Simply Baseball Notebook straight from the source Feb 2004

Q&A with ESPN's JIM CAPLE

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Jim Caple is one of the most successful and well-respected sports writers in America. Currently working with ESPN in a variety of capacities, he took some time to answer some questions for us before heading off on vacation.

sBn: First off, give us a little background information about yourself: education, other jobs, interests,etc.

JC: I graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in communication. I worked for a year at Preview Publishing, which put out sports annuals like Bill Mazeroski's Baseball, Dick Vitale's Basketball, etc. I worked two years at the Bellevue Journal-American covering everything and working the desk. I worked 11 years at the St. Paul Pioneer Press, covering the Twins fulltime from 1989-1993, and after that I covered the Olympics, national baseball, the Saints, writing takeouts and features and a spent a year covering capital politics.

sBn: Can you give us a preview of what we may see in your "Off Base" column this season?

JC: Nothing planned, just whatever comes along. Though I might go to Japan for the Yankees series for "Page 2". I will be doing another cross-country sports trek, writing about sports along the Lewis and Clark Trail, from St. Louis to the Oregon Coast. I also will be writing about the Greek Olympic Baseball team (I did a story on them in ESPN magazine).

sBn: Which team do you feel has improved itself the most during the off-season?

JC: The Angels, easily. The addition of (Barolo) Colon greatly helps the pitching staff and getting Vlad (Guerrero) is another huge addition. Remember, this team won the World Series two years ago.

sBn: Which team has taken the biggest step back?

JC: It's still early and they may very well make some important additions, but right now, I think the Yankees could finish third. They lost three of their five starters, and while Vazquez will help, I expect Kevin Brown to spend much of the year on the D.L. and can Giambi stay healthy? The defense has also gotten worse.

sBn: The free agent market has slowed down dramatically the past few years, do you think it will ever bounce back?

JC: It all depends on how much money is out there. If the owners feel rich, they'll spend. If they feel strapped for cash, they'll squeeze. They're like the rest of the economy -- you buy refrigerators when the stock market goes up, you get by with the old one when it goes down. The free agent market will swing back but I see it staying where it is for awhile.

sBn: The Minnesota Twins have done an overhaul on their roster, can they win the AL Central again?

JC: They can, but I don't think they will. The loss of Eddie (Guardado) hurts, though I think they can replace him (just as he was an effective replacement). (Joe) Mauer has to be the real deal or they could be in for some rough times. I pick KC in the central.

sBn: Of all of the players passed up in this year's voting, which is most deserving of Hall of Fame induction?

JC: (Ryne) Sandberg. (Jack) Morris.

sBn: Do you believe that the Boston Red Sox and/or Chicago Cubs are cursed, or is that stuff a bunch of nonsense?

JC: They're not cursed by anything supernatural but they're probably cursed by trying too hard to make up for 85 years and 95 years, respectively. They tend to panic when they get close because it's been so long for them. The Yankees win because they play confident and relaxed. The Sox and the Cubs lose because they play tight and worried.

sBn: Finally, share any advice for aspiring sports writers that you might have.

JC: Work hard. Take on extra assignments that will get you noticed elsewhere, even if you don't get paid for the time -- it will pay off down the line with better jobs. Write about people, not sports. Be interested in everything -- art, history, travel, politics -- because it will make your sportswriting fuller and richer ([Tom]Verducci is a very good example of this). Don't get too serious. Make sure your writing is as fun as the event and show readers why the game was important (Jayson Stark is great at this).

And most of all, have fun. Enjoy the ride. It's a great career. You get to paid to write about sports and tell people your opinion -- that's what other people do to avoid doing their jobs. Unlike other careers, it's always interesting. I love my job but I enjoyed myself almost as much covering prep swimming for the Bellevue Journal American as I do now.

Caples' page @ ESPN.com 

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