User Interview: Aarongleeman

Q&A with noted Hardball Dynasty user Aarongleeman

We recently contacted with HBD Gleeman World commissioner and renowned blogger, Aarongleeman, to discuss setting budgets, player development, important player ratings, Kirby Puckett, Adam Corolla, Jim Bouton, the World Series of Poker and Jenna Fischer.

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

WIS

Who is Aarongleeman?

Aarongleeman

My name, coincidentally enough, is Aaron Gleeman. I'm a Senior Baseball Editor for Rotoworld.com, a frequent contributor to NBCSports.com, and a blogger at AaronGleeman.com.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Aarongleeman

I'm not sure of the exact timeline, but it was at least five years ago. I'm guessing it may have been from a Bill Simmons column or something, but I can't remember for certain.

WIS

Which WIS games have you played?

Aarongleeman

I played some sim-league baseball for a while, then dabbled in some sim-league basketball. Then, after a long break from the site, I came back to play Hoops Dynasty before getting hooked on Hardball Dynasty.

WIS

Which do you prefer? Why?

Aarongleeman

I liked Hoops Dynasty a lot and even won a D3 national title, but I'm a baseball fan first and foremost, so once Hardball Dynasty was launched that became my game of choice.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

My job sort of blurs the line between hobbies and work, but aside from sports I'm into movies, television, music, and playing poker. Nothing too exciting.

WIS

How did you get into blogging about baseball? Tell us about your blog.

Aarongleeman

After my freshman year of college, I was looking for a way to write for an audience after being rejected by my school newspaper. I saw a post on David Pinto's "Baseball Musings" blog encouraging his readers to start blogs of their own. It sounded like a good idea and only took about five minutes, so while bored during the afternoon of August 1, 2002, I took the plunge.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

This is a tough question to answer. I think people love competition and drama, and sports provides that in bunches. It's sort of like the best form of reality television, because no one knows what'll happen next.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams of all-time?

Aarongleeman

All the Minnesota teams. The Twins, Timberwolves, Vikings, and Gophers.

WIS

Did you play any sports as a kid?

Aarongleeman

I played baseball and basketball, but not especially well.

WIS

Do you play any sports now?

Aarongleeman

I still play a little baseball and basketball, but even worse than I did growing up.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Aarongleeman

Kirby Puckett was the first athlete I can remember cheering for, because I was four years old when the Twins won the World Series in 1987. Puckett's off-field life soured me on him quite a bit in recent years, but for a little boy growing up in Minnesota it was tough not to fall in love with him.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Aarongleeman

I'd say Kevin Garnett and Johan Santana are my favorite players, with a nod to Matthew LeCroy too.

WIS

Who are your favorite sports writers/analysts of all-time?

Aarongleeman

My favorite book is Ball Four by Jim Bouton. My favorite sports writers are Bill Simmons and Rob Neyer.

WIS

Build your dream all-time baseball team:

Aarongleeman

Am I allowed to use a designated hitter? I'll stick Ted Williams at DH and go with Barry Bonds, Willie Mays, and Babe Ruth in the outfield. Lou Gehrig, Joe Morgan, Honus Wagner, and Mike Schmidt in the infield. Johnny Bench behind the plate. And Pedro Martinez on the mound.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I'd like to play in the World Series of Poker main event.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I'd go with Adam Carolla, Howard Stern, Bill Simmons, Charles Barkley, and Jenna Fischer.

WIS

If you could be commissioner of any league, which sport would it be and what would you do to change the game?

Aarongleeman

That's probably the one sports-related job I wouldn't want to take.

WIS

What is your greatest WIS moment?

Aarongleeman

I've won three championships, two in Hardball Dynasty and one in Hoops Dynasty. So those are definitely my best moments.

WIS

How is the Gleeman world going?

Aarongleeman

It's going very well. We just began the world's seventh season. It was started because I enjoyed Hardball Dynasty, but didn't like the way people in the public world I joined were acting in terms of trades. So I started up a private world made up entirely of readers of my blog. We've had very little turnover and the league is extremely competitive, with a lot of message board chatter.

