Q&A with Tom Krasovic

Tom Krasovic has been covering the Padres for the San Diego Union-Tribune since 1994. Recently he took time out of his busy schedule to discuss baseball, the beat, and life. We exchanged emails over the course of several days, and although it’s difficult to convey certain nuances over the ‘net, Krasovic’s passion for the game quickly became evident.

Ducksnorts: Who were your favorite baseball players when you were growing up?

Krasovic: Immortal Angels such as Tom Satriano, Roger Repoz and Alex Johnson, just because the California Angels were my team as a young boy. Then came the 1970s and a move to southern Ohio so I tracked [Joe] Morgan, [Johnny] Bench, [Pete] Rose, [Tony] Perez, [George] Foster, [Dave] Concepcion, [Cesar] Geronimo. Rooting for the Angels still came naturally so I followed [Frank] Tanana, [Nolan] Ryan, [Don] Baylor, Disco Dan Ford and those guys. I also liked a lot of other players — [Tom] Seaver, [Cesar] Cedeno, [Ron] Guidry, [Lou] Piniella, [Willie] Stargell. And, of course, Jerry Turner, who showed up in every baseball card pack I got. The 1970s were great. Here’s another one: Joe Sambito. Amazingly smooth.

Ducksnorts: Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in sports journalism?

Krasovic: Unemployment. My internship as a new reporter with the Riverside Press Enterprise had ended. At the time, my days were spent in hellaciously hot trenches in Moreno Valley, doing grunt work for a roommate who was in the home construction business. I had sent resumes to every newspaper in California. When the Camarillo Daily News offered me a $20,000 salary to join its two-person sports department, it wasn’t a difficult decision.

Ducksnorts: Before covering the Padres, you wrote about the aerospace industry, football, and soccer, among other things. How did those experiences help prepare you to write about baseball?

Krasovic: Working for Aviation Week and Space Technology as a copy editor exposed me to some very bright people and taught me that large segments of the media aren’t so good at covering technical subjects. My ability to meet deadline improved as I covered high school sports, the Sockers, SDSU football and the NCAA basketball tournament. As a Chargers beat writer, I became more comfortable with writing about professional athletes and team officials who may not like what you report. Being a general news reporter gave greater meaning to the old newsroom expression, “There is no such thing as a boring story, only a boring reporter.”

Ducksnorts: You’ve been known to quote statistics advanced by Baseball Prospectus and similar outfits. To what degree does sabermetrics inform your thinking and writing?

Krasovic: When I got the Padres beat, the club’s director of baseball operations was Eddie Epstein, who brought a sophisticated statistical perspective to player evaluation. He wasn’t always right, of course, but he could always back up what he said, and he tended to be right more than he was wrong. Epstein had an air of discovery about him. He was like a treasure hunter who had tapped into reliable methods to find sunken ships or oil reserves. He had been empowered by Larry Lucchino, the club’s CEO, so he deserved to be taken seriously as a significant figure within the organization, and that’s how I treated him. I quoted him several times, and he unquestionably added depth to my reporting; years later, Kevin Towers said Epstein had furthered his evolution as a general manager. Fortunately for me, Epstein was succeeded by Theo Epstein, who also could take arcane statistical material and explain how it applied to player evaluation. He became a key advisor to Towers, and it behooved me to help our readers understand the perspectives he provided. Had I been covering the Pirates, I probably would have been less inclined quote some of the statistics advanced by Baseball Prospectus — whose web site was recommended by Theo Epstein. That would have been my loss.

Ducksnorts: Bob Costas recently took some heat for comments he made regarding bloggers and blogging. At the same time, many mainstream outlets (including the U-T) are adopting blogs as a part of their overall strategy. How do you see the roles of traditional news reporter and blogger evolving in the future?

