SSTN Interviews Harris Frommer
SSTN: Today we are here with economist and writer Harris Frommer, author of Curving Foul, a fictional story about Jack Carter a Major League baseball player who uses performance enhancing drugs to raise his game to new heights.
Harris, it is great to have this discussion with you. Thanks for coming to Start Spreading the News.
You are welcome Paul… I have really enjoyed reading your blog and appreciate the opportunity to become more acquainted with your readers.
Please begin by telling us a little about your novel.
Curving Foul is a fictional autobiography that traces the life of Yankees icon Jack Carter. Though Carter seemingly has it all—talent, fame, money, and all the women he can handle—he harbors a deep, dark secret that has forced him to betray the game he loves. He’s a PED user during the free-wheeling 2000’s who reaps all the on-field benefits of the performance enhancers. In the book, I look at all the factors in both his personal and professional life that prompted him to become a “user” and the impact his decision had.
Curving Foul is called a story about baseball and a story about life. Diehard fans often see intersections between baseball and the rest of the world. Please explain how you feel the two are connected.
That connection between baseball and life is certainly present in Curving Foul. Although Jack Carter, perennial All Star, leads a blessed life, that wasn’t always the case. As a boy and young adult, he endures tragedy and heartbreak that leave him with permanent scars. These negative experiences lead him to later make the one baseball-related decision I alluded to above that permanently alters the trajectory of this life.
Your primary occupation is as an economist. This probably allows you to better understand the business of baseball better than most fans. What do you see as the biggest labor issue in baseball today? Is it the luxury tax, the fact that there is no salary floor, or something else?
The biggest labor issue in baseball today is tanking. Not only does tanking lead to rancor between the owners and the union, but it turns off fans of teams that are uncompetitive for years at a time. I think you can fix this by implementing two changes. The first is by eliminating draft slotting—a primary reason why teams tank is to procure one of the first several draft picks. These high picks give teams not only access to the best amateur talent, but they also have a high dollar figure attached to them, providing teams with unrivaled financial flexibility on draft night. The second way to stop tanking is to expand the playoffs by at least two more teams in each league, thus giving more teams “hope” that there’ll be a seat for them at the Oktoberfest. The union contends that this would cause some teams not to spend as much since it would be easier to make the playoffs, but you’d eliminate this problem by giving 1st round buys to the top two teams in each league.
If you could change on thing about the game today, what would it be?
There are a number of changes I would make to the game, but the most important would be to implement the DH in the National League. By having a DH in both leagues, you’d be eliminating significant injury risk by getting pitchers off the bases, adding more offense, and providing a path for more quality big leaguers, like Ryan Braun, for example, to extend their careers.
You are the Tigers Insider for ESPN The Ticket in Toledo. How do you see the Tigers performing in 2021?
Though most national pundits, such as Bob Nightengale of USA Today, view the Tigers as a 60-65 win team, I think they’ll be slightly better. I’m thinking closer to 70 wins. Robbie Grossman was a solid acquisition—he takes pitches and works the count and this patience will add a dynamic Detroit hasn’t had in its lineup in quite a while. The retention of 2B Jonathan Schoop and signing of guys like Wilson Ramos, Renato Nunez, and Julio Teheran were all solid moves, especially at the bargain basement prices Tigers GM Al Avila was able to take advantage of. While it’s a stretch to say Detroit will be good in 2021, I think the team will be watchable, which is a far cry from 2017-2020.
Of the young players on the Tigers, who do you see as the one who will be Detroit’s next big star?
When I analyze prospects, I always am partial towards hitters because pitching is just too fickle. The attrition rate for pitching prospects is traditionally higher than it is for position players. As a result, when looking at Detroit, I think Spencer Torkelson is as sure a thing as there is right now in the minor leagues. Using the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, Torkelson has a 60 hit tool and 70 power, and both of those may be conservative. I saw him play last February in Arizona and he was the best college hitter I had seen in 20 years. If Torkelson proves he can play an adequate 3B, with his offensive prowess, he could develop into a generational player.
Your novel has received positive reviews. Do you plan to write other books?
I’m flattered by all the positive feedback I’ve received from the book. I’ve thought about writing another and actually have several interesting concepts in mind.
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
I’d love to see someone write a book that takes an in-depth look at the draft. Such a book would take us on the road with scouts as they evaluate the nation’s best amateur talent as well as behind the scenes at organizational meetings in the run-up to the draft. Finally, the reader would then get access to the “war room” on draft night for a front-row seat to all the major decisions. Even after more than a decade of TV coverage, I feel like the draft is still underpublicized and is in some ways baseball’s “black box.”
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
This will be controversial because of his connections to PEDs, but the best player I ever saw was Barry Bonds. Earlier in his career he was a true 5-tool player who could beat you in a variety of ways. Later on, he was such an offensive force that his mere presence impacted the way the opposing manager managed innings before he was even due up to hit.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
Who was your favorite player?
What is your most prized collectible?
Tom Seaver rookie card
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
My father was German and my grandmother made mouthwatering Wiener Schnitzel, so I’ll have to go with that.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience –
I attended my first baseball game on Saturday October 4, 1980. It was actually a doubleheader between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees. In the first game, Reggie Jackson hit a go-ahead home run off Tigers southpaw Roger Weaver in the 5th inning and New York won 5-2 to clinch the American League East. More importantly, however, I was now hooked on the game of baseball. It’s a love affair that’s lasted more than 40 years and is still going strong.
Fantastic! I’m glad Reggie went yard. I only wish that had made you a Yankees fan!
Thank you for taking the time with us. I wish you continued success, always.
Please keep in touch!