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Interesting analysis, but as a long-time Orioles fan it seems a bit one-sided and a bit harsh. I suspect a similar article could be written about nearly every MLB franchise.
You are reaching back a long way, across a series of scouts and pitching coaches. The shortcomings of many of the scouts has been documented and dissected in the local media over the years. So, one can certainly fault the front office for its draft decisions over the last 15-20 years. Nevertheless, many of the prospects cited (and others, such as <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=17560">Matt Riley</a></span>) were highly regarded at the time and as they came up through the farm system.
On the other hand, the organization has had a long list of pitching coaches -- many of who were highly respected with strong credentials. For example: <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=26225">Ray Miller</a></span> (1997), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/player_search.php?search_name=Mike+Flanagan">Mike Flanagan</a></span> (1998), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=24472">Bruce Kison</a></span> (1999), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=21605">Sammy Ellis</a></span> (2000), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=30780">Mark Wiley</a></span> (2001-2004), Ray Miller (2004-2005), Leo Mazzone (2006-2007), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=81641">Rick Kranitz</a></span> (2008-2010), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=77221">Mark Connor</a></span> (2011), <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=82549">Rick Adair</a></span> (2011-2013), and <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=30399">Dave Wallace</a></span> (2014-2015). Fans thought the organization had pulled off the coup of the century when it signed Leo Mazzone as pitching coach in 2006. Certainly, he knew a thing or two about pitching development, but he clashed with several of the younger pitchers and Mazzone ultimately failed to develop any of the young staff as hoped.
I am not sure what to make of the profiles of Ponson, Bedard or Cabrerra. Ponson was widely viewed as enormously talented, but lacked the self-discipline and focus to harness his talents. I am not sure who gets credit or blame there. Your profile of Bedard is spot on. But the organization can’t be faulted for his fragility. He didn’t thrive in Seattle, Boston or Pittsburgh. Cabrera, Liz and Erbe were all tantalizing talents who ultimately failed to develop as hoped, drove us mad and broke our hearts.
The organization did have limited success with various reclamation projects over the years: <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=1225">Rodrigo Lopez</a></span>, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=762">Bruce Chen</a></span>, <span class="playerdef"><a href="http://www.baseballprospectus.com/card/card.php?id=45312">Jeremy Guthrie</a></span>. Each failed to develop in their original organizations but produced effectively for the Orioles for at least a period. So the scouts and coaches clearly did some things right.
That all being said, what do we take away from all this? What went wrong? Specifically, what should the front office be doing to correct how it drafts and develops pitching? I and a million O’s fans are dying to know.
Excellent points all. Nice work.
Nice piece. Thank you. Any thoughts on whether he was aware of this during the season? Or is that irrelevant because of the oblique injury?
Any comment on the impact of a new hitting coach this year on Davis' ability to return to form?
Defenses use extreme shifts against Chris Davis and David Ortiz. I don't recall the shift against Davis as being anywhere as pronounced against Davis last year. To what degree do you attribute the shift as contributing to his struggles? Or has it simply affected his confidence? Does he need to adjust? Or continue doing what got him there?
Do you have a list of the arbitrators involved in the remaining hearings?
Well said, even if he couldn't hit a lick.
You note that "(i)nterview requests were sent to an impressive cabal, littered with names like the Rays’ Andrew Friedman, the White Sox’ Rick Hahn, the Twins’ Mike Radcliff, and the Red Sox’ Allan Baird, only to receive rejection notices."
However, the local media coverage has been that each of these prospective candidates were denied permission to interview by their current employers. Is that incorrect? If not, it isn't quite as bad as you suggest -- though far from encouraging.
Nice piece. Maybe you could sent a copy to Steven Goldman? You guys need to talk.
I can't speak for everyone, but it seems especially harsh to label as a "bust" a 24-year old who has made it to the majors and contributed to his club, raised his batting average by 20 points, steadied a young pitching staff, and thrown out 44% of runners attempting to steal and discouraged far more.
The determination and doggedness of some to point out his shortcomings and the overblown expectations make it appear that they take delight in championing a position which sounds like they are rooting for his failure. That's a common phenomenon among rival fans and fansites. But, I always regarded BP as above that. The commentary and analysis are presented as relatively objective and above the "food fights" engaged by other fan sites.
