Jeff Pearlman

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Brian Johnson

#30
The former San Francisco Giants catcher now works as an advance scout for the organization. What he sees in the game might truly surprise you. POSTED November 17, 2011

Because I covered the Major Leagues for quite a long time at Sports Illustrated, I’m often asked whether I’ve maintained contact with any of the ol’ players. My answer is always the same: “Well, sorta, but not really.”

I say this because, although I have stayed friends with two guys, I don’t actually categorize either one as a former player, per se. Both of them–longtime catchers Sal Fasano and Brian Johnson—just happen to be people I genuinely like and enjoy and admire. They’re friends, not ex-ballplayers.

That being said, Brian Johnson is a retired athlete. A damn good one, too. Former starting quarterback at Stanford. Former San Francisco Giant hero. Former six-team, eight-year big leaguer. Beyond that, however, he’s one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. Brian is smart, instinctive, politically savvy, adventurous, unique. He currently works as an advance scout for the Giants—which is probably the 8,432,211th most interesting thing about him.

Here, Brian talks baseball, mixed marriages, clubhouse politics, Andy Ashby’s greatness, PEDs (and why they piss him off), recognizing talent and the splendor that is Mandy Moore.

Brian Johnson, welcome to Quazland …

JEFF PEARLMAN: I covered baseball for about six years for Sports Illustrated. From all that time, I keep in touch with two people—you and Sal Fasano. What I like about both of you has nothing to do with baseball. Y’all are, simply, good guys who can hold conversations on more than just balls and strikes. Much is often made of catchers making good managers, but—in any way or shape—do you think catchers are just more intelligent than other positions?

BRIAN JOHNSON: Ahhh, thanks Jeff. I am touched by compliments—so keep ‘em coming. But to the question!

I asked this same question one day to Mike Scioscia. He and I were teammates briefly at the end of his playing days in San Diego. I was in my first big league camp and he was in his last. He was a gem of a person/leader/mentor and dude. We have seen each other over the years and I reached out to him as I was researching for a book I was working on. In any event, he said, “No,” that maybe we, as catchers, are able to understand the fine art of managing “quicker” because of the position we play and therefore our training is more similar to the manager’s. But this is not to say that we make better managers or are smarter or what have you.

Having said that and paid credence to a person that I admire and like, I respectfully disagree to a certain extent. No, we are not smarter people. Completely agree. But, as catchers, we are ingrained with the perspective and instincts that do put us at an advantage when it comes to managing—initially,and eternally. This is not to say that a non-catcher cannot have the same skill set. What I am saying, however, is that there is an inherent feel for the underlying issues and details of the game that a former outfielder, infielder or pitcher may never gain. For a baseball lifetime (a decade or so), the catcher suffers with the demands of the job: performing offensively, defensively, cooperatively with both 12-plus pitchers through the course of every season, plus doing the same with every other position player. In order to call plays with infielders at the right time, to be strategically aligned with your pitchers and to have the humility to have it be completely about them and not you, to have to try and hit despite playing in a permanent state of lower body fatigue and to be the “manager” on the field … is an amazingly thorough and deep existence. So much so, that it does indeed put the former catcher at an advantage to be a better manager.

J.P.: You were a legitimate two-sport star—starting quarterback at Stanford, Major League catcher from 1994-2001, even a three-time California Athlete of the Year. And yet, you’re not an asshole. Being 100 percent serious—you’ve been around sports for a long time, and you’ve seen the cockiness that often accompanies success. Why do you think that is? And how did you avoid it?

B.J.: Wow. Great question. I think many have wondered the same thing—the part about being a jerk and a jock—but probably are cautious to not offend. Nice to see you don’t have the same inhibitions.

I guess my first reaction is to say that this is complicated question though it begs for an easy, straight forward answer. Also, for the record, that I am every bit of a jerk!

