Saturday, December 11, 2004

Baseball's Winter Meetings: Saturday, Day 2

Busy day lined up. So far, three interviews on schedule with the Williamsport Crosscutters, New Jersey Cardinals, and Vermont Expos.

6:30 AM: Wake up call. Shower, shit, shave - blue shirt or white? Blue. After putting on the only suit I own, time to get to the convention center. I've got interviews at 11, 12:30, and 1:00.

8:00 AM: A continental breakfast is set up for the jobseekers in the PBEO workroom. I grab a muffin, some orange juice, and wolf it down while reading Baseball America's new magazine. I see they've given out lifetime achievement awards - one to John Schuerholz, another to Roger Jongewaard (the guy in charge of the Seattle Mariners draft). Schuerholz is a tremendous GM, but I’ve got some pejorative thoughts about Jongewaard. While he can be praised for drafting a no-brainer like Alex Rodriguez and made a good pick in Ken Griffey Junior, he's also been lowballing draft picks in the last couple years. Whether there's some new organizational policy that has transcended both Pat Gillick's and Bill Bavasi's regimes, I don't know - but the one constant in the draft in the last few years has been that the Mariners either give up their top picks by signing Type A free agents or just don't sign their first round pick (John Mayberry Jr. being an example). Whatever. It just doesn't seem smart.

I meet a local college kid who's hanging around the lobby with resumes in hand, trying to stop any executive he meets and introduce himself. He finds another jobseeker, and asks him if he's an executive. The jobseeker answers no, but sells the idea of signing up for the job fair to the kid. I try to tell the kid that he has almost no chance of finding a job after the first day has past, and that he'll be wasting his money ($225 for on-site registration). Still, he's pretty cocky, and won't hear of it. Poor guy.

9:00 AM: The job posting room opens. After 250+ jobs were posted on Friday, so far only 6 have gone up Saturday. Many here were banking on Saturday postings to find their first interview after being shutout the day before - it's sad.

9:35 AM: I walk into the interview posting room and scan the walls again. And surprisingly, I see I've got my name up for another interview that begins at 10 AM - a stadium operations internship with the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA, PCL). I sign up for the first slot and wonder if the 5 other guys interviewing for the job will be able to sign up in time.

10:00 AM: Thankfully, I've got no time to be nervous. The interview goes smoothly, and the interviewer promises to keep in touch. This isn't so bad.

10:15 AM: I start walking back to the Marriott Starbucks to log back on the internet and do some research on the New Jersey Cardinals (11 AM interview) and the Williamsport Crosscutters (1:30 PM). In the lobby of the Marriott, I spot Peter Gammons and Steve Phillips standing next to each other in a corridor, but surprisingly, they aren't talking to anyone - just watching the hustling and bustling going on in the lobby. I take the opportunity to compliment Phillips on his broadcasting, asking him if he'd ever done it before - he answers "well, it's New York, so you do a little bit of everything." He smiles, shakes my hand again, and says thanks. From what I've seen and read about Phillips (he'll take the time to talk to anyone, even read through their resume when it's thrust in front of him), he's an extremely nice guy, and this exchange seems to support that assertion. Hell, even the type of guy I'd like to be friends with if he weren't 25-30 years older than me. Nice hair, too.

11:00: Interview with the New Jersey Cardinals for Clubhouse Manager position.

11:05: Done with the interview. Short, and more like an information session - the interviewer did most of the talking. Told me to keep in touch - I'm not too keen on working for the guy, but the job pays about $1200/month (salary + tips + dues) and fits my schedule perfectly. Of course, I'd have to do laundry and keep myself extremely organized.

11:10: After checking the interview board, I see that I've got an interview with the Boise Hawks tomorrow- I sign up for the last time slot out of a possible three, and then head over to the Marriott Starbucks.

11:20 AM: I grab a $3 small iced tea from Starbucks and sit down with the laptop, checking all the deals going on. I see Peter Gammons pacing around on his phone's hands-free thingy right in front of me. He sees Catherine Silver - President/CEO of Baseball America (the sponsor of the winter meetings) - and quickly ends his phone conversation. Silver, Gammons, and one other Baseball America suit converge about 3 feet away from my table, right in front of me, and they start a conversation.

