User Interview: Schedule1

Q&A with noted Hardball Dynasty user Schedule1

We recently contacted schedule1, Hardball Dynasty's first ever World Series Champion to discuss allocating budgets, promoting and demoting, coach hiring, Hawk Walker, John Facenda, the Stanley Cup, Jerry Garcia, NYC, the Green Light Letter and Scarlet Johansen.

WIS

Who is schedule1?

Schedule1

I'm a life-long New Yorker, born and raised in the Bronx and currently living in Brooklyn. After college in Ithaca, New York (go Big Red!), I came back to the city to get my Ph. D. in psychology and statistics, which I finished a few years ago. I work for an internet start-up company (yeah, like it's 1997) and teach stats on the side. I just turned 30 in April.

WIS

How did you learn about whatifsports.com?

Schedule1

Shark9685 is a very good friend of mine from college, and his buddy Earl formed private league in the summer of 2002. We played 7 seasons; I won the first one, but none after that. I took a roadtrip with Shark as the season was starting, and I remember seeing the first boxscores he'd printed out from a spring league. I was blown away. I called a friend who was checking my teams from about 15 different states.

WIS

What games of ours have you played?

Schedule1

I've mostly played SimLeague baseball. I played one season of Gridiron Dynasty, and I enjoyed it. The recruiting process was frustrating for me, and I was awful at making halftime adjustments, so I retired after a 7-6 season. I played a spring season of hockey, and I'd like to try that again. Of course, my two HBD teams take up a lot of my time, and I plan on sticking with those indefinitely.

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Schedule1

I love to write and cook, and I also go see a ton of concerts. I saw the Grateful Dead over 40 times, for example, and Garcia died after my freshman year of college, so if there's a band I like, I'll go see them at every opportunity. I've seen over 400 concerts. I'm also politically active, so if anyone else in Brooklyn is involved in the fight against the Nets arena, let me know.

WIS

Why do you think it is that sports are so big in our culture?

Schedule1

People love to affiliate. It's really hard for men to interact socially, and sports gives us the perfect chance to do it. That holds true for both peers and members of different generations - friends and fathers, in other words. Also, there's a great sense of history. Sure, you can argue that Babe Ruth faced inferior competition, played in a discriminatory era, and even used different equipment, and that conversation is worth having, but at the same time, his legend and his performance - being an ace pitcher, hitting truckloads of homers when no one else was - is awe-inspiring. It's something that can be related to others and help up as a gold standard.

The legend aspect is true in other sports as well. That guy who did the narration for NFL films, John Facenda, his voice gives me chills. I'd love to have him narrate my life, because he could make anything sound amazing. The Stanley Cup has its own legend. It's the sense, when you're at a game (or even just watching one) that you're part of history, even if that history is contrived by a set of arbitrary rules.

Then there are the times when sport transcends those rules. I remember reading the Green-Light Letter, in which President Roosevelt told the baseball commissioner to go ahead with the upcoming season in the January after Pearl Harbor, and getting chills. I remember what the Yankee run in '01 did for the city after September 11th, which was much more important than the loss in game 7. I remember the Jets declaring that they wouldn't play the following weekend no matter what the commissioner decided. And the speech that the coach of the FDNY football team gave before the yearly game against the NYPD squad, in the first game after September 11th, gives me a similar feeling: "There were three towers in New York. Two of them fell on September 11th, the third is in this room." I get chills from that, and from Jimmy Valvano's speech at the 1993 ESPYs. I highly recommend listening to that if you want a good laugh and a good cry, and something to think about. All of these sports-related moments go way beyond the edge of the field, and help people respond to tragedy.

WIS

Which five people, past or present sit at your dream roundtable discussion?

Schedule1

That's a tough one. I'd have to say Bob Dylan, Dylan Thomas, Scarlett Johansen, a certain other girl that I won't name, and my buddy Flynn.

WIS

Who are your favorite players of all-time?

