Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Winter Meetings


Ah, I just love the smell of the Winter Meetings in the morning. All the activity. Speculation. Jockeying. Backstabbing. Sell-your-mother-down-the-river negotiating. And it usually all comes on the heals of a deep inward reflection on where the organization is and where it wants to go. That explains why yesterday I had a late-night, one hour phone call with our GM and national scout director. It was a good thing that I had done all that number crunching over the last week regarding the number of prospects I planned to track down. But then again, my instincts are usually one step ahead of management no matter how young or old they may be.

But this "planning session," as our youthful GM put it so eloquently, was a little different than usual. I knew something was up for the GM to call me from Dallas. For me to take up any of his precious time during the Winter Meetings was ludicrous. Anyhow, Logan starts the call by letting me know how fortunate I am to still have a job. Oh joy. Thanks again for the vote of confidence. He then proceeded to announce his plans to fire a quarter of the scouting staff. Keep in mind that he had already fired half the staff in October. The good news for me was that he wasn't going to expand my territory.

The bad news, however, was that they wanted me to hire at least two bird dogs. They both laid out a clean argument that it would be nearly impossible for me to cover three states without any help. Bird Dogs are unpaid associates that gather scouting data and compile reports for a certain area in order to focus your search and make your time more productive. But it is so subjective. Garbage in, garbage out. If your bird dog doesn't share the same philosophy for the game or he prefers a certain type of player that is much different than what you are looking for, you will get burned and players will slip through the cracks.

If I have told them once, I have told them a million times, "I work alone." But I can honestly say that populating my lists with 265 players has never been done before. I'm used to 170 players at the most. And certainly not between three states. I must admit that a couple times last week my stubbornness broke down and I felt that maybe I did need some help this time around. But then pride comes charging back to answer, "Screw them."

Only this time, I don't think I have much of a choice. They want me to at least hire someone in Georgia and another one for South Carolina. The third one would be for Florida but since I've been doing that job for a number of years without a bird dog, Florida is the lowest priority. And of course, they had some suggestions on who I needed to hire.

"We've been getting some pretty interesting emails regarding some Georgia prospects," Logan said.

"Oh, yeah? Let me guess, Performance Scouting, Inc.?" I asked.

"That's the guy. I called him up the other day to chat. Really knowledgeable kid. I believe he said his name was Seth Goldbaum. He goes to law school early in the day and can dedicate a good part of the afternoon and evening to scouting."

"Goldie! That kid kept peppering my cell phone with calls wanting a job. And he runs Performance Scouting, Inc.?"

"All I'm saying is that you give this kid a chance. I really like his stuff. He's right on the edge of performance scouting."

Yeah, right on the "edge" of a cliff. "With all due respect, have you read any of his scouting reports? They're horrible. I actually went to scout one of his alleged college prospects three weeks ago. A first baseman from Macon University. But after two innings, I thought I was watching a homeless man loitering around a soup kitchen. Simply pitiful. No energy. Scored a 36 OFP."

"Look Cutter, all I'm saying is to give Seth a chance. Make contact with him and get together. I'm not asking, I'm telling. And by the way, that homeless man loitering around the soup kitchen had an on-base-percentage of .530 last year and led the conference in walks. He's one of the most disciplined hitters in that league. I would suggest you take another look at him."

Ouch. The GM telling me how to do my job. Not good. And why in the world was our GM so interested in Seth Goldbaum? And what was this performance scouting crap? We don't scout using statistics. That's past performance. We're in the business of projecting future performance. Read any prospectus for a mutual fund (if you still have any after the tech bubble) and you will see that past performance is no indicator of future performance.

It's the tools that carry a player into the future. Not his stats. It's all about the tools baby. Perfect example will be the players I'm scouting tomorrow. I can't wait to tell you all about them. I will be updating their signability questionnaires and should have a bunch of stuff to talk about.

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