This might be considered eavesdropping, but whatever, they started talking 3 feet in front of me and I had a laptop - they should have figured this conversation was going straight to the internet. Silver talked about a new idea that they wanted to roll out with ESPN where they'd do a prospect report from different regions. Silver talked about "you could see this prospect come through town tomorrow" and that this prospect report would be "brought to you by Chevrolet." She said Gammons would intro it of course, and that it would be a great hit. Sounds stupid to me, but I'm not the really pretty president/CEO of Baseball America.

After pitching the idea to Gammons, John Schueholz talks with Silver, and Silver shows Schueholz the full-page picture of him in the latest BA where they award Schuerholz some lifetime achievement thing.

Oh, and Gammons mentions something about "50 cent beers, drinking age was 18, Carolina League" - probably in some effort to prove to Silver that at one point in his life, he might have actually been hip, instead of just pretending to be hip like he's been doing the past 5 years.

And speaking of Gammons' attempts to be hip, Tony La Russa then comes up and shakes Peter's hand, and asks Gammons about his annual rock show fundraiser. “Some people have golf tournaments and events, I’ve got a rock concert.”

After a 20 minute conversation, Silver left, and gave me the opportunity to harass Gammons for a minute. I told him I enjoyed his work, was a big fan, and he smiled and said thanks. I then asked if the Royals were going to do something, and he said they've decided to sit tight (code: I don't know because I don't care about small-market moves). I also asked him if Theo came down, and he said most GMs just stay in their room.

Then I bought a 10 dollar chicken panini sandwich. Fries were an extra $4.

12:30 PM: Interview with the Vermont Expos. This interviewer had a list of 10 questions or so, and asked stuff like "list 3 strengths and 3 weaknesses). It all went well, and the most appealing part about the job with the Vermont team was the front office atmosphere – everyone in there was younger than 30 (including the GM), and everyone seemed like they loved it. Additionally, the GM and his two major assistants both started out as interns with the Expos, so they could relate – and they hired a total of 10 interns, which you’d live with in housing at the University of Vermont for 300$/month. Downside? Internship is unpaid, Great atmosphere, great league, and it fits my schedule well – just not paid. But considering a salary of $500/month really isn’t that much in the first place, then who knows?

1:00 PM: My last interview of the day – with the Williamsport Crosscutters. I came into today excited the most at the prospect of working with the Crosscutters - $500/month, in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series, and the responsibilities for Stadium Operations intern seemed the greatest (and most concrete). One of the biggest responsibilities that stuck out was “train and supervise 8-10 ushers, and oversee cleaning and maintenance.” The idea of actually holding some power (“supervise”) is attractive.

I sat down with a woman and a man, and they were both extremely nice. There were the typical questions – “why do you want to get into baseball” – “where do you see yourself in 5 years” – and then a typical question for me – “we get a lot of people with sports management majors – why are you majoring in economics or history?” I loved the two interviewers – the man was very kind and a little (grand)fatherly - he had started out as a 12-year season ticket holder who housed Williamsport players (D.J. Carrasco stayed with him) and then got into the front office, and the woman was a little shy but constantly smiling. The job itself sounded great - $500/month, fuel was paid for, cheap housing, and they’d try to help out with food too. Only downsides were they just had 4 full-time workers in the front office, and unlike the Expos, most of the front office didn’t seem too young. I told them that they were great, and hoped to keep in touch.

1:30 PM: Naptime.

3:30 PM: Back to the Marriott Starbucks. I see Paul DePodesta standing in line for a sandwich at the Starbucks/a-la-carte counter.
“Mr. DePodesta… I’m a big fan of the way you work – just a quick question regarding the signing of Jeff Kent – the stats seem to show that he’s one of the best defensive second basemen, what was your view?”

“Kent is pretty solid - he’s not going to be spectacular, but he’ll be pretty good for us.”

“Do you use simple play-by-play stats to evaluate defense, or did you use something like AVM systems (more complex, PBP zone stats, measures hangtime) this year?”

“We used something closer to the latter.”

And then I made a joke about how freakin’ thin and small he was – that Michael Lewis wasn’t kidding when he said DePodesta had a St. Francis of Assisi’s build. Depodesta laughed, I said thanks, and thought “that guy is awesome.” Very engaging – when talking to anyone, he would give them his full attention. Many colleagues of Epstein say that Theo has the ability to walk into a room of people and quickly evaluate everyone – DePodesta seems to have that same quality – through those glasses, he would stare directly into your eyes, trying to get at exactly what you were talking about. Came off as brilliant. And just like me, he also had ordered a 10 dollar panini sandwich (good choice, Paul!).