Schedule1

As a kid, I loved Don Mattingly, George Brett, and Johnny Bench (though his career ended as I was becoming a big baseball fan). As for current guys, I was on the Albert Pujols bandwagon before his first big-league at bat. My favorite Yankees of late have been Luis Sojo and Alfonso Soriano.

My two favorite football players are Rene Thompson and Steve Tasker because I've always loved the hard-working special teams guys. Current favorites are Alge Crumpler, Chris Chambers, Edge James - guys who have won me fantasy leagues. My favorite Knick was Johnny Newman, and my favorite hockey player was reserve goalie Mark LaForest, because when I was 10, he gave me a broken stick at an Adirondack Red Wings AHL game. I followed his career for years after that.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams?

Schedule1

All of the New York teams: Yanks, Rangers, Giants, and Knicks. For some reason I also loved the Royals growing up, and my grandfather used to tease me that Brett had been traded to the Yankees. I have a soft spot for the Reds and Cardinals in the NL as well, and I was a huge Cornell hockey fan for a few years. Of course, the Bronx Gridlock are the greatest roller derby team in the world!

WIS

Did you play baseball (or other sports) growing up?

Schedule1

I played baseball and soccer until the beginning of high school, and then I was a soccer ref for a number of years. That was a lot of fun.

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

Schedule1

I don't know if this counts as sports-related, but I tried to climb Cotopaxi, a mountain in Ecuador, a few summers ago. I didn't make it, so I'd really like to climb that mountain or a bigger one. I may take a shot at Aconcagua (in Argentina) in December. I'd also like to see a World Series game with my dad. We've seen a few playoff games together, but never a Series game. I'd like to touch the Stanley Cup, too.

WIS

You recently won the first ever Hardball Dynasty Major League World Series. Congratulations. Is this your greatest WIS moment?

Schedule1

It's definitely up there. I won my first league in a seven-game series, which felt great. The best moments tend to involve beating the best owners, so winning 9 straight playoff games against Ballantine was a highlight, because he's an elite SimLeague guy. I also beat Shaybee twice in the world series, which again felt good because he's amazing in SimLeagues. Finding out that my Pirates Twist team won it all from a computer in the Galapagos Islands was fun too.

WIS

In Hardball Dynasty, how do allocate your budget?

Schedule1

On my first team, I had a lot of ML-ready talent, so the only changes I made to the default were to reduce the international prospects budget by $4M, putting the extra cash into coaches ($2M), medical and training. On my second team, I thought that I'd be rebuilding at first, but then I decided to try to make a run. I spent $99M on the payroll and put a lot into advanced scouting and a bit more into coaches, training and medical. One thing that I think WIS nailed right off the bat is that $1M in one area really equals $1M in another area, so budget strategy is important. I thought skimping on internationals was a great idea until I saw great ones cropping up all season, and heard talk of other ones that I couldn't see.

WIS

How do you approach off-season events with players such as arbitration and free agency?

Schedule1

I try really hard to build from within, with one big exception. On my first team, I signed the premier free-agent pitcher to a 5 year, $110M contract, so I have to be smart about where I spend my money in the future since so much is tied up in him. I like to lock up arb-eligible guys to long-term deals if I think they'll contribute for a while, because that gives me a good idea of what my total team payroll will be for future seasons. Knowing that I won't have to worry about, say, my catcher, second baseman, left fielder and top of the rotation for 3 seasons means I can focus on trading for young guys at the other positions.

WIS

What is your general strategy for hiring coaches?

Schedule1

Well, until I found out that the pitching coach's batting rating didn't do anything, and vice versa, I looked for guys that had secondary ratings higher than 10. Coach hiring is the only part of the game that I don't like, actually. I do have a new strategy that I want to try for my upcoming season, but I'm not great at bidding on this site (which is why I couldn't recruit in GD). Free agents I seem to be fine with, but coaches drive me nuts.

WIS

How did you finalize rosters at each level? What role did spring training play in your decision making?

