Interview with Steve Barkan 12-06-2000
by Bruce Bundy

Well, the first proofs of the cards aught to be about ready by now! The final weeks must have the guys at SOM exhausted! The essential ingredient to the cards is the formulae, and my SOM formula guru is Steve Barkan. Steve shares the researching tasks with Hal, and it is Steve that does the personal checks during the card-making to make sure that the ingredients are mixing correctly! Steve is always outstanding to talk to, I always look forward to it, and he always puts a smile on my face! I caught him at Strat-O-Matic today!

BB: Hi Steve! People have some questions about game situations I wanted to run by you. One is your general overview on the "Clutch Factor". Do you think it should be used in mixed leagues?


BB: You don't think it's tuned toward a team?

SB: No, not at all.

BB: It's tuned to the individual then?

SB: Individual players - sure.

BB: Does it use the RISP & RISPw2out statistics?

SB: No. There are 2 separate statistics that STATS compiles strictly for us which are not included in any reports that I have not seen anywhere else. Those 2 statistics are combined to create a statistic, then they are put in conjunction with the player's batting average, which creates the plus or minus situations on the card.

BB: Would the same be true about the diamond effects on the card? Would you use them in mixed leagues?

SB: I would say yes. I don't see where that would really gain toward or take away from because right up front, when we first came up with ballpark HR, we would always talk about how someone say, at that time, Ryne Sandberg, would be playing in Houston, which doesn't give up as many homeruns as Wrigley Field did at that time. So I don't think that has anything to do with a mixed league versus a replay league. The way baseball is now, with all the trades you're getting, it's almost like being in a mixed league anyways.

BB: Is the more involved to the Diamond Effects then just the ballparks?

SB: I don't really work with the creation on that. I would probably say no, but it is not an absolute answer.

BB: OK. Here's a real simple situation. You have a runner on 1st. He is a "4 (18 - 6)". The itcher is a "-2", the catcher is a "-2". The runner gets his lead. Describe the breakdown, please.

SB: Oh, boy. You're asking the wrong person. That's something you should ask Bob Winberry. I haven't played a board game in probably about 12 years now.

BB: Ouch!

SB: Yeah.

BB: Dang, we gotta get you back in! I'm still playing them!

SB: I don't have the time. I have a life outside of Strat-O-Matic!

BB: That was the next question! What do you do after a long day of working at Strat?

SB: Well, it depends on the time of year.

BB: During this hectic season?

SB: During this hectic season, I'm actually bringing work home. I doing inputting on mostly the advanced game, the super-advanced game, creating stats like the clutch. I'm inputting them on my own time, because if I didn't, we'd never get the cards out by January.

BB: Is that where the personal effect comes in? Do you visit individual players?

SB: No, it's strictly based on a formula. There are certain fine tunings you have to do based on the amount of time you have to play with. It's really more an adjustment. I'll take the entire 750 batters for instance, and I'll put in my 2 numbers I got from STATS that we spoke about before into the formula, and I'll sort them. What happens is the formula, in conjunction with two other formulas, gives me a number +220 to -220 points off their card. Of course there are adjustments to that, obviously, you can't give someone minus 220 points, although that's what Luis Castillo worked out to. So I'm just doing a sort. When I'm doing charts like that, I'm not looking at the players, I'm looking at the numbers, and then I'm putting in a final number.

BB: How do you think the new high strikezone will effect the game of baseball?

SB: You know, I've been reading about the high strikezone. I know how it should effect the game, but I don't think it's going to work that way. It should add to more hitting, but what's happening now - and I can tell you this as a former college assistant baseball coach -is all the batters, all the pitchers, & all the umpires are all tuned in to a strikezone that actually at one point went from the ankles to the waist. Baseball can say it's a higher strikezone, but you got to get the umpires to call it, the pitchers to throw it and the hitters to swing at it. I don't think it's going to work. It's not going to be that big of an effect.