5:30 PM: Headed back to my hotel, watched tee vee for an hour, worked out, ordered some room service (grilled chicken sandwich), then watched more tee vee till about 9. And then I fell asleep.

Famous people: Kevin Greene from Idaho Falls Chukars (featured in Lewin's Getting in the Game), Buck Showalter, Tony La Russa, Lou Pinella, Phil Garner, Dave Littlefield, Jim Bowden.

Rickie Weeks Report

Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers
Drafted 2nd Overall, 2003 Draft, Southern University
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'0", 195 lbs

Weeks was a real disappointment this season, hitting .259/.366/.407 for Huntsville. But in retrospect, expectations were probably a bit higher than they should have been. Weeks was coming from Southern, which isn't exactly a top flight D1 program. And a consolidation year is to be expected. With 55 walks in 479 at bats, he still had a good walk rate. He still pounded out 35 doubles. And his defense has improved to the extent that scouts aren't talking about a possible move to center field anymore. I'd still rate him as one of the best middle infield prospects in the game today. And I still expect to see him take over as the full time second baseman in Milwaukee in late 2005 or early 2006. He smacked the hell out of the ball in the Arizona Fall League to the tune of .382/.520/.737 with 17 walks and 18 K's.

ETA: Late 2005
4 1/2 Stars

Steve Schmoll Report

Steve Schmoll, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2003, University of Maryland
Bats R/Throws R
24 YO, 6'2", 200 lbs

If you're ever in the unlikely situation where you have a bar bet over who will be the next Chad Bradford, Schmoll is the first name you should have in mind. He's a submariner who has allowed a total of 2 home runs in 120 career innings as a professional. He's been reported to have a fastball that usually sits in the high 80's and sometimes reaches the low 90's.

Schmoll split his 2004 season between Vero Beach of the Florida State League and Jacksonville of the Southern League. In 65 FSL innings, he recorded a 1.80 ERA with 58 K's, 10 walks, and 0 home runs allowed. In 19 2/3 SL innings, he had a 1.83 ERA with 18 K's, 7 walks, and not a single ball went over the fence. I generally don't condone the use of Arizona Fall League stats as an indicator of performance, but it's hard to ignore the 1.42 ERA, 12 K's, 4 BB's, and unsurprisingly 0 home runs he allowed in 19 innings as a Scottsdale Scorpion.

Submariners generally end up being specialists, whose job is to come in and cut down one key hitter. Their opportunities are usually very high leverage. Schmoll LOOKS like he might be able to break out of that typecasted role, and pitch against both righties AND lefties. I don't see any reason to think that he can't be a successful major league pitcher very soon.

ETA: 2005
3 1/2 Stars

Friday, December 10, 2004

Baseball's Winter Meetings: Friday, Day 1

Day 1 starts early. Really early. I haven't waken up at 6:00 AM after a regular night of sleep since high school. Got up, got dressed, had some breakfast, logged on to check some email, and around 8:20 AM walked into the Anaheim Convention Center to start the job fair.

When I walked in, about 50 people already had planted themselves outside the job posting rooms which opened at 9. The system was briefly explained to us:

- Jobs would be posted in the room every hour between 9-5 throughout the weekend.
- They varied from internships to GM and assistant GM positions to mascots to account executives to broadcasters.
- All jobs except 3 were minor league jobs (the Tampa Bay Devil Rays were looking for a radio broadcaster!).
- After seeing jobs you liked, you took your resume, wrote the number associated with the job on your resume, and turned it into the PBEO people.
- The PBEO people in turn put the resumes into the drop box for the minor league team.
- The minor league team executive picked up the resumes at his own time (could be any time during the weekend)
- If the executive wanted to interview you, he posted an interview sheet in the interview posting room with names on it and time slots.
- Interview!

The best way to describe the job posting room would be to call it a meat market. You walk into the room filled with young suits, each carrying their leather attache, with their faces stuffed into the postings, and you just try to get a chance to read each post and see what position is offered. Most applicants were right out of college, either looking for their 2nd internship or entry-level job - there were many like me just looking for an internship. Throughout the day, I found about 30 jobs that looked appealing to me (i.e. they were internships that coincided with my start date) and dropped my resume off with those numbers scrawled on it.