My second reaction is to say that, like any person, your arrogance or humility comes down to how you view yourself … and how important others are to you. I am seeing this in my young 10-year-old son. He has the same desire to work and excel in sports that I had, so I can completely understand what he is feeling, which is so much fun as a dad to nurture that. What I am seeing is the rawness of that desire to kick everybody’s butt on the field, athletically. I want him to keep that, but I will not allow him to not control it, if that makes sense. I am completely encouraging to him for any performance he has, but I will also follow that up with things that I’d like to see improved, and they all tend to be on the order of sportsmanship. Specifically, I push the need to be a good teammate in good times and bad. Specifically, in order to be a true champion, you must desire success for your teammate and your team as a whole, more than you desire it for yourself. This way, you help make him or her better, the team will achieve more because you are helping to make others better … plus you will be better because you will be allowed the peace of playing the game in your mind where you are distracted from your solitary gain. Put another way, you will always fight to be the best by nature. This is a powerful asset! But how do you control it and get the very most out of this asset? The answer is you stoke the flames in order to keep the whole house warm, not just yourself.

For me, when we encounter the arrogant athlete, politician, physician, WRITER or police officer we are seeing someone who has not learned what I am teaching my son. I learned it from my mother and my coaches. I am hopeful that both my wife and I have some success in giving both my son and my daughter this lesson in many different areas of their lives.

J.P.: If we all have 15 minutes in the sun, yours came on September 18, 1997, when you hit a home run in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Dodgers to put the Giants in a first-place tie with LA in the NL West. Hell, it’s still known as “the Brian Johnson Game.” What, specifically, do you remember from that moment? And do athletic moments—winning a Super Bowl, scoring a game-winning goal, etc—live up to the actual hype? Or are they, to a certain degree, overrated?

B.J.: Um, let’s see. I remember many things from that snapshot of a few seconds in my life. First, I don’t remember the contact. Didn’t see it off the bat or anything like that. It was a lightning quick moment of violence against a ball. The fascinating part of it all though, was that I remember vividly what happened about three steps after I hit first base. I knew I hit it good enough to get out, but didn’t know for sure because it was so dang windy. Once I hit that bag, my eyes saw it land in the stands, then my body reacted with my arms going up … and then the most bizarre moment in my life occurred. My mind made a secondary calculation. It said, “OK, the amount of energy from the 65,000 people screaming in unison will overflow our circuits, we must protect ourself!” As I said, at about the third step from first, at the very moment when all the fans let out their euphoria, I experienced complete silence. Weird, huh? It was the wildest thing. I couldn’t hear anything at all as I rounded the bases, like a movie. It came back when I got pummeled at home plate, but that is the most unique moment in my life.

To the second part of your question, I think that those special athletic moments both exceed and never live up to the actual hype it may engender. Those moments exceed the hype because, like my cocoon of silence, there is no hype that can touch that experience. It touched my soul and took me to another planet at the same time … and I was unable to do anything about it. The rawest and truest drug that only sports can produce.

The overrated parts of those moments come immediately after it’s over, because the hype is a desire to reenact and relive that special moment and it will never be able to touch it. This is where media hype comes from: the attempt to sell the anticipation of those special moments from the past, for the new year’s Super Bowl or World Series. The hype machine will continue to grow and grow because the athletic performances continue to come.

J.P.: In 2001 you played three games with the Los Angeles Dodgers, went 0-for-4, then faded into the mist. What happened? How did you know your career was over? Did you fight to hang on, or know—at age 33—that there was nothing left?

B.J.: I knew a year earlier that my career was over. My career had been on the ascent from age six until the age of 30. What I mean by that is that I was able to improve my craft and stay relatively healthy. I did suffer a fifth-degree separation of my throwing shoulder in my junior year of college football and was told that I would suffer greatly as a thrower. As it turned out I got a second opinion from the guy that did Joe Montana’s many surgeries and he told me, “Don’t worry, I can fix it.” So that injury turned out to be a bump in the road because of the great hands of Dr. Michael Dillingham. My career leveled off at 30 because I ran into poor luck with injuries I couldn’t do anything to prevent. I broke my hand two different times in two different places during that season. Once you get hurt, you have to scramble up a slippery slope to prove that you are still the player you were before. One injury is a speed bump. Two injuries is a pot hole. In the tough, cut throat culture that is professional sports, no one remembers injuries, they only remember performance. Either you did perform well or you didn’t.

After leveling off at 30, at 31 I started the descent of my career with my first knee surgery. Broken bones are easy because the calcification process allows for the bone to often be even stronger than it was originally. With cartilage tears in your knee however, there is no such luck. They do not heal, ever. There are several more options now available to guys, but they still are not guaranteed to work very well. As a catcher, taking cartilage out of your knee is the first nail in your baseball coffin. At age 32 I suffered because of my knee. It hurt and I was not able to perform at my peak level.

