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MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’ve been bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Kim Ng, a senior VP in MLB’s baseball operations department.
Few baseball people will be surprised if Kim Ng becomes the game’s first female GM. The longtime executive has interviewed for multiple GM jobs in the past, most recently with the Angels. Now a senior VP for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, Ng became an assistant GM with the Yankees and Dodgers after breaking in to the game with the White Sox.
“I was definitely one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to do 12 internships to get a full-time job,” she says.
After working with the White Sox, she spent a year in the office of the American League as the director of waivers and records. Ng has since worked in player development and watches games constantly during the season, but she’s known as a rules and arbitration specialist. I spoke with her at last month's GM Meetings; here are some highlights from the conversation:
On her time in the American League office:
I really got a hard look and a good look at the rules and how you apply them and tried to figure out ways around them to find loopholes if they existed. I was applying rules for probably eight of the 14 American League clubs, so the rules really got ingrained in me.
On becoming involved in subjective analysis:
With the Yankees, I did a lot of statistical research, helped Brian [Cashman] with trades, helped him with arbitration — typical assistant GM duties. I managed to get some great experience with the Dodgers. I was the interim farm director one year, I headed up the pro scouting effort and was very active in a lot of things I’m known for like rules, roster management and arbitration. My experience got broader and deeper with the Dodgers.
On the balance between scouting and player development and the analytical side of the game:
I apply a balanced approach. For any of us to say that we think strictly off of numbers — that’s hard to do. And I think in today’s game you don’t go off of scouting alone. It is a mix and I think how you weigh it is what differentiates all of us.
When I did pro scouting coordination, I was talking to scouts every day and getting their takes, how they look at things, what they’re looking for. Then you apply that and see what you think of people. Over the course of 20 years you see how many games? Twenty times 162 — that’s a lot of games. Most of us log everything away: what you thought of the player at the time, over the years how it differed, why he didn’t end up the way you thought he would.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’ve been bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Peter Woodfork, a senior VP in MLB’s baseball operations department.
As we've seen this offseason, it’s not uncommon for MLB executives to accept new positions and switch their allegiances from one team to another in a matter of days. Peter Woodfork of Major League Baseball has worked for two teams and in the league office, so he knows how to adjust rooting interests on the fly as well as anyone. Woodfork began his MLB career in the impartial MLB offices before moving on to the highly competitive Red Sox and Diamondbacks and back to MLB.
The 1999 Harvard graduate became an expect on arbitration and the collective bargaining agreement in the commissioner’s office before joining the Red Sox and moving on to the Diamondbacks. Along the way he continued assisting teams with arbitration and roster management while contributing to player development. Now a senior VP for baseball operations in the commissioner’s office, Woodfork assists all 30 teams. Here are some highlights from a recent conversation he and I had:
On how he assessed player acquisitions with the Red Sox and Diamondbacks:
Being able to work with [former D’Backs and Red Sox execs and current MLB GMs] Josh Byrnes or Jerry Dipoto, you find a balance. Josh was adamant about whatever game or player you want to see, you write a scouting report, no matter who you are up and down the organization. It allowed me to see games with the expectation that I’d write a scouting report.
Everyone tries to lump people into different categories and I think now people are looking for balance. There’s an analytical portion to it, there’s a scouting portion to it and without that balance you’re not going to be successful.
On how his perspective on the game has changed along with his responsibilities:
Starting off in the commissioner’s office, I didn’t have the perspective of each club and what they were trying to do as much as you do when you get there. In Boston you’re a large market club, which is different compared to a small-market club. In a large market, every player’s available to you, whether it be through a free agent signing or a trade. Whereas if you’re a small-market club, you probably don’t have to worry about the high, high-end free agent who’s going to demand a lot of money. It’s not something most small-market teams can do, so you’re probably focused on scouting and player development, making sure you find your core players that way. I’ve been lucky enough to experience both perspectives and it makes me better at my job in the commissioner’s office.