Meanwhlie, during the downtime when no real jobs were being offered, I walked over to the Marriott where I had seen so many baseball men the night before. While typing up Thursday's entry, Dusty Baker comes up right behind me and starts complaining to a White Sox exec about the Chicago weather. At that same Starbucks, I see Jayson Stark find the only avaible seat to be at the kids table (oh, don't worry, I made sure to get a picture), and Peter Gammons strutting around in his sneakers talking rumors with Stark.

I also saw Jin Wong (Royals Director of Baseball Operations) and Art Stewart (Scout, Special Asst. to the GM) sit down at Starbucks and talk in hushed tones - I heard Stewart say something about "dealing with our favorite team, Washington" - so here it is, straight from the front office - the Royals are looking to swing a trade with the Nationals. I'd feel bad about posting a rumor like this, but that's probably close to how Gammons comes up with all his shit.

The first person I saw here who I had met before was Will Carroll - I also saw him in the Marriott Starbucks (definitely the place to be - I saw John Schuerholz chatting there too). I don't mention this enough, but Carroll is a tremendously nice and available person. After being shocked that he even remembered my name, he politely asked how the job search was going, and I picked his brain about rumors, happenings, and completed deals. It was great to finally see a familiar face and hear a friendly voice here.

The hotel lobby experience is interesting. It's half high school party, half dinner party. There's always at least 40 people standing and chatting, some loners who are just sitting/standing around, and others who seem to be having a good time. Of course, everyone's dressed up, and the smell of aftershave combined with all the male B.O. makes the lobby smell like a big industrial city in a third-world country. Huh, weird.

Getting back to the job fair - at 5 PM I checked the interview posting room. I was surprised to see my name posted for three interviews so far:

- The Williamsport Crosscutters Stadium Operations Internship ($500/month)
- The Vermont Expos Summer Internship (unpaid)
- New Jersey Cardinals Clubhouse Manager (TBD - probably around $700/month + dues + tips)

Not exactly the most tremendous offers in terms of salaries, but I came in with the attitude that I'd work for free. Any salary is a bonus, and I was ecstatic to be considered for the Crosscutters internship. Hopefully more interviews will be posted tomorrow along with most jobs.

The most surprising part here is the amount of qualified jobseekers that aren't getting any offers. Most adopt the same idea of "safety in numbers" by dropping of several resumes and many have some kind of baseball experience (which I don't) - or at the least are majoring or getting their masters in sports management (I'm majoring in economics... or statistics... or history? maybe classics?). One great kid I met in Wichita State's B.A. Sports Management program has already got some kind of internship set up through his university with the Wichita Wranglers - but he's only got one interview, and we applied for mostly the same jobs. All this makes me think, just like the college application process, this job fair is a major crapshoot. The story of an applicant being underqualified, but still getting an interview because his resume came after 5 straight horrible ones most likely holds true here as executives take only a couple hours (if that) to review job applicants.

Tonight will be another early night for me. Already exhausted from having to wake up at 6:30, walking around all day in a black suit and dress shoes sucks a ton. Tomorrow's another early day, with the first interview at 10:40. Hopefully I'll find some interesting folks tomorrow to talk to (maybe a young boy genius GM from Boston?), and post them on here.

And now as I'm typing this up in the Starbucks, I see J.P. Ricciardi pouring sugar into his small coffee and using three of those little straws to stir. Maybe I'll just stay here tonight.

Famous people seen today: Tim Kurkijian, John Schuerholz, Dave Littlefield, Ozzie Guillen, Art Stewart, Jin Wong, Lou Pinella, Dusty Baker, J.P. Ricciardi. (Also White Sox director of baseball operations and White Sox scouting director)

Theo sighting?: No! I'm getting desperate. Maybe I should start knocking on random doors?

Baseball's Winter Meetings: Thursday

Every year at baseball's winter meetings, a company called PBEO holds a large minor league job fair, where everyone from interns to broadcasters to GMs can apply for both seasonal and full-time jobs with minor-league teams. After reading about the winter meetings in Josh Lewin's book, Getting in the Game (a great book to buy if you're looking to get into baseball, and a very easy read), I registered for the job fair and headed down to Anaheim on Thursday, a day before the job fair and winter meetings officially started.

I left Chicago on Thursday at 9 AM, having just finished finals the day before. After getting into Los Angeles airport at 3 PM, and taking a half-hour shuttle down to Anaheim, I checked into the Coast Anaheim hotel, a 3 minute walk from the Anaheim Convention Center where the job fair is held.

