News And Bologna Sliced ThinOctober 6th, 2012 by terrybenish
News is a little stale, but mostly in the un-followed up category.
Several somebodies in the player development area, international area were fired and one executive in that area quit and a long term employee from that area, that this past year had managed at High Desert was fired.
The firings have been covered in the Times and Baseball America, the Times had an elliptical story where Bob Engle a holdover from the Pat Gillick times apparently resigned in response to the firings. Suggesting somebody above him fired all those guys and resigned in protest.
Rarely has anybody ever been cited in the player development arena whose name is linked to Pat Gillick. Gillick’s Modus Operandi was to come into organization and trade every prospect in the system for players that could compete right now at the major league level and when that major league run was over, leave town for the next adventure, leaving the minor league system to resemble Dresden the morning after Kurt Vonnegut was left in the meat locker.
Much has been made of how good the Mariners were at this by local bloggers. The obvious talents to point at include Felix Hernandez, Jose Lopez, Michael Pineda, Carlos Peguero, Erasmos Ramirez and Carlos Triunfel. There are maybe some others I missed. The Ichiro thing is probably attributable to other connections.
The Mariners by last count had “academies” in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic the existence of which is attributable to Engle. There are no academies like that in the United States, Canada, Mexico or Puerto Rico. The academies are funded by teams, players are signed officially at the age of 16. However, there are people called “handlers” that control the better players much earlier than that and bring to the team’s academies, based on where the best money can be had. The Mariners went hard after that in Venezuela because they had early success in signing players there, pre-academey times such as Omar Vizquel.
There is a great movie that was produced by life long friend of mine called Pelotero that shows the very seamy side of how it works: http://seattletimes.com/html/movies/2018669537_mr13pelotero.html
There has been no official comment about the firings from the Mariners and one of the beat writers suggested the responsibility ended up at Jack Zduriencik, or it could be Tom McNamara.
Generally speaking the harvest of prospects for the development of major league players began to tilt away from North American kids, when the signing bonuses grew in the early 2000s. Concurrently, between MLB and the Major League Player’s Association the two of them colluded to push that pot of money that was going to early picks towards major league guys. The draft and follow process allowed teams to draft a North American kid low and then watch him, summer, fall and spring and if he was really good sign them a week before the draft sign them to low first round or second round money. MLB players wanted that, and teams felt that it was a better return on investment. Nobody was at negotiating table representing the kids. A big time “R-F” to North American kids.
Zduriencik is neutral to place of origin of players, he just wants talent and tools. To whack everyone suggests that something was rotten in Denmark. Lots of money and sliminess has co-existed around academies, especially in the Dominican Republic. Falsified names, falsified birth certificates, steroids to puff up kids.
The fun trip to take would be with a forensic accountant to look at the expenditures and see what the return really has been. Occam’s razor suggests that the return on investment to this activity to teams is that they should continue to do it.
If there is a reason, specifically for the Mariners to take this action begs a couple of questions:
1. Are the Mariners out of the Academy business?
2. Are they just changing personnel?
Lots of little questions around the answers to both questions. If yes to number one, why? Is it not profitable, or are they just cutting costs on the way to failure? If they are just changing personnel, why? The beat writers have not made any attempt to question anybody about it, beyond asking Engle and Pedro Grifol neither of whom said boo. Don’t get the free pass.
Hot Stove League Fried Bologna:
Baker dumped 2,079 words on why the Ms should sign free agents as rebuilding doesn’t work. You can try to follow his reasoning or just go bang your head against wall to induce a headache, the latter would be quicker.
The following teams spent less or equal to the Mariners this year and are all .500 teams or better: Tampa Bay $64 mm, Baltimore $81 mm, Oakland $55 mm, Cincinatti $82 mm, Washington $81 mm, Arizona $74 mm and Seattle as a point of reference $82 mm. The Yankees spent more as did others, but you don’t have to do it. Whatever you spend, needs to be spent well.
Mariner fans get tired of hearing this but there are some legacy things that went into their payroll that this year provided no return and a few that did: In the positive category are Felix at $20 mm and Vargas at $5 mm. Badly spent dollars from a winning baseball perspective include Ichiro $18 mm, Figgins $10 mm, Gutierrez $6 mm, Olivo $4 mm, Ackley $2 mm and Smoak at less than $500k or $40 mm. Roughly 1/2 of the payroll. Add in Felix and Vargas and you are up to $65 mm.
Beyond Felix, Vargas and say Ryan at $2 mm, you have ten guys or so at the annualized rate of $490k, roughly $5 mm. They include your best players: Jaso, Saunders, Seager, Montero, Wilhelmsen, Capps, Pryor, Ramierez, Leutge and Wells. Way too much of the payroll was tied up with guys that can’t play any more.
The failure of the team is that none of them were any good. If they were the balance between them and the kids would be winning baseball. Purging what remains of that crap is good. Following the Rays, As etc. noted above makes more sense than to run out and sign second and third tier crap.