Krasovic: My guess is that we’ll err on the conservative side. Some newspaper writers use a blog as a launching point for their opinions on a wide variety of topics, including the team they cover. We’ll mostly stick to the Padres and baseball, and keep most of the commentary as fact-driven as possible. The other thing we’re figuring out is, how often should we blog? Blogging takes away from our reporting. It’s possible to serve both masters, but that’s an evolving process for us.

Ducksnorts: In your years covering baseball, what’s the strangest thing you’ve seen happen in a game?

Krasovic: The Braves’ inside-the-park home run against the Padres, circa 1997, comes to mind. The ball rolled into a booth behind the home bullpen at Qualcomm Stadium. Greg Vaughn mistakenly called for time instead of getting the ball. By the time he retrieved the ball, it was too late. Just a strange play, maybe not the strangest, but that one comes to mind. Here’s another one: Watching Braves right fielder Jermaine Dye run into and around umpire Tim Welke during the 1996 World Series. When that play happened, you sensed that the World Series had just turned toward the Yankees. Welke is a large man who badly misjudged a foul popup. Dye couldn’t get around him. It a was goofy play, but I suppose that I remember it vividly because it was integral to the outcome of that World Series. Bobby Cox was furious even after the game. I think he’s still angry about it.

Ducksnorts: Kevin Towers’ track record in terms of trades is impressive. Comment a little on the way he operates.

Krasovic: I quoted Billy Beane as saying that Towers is extremely likeable, more likeable than the typical GM. I think that’s part of his success. It’s a small part of it, but I believe that he has a knack for making fellow GMs comfortable when they are dealing with him. That’s a gift. Basically, a lot of these guys don’t trust each other. To hear Beane and a few other GMs, Towers makes you like him, even trust him. He’s also an information hound. In that regard, it helps that he’s a former ballplayer. He is very comfortable at working a clubhouse and the scouting section behind home plate. He talks to a lot of people — ballplayers, scouts, executives, agents, clubhouse staff, trainers, sportswriters, broadcasters. He also has empowered his statistical people. He sees them as an asset, not a threat. Two of his closest advisers are longtime scouts Ken Bracey and Bill Bryk, and I know Towers considers them invaluable. The bottom line is that when Towers makes a trade, he tends to be very informed.

Ducksnorts: What are your expectations for the Padres and the NL West in 2008?

Krasovic: Barring catastrophic injuries, it should be more of the same for the Padres — a fifth consecutive winning season and playoff contention deep into the season. They’ll probably give up fewer runs than any team in the NL. They’ll probably rank among the NL’s top half in road scoring. And it wouldn’t surprise me if they outhomered visiting teams by a good margin, which seems to be part of the [Padres CEO Sandy] Alderson formula. What will that all add up to? That’s where it gets interesting. It may add up to first place, second, third or fourth. It’s that kind of division. I kind of feel for Giants fans. Sure, they had a nice run from 1997 to 2004, but you’d like to think that if you’re going to lose 90-100 games, you’d get to see some exciting young players in the everyday lineup. I doubt that will be the case.

Ducksnorts: Who among current Padres do you think has a chance to surprise people this year?

Krasovic: Last summer, the White Sox were willing to give away Tadahito Iguchi, and even when the Phillies were desperate for a second baseman after Chase Utley went down, the White Sox didn’t hold them up — they sent Iguchi to them for a Single-A pitcher who is a borderline prospect. Iguchi had some problems with a finger injury early last year, and the White Sox were looking to save money. He’s a solid player, better than his stats of last summer would indicate.

Ducksnorts: What big-league ballpark, other than Petco Park, is your favorite to visit?

Krasovic: Wrigley Field if the weather isn’t brutal. Otherwise, San Francisco’s ballpark. If you don’t get decapitated by a foul ball, the view from the pressbox there is as good as it gets.

Thanks again to Mr. Krasovic for taking time out of his busy schedule to join us here and provide some insight into the 2008 Padres and what it’s like covering the club. Be sure to check out his work at the U-T and his blog throughout the season.