BB: Is there anything that you could see the SOM community do?

SB: I think the best thing to do is - I've seen some interesting suggestions. What I think people should do with their suggestions really is to have to be made within the confines of the game the way it is being played now. You really cant make a big change that changes all the charts. You can't effect play-value playing against 40-odd seasons worth of cards made a different way. We are all for getting suggestions. I think what the community needs to make their suggestions at the beginning of the year, rather than making their suggestions in October, November, & December, when we are busy working on the cards for the new year. We can do a lot better with ideas suggested in February, March, & April, when we have time to digest them and see how they will effect the game. We are all for getting suggestions, whether it be by E-Mail or by letter. Hal reads and answers all the mail. Any suggestions? I would solicit them! I would say most of the changes that were made in the computer game, as this is well known, are based on suggestions we have had from users. Whatever the sport may be, the best time to get suggestions is probably just as the cards are being shipped out so we can work on them for the next season.

BB: Great! Thanks, Steve!

SB: No problem! But you didn't ask me about my activities outside of Strat!

BB: Yes! What are your activities outside of Strat?

SB: Softball superstar - you don't know that?

BB: Yeah - tell me about it!

SB: I've been on 3 teams that have won National Championships! I've also been on teams that have finished 2nd nationally 3 times and 3rd twice. I'm in the Long Island Softball Hall of Fame. I'm also on the Long Island Softball Hall of Fame committee. A lot of my time at this time of the year outside of Strat-O-Matic is spent doing that. I'm also an assistant high school basketball coach at National Academy. I am also a former college assistant baseball coach. So, therefore, my life is not limited to Strat-O-Matic, especially when I get home!

BB: Do you do "Spring Training"?

SB: I went down to Jupiter, Florida, this year, the day after the Cardinals broke camp. I have a friend down in their front office and I spent the day there visiting. I don't do Spring Training the way I used to. I have friends of mine with the Braves, I used to go down and watch them all the time. With different projects going at Strat-O-Matic all the time, the time that I can take vacation has shifted. It used to be I could take my vacation in January, between Christmas and the time we would start shipping. James and I both used to take vacations, but now we are busy with the computer game, so my vacation is shifting, so I don't get to do the things that I used to.

BB: Now on the game - what are the most significant changes you see in the SOM Baseball Game this year?

SB: The most significant thing that I am seeing - working on the cards - has to do with the number of players who were traded from league to league. What's happening is you are going to see stats that are based on a more insignificant number of At Bats in each league. Therefore, players such as, just to give you an example, a bad example, Will Clark. You're going to see some extremes on his individual Baltimore & St. Louis cards that you might not see on his combined card. What that's done has effected the number of additional players we have to make. We're doing nine more this year than last year - because you have so many more interleague players.

It has effected the work I do on the computer game, computer manager-wise. The way it's setup, you have to use a player's interleague cards, such as Will Clark's interleague card, rather than his Cardinal card with St. Louis, and his Oriole's card with Baltimore. Same with pitchers, such as Danny Neagle. I can only setup one computer manager. Therefore, with Cincinnati, for instance, Neagle wouldn't be able to play. So if you are doing your own replay, not using the Auto Lineups & the Auto-Transactions, and using individual league cards, you pretty much will have to go back and redo your own computer managers, which for me is pain. It makes it tougher when I have to test the game. As you know, I do probably a dozen replays testing the game with each league. It creates a bit of a problem when you are doing the computer manager. I'm really surprised that people haven't brought it up when certain spots in the rotation are wrong, and things like that. I haven't really heard anybody bring it up. That is the biggest effect that we're seeing on the card set - the number of combined players with combined cards. It's something that due to the economics of the game, you're going to see more and more, unfortunately.

BB: Anything else?

SB: That's about it! I just want to wish everybody a happy and safe Holiday!

BB: Great! Thanks, Steve!

SB: OK, Bruce! Thank you!

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