On August 5, 1999,
NetShrine was
privileged to interview

STATS Minor League Scouting
John Sickels.

John Sickels knows more about evaluating minor league prospects than that Einstein fellow knew about physics. Since 1996, Mr. Sickels has been responsible for STATS Inc.'s Minor League Scouting Notebook. Each year, his work continues to marvel. His first effort included reports on five hundred of baseball's best prospects. In this year's edition, the number of minor league baseball player scouting reports climbed to over seven hundred!

In addition to his annual showpiece publication, John Sickels' scouting genius can be found on-line at ESPN.com. As their top analyst of minor league baseball, Mr. Sickels contributes a regular "Down on the Farm" report for ESPN.com.

John Sickels also has his own personal website "JASickels' Home Page" which is also worthy of bookmarking.

NetShrine recommends both the STATS Inc. Minor League Scouting Notebook and ESPN.com's "Down on the Farm" Reports from John Sickels. But, before you check them out, first see our interview with Mr. Sickels............

Who is the person, living or dead, that you would most like to meet?
John Sickels:  Lord, what a question! I suppose it depends on my mood. If I am in a baseball mood, I would say Christy Mathewson or Tris Speaker. If I'm not in a baseball mood, I would say Abraham Lincoln or Roger Waters.

What's been the biggest change in your life since you switched to being a full-time author?
John Sickels:  Well, I've gained ten pounds from too much snacking. Seriously, the change to being a full-time writer occurred at the same time my son was born, so it is hard separating the two events.

FILL IN THE BLANK: "I'll never forget where I was when ________________ happened."
John Sickels:  "Kirby Puckett won the 6th Game of the 1991 World Series with a home run."

Who was your favorite baseball player when you were young?
John Sickels:  Rod Carew, then Gary Ward, then Kirby Puckett.

How did you get started with both STATS Inc. and ESPN.COM?
John Sickels:  I got started with STATS because they needed someone to do the minor league scouting notebook after Eddie Epstein started working for the Padres. I was Bill James' assistant at the time, and he recommended me for the job. The ESPN thing happened because Rob Neyer, another former STATS/Bill James employee, started writing for them, they needed a minor league writer, and he dropped my name. As for how I got the job with Bill, it was really a matter of luck. He walked into the store where my wife worked, she recognized him, said "my husband would love to work for you" and he said "I need an assistant, here is my card." I have been extraordinarily lucky.

What's your favorite baseball book?
John Sickels:  The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract.

Who's been your most influential mentor?
John Sickels:  Bill James. I would also have to mention Richard Frucht and John Hopper, two professors I had in college, who were big influences on my life.

Do you often receive calls, etc., from scouts or front office personnel seeking advice?
John Sickels:  Very, very seldom.

Which is your favorite ballpark?
John Sickels:  Hmm. Well, Sec Taylor Stadium in Des Moines, before it was rebuilt. It was a rundown rat trap, but it is where I learned to love minor league baseball. I haven't been to too many major league parks, but I would say that Royals Stadium is pretty nice.

Scouting aside, do your prefer to watch a game on TV, see it at the park, or listen to it on the radio?
John Sickels:  Park, TV, Radio, in that order. I do like the game on the radio, though, because you can use your imagination.

Intermission Lightning Round:

Spiderman or Superman?
Sickels:  Superman.
DH or no DH?
Sickels:  DH.
Leather or cotton?
Sickels:  Cotton.
Night game or day game?
Sickels:  Day game.
CD-ROMs or books?
Sickels:  Books.
Box seats or bleachers?
Sickels:  Bleachers.

Back to the bigger questions......

Who is the best player in the Major Leagues today?
John Sickels:  Alex Rodriguez.

If you could change one thing in baseball, what would it be?
John Sickels:  Call the strike zone the way it is supposed to be called.

Which was the worst report (or series of reports) you made on a prospect (where you thought you were dead solid perfect) and you were absolutely off the mark?
John Sickels:  I used to compare Ruben Rivera to Bobby Bonds. I also thought George Arias was going to be similar to Gary Gaetti. Oops.

What was the greatest game you ever saw?
John Sickels:  On TV, would be the 1991 World Series, Game 7. In person, I would say the "greatest" was the first one I ever saw, in 1976, a Royals game against Oakland. Nothing special about the game, except it helped me fall in love with the sport.

If Austin Powers were a baseball player, what position would he play?
John Sickels:  Catcher.

In your mind, where on the globe is the best untapped hotbed of baseball?
John Sickels:  Asia, I would say. A huge market, with a big baseball tradition in Japan and a growing baseball culture in Taiwan and Korea. Cuba also has to be mentioned. When Castro kicks off, we should see quite a few excellent players from Cuba come to the US, but it will level out eventually. For sheer population size, you have to look at Asia.

Who is the most powerful person or party in baseball today?
John Sickels:  Tie between Bud Selig and Don Fehr.

What was the worst trade in baseball history?
John Sickels:  The old Lou Brock trade was pretty bad. Some of the ones the Mariners have made in recent years (not the Johnson trade last year, but the ones before that) will look pretty bad a few years from now. It' s hard to say.

Whom - what prospect - would you choose today to start an organization?
John Sickels:  Nick Johnson. My first thought was Alfonso Soriano, but he may be 26 or something.

Within the next 25 years, what will be the most radical change in professional baseball?
John Sickels:  A woman will play in the major leagues sometime in the next 25 years. She will either be a knuckleball pitcher, or maybe a slick-fielding utility infielder.

That's it.  Once again, our thanks to Mr. Sickels for granting NetShrine this interview!

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