User Interview: Jcahill

Q&A with noted Hardball Dynasty user Jcahill

We recently contacted Hardball Dynasty user and Best Damn Sports Show Period producer Jcahill to discuss his setting pitching rotations and lineups, spring training, coach hiring, Jimmy Connors, America's Next Top Model, the BDSSP Podcast and dinner with Jessica Alba.

WIS

Thanks for taking the time out to meet with us.

WIS

Who is Jcahill?

Jcahill

When I'm not spending way too much time checking my HBD teams, risking job and marriage, I'm the producer of the Best Damn Sports Show Period and the host of the Best Damn Sports Show Podcast.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Jcahill

I first read about WIS in one of Bill Simmons' articles, right between mentions of Tonya from the Real World and Karate Kid III.

WIS

Which WIS games have you played?

Jcahill

I started out playing SIM League Baseball, then moved on to Hardball Dynasty.

WIS

Which do you prefer? Why?

Jcahill

Hardball Dynasty. I may never get to know what it's like to run a baseball franchise, but Hardball Dynasty at least allows me to pretend that I do. It's like Dungeons & Dragons for baseball fans minus the 12-sided dice.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I love playing poker, tournaments mainly, including my annual, and thus far futile - attempts at winning the WSOP. I also love music, listening to Howard Stern and watching cringe inducing reality television like America's Next Top Model and any show in the Real World / Road Rules genre. Begin the ridicule now.

WIS

How did you get into working with TV and BDSSP?

Jcahill

I used to work for the William Morris Agency in New York. One of our clients was the host of Moneyline on CNN. Despite my incredible aversion to all things financial, he hired me as his assistant. Within a few months I was promoted from assistant to producer and moved out to Los Angeles when the show went bi-coastal. Then, one of the CNN anchors told me about a new show that was set to debut on Fox Sports called The Best Damn Sports Show Period and I just knew that was the show for me. That was more than seven years ago... I've been at BDSSP for every single show, all 1300+ of them and have loved every single minute.

WIS

What have been your favorite experiences while working at Best Damn?

Jcahill

This show has given me the opportunity to do so much and interact with so many fascinating people, but I'll try to narrow it down to just a few. Let's see, in the past seven years I've had unforgettable conversations with Governors (Arnold Schwarzenegger), former Presidents (Jimmy Carter) and almost-Presidents (John McCain), recorded a rap video with Kim Kardashian, talked football with Burt Reynolds on a yacht in Jacksonville, FL, created end zone celebrations for Shaun Alexander, talked poker theory with Ben Affleck, argued sports with Ashton Kutcher and had dinner with Jessica Alba. That last one had nothing to do with Best Damn, but I just thought I'd mention it.

WIS

Which are your favorite teams of all-time?

Jcahill

The '86 Mets, no question. I went to Game 7 - it may not have been the Buckner game, but I got to see my Mets win the World Series.

WIS

Did you play any sports as a kid?

Jcahill

I played tennis and baseball, but wasn't very good at either. I was hit with a baseball in the eye on a throw from second to first because I wasn't paying attention. That should tell you all you need to know about my athletic prowess.

WIS

Do you play any sports now?

Jcahill

I play in a co-ed softball league.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Jcahill

My favorite athlete was Jimmy Connors. I used to sneak into the US Open every year and watch him play under the lights in Flushing, NY. He exemplified everything I thought an athlete should be. And that match against Aaron Krickstein at the '91 Open is the most exciting sporting event I've ever seen.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Jcahill

Today, I find myself rooting for the players I know from working at Best Damn - guys like Eric Byrnes, Torii Hunter, Kevin Millar... unless they're playing the Mets. Especially Millar. His off-the-record Manny stories are the stuff of legend. You should all hope he writes a book.

WIS

Who are your favorite sports broadcasters of all-time?

Jcahill

I grew up on Long Island watching and listening to Phil Rizzuto on WPIX and Ralph Kiner on WOR. Today, I most enjoy listening to Dick Enberg, Joe Buck, Vin Scully and Marv Albert. In fact, on Monday night's, turn off the sound on MNF and turn on the radio to listen to Marv and Boomer call the game. There isn't a better team in sports today.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I've always wanted to sing the National Anthem at a baseball game. Major leagues, minor leagues, doesn't matter. That and pitch in a major league game, but I'm guessing that will never happen.

WIS

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

Jcahill

Woody Allen, Bill Clinton, Albert Brooks, Gene Siskel and Mitch Hedberg.

WIS

What is your greatest WIS moment?

Jcahill

Winning the World Series in the inaugural season of Diamondbacks... it's one of my favorite worlds with a great group of owners.

