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December 26, 2012 5:00 am
And the best stories begin with more modest tools.
At the Trade Show during the Winter Meetings in Nashville, I was talking to a well-known baseball talent evaluator who writes for another publication. I can’t quite remember the exact subject of the conversation. We may have been talking about some college players he was high on. We may have been talking about Joe Dillon, who was standing a few feet away from us behind the D-Bat table (he’s now part of that company). Dillon was a classic career toiler, amassing over 4,000 minor-league plate appearances, scraping together a couple hundred big-league at-bats over four seasons, doing a stint in Japan, and losing an entire season—the one that would probably have given him his best chance at establishing himself in the majors—to injury (he officially retired). Only will and determination got him back in the game and another decade in uniform.
With Dillon and all he represents lurking behind us, the general subject of prospects—which was certainly the matter at hand, since that is always the only and ultimate topic of conversation when you’re talking with a talent evaluator—took on a somewhat fraught condition. The talk had probably moved into Guys Who Make The Most Out Of Their Limited Abilities, or perhaps into The Mental Aspect Of The Game and how that is as important as physical tools, or maybe it was more specifically about a particular player who could, would, or did manage to succeed despite a limited apparent ceiling. What I do recall, very distinctly, was the shot this evaluator fired across the bow. Actually, it was more like a smart bomb, a way to end the conversation right then and there with a strongly-worded salvo.