the same rate, the pads will have the option to move Adrian before the last year of his current contract if they are unable to extend him (same situation they have with Jake).

  26. 73, 74, 76: Blanks is at least 2 years away, but I don’t think Adrian is that irreplaceable. Very good player, signed for a nice deal, but still, it’s first base. I’d move him fast if the trade was right. Slide Kouzmanoff to first, put Headley at 3rd. The Padres marketing department might have something to say about it.