On the difference between helping 30 teams from the commissioner’s office and working for the interests of one club:
In the commissioner’s office, you try to be as objective as possible and make decisions for the best interests of the game and for the integrity of the game, whereas when you’re working for one team, your pure focus is on helping that team win. It’s tough to go to a baseball game and see something happen and sit on your hands, but that’s the responsibility [as an MLB employee]. There’s no cheering. You make sure you’re respectful and you want to clap in certain situations, but you’re generally quiet and it’s a responsibility we have. I go to a National Football League game and I root very hard for the New England Patriots but [working for MLB] you’re a fan of the game more than a fan of a club.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’ve been bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with A.J. Preller, the Rangers' senior director of player personnel.
A.J. Preller grew up a Yankees fan in Huntington Station. He met a fellow New York baseball fanatic named Jon Daniels while pledging Delta Chi at Cornell, but it was Preller who broke into Major League Baseball first, snagging an internship with the Phillies during college. After graduating Preller worked under Frank Robinson for the Arizona Fall League. Preller went on to work for MLB and then the Dodgers before landing with the Rangers seven years ago. He advises Daniels on all player acquisitions, and works in international, amateur, and professional scouting.
I caught up with the well-traveled Preller last Tuesday, before his Rangers suffered a Game 3 ALCS loss to Detroit. Preller had a lot of interesting stories about the Rangers, though we didn't focus much on him.
On the Colby Lewis signing:
Colby is definitely an interesting story. We had two scouts, Joe Furukawa and Josh Boyd, who were big proponents of Colby. They felt like he had gone over Japan and made a few adjustments and his stuff would play back here in the States. Joe worked for the Hiroshima Carp in the past, so he got a chance to see a lot of Colby's starts in Japan. Joe did the first bullpen Colby threw, and Colby didn't need a huge adjustment. What you see right now from Colby is kind of what it looked like first bullpen on day one with the Carp. The 2 big separators are legitimate fastball command and the out pitch slider that we thought would play over here.
On the Nelson Cruz trade:
He was an interesting guy, a toolsy guy. You always want to take a chance on a guy that's got huge raw power, a big arm, and he's a tremendous person. You want to give those guys every opportunity in the world to try to figure it out. One of the last times Nellie went to Triple-A, [current senior director of player development] Scott Servais asked if he'd want to make an adjustment and go to an open stance. Nellie opened up the stance. Last year in Tampa after winning the first round of the playoffs, Nellie comes up to Servais in the middle of the celebration and hugs him and says, "Hey, thank you for making my career." That shows what kind of person Nellie is.
On C.J. Wilson's move to the rotation:
There was a lot of debate within our group whether he could make that adjustment, and J.D. [Jon Daniels] encourages everybody to speak their mind. Mike Anderson, Nolan Ryan, and Thad Levine felt like he could make that adjustment. The biggest reason was that C.J. was pushing it to us, he wanted to be a starter. He really cares about his profession and making himself as good as he can be. He has three or four pitches that are gonna play and he had the demeanor for it. He was adamant he could do it.
Do the Rangers do something differently than other teams?
We really focus on getting good people, creative people that are passionate about the game. It burns them to be the best in their field. We give them a lot of room to grow in their field and trust what they're saying. Keith Boeck, one of our pro scouts, has been in our organization the last seven or eight years and he went out during the Mark Teixeira trade discussions and was one person that identified the Braves as an organization that might be a match. He was one of the first guys to see Neftali Feliz at 17-18 years old, he saw and really believed in Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus. Those are three key pieces of what we've done the last few years. J.D. finds some matches and gives our scouts the ability to go out and make good evaluations and be creative. Those were not guys that were knocking on the door necessarily – an A ball shortstop hitting .230 at the time, a power arm reliever, and Harrison was on the DL at the time. That's the atmosphere J.D. fosters- if you're good, you work hard, and you're passionate what you do, you have a chance to get players.
On the difficulty of pulling off the Teixeira trade:
The most fun we've had as a group was during that process. It was challenge – trading a great player like Mark Teixeira, you need to get value back. The challenge is to identify the teams that have interest in acquiring the player and then identifying the players in those systems who can be impact players to set you up for a long time down the road. It was a total group effort – from the front office to our pro scouts. It was all hands on board – amateur scouts, pro scouts, coaches. We identified three or four clubs that had a chance to acquire Teixeira and we wanted to acquire their players.