By age 33 and that 2001 season I had with the Dodgers, I told my wife that I was ready to shut it down, but I needed to go out on my terms. I needed to go out with dignity in my mind. I wanted to have good memories be my last memories of this great ride. So, I played well in spring and outplayed the other catchers. I didn’t get a job in the big leagues because the Dodgers were happy with what they had already. I was the last to the dance. No problem. I was asked to stay and I did so only if I could play every day in Triple A, because playing every day was the only way to have fun in baseball and to show that you have value. They asked if I would be open to playing first base and catcher because they had a young catcher on his way up. Sure, I said.

So, in the end, to answer the last part of your question, I didn’t fight to hang on then because I had fought for my last two years to get into a position to leave that I could be happy with. In that last year I had a strong spring, made the Triple A All-Star team (couldn’t play because of the flu, though), hit a solid .300 in the three-hole in the lineup, then got called up in May and spent half the year in the big leagues. My last day was the last day of a series in Los Angeles. I caught a bullpen for Kevin Brown during batting practice and felt something pop in my knee. I finished up the pen but knew exactly what happened. My eyes welled up as I looked up into the sky then out onto the beauty of Dodger Stadium. I walked into the clubhouse and told the trainer what happened. I told him, “I’m done. Please make arrangements for me to go home.” He wasn’t happy with me. He even told people later that I “gave up” and didn’t try. I guess I can see his perspective. My perspective was that my time had come and gone. It was time for me to step aside so that the next guy could have a chance. I was ready to get to know my wife again, to be an everyday dad to my 1-month-old newborn and to dive into the next adventure that was to come my way.

J.P.: You’ve been a very outspoken critic of PED in baseball. I admire it, and I wish more athletes followed your lead. Question: What grinds your gears about PED usage? Is it personal to you? Do you feel like the usage of others impacted you personally? And now, as a scout, how do you handle PED? What I mean is, if you’re scouting a player, and you *think* he’s artificial, do you ignore it? Note it?

B.J.: Yes, I am completely against cheating of any sort in any sport. I am far from perfect, but I have definitely not been the type of coward who takes steroids to gain the competitive edge. For me, you take the stuff if you believe you don’t have what it takes with your own ability. Instead of bowing out gracefully and accepting the reality that you aren’t good enough, you break the very foundational rule that every sport is derived from: Fair play.

PEDs are very personal to me, but not because of the money I missed out upon or the accolades “I coulda, shoulda or woulda had” had the cowards not cheated. I don’t see it that way at all. I was very happy with my career and made much more money than I deserved. Yes, many of those that have love and supported me in my life (as I have with them in their lives) have made the arguments that I was under-appreciated as a player because the playing field was artificially elevated by those guys that were on steroids. In fact, they get playfully mad at me because I am not bitter or even resentful in any way. As I mentioned earlier, my burning desire to compete and win was enhanced by the steroid boys because that meant that I had to take my game to another level. I took a special satisfaction away from games that I outplayed my catching counterpart and we won.

What makes me sick about PEDs is the greed of it and the superficiality of it. It is not real. The ability that guys show while on it is a mirage. It’s a crime, really. It is akin to what I felt when I read about the Bernie Madoff scandal. Here’s a guy that pretended to be someone he was not. Pretended to be able to deliver what he could not deliver. Basked in the glow of success that he did not earn and was not his. In the end, an incredible amount of damage was done to many people. The same is true of baseball with steroids. The damage that has been done and continues to be done with guys on HGH is astounding and sad.

I have the utmost respect for my scouting brethren in baseball. It is a great part of the game that I absorb and cherish, but I struggled early on as to what guys do and had done with the issue of evaluating a guy who is “dirty.” Most guys don’t say anything. They just evaluate what they are seeing and don’t delve any deeper into things they cannot prove. I can see that perspective and can respect it … but I don’t agree with it. My choice from day one as a scout was to give my boss, my GM, everything that he needs to know about a guy. In my opinion, if you invest in a guy who is dirty you will be sorely disappointed and your money will be wasted. Two things happen with dirty players typically. One, once they get the big contract, they get scared about the unknown physical damage it could do to their bodies, so they get off of the HGH for a while because their money is guaranteed. As such, they woefully underperform.