WIS

In Hardball Dynasty, how do allocate your budget?

Jcahill

Am I rebuilding or trying to win now? If I'm rebuilding, I focus all of my money on scouting, training and prospects, keeping my player payroll to a minimum. If I'm trying to win a championship, I'll increase my player payroll and throw more money to coaching, medical and advance scouting.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I try to lock up my core players as early as possible to long-term affordable contracts. So, if given the choice between paying my 26-year old superstar $3.8 mil for one year through arbitration or sign him to a long term deal at $5.5 million over five years, I'll take the long term deal every time even if it costs me a few million more in the short run. As for free agents, I very rarely get involved in FA bidding. Most owners tend to ridiculously overpay for FAs and I just won't play that game.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I'll usually re-hire any coach who wants to come back. As for coach hiring, it's been written about ad nausium in these pages before, but the coach hiring process is the most tedious part of Hardball Dynasty. Plus, I'm still not convinced it has any effect on a team's overall play.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I'm sure I'm in the minority here, but I don't look at spring training stats at all. As long as I get through spring training with all my players healthy, I'm happy.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I love having a great OBP guy at the top of the lineup, with my best overall hitter batting third. For the rest of the lineup, I make adjustments over the course of the first few weeks of a season before I find a lineup that works. As for pitching, I go with a five man rotation, but don't pitch that fifth man until I absolutely have to. A dominant closer is very important to my success, as is one or two great set-up guys to pitch the 7th and 8th innings.

WIS

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

Jcahill

For hitters, I tend towards those with high eye and contact ratings and decent splits. Power, for me, is an added plus. For my teams, it's all about getting on base. For the pitchers, I look for good control and splits and at least two good pitches.

WIS

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

Jcahill

Depending on how many draft picks I have in the first few rounds, the draft can be the most important mid-season event and I take my draft prep very seriously. I try and rank at least my top 50 players and scour the top 500 for future closers, DHs and high risk / high reward players who, for whatever reason, haven't been ranked as high as they should. Another crucial aspect of HBD success is the waiver wire. I check the waiver wire almost every single day in every one of my worlds for good players that have, for whatever reason, been discarded by other owners. I can't tell you how many superstars I've found on the waiver wire. Finally, as for IFAs, if my budget allows, I try and make one big signing per season.

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?

Jcahill

The fun is trying to build a franchise that can be strong for multiple-seasons. I think my strategy is conducive to just that.

WIS

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

Jcahill

I check each of my teams at least once during each cycle, for about fifteen minutes at a time. I've seen owners achieve success checking in only once a day, but for someone who likes to tinker with their lineups and rotations, just once a day won't cut it.

WIS

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

Jcahill

Johnny Herzner, the catcher for my Los Angeles team in Lets Play Two. If only because I picked him up off the waiver wire in Season 1... finding him on the waiver wire was like finding a diamond ring in a dumpster.

WIS

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

Jcahill

Ok, but you won't like it. Here goes. I think that WIS should blow up HBD and start over. Let all the users know that this will be every team's and every world's final season. After this, we start over. From scratch. No more user created worlds. This time, WIS will create worlds and, at first, only a limited number of them. Maybe thirty or so. Invite, at first, those HBD owners with the most HBD seasons played, or the most championships. Then, open it up to everyone. Will it piss-off some of the veteran owners in worlds with more than 8 or 9 seasons? Probably. Will some owners leave and never come back? Again, probably. But, I'm convinced that most users simply love HBD too much to abandon it... plus, if you limit the number of worlds created, the demand will far outweigh the supply, which is the ultimate goal, for us users at least. Will it cost WIS in the short term? You betcha (hey, I told you you wouldn't like it), but it will strengthen the game in the long run and alleviate a problem that threatens to destroy HBD as we know it forever.

Also, allow me to be the three hundredth user to answer this question with two words - coach hiring. And by the way, if everyone's answer to this question is coach hiring, why not change it? Hmmm...

WIS

What is your HBD pet peeve?

Jcahill

I can't stand when owners go on World Chat and berate other owners for not responding to trade offers or trade chats - everyone needs to understand that this is a game and most owners have lives and responsibilities outside of HBD.

WIS

Who are the users you respect the most?

Jcahill

Basically, I respect the users who contribute to the forums on a regular basis and in a constructive manner - MikeT23 comes to mind. The forums are a great place to exchange HBD ideas and learn different facets of the game. It's great when users take the time to contribute to them in a meaningful way.

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?

Jcahill

I'd probably be a first baseman like Mark Grace with high contact and eye ratings, but low power numbers. Good for ballparks that reward singles and doubles. I'd be rated in the low 70's and eventually get traded for some bullpen help and end up on waivers.

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