The Coast is one of three hotels in the area near the convention center, and it's definitely the cheapest and the one where most PBEO jobseekers are staying. Figuring that I wouldn't get to see or meet any baseball bigshots at the Coast, I strolled over the Hilton hotel (4 minute walk), and took a peek inside. A couple jobseekers, no one important. Frustrated, and needing to make copies of my resume, I went to the Kinko's inside the Marriott. Immediately entering the lobby, I saw Steve Phillips talking with Paul DePodesta, and Peter Gammons meandering around in his a shaggy suit with tennis shoes, trying to get the inside scoop on signings. The most surprising part about being at the winter meetings is how little you actually know about the transactions going on. I didn't hear about the Troy Glaus or Jermaine Dye signings until a friend from KC called me to tell me about it. After just walking around the hotel lobby and looking for big shots, I headed back to my hotel to watch the end of the KU-TCU game, and to prepare for Day 1 of the Winter Meetings/PBEO Job Fair. The alarm's set for 6:30 AM.

So far, no Theo Epstein sightings.

Famous people seen: DePodesta, Phillips, Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, Jayson Stark, Jerry Crasnick.

Goals for the meeting:
1) Stalk Theo Epstein.
2) Get a job.
3) Get tons of phone numbers and contacts.

Anthony Reyes Report

Anthony Reyes, RHP, St Louis Cardinals
Drafted 455th overall (15th Rd), 2003 Draft, USC
Bats R/Throws R
23 YO, 6'2", 215 lbs

You remember what I said about Richie Gardner being the steal of the 2003 draft? Yeah. Forget I said that. Reyes was drafted 9 rounds later than Gardner and had a great debut season. He started the year in the Florida State League with a 4.66 ERA, 38 K's, and 7 walks in 36 2/3 innings. Then he moved on to Tennessee in the Southern League, where he recorded a 2.91 ERA, 102 K's, and 13 BB's in 74 1/3 innings. He has a nice slider and improving changeup to go with his low 90's fastball and excellent control.

The downside is that he's had elbow problems for quite a while now, and struggled at USC because of them. He missed some time in the first half of the season, this time with shoulder tendonitis. He's an injury risk, and he may end up in the bullpen because of it. But if he stays healthy, he could end up being a very good starter. Keeping him healthy would be the biggest challenge though.

ETA: Late 2005/Early 2006
3 1/2 Stars (penalizing for the injury risk)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Richie Gardner Report

Richie Gardner, RHP, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted 171st Overall (6th Rd), 2003 Draft, University of Arizona
Bats R/Throws R
22 YO, 6'3", 185 lbs

Garner may be the steal of the 2003 draft. After 2 years in the JuCo ranks, he had one good, but not great season at Arizona before being drafted. As a pro, he's been lightning in a bottle. He split the season more or less evenly between the Carolina League and the Southern League. For Potomac (CL) he posted a 2.50 ERA with 80 K's and 13 walks in 86.1 innings. For Chattanooga (SL), he posted a 2.56 ERA with 59 K's and 13 walks in 70 1/3 innings. Those are spectacular numbers. Very few have heard of him though.

He has a heavy fastball that usually sits in the low 90's, but sometimes reaches the mid 90's and a great changeup. Those in keeper leagues with minor league rosters should grab him right now. I'm giving him my full recommendation.

ETA: Late 2005
4 1/2 Stars

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Arbitration D-Day

The arbitration deadline has passed. We now know who will be eligible for compensation.

Some high profile omissions are Carlos Delgado, Jeff Kent, and Magglio Ordonez.

I think this is a mistake with Ordonez. His upside is worth the risk of a less than healthy player at the price he'd command through arbitration. I'm also of the opinion that he's a good comeback candidate.

Delgado is understandable since the price of arbitration to Toronto would be enormous, and they're not likely to contend next year, which would make having a player of Delgado's expense and age a bit of a handicap rather than an asset.

With Kent, it is another calculated risk. It opens up an opportunity for Chris Burke to win the second base job in Houston outright. He won't be Jeff Kent, but he'll be a good leadoff hitter, and a more than competent second baseman.

On a related note, we're seeing more signings that result in compensation picks. This is an update of our earlier compensation review.