Secondly, dirty players are, by definition, destined to be injured. Your body was designed to handle a certain amount of muscle and torque. When you artificially increase that the body will give out eventually with typical injuries like lat pulls, abdominal tears, wrist problems and back problems. This makes sense because these are the places in the body that no amount of muscle will be able to protect.

As a result, when I make out my report I will point out my suspicions with my reasoning to back it up. I have to protect my GM from wasting millions of dollars if I can help it.

J.P.: You won two College World Series championships at Stanford. I feel like, because people sort of ignore college baseball, the magnitude of the CWS is often overlooked and underrated. How much did it mean to you? How much does it mean to you? And do you have a favorite moment from the experience?

B.J.: Yes, I agree that the College World Series is a special event. I don’t know if it is overlooked or not these days. I really don’t follow the college game at all as my focus on scouting is on the pro side. Winning back-to-back national titles was special and continues to grow in value as they remain the only two championships Coach Marquess’ great teams have produced. What I have taken from that experience is the reinforcement that a champion is not always the team that should win. A champion is not the most talented always, nor the luckiest, but the most resilient. We were not the best team in the nation or even in our conference for that second championship, but when the money was on the table, we were very tough to beat. We saw the same thing with the St. Louis Cardinals this year. Not the best on paper, but a great team nonetheless. They got hot at the right time and that is what October baseball is all about. Winning the season is much more difficult than the playoffs.

Sometimes championship teams face drop-offs the following year with similar squads. We definitely did, but we were able to recover in time to get into the playoffs. Once there we got focused and kicked it into gear in time. The next year we couldn’t do either and lost. In the end, all the little things that seem so cliché sometimes are so important in getting the most of what you have in that dugout. The hunger to succeed, the tenacity to beat the other player and the other team relentlessly, the internal fire to be the best player on the planet. It may seem odd, but not every player has these talents inherently. You can see it when they do and when they don’t.

My most memorable moment came from the second one. I hit a line drive off the top of the left field wall (ironically very similar to the ball I hit in the game we talked about against the Dodgers) and drove in winning runs in the seventh inning of the game. I think we won 5-2, and my RBIs were of runs No. 3 and 4. It wasn’t a walk-off but it was very satisfying to me. I had to chuckle though because in the paper the next day someone else was credited with driving in the winning run. I didn’t say anything because it didn’t matter, but to answer your question, it was very special to have gotten a hit at that moment in time.

J.P.: After you retired from baseball, you went away and entered the private business world. I was actually surprised when you returned to baseball. Not sure why … just was. What brought you back? And do you still enjoy watching the game? Can a scout actually appreciate the moments, or is it pure work?

B.J.: I enjoyed the private business world, which is perhaps why you were surprised that I came back to baseball. But at the end of the day, what brought me back was the feeling that it was where I was supposed to be. When I was done with baseball, I was sick of it. Sick of the politics, sick of the pain that I was experiencing physically. It wasn’t the game’s fault, it was fatigue. So, had I gone into the front office, or scouting at that point, I don’t think I would have been very effective. A player needs a little time away from the game when he is done. He needs the space to find out who he is without the glove and the bat. Baseball and athletics were my identity since I was six, though I often tried to fight it, so it was important for me to see what else I was as a person. I wanted to be a regular, 9-to-5 guy. I missed my wife. Being away from her for eight months out of every year took a toll on us individually and as a couple. I planned on not returning because baseball was not more important to me than having a healthy and growing relationship with my wife and each of my two kids. Professional baseball is not conducive to families. It grinds them up and spits them out. I wanted to be the dad that I thought I could be. I wanted to be a good husband. Additionally, I wanted to gain other skill sets that I could add to my “tool chest.” Being just the former baseball player wasn’t enough for me, so I suffered and toiled in two industries (banking and corporate consulting/teaching) learning from the ground up. I had great mentors and learned a lifetime’s worth in nine years.