WIS

In Hardball Dynasty, how do allocate your budget?

Aarongleeman

Perhaps this is just because I'm a fan of the small-market Twins, but I tend to keep my payroll very low. Both my championships were won with payrolls in the $60-million range and this is the first time in seven seasons that my payroll has gone over $75 million. I go heavy on training, medical, and prospect budget/international scouting. And light on MLB payroll, high-school scouting, and college scouting (in part because I plan to have good teams and won't be picking very high in drafts).

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I almost completely ignore free agency. I try to build my teams through the farm system and then do my best to retain my good players for as long as possible, while filling whatever holes pop up via trades. I've yet to sign a big-name free agent and don't plan to anytime soon.

WIS

What is your general strategy for hiring/re-hiring coaches?

Aarongleeman

I love Hardball Dynasty, but the coach-hiring process is without question the most annoying, least enjoyable part of the entire game. It's an absolute mess that no one enjoys. I gave up any notion of putting together a top-notch coaching staff and instead just re-sign any coaches that are willing to return and fill the other spots as quickly as possible.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I pay zero attention to spring training and basically just try to get through it without suffering any injuries. I base my rosters at each level primarily on age, which helps me put together the teams, lay out a player's promotion timetable, and plan for the future.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

For the most part I have a set lineup and rotation, without a whole lot of day-to-day tinkering. I'll skip my worst starter if there's a day off and will give hitters enough rest during the year to avoid having them wear down late, but that's about it for tinkering.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I'm not sure there's a correct answer to this question, but I lean very heavily towards pitchers with good control, and hitters who have good eyes and good power. Almost every pitcher in my entire organization has at least 60 control and almost every hitter has at least a 40 eye. Last year I think I led the world in most walks on offense and fewest walks on defense, and I tend not to go after hitters unless they have at least decent power.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I don't do very many in-season promotions unless injuries make it necessary. I spend a lot of time customizing my draft rankings despite never picking higher than 25th. For international prospects, I tend to save up for one or two big signings each season, rather than going for depth. And I'm always watching the waiver wire for useful players to snatch up.

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?

Aarongleeman

My strategy is definitely geared towards being competitive every season, rather than gearing up for a short run of dominance. I don't spend a lot on MLB payroll, don't trade away elite prospects very often, and don't rush players to the majors. My goal is to win 90-plus games every single season and so far I'm 6-for-6 in Gleeman World.

WIS

How much time do you spend on your Hardball Dynasty teams? How much do you think is necessary to be competitive?

Aarongleeman

I check in on the team at least 2-3 times per day, to look at the box scores and make any necessary roster adjustments, but that usually only takes 5-10 minutes at a time. During the offseason or right before the draft, I usually devote a lot more time than that. I always tell people that Hardball Dynasty is great, but only if you have a whole lot of free time you're willing to devote to it. It's not for a casual player.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

Well, Toby Joseph just won the AL MVP for me last season. And Ruben Crespo has thrown 300 innings for me basically every year. Along with those two guys, Trey Fonville and Nigel Whang have been stars for me throughout, although sadly some bad planning on my part allowed Whang to depart as a free agent this offseason.

WIS

If you could change one thing about our Hardball Dynasty, what would it be and why?

Aarongleeman

I'd change coach hiring, because I've yet to talk to anyone who enjoys it.

WIS

What is the best advice you can give to users who want to get the most out of WhatIfSports.com?

Aarongleeman

I'd say the key is to join a good, competitive league and ask plenty of questions. Hoops Dynasty and Hardball Dynasty are both awesome games and a ton of fun, but the experience is definitely improved by being a league that runs well and has good owners.

WIS

Who are the users you respect the most?

Aarongleeman

My biggest competition has been sickchangeup. We're both in the AL and have combined for five of the six Gleeman World championships. He takes a much different approach than me, tending to build for the present rather than plan long term, but has been incredibly successful and is somehow able to put together amazing pitching staffs every year.

WIS

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

Aarongleeman

I think I'd probably be best suited to serve as a rookie-level bench coach. I'd be the lowest-rated guy on the list, so some poor team would have to settle for me when the musical coaching chairs stopped.

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