Monday, March 17, 2008

Diamond in the Rough

It's been a year since it came out, but I'm finally getting around to reading Cait Murphy's Crazy '08. I'm about 200 pages into it and I'm finding it to be an enjoyable and wonderfully well-written book. Given the black and white photography and (to the extent it exists) herky-jerky film of the era, it's so easy to think of deadballers as beasts of some radically-different game taking place in an ancient time, but Murphy brings so much life to her subject that you can easily identify the dynamics of the 1908 pennant race in today's game, even if many of the specifics would be completely off-the-wall if they occurred in 2008.

One of the things that does seem radically different, however, are the stories involving how talent was identified at the time. Be it Mordecai Brown coming up in the Indiana miner leagues (not a typo) or the bidding war that led to Rube Marquard's signing (someone would have spotted him five or six years before the Giants signed him and would have had him under contract when he was 18), you get the sense that today's teams are much more organized and deliberate when it comes to spotting prospects, and that you're never going to find some diamond in the rough toiling in an independent league.

But then you read about Yankees' reliever Scott Patterson, and you realize that there is still a place in baseball for the random and the unexpected, even if that place is much smaller than it was a century ago:

Patterson is here because of his overwhelming success as a relief pitcher, first for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League and the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League. His acumen for the bullpen earned him a spot with the Yankees’ Class AA affiliate in 2006, but it would never have happened without a freak injury.

“I stubbed my finger in a door at my host family’s house in Lancaster,” Patterson said. “They brought me back slowly and said, ‘Could you work out of the pen?’ It was my first time ever doing that, and I just let it go for an inning. I was up to 90, 91, 92 miles an hour, and I was like, This could be good; let me stay here for a little bit.”

Even if Patterson doesn't make the big club out of camp, I'm pleased to see surprises like him continue to pop up in this over analyzed age.


Brian said...

Shys- I read crazy '08 few months ago and i really loved it. She has a great writing style that made it a pretty quick read. I now have a facsination with that early era baseball that i never thought i would (as i generally thought of that era's ballplayer as a racist redneck) so if you know of any early baseball stuff give it a word or two!

Osmodious said...

The Yankees also picked up Edwar Ramirez in a similar manner...he had been given up on by other major league teams and was languishing in the PCL (I think). He came up last year and was great right away (and has looked pretty good this spring).

This kind of thing reinforces my personal belief that the right coach (even other players) can make all the difference in the world. I'm not saying that one coach can cure EVERY pitcher (though Dave Duncan certainly has a good track record), but that it isn't always up to the player themselves or the organization. Personalities and interaction of the right people can produce amazing things, even (especially?) in baseball.

Another, though weaker, example... look at Hideki Matsui a few years back. He was having a terrible hitting slump that dragged on forever. Then Jorge Posada casually pointed one little thing out to him that he happened to notice in the batting cage, and Matsui went on a tear the rest of the season.

To me, this is why the idea of a 'change of scenery trade' makes sense...some guys just don't work well together, and some just do.

Brian said...

osmodious- i am going to go all red sox on you :) you really think edwar was great right away ? good stuff but 21 ip 24 hits 14 bb and 6HR last year- NOW you yanks fans- oh yeah i am lumping, i have been lumped too much recently, will love to blame torre for misusing him(and farns) but those are not diamond in the rough numbers- sorry i live in nj and heard all the stuff on how good he was before he even pitched in a big league game- then i saw him

Pete Toms said...

osmod, Ramirez washed up in indy ball as did Joe Thatcher...amongst others. According to Baseball America teams are signing increasing numbers of players from the bush leagues.