BP: You’ve been the Padres GM for nine years, and you got your start in scouting. How have some of the scouting and player evaluation principles in the organization changed over the years? Towers: I think it’s cyclical. Between ’96 and ’98, we drafted younger players; we felt there was time to develop them. Bill Gayton came on board (as the new head of scouting), and we said then that we had to improve the system. We got too high school-happy in the mid-90s–it takes high school players a long time to develop. We also drafted pitching heavily in the early and mid-90s. It got pretty slim when it came to positional prospects after a while. We’ve switched the emphasis to position players, preferably college ones, where we feel we’ll get more of an immediate return. More clubs are now going the college route, doing what Oakland’s done, what Toronto’s done, what we’ve done–everybody’s starting to jump on the bandwagon. We may end up going back to high school kids after a while. In the next couple of years if we see heavy drafting of college players, we might then be able to land a Cole Hamels. When more and more clubs are doing the same thing, you’re going to have less to pick from among college players, so you might be able to get those kinds of pretty good bargains with high school talent. As far as our timing goes, we’re going to go with fewer younger players at the big league level, so we may use some college-drafted players and prospects to make trades, as we did this year to get Giles. In that sense, it’s more of a Giants philosophy. Hopefully we’ll have a run of four or five years where we don’t need many new, young players making major contributions, where we’re able to keep our core players on field. We could then use the added revenue from the new park more to sign players and use some of our drafted talent to trade for plugging holes.
In the wake of the A’s’ loss to the Red Sox in the Division Series, the fourth straight year in which they’ve bowed out in the first round, there’s been a maelstrom of psychoanalysis, criticism, and…oh, what’s a good Chris Kahrl word?…foofaral! Yes, there’s been foofaral a-plenty as talking heads, and some thinking ones, try to explain four straight series losses. Many of the rationalizations are flat-out wrong, even counterfactual. There’s still a popular notion that the A’s are a "sabermetric" team, following the walks-and-power, damn-the-defense approach that defined them back in the late 1990s. Actually, the A’s are a pitching-and-defense team, have been for two years now, and were especially so this year with the addition of Chris Singleton and the commitment to Mark Ellis at second base. Accusations that the A’s lose in the postseason because they can’t play defense are patently absurd. The A’s prevent runs far, far better than they score them. What they don’t do is score enough runs; in fact, the Red Sox triumph over the A’s should be see as a validation of troglodyte baseball. The Sox are much better offensively and don’t have a real good defensive team outside of a few players. They won, so where is all the praise for that approach? (I’ll leave it to the reader to discern where these facts intersect with the media’s preconceived notions.)
If Long can demand a trade, what’s to stop other, often better players from asking for crazy stuff? Mike Mussina wants an attractive female Ivy League Yankee intern to follow him around during the pre-game, reading aloud from Modern Library selections to stimulate his mind as he warms up the pitching arm. David Wells wants a stack of ham sandwiches exceeding his own height before every game. Al Martin wants an additional wife at the start of every homestand. Jeff Kent would like someone to wash his truck for him during games. Carl Everett could demand local natural history museums take their fake dinosaurs off display while his team’s in town. Are any of those demands any more ridiculous than a trade demand by Terrence Long?
All even. The Marlins and Red Sox get the split on the road, so for them, mission accomplished. Better, everyone should be healthy, and to some degree, rested. We’ll talk more about Kerry Wood, Johnny Damon, and others in just a bit, but there are patterns to teams that make it this far into the postseason. Most are either very lucky with their health or able to adjust around the injuries that they have. The Angels won, in large part, because they went through the 2002 season with almost no injuries. Meanwhile, the few they had, like Tim Salmon’s balky self, were compensated by the DH rule and good spare outfielders. As these four teams push for the ultimate goal, the Fall Classic, health should cease becoming an issue apart from collision and collapse. Escaping these, however, is never sure.
Powered by Side Two of Outkast’s “The Love Below,” the best Prince album Prince didn’t make, onto the injuries…
Miguel Batista could be in for a big payday. The Royals are suffering with the regrets of the morning after. And Larry Bowa, as you might have guessed, is seeing red. All this and much more news from Arizona, Kansas City, and Philadelphia in your Friday edition of Prospectus Triple Play.