When the recession hit in 2008, I was out of a job. As I began to pivot to my next move, my wife told me that she was OK if I wanted to go back to baseball. I was shocked. Her reasoning was that we were OK. Our marriage and friendship has been rebuilt and is solid. The individual bonds I have built with my kids are strong, so it was time for me to do what I really wanted to do versus what would keep me home every night. She said that baseball is what I love to do and though I could do other things, nothing would ever be as natural and as satisfying as working to put together teams and embracing the challenge of winning. I had looked hard for a job for the previous nine months in a job starved Detroit Metropolitan area, to no avail. I made a couple of calls into baseball and had the job I was looking for in a week. I am grateful to Brian Sabean and the Giants for giving me a chance to work and to come back home to baseball.

Being a Major League scout is an awesome job. I do have aspirations to run a team one day but I am in love with what I do now. I have fallen back in love with the game and yes, you do appreciate every moment you see on the field. It is work. I filed a little over 1,200 reports last year and was constantly in front of the computer, but it is well worth it. I can’t speak for others, but, for me, the game from the business side of baseball is just as interesting, if not more, than the playing side. You don’t get the physical satisfaction, but you use all your other senses and your brain. Pretty cool stuff.

J.P.: You are white. Your wife, Sarah, is African-American. Baseball, as you know, is a v-e-r-y conservative and, often, closed-minded world. On the other hand, it’s a diverse world, too. How did your relationship—first dating, then marriage—play in the clubhouse? And, along those lines, what complications come with a mixed marriage? I have a friend, African-American, who didn’t hang a photo of his white wife at work because he was fearful of being judged. Along those lines, what was it like being a pretty liberal guy in a world of Bush and Reagan love?

B.J.: Ah, these are the questions I was never asked but so wanted to talk about. I could go on forever, but I will keep it to your questions. You are killing me with all these great questions that demand thought and depth. I appreciate that.

When I was in college, it was brought to my attention that certain people who supported the baseball program were not happy that I was dating a black woman (who later became my wife). In fact, they were further appalled because I was also the starting quarterback, so it was double-not-cool from this small group of alumni. This was actually a relief to me because I had refused to believe that it was a factor in all the political garbage I went through with playing time and so forth. When I found out that there was something else at play in addition to my performance on the field, one of my reactions was, “I knew it…but could never prove it.” Sarah cried one night and begged me to break up with her because she didn’t want to be the reason that I did not succeed in sports. I refused the offer out of hand, of course, because there was nothing that I couldn’t overcome as an athlete. I will succeed I told her and I will do it with you or without you. I also told her that I wouldn’t allow anyone to determine my life for me. I also said that I would rather be with her and not make it as an athlete, than to make it without her. It may sound corny now, but it was heavy stuff then. I wasn’t a black person, but I was very much driven to overcome racial barriers that were put in my way. I was actually proud of the endeavor because I felt a closer bond with people that I loved from my childhood that had been denied advancement and opportunity because of the color of their skin. I never told them that they were a part of my fire to succeed, but I think they have always known it.

To give just a little more background before I answer your question directly, I was very knowledgeable about race from a young age because I grew up in a predominantly black city, in Oakland, California. I had played on teams when I was the token white guy, most of my closest friends were black and amazingly I had been embraced as a child by my black friends’ families. I was taught the black person’s perspective on life and the everyday goings on, from as far back as I can remember. I witnessed the pain and the cruelty suffered by those that are the victims of racial hatred and it set me on a path to fight to be a model of the best my caucasian brethren could be, instead of succumbing to the worst.

In the clubhouse, I didn’t see or hear a lot of negative stuff about my having a black girlfriend. That doesn’t mean much because most racial slurs and derogatory comments and gestures are made by cowards by definition. So, there may have been things said, but I never heard it directly. What I did experience was feeling very isolated in terms of, I never found anyone like me. I had friends on teams and we were all cool, but I always felt different because of the music I listened to, the racial dynamic I grew up around, the political perspective I had and the fact that I was completely attracted to black women to my core. The white guys seemed to accept me pretty quickly, but that seemed to fade the more we got to know one another. Nothing malicious, but our interests and perspectives were vastly different. The black guys were very cautious and suspicious of me at first. I sounded black, I liked soul music, I was from a black city and I was dating a black woman … so I think I was a bit of an enigma for a while with most black guys. Unfortunately, Vanilla Ice came along in the 90s. He was perceived as a bit of a buffoon, so I got a little flak from the teasing of being white and trying so hard to be black. The truth is I was very happy being white, but you would never know it unless you got to know me.