On Don Welke:
Don is one of the best scouts in the game. He was Pat Gillick's right-hand man for about 20 years with the Blue Jays and Orioles. He's been with us for the last six years and has a lot to do with setting the philosophy on the scouting side and the player acquisition side. He was a huge proponent of Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre, Neftali Feliz. He goes after big-time impact players with plus makeup. A guy like Don Welke is a separator.
Other unsung members of the front office:
Guys like Mike Daly, Kip Fagg and Josh Boyd help to set the direction and philosophy for all our scouting operations. Mike Daly oversees our international scouting. Mike started with the Indians as an area scout. He's put together a very good group of international scouts and has developed a thorough process. That market is a true free agent market and he's been able to recruit, develop relationships, and sign some of the better players. His developed a tremendous relationship Jurickson Profar and his family, and Profar wanted to be a Ranger.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’ve been bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Logan White, the Dodgers’ assistant GM of scouting.
Logan White oversaw the selection of high-profile pitchers such as Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Kenley Jansen, so he knows a good arm when he sees one. And in retrospect, White acknowledges that his own big league prospects were slim when Mariners scout Jeff Malinoff recommended him in the 1984 draft.
“No disrespect to Jeff, I wouldn’t draft me,” White said.
Seattle selected White, then a right-handed pitcher out of Western New Mexico University, in the 23rd round. Three minor league seasons and one shoulder operation later, the former Academic All-American was teaching English and communications at the junior high level. But White returned to baseball as an associate scout with the Mariners before moving on to Baltimore and San Diego. He joined the Dodgers a decade ago and oversaw the selection of current players such as Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and James Loney.
White seeks out analysis beyond the traditional scouting report. He has researched pitching deliveries and the amateur draft to help the Dodgers obtain healthier, more productive players. Today, he oversees amateur and international scouting for the Dodgers as an assistant to GM Ned Colletti.
I spoke to him late in the regular season. Here are some highlights from our conversation:
On his start in scouting:
I don’t want to compare horses to people, but I grew up on a ranch in New Mexico. I grew up around agriculture and when I was in school we did horse judging – we would judge horses and we had to rank them. It sounds funny, but in the end I learned a lot about the gait of a horse and how the horse looked and worked and how the body worked. So there was always an interest for me to try to understand those kinds of things.
On what kind of scout he is:
I think that I’m a person who can understand the delivery, the arm action, the mechanics, how a body works, but also someone who can understand the mental side for the player. I think I was ahead of the curve in understanding that the player’s performance has to follow and I was always looking for backgrounds of success. I’m also a person that likes tools. I know in the game today, particularly in a large-market city like L.A., you have to draft impact players.
I like to think I’m a pretty open-minded evaluator. I’m hopefully not going to miss on David Eckstein and I certainly respect the importance of the kind player he is, but I also know that I can’t make a career out of looking for David Eckstein, because he’s pretty rare. I’m better off looking for Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez and not missing a David Eckstein.
On advanced analysis and traditional scouting:
If you play, you can get labeled as a ‘baseball guy’ who’s not a critical thinker. That’s not necessarily the case for me. I respect that side of what people try to do [advanced analytics]. I’m always open to ways to get better and I’m always a person that’s researching.
On development of his own analytical side:
I think most people, we go back to our life experiences, our educational backgrounds. I’ve always been one who wants to test and see if it works and I think it goes back to my background. When you’re raising cattle and horses and crops, making a living that way, certain things work and certain things don’t.
Some of what I do I call deductive reasoning and you have to have it. And you certainly have to have data and research [as well]. If you have deductive reasoning without research and data, it’s irrelevant.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re now going to bring you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with one of the Orioles’ top executives.
Matt Klentak grew up in Massachusetts, where he played shortstop and rooted for Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles. His playing career ended after four years of college ball at Dartmouth, but he’s now working in the front office of the team his boyhood hero starred on for decades.