The Yankees are close to signing Jaret Wright to a bloated three year deal. If they do ink him, they give their first round pick to the Braves, who also get a sandwich pick.

The Cubs inexplicably gave Henry Blanco a two year deal just hours before the arbitration deadline. Blanco is a type B free agent, and would result in Chicago's first round pick going to Minnesota.

Finally, the Phillies signed Jon Lieber to a three year contract after the Yankees offered Lieber arbitration. He's a type B free agent as well. That gives the Phillies first round pick to the Yanks.

So here's an updated list with the information I have at this moment.

First Round: The 17th Overall pick goes from the Phillies to the Yanks for Jon Lieber
22nd overall pick goes from SF to Florida for Benitez
29th pick goes from the Cubs to the Twins for Henry Blanco

Compensatory First Round: 31st overall pick goes to Florida for Benitez
32nd pick goes to Colorado for Vinny Castilla
33rd pick goes to Oakland for Damian Miller
34th pick goes to Cleveland for Omar Vizquel
35th pick goes to Baltimore for Wade Townsend

Second Round: 39th Overall pick goes from Washington to Colorado for Vinny Castilla
40th pick goes from Milwaukee to Oakland for Damian Miller
51st pick goes from San Francisco to Cleveland for Omar Vizquel

Third Round: 69th Overall pick goes from Washington to Minnesota for Christian Guzman

I haven't included Jaret Wright because his signing isn't official yet. When he does officially sign with the Yankees, the Braves get the 29th pick in the draft, and the 35th pick, and everything starting with Baltimore's sandwich pick slides down a peg. Then again, I don't think anybody expects the Yankees to NOT sign another (presumably higher ranked) type A free agent, which would mean that the Braves would get the Yankees second round pick instead of their first rounder. Still, don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Blanco was a terrible signing simply because he isn't worth giving multiple years and a draft pick.

Wright's reported deal is more money than is advisable, and amazingly a three year deal. He's a one year gamble at best. I'd say there's at least a 50/50 chance that this one is cited as a primary reason why the Yankees don't win the 2005 World Series. It is another demonstration why the Yankees AREN'T the lock to win the World Series as they are reported to be every single year. Spending your money wisely is still more important than the volume of money you have to spend.

The Yanks also reportedly gave a two year deal to Tony Womack. That's another awful move. As long as the Evil Empire is willing to carry around half a roster full of dead weight, the Red Sox will have a fighting chance in the east.

Jon Lieber's deal is more than I had anticipated, but along the lines of what you can expect given the other dollar figures that have been thrown around.

This season's free agent market has been very different from what we found last season. We haven't seen the kind of low commitment contracts we saw last season with players like Reggie Sanders and Jose Guillen. Teams are spend much more freely than last season. It will be interesting to see if this continues.

Update: Leone for Third has a pair of nice posts on the free agent market.

The first is a list of players who were offered arbitration and their Elias ranking.

The second is on the rising cost of the free agent market. Go read the posts. LFT does good work.

Howie Kendrick Report

Howie Kendrick, 2B, Anaheim Angels
Drafted 294th Overall (10th Rd), 2002 Draft, St. John's River CC
Bats R/Throws R
21 YO, 5'10", 170 lbs

Kendrick is a talented hitter of the Rocco Baldelli mold. He hit .367/.398/.578 with 24 doubles, 6 triples, 10 home runs, 12 walks, and 41 K's in 313 at bats for Cedar Rapids. I really, really want to see more walks out of him, but he's doing alright without it. I'm optimistic about him despite myself. I can't believe that he's going to maximize his talent while he's drawing one walk for every 26 at bats, but as we've seen, there are some players like Garrett Anderson and Baldelli that can get by with it. It would be a waste if he only "got by with it" though, as he could be a potentially devastating bat for a middle infielder. He's also good defensively and stole 15 bases this season.

ETA: 2007
4 Stars

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Carlos Duran Report

Carlos Duran, OF, Atlanta Braves
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent, 1999, Venezuela
Bats L/Throws L
21 YO, 6'1", 165 lbs

Duran's a speedy center fielder whose skills are lagging far behind his tools. At the plate, he's a hacker, offering up to anything that is round and within 30 feet of plate. In his second full season for Myrtle Beach, he his an anemic .261/.295/.372 with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 3 homers, 12 walks, and 47 K's in 234 at bats. He hasn't had a really productive season with the bat since 2000 in the Venezuelan Summer League. The two bright spots in his record are his defense (which enables him to use his strong throwing arm and blazing speed) and his running on the basepaths, where he stole 13 bases this season while only being caught once. And to answer the question, no I don't believe he's related to Roberto "No Mas" Duran.