Professional baseball is a small community and word gets around fast. I realized after a few years that I was always known as the Stanford quarterback who had a black girlfriend. Amongst the black baseball community, I was the white guy that definitely had some black in him somewhere. He just didn’t know about it.

I didn’t have complications as a result of my mixed marriage. I got a very negative vibe from one of the administrators of the Yankees when I first started in pro ball. He was the only one though—everyone else was very progressive and cool from my experience with them. Many of them I still have friendships with today. The one guy is no longer with the Yankees. Outside of that, I can’t prove anything. I didn’t hide her or shield it from anyone. We did face the tension that mixed couples face if you are paying attention. The worst place was Florida.

In the clubhouse I did have many friendly debates with teammates about race, religion, politics and so forth. It was fun and most guys were pretty open to a certain point, which is pretty consistent with our society in general. Being a liberal guy in a conservative game was a trip, though. I am convinced though that many of my conservative teammates didn’t know enough about politics or themselves to know whether they were more right or left. Their concern were taxes. We were all in the 48 percent bracket and weren’t happy about it. So, they were vocal about the candidate that would take the least amount of money from their paychecks. I had dreams of opening their eyes to other issues, but was not terribly successful.


J.P.: When I watch sports on TV, I’m always amazed how little insight the requisite ex-jock adds. Usually, he’s just throwing our cliches and butchering language. Just there for the name and experience—nothing more. Is there any of that in scouting, or do ex-ballplayers genuinely have an insight (from having played the game) that you can’t teach? In other words, are the best scouts ex-players? And could, say, a CVS clerk who’s never touched a baseball learn to become a good scout?

B.J.: Hmm. Yes, scouts that played the game have a feel for the game that is unique and deep. Having said that, there are also plenty of those who have not played that also have a the ability to scout and to scout well. When it comes to the best at evaluating, I think both players and non-players would agree that those who are able to have that full 360-degree view will have a better chance of evaluating deeper and projecting correctly. What I would say though, is that when you are the general manager of a team and you are assembling your team of scouts to supply you with quality intelligence on the ground, which directly impacts many of your personnel decisions, you must hear from a diverse set of opinions. Someone who has not played, but can evaluate, must be a part of that mix.

No, someone who has never touched a baseball could not learn to become a good scout. The whole idea of scouting is to project and compare to an average major league player. If you have never been on the field at any point, you would be very challenged to develop that type of feel for the game.

J.P.: I always considered you a go-to quote. Still do, actually. You’re honest, open and truthful. Most ballplayers, however, are cliched, boring and numb. Why do you think that is? Does it have to do with intelligence? Regimentation? Do you think we, the media, go about the process wrongly? Is there a best way to approach an athlete and get original, detailed insight?

B.J.: Thank you for your kind words.

I think most guys are much more interesting than you might see in an interview. Part of the problem is the lack of depth in the questions. Just like in all professions, not all writers are good writers. Part of good writing is asking probing and meaningful questions that your subject has to think about and can sink his teeth into. If you were to survey the players as to how they viewed the typical writers that come through and stick a microphone in their face, they would use the same descriptors: clichéd, boring and numb.

You can get much more from some with better questions, but many guys just are limited in their perspectives. Do some lack intelligence? Sure. Are some uncomfortable looking at themselves with any depth? Absolutely. Are some mono-focus on the ball and don’t have any interests outside of the cocoon that they are currently operating in? You bet. In the end, I don’t think the media is to blame. I think you all suffer the same way players do over the course of the long baseball season: having to produce in a creative and interesting way, when there isn’t a whole lot there. The season is a hard, unforgiving marathon that is relentless. You have to protect yourself from bringing unnecessary negative media attention to yourself, especially in today’s media culture. You also have to be a team guy and keep the focus on what is important: winning. No one finds you interesting when you lose. The best way to approach an athlete to get original, detailed insight is like anyone else. Get to know them as person and at the same time, share some of you with them so they can get to know you as a person. The only way you can get depth is to build trust. The only way to build trust is to have a reciprocal relationship where each side feels that he/she is valued appreciated and protected.