Schedule1

I try not to be swayed by spring stats (just like I don't watch pre-season football, even though I can't wait to see the real games). Spring training is about avoiding injuries for me. I didn't move anyone up within the minors before the season, but soon after we got underway I promoted all of my rookie pitchers to the higher levels to help with fatigue. I tend to be conservative about moving prospects up, and I try to target coaches that match with the talent that I have at each level.

WIS

What is your basic strategy for setting your starting lineups and rotation?

Schedule1

I've always liked power in the two-spot, so if I can pull that off while not sacrificing the length of my lineup, that's what I do. As for the rotation, I love to throw the same 5 guys out there one after another. I don't skip the fifth starter when I have off days, or juggle too much to get certain guys against certain opponents.

WIS

What do you believe are the most important individual player ratings for performance?

Schedule1

That's the big question! It was such a common question in the forums, and it was the only one that I refused to answer for the new owners, even though I tried to help new owners in every other area. After one full season and another that's past 120 games, I still don't know. I do think that initially I over-valued contact and under-valued vs. L and vs. R. Power seems to dominate for hitters, particularly when combined with good batting eye.

I tend to ignore things like baserunning, but my stud 1B got picked off about 5 times in the 50 games he spent with my team, so maybe I should start paying attention. I have no idea about push/pull, bunt (I'm an AL manager), or the effect of the individual pitch ratings. Velocity seems to be unnecessary for a good pitcher. As for the fielding ratings, I tend to compare each player to the averages at his position.

WIS

How do you approach in-season player events like the draft, international prospects, waivers and promotions/demotions?

Schedule1

I skimped on international prospect scouting, which as I mentioned earlier may have been a mistake. I wasn't very active on the waiver wire either, because getting off to a hot start in both leagues meant my waiver position was not great after game 28. The draft was frustrating, because we didn't have much control over who we took, but I can't wait to see the improvements that are scheduled for the second season.

I want to be disciplined in promotions, which means not moving the guy at High A to AA just because he's hitting .450 in his first 110 at bats. It's hard, and I did send a few pitchers up the ranks too early. One year at each level - I've got to keep repeating that to myself.

WIS

Do you think your strategy will be conducive to building a multi-season dynasty? Or, do you feel that your team may be great for a couple seasons, but then must rebuild?

Schedule1

Oh, we have a plan. Obviously, I don't know who'll develop and who'll get hurt, but I can tell you exactly what I expect my rosters to be for both of my teams for each of the next 6 seasons. Seriously. Despite having the second-best record in the league, I traded a reliever for a young pitching prospect with my second team, and I have yet to sacrifice my long-term goals for a player acquisition.

There are two seasons in which I think I'll have to spend about $115 on player payroll on one team, but on the other, I have a plan to field the world's best $60M team.

WIS

Do you have any favorite players from any of your HBD or SimLeague baseball teams?

Schedule1

Do I ever. I still remember DeShawn Larimore, a AAA prospect from my 1992 Pirates champion Twist team. In nearly 600 plate appearances, he struck out exactly once. On my HBD teams, I really want to get a Hawk Walker jersey, so if anyone knows a place that'll do one-offs, customized, let me know. He's the guy I signed to that big contract, and he won the Cy Young running away. It's hard not to love Anthony Aurilia, my second-year LF who hit 343/.454/.747 and finished second in MVP voting. I mean, I could go on forever with my Syracuse team, because I spent a ton of time thinking about it. On the Magnolias, Posiedon Brinkley and Blade Carson have great names and 89 homers between them through 126 games. I also picture Francisco Neruda brooding around in right field, because Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets.

WIS

How much time do you spend on your Hardball Dynasty teams?

Schedule1

I spend a lot of time with my teams. I mean, a ton. With Syracuse, I didn't miss a single cycle for coach hiring and free agency, so I'd often set my alarm for 2:50am. While I didn't do that with the Magnolias, I still have spreadsheet forecasting each season's roster, and I read most of my minor-league boxscores every cycle. I'm starting to spend a little less time on it, but I still think about it a lot. It's been a nice distraction, although cutting back time-wise will be a necessity in the Fall when I start teaching - and stop neglecting the rest of my life - again.