ETA: ???
1 Star

Monday, December 06, 2004

Some Rambling Steroid Thoughts

I'm really trying to keep from thinking about the BALCO controversy more than I have to. I really got burned out on the issue in one of the 58 other times that it came up.

Derek Zumsteg at USS Mariner had a nice post on the topic a few days ago.

There really is an open question as to how much steroids really help a baseball player. All things being equal, steroids will help you hit a baseball farther. However, the key part of that phrase is the "all things being equal" part. There are a lot of things going on in a swing or a delivery, and a strength is only one factor. Form is the most important aspect of any attempt to hit a baseball. Bat speed is largely dictated not by brute strength, but by a smooth, short stroke devoid of wasted motion.

Will Carroll has written a lot about the kinetic chain that makes a pitcher's delivery. A hitter's swing is clearly the same sort of thing. Skinny, 23 year old Ken Griffey Jr could smash a ball 450 feet more easily than musclebound Gabe Kapler ever could because his smooth, easy swing didn't waste energy and his entire body's strength was involved in the generation of bat speed. His legs, hips, abdominal muscles, chest, arms, and wrists all worked together.

Another factor is flexibility. A bulked up late model Jose Canseco was clearly inferior to his big, but more technically sound 1988 version. Part of that is almost certainly due to flexibility. Getting full extension is just as important in hitting a baseball with consistent, clean contact as it is in being able to consistently hit a golf ball consistently and hard. Form is everything. Well, not everything, but it is the most important part of the equation.

Barry Bonds has had a remarkable career because he's a gifted hitter with off the charts hand-eye coordination, one of the most perfect swings in the history of mankind, an extremely disciplined approach at the plate, and reflexes that would be the envy of many a fighter pilot. Has his strength played a part in his late career power spike? I don't know. I really don't. He does maintain flexibility. His increased muscle mass obviously hasn't affected his mechanics. So it might have.

I stink at playing baseball. I always have. The reason is pretty simple. My body just isn't wired in a way that makes it easy for me to hit a moving target with a stick. I don't have the coordination or the reflexes to make split second adjustments to where the ball is going. Barry Bonds never had that problem.

That aside, there's the issue of how to treat this problem. The biggest issue in my eyes isn't fair play, but the health of the players. We just don't know what the long term ramifications are for high level exposure to anabolic steroids. The studies haven't been done. There's a lot of conjecture about cancer, liver and kidney failure, pituitary function, heart disease, joint problems, muscle pulls, and mood disorders, but no real medical evidence indicating whether this is urban legend or a real side effect.

Another issue is how the effects and side effects differ from those of steroid precursors, HGH, and the thousands of other products out there, both that we know of and that we don't know about.

So what do I think should happen? I think the policies should change. The league should take tough action, but maintain a sense of due process, protect the privacy of players, take an active role in helping the players avoid banned substances, and be an active party in studying what the real effects of these drugs are.

First things first, what do I mean by that last part. I mean that they should get with medical researchers to study what the use of anabolic steroids really does to a body compared to people with similar routines who DON'T use steroids. The same goes for HGH, creatine, andro, and other products. Do they work? Are they safe? This will be a long term project, and wouldn't pay real dividends for a long time, but the league's first responsibility is to the safety of its players.

Also, be proactive in helping the players understand what is banned and what is not banned. And be proactive in deciding what to ban. One of the worst aspects to the allegedy cutting edge policies of the NFL and IOC is the maze of banned products that an athlete, trainer, or official has to deal with. First things first, with a tip of the cap to Jim Miller, no athlete should ever be punished for using a cold medicine that has a mild stimulant. Secondly, it should be relatively easy for a player to look for dietary supplements and make an educated decision as to whether a product is legal or not. To that effect, any sports governing body should give a comprehensive book of information to players, trainers, etc, that not just lists banned substances, but a list of the brand names of products they're found in, any FDA warnings associated with products, etc. It should be updated at least 3 times a year (I'm thinking at the start of spring training, at the All Star break, and at the end of the regular season). There should be somewhere that the player can go to have ANY questions they have answered by a league source. The league should have an associated lab that will TEST over the counter products for banned substances and report back to the athlete on its findings. Nobody should ever be punished because they aren't a biochemist.

