Mark Sheldon recently took over the lead reporting duties over at the official Reds site, coming over from covering the Twins. He was nice enough to answer a few questions for me recently, for which I'm very grateful. I'm hopeful that he'll be willing to make this a somewhat regular thing, perhaps answering some questions a couple times a year. So without further ado, the Mark Sheldon interview:
RR: How long have you been writing for MLB.com?
Mark Sheldon: I began working for MLB.com from the time of its launch in 2001 and covered the Twins the past five years before moving to Cincinnati for this season.
RR: If you would, tell me a little about how you ended up at MLB.com (school, previous jobs, etc.).
Mark Sheldon: It was certainly a unique road with many bends and bumps. I went to Univ. of Cincinnati from 1990-94 and graduated with a political science degree. I always liked journalism and took courses there and somehow got an internship in the WLWT newsroom. I got to go out on stories, breaking news and do interviews and things just kind of went from there. I got jobs on the assignment desks at WKRC, then WDTN for just a few months and then landed back at WLWT. Then I went to ESPN where I decided I hated working in television, but loved working in sports. I quit ESPN to go to Xavier grad school in sports admin. in 1999 and also helped launch ChannelCincinnati.com in 2000 when they had original writers and I covered Bengals and prep football. That led to the MLB.com gig.
RR: Who did you root for growing up?
Mark Sheldon: I grew up 90 minutes from New York City and was an avid Yankees fan.
RR: What was the Twins organization like while you were writing about them for MLB.com? What differences have you noticed between the Twins organization and the Reds?
Mark Sheldon: The Twins had very personable people in all areas of the organization. The team president, general manager, manager and players always seemed to accessible. The front office was filled with good people. I honestly couldn't identify differences with the Reds because I haven't been around them long enough or covered games. I haven't met but a couple of players.
RR: How much are you responsible for at MLB.com? Could you let us in on a little of what goes on behind the scenes over there?
Mark Sheldon: When I first began in '01, I did a little of everything -- writing, covering games, editing, publishing, photos, etc. By 2002, that changed to strictly being a beat reporter -- which was what I liked doing most. I travel to a majority of home and road games and Spring Training. We have a much larger operation now than back then with a large editorial staff mostly based in the HQ in lower Manhattan.
RR: Are you allowed to be critical at MLB.com? How much do you have the team looming over you with what you write?
Mark Sheldon: I always thought I've had the editorial freedom I need to do my job. The Twins went through a horrid season on the field last year and I never caught flack for writing what I saw. I'm not a columnist so I don't often take cheap shots or run rampant with opinion but I report what I see and think at a game. If there's a negative or difficult issue, I convey what I know.
RR: The Twins have a great blogging community (Batgirl, Gleeman, Seth Stohs). Did you read their sites at all? Have you checked out the Reds blogs/message boards yet?
Mark Sheldon: I've read all of three of those site frequently. All are good web sites in very different ways. I've only seen a couple of Reds site - namely yours and Red Hot Mama. If there are other good ones - please let me know.
RR: Have you gotten the opportunity to meet many Reds players/coaches/front office members as of yet? Any interesting first impressions?
Mark Sheldon: I haven't met too many people yet. I met Jerry Narron and Dan O'Brien and many baseball operations people at the winter meetings and have seen or talked with them occassionally this winter. Rob Butcher and the people in the media relations office have been pretty helpful to me as well.
RR: What do you think of the new owner and his quick move to fire Dan O'Brien?
Mark Sheldon: I'm not surprised that he would eventually push the button on O'Brien and want his own guy. That's just part of the business world whether it's baseball or anywhere else. Everyone expected that at some point. However, the timing was a bit unexpected. I figured O'Brien would at least begin the season.
RR: What do you think of sabrmetrics? Are you an old school kind of guy, or are you more of a stat head?
Mark Sheldon: I'm not a big time numbers guy. I was lousy at math in school. I think stats and sabrmetrics have a role in evaluating players but there are many other subjective ways to rate players. I know players who are considered great "Moneyball" guys but it doesn't account for if they're willing to play hurt, what kind of teammates they are or if they can handle pressure situations.
RR: What was your opinion of the Reds as an outsider, back when you were writing for the Twins?
Mark Sheldon: Honestly, I didn't think about the Reds much because I covered an American League team and I only really saw Cincinnati play in Spring Training. They haven't been a winning team for the entire duration I spent in Minnesota.
RR: What do you think Kullman will do over the next few weeks? Do you foresee any big moves, or do you think it'll be status quo until the new GM is named?
Mark Sheldon: It appears and I've heard from people that he's trying anything and everything to swing a deal. I don't know if he'll make one though.
RR: Wayne Krivsky has often been mentioned as a candidate for Reds GM, both the last time we did this and now. What do you think of him and how do you think he'd do in Cincinnati?
Mark Sheldon: I think Wayne definitely has the tools for the job and has paid his dues. I didn't know him too well since he was on the road a lot and didn't actually office in Minneapolis. He worked out of Texas when he wasn't traveling. But I spoke to him now and again and saw him quite a bit at Spring Training and the winter meetings.
RR: What are your plans for the next month? Do you go to Florida for the duration of Spring Training?
Mark Sheldon: I'll be staying on top of this GM search it appears and writing preview articles heading into camp. I head to Sarasota Feb. 15 and don't return home until Spring Training is over.
Thanks again for taking the time to do this Mark!