WIS

How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?

Schedule1

I think it's possible to be competitive spending less time on it, but you need a huge commitment up front at the start of your first season to really get to know your organization's strengths and weaknesses.

WIS

Have any other users sought you out for help? Do you mind helping other users?

Schedule1

A few have. I love helping other users. As a long-time WIS player, I remember the help I got at the beginning and really want to pass that on down. I also really appreciate being picked for a free team, so I feel obligated to pass on the knowledge that I gained from having a team early. Not only have I replied to a ton of sitemails, but I've also made about 25% of my forum posts since May (despite it being only 7% of my time on the site).

WIS

Who are the users you respect the most?

Schedule1

Ballantine and Shaybee are probably the two SimLeague owners that I've seen dominate over and over again, in different themes and against every opponent. JohnGPF and Sford are close behind, if they're behind at all. I also really respect biglenr and Weena for being incredibly helpful in the forums and competitive in leagues, although for len, that competitiveness fades in the postseason. And of course, dn3524 invented the twist league, which is incredible.

In HBD, mikeblid was great to have in Ruth; he made an insane amount of trades and won 117 games in the regular season. r0b0t traded for one of the best players in my organization, so he must be pretty clever. Briancampos and sword made solid personnel moves that I think will set them up for a long time, and bbgjason is mopping the floor with all of us in L.E.G. world.

Cresten makes me laugh out loud.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of HBD?

Schedule1

Winning. I had a 12-game winning streak to open my first season, and went 10-1 to open my second. I loved knowing with my Syracuse team that I was never out of it, because my lineup was stacked. To be down 4-0 and see the familiar "A. Aurilia hits a 2-run homer that barely clears the wall in LCF," and to know that it was the start of a comeback was fantastic - it reminded me of the 1998 Yankees, who seemed to win every game.

But I really love the dynasty element. I love planning for the future, and watching guys that I've traded for succeed in the minors. I love the difficult decisions: do I bring a guy up to fill in for an injured player for 15 games and start his options clock, or do I tough it out with his backup for 8 games and play with a 24-man roster instead of putting someone on the DL? Do I trade my fourth OF for a pitching prospect while I'm fighting for a playoff spot, or do I keep him in case someone gets hurt?

WIS

What is your least favorite aspect of Hardball Dynasty? As it is a very new game, if you could change three things about HBD, what would they be?

Schedule1

Well, I'd improve coach hiring and the draft, as I mentioned. I'd also consider forming a commissioner's panel, which would be comprised of users, to help resolve disputes. The reason I think this is necessary is because sitestaff, as amazing as you are in customer service, tends to think of bugs as programming issues, not baseball issues. While there will obviously be fewer and fewer bugs as time goes on, the way the first ones were resolved were heavy on the programming explanation and light on the baseball sense. I missed out on a waiver claim, for example, because of a "display bug," but while correcting the display bug resolved the computing issue, it didn't influence the ramifications in the baseball world, which is that the other team got the player off of the waiver wire. I think that an independent panel of users should sit on an HBD commissioner's council, and should hear all HBD-related disputes (involving abandoned teams, collusion, and so on), and then make a recommendation to sitestaff. This would be 5-9 dedicated users, and would be across all worlds. Any time there was a dispute, these users would gather facts, discuss things, and make a recommendation.

I'd also have players who were going to reject trades (because of a no-trade clause or 10 + 5 status) do so before the trade clears the veto process.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, which sport would you play? At which position? And, what would you be rated?

Schedule1

Back in the day, I'd have been a pitcher who threw 45 innings with a great OAV and high BB/9 and K/9. Now, I'd probably be a coach with high patience and good ratings across the board. But since being a bench coach isn't that exciting, I'll go with the hard-throwing, wild relief pitcher.

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