To Orioles fans, Matt Wieters seems like a genuinely likeable young man. He appears to work hard on the fundamentals, care about the game and is a leader on the field -- that means alot to a struggling fanbase. It seems unnecessary and offensive to declare a human being one of the greatest failures in the history of the sport based on two seasons of work before he reached age 25. Moreover, apart from his initial salary demands, the expectations were largely the creation of others. It seems unfair to affix such a damning label on him based on the hype generated by others -- fairly or not.
To be sure, many Orioles fans hoped for some holy combination of Brooks and Frank Robinson with a catchers mask. But his failure to live up to that doesn't make him a bust, it makes us fans.
So go ahead, point out his shortcomings. Remind us that the reality is far short of the hype. But for God's sake, remember that the guy just turned 25 and is playing perhaps the most demanding position in the game.
If Bryce Harper comes up hits .262 in his first MLB season and plays a brilliant outfield, will Washington Nationals fans be satisfied? Probably not. The hype has been tremendous and is only growing. Should that somehow impact views of Wieters? No. Each prospect is an independent event.
But labeling a 25 year-old as a bust and among the most disappointing baseball prospects of all time -- before he has had an opportunity to prove himself -- does strike many people as mean spirited. And convenient or otherwise, that is what you did.
You have now retreated to the position of asserting that Matt Wieters is only a disappointment. Fine. One can make that argument. One can also reasonably argue the contrary position. But that wasn't the thesis of your original post or your dogged defense of it today.
Finally, it is not necessary to question the honesty of everyone who vigorously disagrees with you. Go back to that nuanced analysis....
Your determination not to acknowledge any progress on Matt Wieters' part or the possibility that you overreacted seem out of place at a publication that prides itself on statistical analysis and commentary. Frankly, it strikes me a mean-spirited.
Yes, most Orioles fans hoped he would hit for a much higher average and single-handedly lead the franchise out of the desert to the World Series. Was that unrealistic. Perhaps. But he is making progress, blocking balls and throwing out runners at a fantastic rate. Most O's fans will take that....
Regarding your original blog post, get down off that high horse before you get hurt. You did indeed label him as a bust. If you recall, your introduction described the article as "a list of the Top 50 Busted Prospects, players of whom much was expected but from whom little was received." Or did you forget that?
While you may be right that he is no longer the second coming of Johnny Bench or the "switch hitting Jesus", he isn't a "busted prospect" either.
Step back from the hyperbole....
For anyone to assert that Marvin Miller does not merit induction in the Hall of Fame is to acknowledge that they don't understand the history of the sport, the reserve clause or the changes it the MLBPA brought about. There are two very fine biographies of Curt Flood which tell the story -- read them.
Miller understood the power of a union, the importance of membership communications, the use of leverage in collective bargaining, the finances of the industry and the weakness of the MLB ownership.
Finally, I take issue with the characterization of Miller as bitter. That belittles him and paints him as preoccupied by the decision and small-minded. He is certainly not that, but simply a 93 year-old man who is disappointed and honest.
David, it really does sound harsh and snarky. You should read your interview again. It sounds like you were trying to show you were smarter than him and were offended that he hadn't read your (or BP's) analysis. Once you started down that road, the interview and possibility of getting at anything useful from it was over. Seriously, what did you want to get out of your conversation interview? Do you ask everyone if they read your work?
Personally, the story of a top prospect's rise through the system is not as interesting or revealing as that of 4A player trying to hang on or just keep the dream alive. What is it like for those guys? Lord knows that those of use who are Orioles fans have seen an endless stream of them over the last 10 years. I am always surprised how many 4A players there are and left wondering, where did this guy come from? And after he implodes, what ever happened to him?
Analytically, perhaps this could be done through a survey of average roster turnover and player tenure, as well as how players are sent down and called up 3 or more times in a season.
But thanks again for the article.
Great piece. It's easy to overlook the difficulties that many minor league players endure in the hopes of reaching the MLB. Thanks.
Regarding the Joe Morgan trade, don't you mean that "(i)t's inconceivable that the Big Red Machine would ever have gotten into gear without adding Morgan, the future Hall of Fame second baseman...."