QUAZ EXPRESS WITH BRIAN JOHNSON:
• Five best players you ever played with and/or competed against: Andy Ashby, Pedro Martinez, Barry Bonds (pre-steroids), Barry Larkin, Dave Wyman.

• Most talented ballplayer people would be surprised to hear referred to as “most talented”: Justin Verlander. He has the best stuff of all time. Four top-grade pitches. Only Pedro Martinez had similar.

• Do you subscribe to the Moneyball process at all?: Yes. You need to have that element to be successful. It has been overplayed in my opinion. You must have a balance with both numbers crunching and true human evaluation, because both       factions have their limitations and won’t tell you everything. Moneyball is in the rear view mirror as the game continues to evolve.

• Ten weeks of listening nonstop to Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” or 10 weeks nonstop of watching the 2000 Kansas City Royals highlight reel?: Celine Dion is great, but I loved those guys from the 2000 Royals. Joe Randa, Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, Mike Sweeney, Jermaine Dye. We could swing it.

• If you had to pick a president from Rick Perry, George W. Bush or a random guy sitting in row 32 at the next ballgame?: I think I would flee to Canada. It’s a great country. Lots of taxes, though.

• Have you ever thought you were about to die in a plane crash. If so, please tell …: Nope. I’ve been lucky not to have had any moments.

• Uh, your house was featured in a Lifetime movie. Please explain …: Some dude just walked up and asked if we’d be interested. I said, “Yeah, right.” He said he got that all the time. My wife was mad because she thought I had allowed some stalker/criminal/con-artist guy in the house to take pictures so he could come back and rip us off. I told we didn’t have anything to take except our stairwell, and that might be a little challenging to get into his truck.

In the end, the whole project took was six weeks of pleasurable inconvenience, with them moving our whole house out as if we moved. They had 70 people working on it each day, all day. They  let my wife and I be in it, they let my kids help build the sets all over the house, plus we all got to sit with the director as he was shooting. They gave us $15,000 cash and left $7,000 worth    of furniture behind. They also finished my basement for me and left a ton of wood so that I could build some other cool stuff like book and storage shelves, and window seats around the house. The movie is called “Secrets In the Walls” and it is pretty good. An amazing experience … but we would be very cautious about doing it a second time.

• My feet smell, like, really bad today. Any advice?: Washing more than once a week usually helps with funky toe jam.

• Rank in order: Mandy Moore, John Oates, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Roger Clemens, Walter Mondale, Gookie Dawkins, your mailbox: 1. Mandy Moore (Because she’s cute.); 2. John Oates (Because he’s timeless.); 3. Cuba Gooding Jr. (Talented actor who seems to have a stable marriage; mixed couple, too—we gotta stick together!); 4. Gookie Dawkins (Good guy; a little shy, but quality.); 5. Walter Mondale (He was the first to give a female the shot at VP … though she turned out to be a very mean person who attacked my boy Barack in the primaries. Shame on her.); 6. My mailbox (Brings value despite its broken door.); 7. Roger Clemens (Schmuck)

• Slowest baseball player ever would be …: The Molina Brothers, minus Yadier. I love Bengie but he and Jose seem to have just given up from years of slow catcher jokes. They figure that if they don’t try then it won’t hurt as bad. I don’t think that has worked well for them but they have had great careers. And they are good guys.

  • LugubriousG

    With all due respect to Brian Johnson, you interviewed the wrong Brian Johnson.

  • http://www.19thoughts.blogspot.com Byron

    That was a really insightful interview, especially the answer regarding the media’s questions. If I happen to watch a press conference after a “regular” game (where nothing out of the ordinary happens) it’s amazing just how boring the questions are.

    And I know that that’s what happens sometimes, but it’s usually the same guys asking the cliched question who complain most about the cliched answers.

  • http://michaeljlewis.wordpress.com lewis

    Wow, what a fabulous interview. Now I know why you’ve been raving about Brian Johnson all these years. He seems WAY too smart to have been a baseball player. Great stuff.

  • Drew

    Nicely done Jeff, another great Quaz. And Brian might’ve been the best Quazee yet. Great, insightful answers. Brian, if you’re ever by my house and want to have a beer and shoot the crap and steal my stairs, just let me know.

  • Tom Vasich

    What I want to know is how Brian got along with that troglodyte bigot right-wing bum Will Clark.

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