Another thing to avoid is the retroactive ban. The IOC can ban substances and test PREVIOUS samples for those substances. That's clearly out of the bounds of fair play. It is insane. You can't change the rules and then punish those who were playing by the official rules as they were written at the time. Any additions to the list of banned substances should have a grace period for testing, that way something you legally took last week won't get you banned next month for breaking rules that didn't exist at the time that you took them.

Lastly, the press and the public needs to stop drinking the kool-aid that we've been drinking and accept that a large amount of substance abuse is going to be a part of life for sports from here on out and that no amount of testing is going to stop it entirely. We seem to have a public willing to ignore common sense and believe that the NFL has no drug problem because they punish a half dozen players per year. I have a bridge to sell anybody who thinks that the NFL doesn't have a steroid problem, testing and harsh penalties be damned.

The conventional wisdom with performance enhancing drugs mirrors that of the criminal justice system. Harsher is always better, and those who are accused are usually guilty until proven innocent. But at a certain point, you're in full witch hunt mode and cutting off people's arm for stealing a loaf of bread, living in a police state. Likewise, banning people for life for a first offense is mindless, kneejerk overreaction. This drug abuse problem is no different than society's overall drug use problem. Punishment is the highest profile aspect of the story, but not necessarily more important than that of education, research, and treatment.

Travis Ishikawa Report

Travis Ishikawa, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Drafted 637th Overall (21st Rd), 2002 Draft, HS, Federal Way, WA
Bats L/Throws L
21 YO, 6'3", 190 lbs

Ishikawa is a nice mid-range prospect. He's not going to make a top 100 list, but he has a plausible future as a major leaguer. He's an athletic first baseman, which sounds like a contradiction in terms, with a nice swing and advanced approach. He started 2004 in the Sally League, where he hit .256/.357/.448 with 19 doubles, 15 home runs, 45 walks, and 110 strikeouts in 335 at bats. He was promoted late in the season to San Jose of the California League, where he went .232/.353/.411 with 7 doubles, 1 home run, 10 walks, and 16 K's in 56 at bats. The walk rate and isolated slugging percentages are good, but not great. He shows some promise. That's where we stand. We'll find out more when he tries to make the jump to AA, which makes or breaks a lot of prospects of this type. Right now he looks like a less extreme (and possibly more talented) version of Kila Kaaihue.

ETA: 2007
3 Stars

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Joe Wilson Report

Joe Wilson, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Drafted 385th (13th Rd), 2003 Draft, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Bats L/Throws L
22 YO, 6'3", 190 lbs

He gets good reviews for his fastball, but he's wildly inconsistent and behind his age group. He was traded midseason in the Cory Lidle deal after being originally drafted by the Phillies. Splitting the season between the two systems, he started the season with a 3.64 ERA in 94 innings at Lakewood of the Florida State League with 89 strikeouts, but unfortunately gave out 49 walks in the process. After the trade, he posted a 9.30 ERA with 12 K's and 7 walks in 20 1/3 innings for Dayton of the Midwest League.

He's no premium prospect, but he's a name worth keeping in the back of your head in case he gets his breaking stuff straitened out (poor choice of words, but you know where I'm going).

ETA: 2007/2008
1 1/2 Stars

Adam Donchie Report

Adam Donachie, C, Kansas City Royals
Drafted 47th Overall (2nd Rd), 2002 Draft, HS, Orlando, FL
Bats R/Throws R
20 YO, 6'2", 170 lbs

There's an old sabermetric rule that you don't use high draft picks to take high school catchers. Consider Donachie another datapoint in the continuing education of Allard Baird. Donachie was highly thought of as a high schooler. He hit well enough to raise the eyebrows of a lot of scouts. It didn't translate to the pro game, and Donachie has been somewhat injury-prone as well. His defense is above average, but his hitting has been nonexistant. He hit .189/.261/.232 with 7 doubles, 1 homer, 21 walks, and 41 K's in 228 at bats. Just so you know that this was not a fluke, he came into the year with a career line of .229/.338/.302 in 140 at bats in the Gulf Coast and Arizona Rookie Leagues. That's pretty rough. He hasn't shown much of anything. He's likely to be back in the Midwest League again in 2005.

ETA: ????
1 Star

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