Saturday, August 19, 2006

East Roast Showcase

Wanted to make a quick report on the East Roast Showcase at UNC Wilmington's Brooks Field. And do I mean Roast. The heat was one thing but the humidity must have made it feel like 110 degrees. Anyhow, DeSear wanted both Goldie and I, along with several other scouts from the eastern half of the country to attend. It also gave DeSear another brainwashing opportunity to remind everyone what the organization is looking for (i.e. what Logan Cooper is now looking for).
"Just drink the Kool-Aid and smile," a senior scout from the northeast said to me afterwards.

It also gave DeSear an opportunity to roll out some organizational changes to the scouting department. More on this during my next post.

But Goldie seemed a bit different this trip. We actually had some time to talk and he began to open up. I think even he appreciated our discussions. He even paid me a compliment. "You know Cutter, you're all right for an old guy." Trust me, coming from Goldie, that's a compliment.
What floored me, however, was Goldie's claim that he played minor league ball. As I looked at him in his wheelchair, I thought I was hearing things. Never once has he mentioned it before. Sure enough, I checked out his story and confirmed that he actually played three years of college ball and one year in the minor leagues. Half a season in rookie ball and the other in low-A. That would explain why at times he flashes some brilliance in his scouting reports. Ironically, he actually knows baseball from the inside but chooses to put his faith in statistics, past performance, and fancy-pants number crunching.

I haven't yet decided if this is more salt in the wound or a blessing in disguise. Maybe there's hope for me to sway him back. After all, he admitted that he was a product of good old-fashioned, grass roots, projectionable scouting. Well, he didn't quite put it like that, but that's the truth.

During our last meeting with DeSear, he pointed out some of the failures from our last draft and then some of the successes. "One of the draft's best success stories," according to DeSear, "was and continues to be pitcher Rio Carbrera." Started in rookie ball, promoted to low-A in just over a month, and now on his way to our AA club.

My jaw just about hit the floor. DeSear brought Goldie up to the front of the group to discuss how Goldie found this "pitching machine," how he knew that Rio would register success, and a review of all pre-draft and post-draft discussions. It was all very deliberate-- leaving me out of the presentation. But make no mistake, what Goldie laid out was a template of sorts for handling future prospects. That too was very deliberate.

Then came the announcement.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Elijah. A Fiery Ending?

Every so often I give a call to one of my old friends who is now coaching AA within the organization. Besides seeing how he's tolerating the summer heat and a steady diet of bus rides, we chat about what he's seeing and which players are weak or not progressing as projected. Of course, we always get around to talking MLB. I thought that the events surrounding the recent trade deadline would be the topic du jour, but my coaching friend didn't want to talk about Soriano, Abreu, or Maddux.

No, he was more interested in someone named Elijah and his indefinite suspension from the AAA Durham Bulls. More disturbing to him was Elijah's fiery comments about possibly quiting baseball. I am very familiar with the two sport standout from the Tampa area. In 2002, he graduated from Hillsborough High, but what most don't know is that he also attended Jefferson, Chamberlain, and King High Schools. Four schools in four years. If you were to talk with a particular coach from one of these other three schools, you'll get an earful about Elijah's fingerpointing and refusal to accept responsibility for things that went wrong when he had a hand in them. A real team killer. Not to mention that he's been arrested four times since 2003 with the latest being in September of 2005. His own father resides in the Okeechobee (Fla.)Correctional Institution for second-degree murder. As the story goes, Elijah Sr. contronted a man who sold a fake rock of crack for $100 to Elijah's mother. Elijah Sr. shot the man dead.

But Jr.'s an incredible talent. I agree with the projections that he could hit 40 HRs in the big show. That's something you just can't ignore. Or can you? Although the talent is tempting, my coaching buddy was crystal clear that he wouldn't want him on his club. In fact, he told me that he would personally hunt me down if I ever recommended someone like Elijah for the draft. You just can't imagine what it's like to have someone like that in the clubhouse day after day. Non-stop pity party. Always complaining. Very cynical. Never happy. The first to point a finger when things are slumping. It simply drains the energy from a club making it that much harder to succeed.

It also seems that the skipper for the Rays (Joe Maddon) is on the same page. "We can't have that here," Maddon said. "If we're going to be good, that can't be part of us. And I don't care how good [any prospects are], I really don't. In regard to skills, that doesn't matter. We'll be just fine with maybe just a little less skillful, but a good teammate. And that's the message that has to be out there. And I really believe that. And I don't think there's any doubt about that. And that's what we're going to be about."