Klentak, 31, got his start in professional baseball with the 2003 Rockies. He contacted Thad Levine, the Rangers’ assistant GM who then worked in Colorado, through connections he had with the Red Sox and joined a Rockies front office that had recently lost Josh Byrnes to Arizona and Michael Hill to Florida.
After a year in Colorado’s front office, Klentak moved on to the labor relations department in the commissioner’s office. He worked on the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement and later advised teams on rules and the CBA. Andy MacPhail hired Klentak in 2008 and he now works on contracts, 40-man roster management and arbitration as the Orioles’ director of baseball operations.
I spoke with Klentak this week; here are some highlights from our conversation:
On growing up a baseball fan in Massachusetts:
Cal Ripken Jr. was absolutely my favorite player. I was a tall, lanky shortstop from the north and when I was growing up as a kid in the ‘80s, Cal was among the best shortstops and he was the player I tried to emulate. When a lot of people would tell me that I was too tall to play shortstop, all I had to do was point to Cal and say ‘no, no, no, that’s not true.’
On the scope of his current role in Baltimore:
One of the things that’s really special about our industry is that month to month, the job responsibilities are constantly changing and that keeps all of us fresh. Just when you finish the draft, it’s time for the trade deadline and then when the trade deadline’s over it’s time for the draft signing deadline and before you know it you’re budgeting and getting ready for the following year and then free agency hits and then the tender deadline and arbitration and lo and behold, it’s Spring Training and we’re getting ready for Opening Day. It’s nice. It keeps us on our toes, but it’s also a lot of fun.
On mentors in the game:
In Colorado, [GM] Dan O’Dowd is one of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with. I learned a ton from Thad Levine, [Rockies Assistant GM] Bill Geivett and [Rockies VP of Scouting] Bill Schmidt. Mike Hamilton was the video coordinator in 2003 and Mike took me under his wing and taught me a lot about clubhouse culture. I spent a lot of time in the video room with Mike and when you’re a 23-year-old kid who has never been in a big league clubhouse, that was an important adjustment to make and Mike really took me under his wing and taught me a lot.
In New York, I worked with some really impressive people. [Pirates president] Frank [Coonelly] was the one who gave me my first job and he is one of the most hard working and detail-oriented people I’ve ever worked with. [Padres VP of Strategy & Business Analysis] John [Abbamondi] is analytically brilliant and taught me a ton. And here in Baltimore, Andy MacPhail has just been a tremendous teacher and mentor for me. I can’t thank Andy enough for the opportunity he’s given me here.
On the possibility of becoming a GM:
I got into this game because of a passion for baseball and that’s still the case and that’s why I work in this industry. At the end of my career, if I never become a GM, I’m not going to consider myself a failure. That’s not why I got into this and it’s not how I’m going to measure myself. My ultimate goal is to make a career in this industry and be happy, productive and challenged while contributing to the game and working with great people.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re now going to bring you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Dodgers executive De Jon Watson.
Twenty five years ago, De Jon Watson appeared to have a future as a Major League first baseman. The former third rounder’s professional playing career ended long ago, but Watson has become a different kind of prospect – an MLB general manager candidate.
Watson, 45, is responsible for the Dodgers’ player development as an assistant GM to Ned Colletti. He got into scouting with the Marlins once his five-year minor league playing career ended. After the Marlins won the 1997 World Series, Watson went to Cincinnati, where he was the Reds’ scouting director for three seasons. The California native joined Ohio’s other team in 2004 as their pro scouting director before arriving in Los Angeles.
Watson’s current role includes hiring minor league coaches, overseeing Latin American player development and providing input on Major League transactions. The Diamondbacks interviewed him for their general manager opening last fall and his peers say he could soon become a GM.
I spoke with him yesterday about scouting, drafting and stats. Here are some highlights:
On transitioning from playing to scouting:
Players are already scouts, because you’re already scouting your competition – who you’re playing against, the pitcher you’re facing, what he brings to the table. A lot of [minor league playing experience] helped when it came to the scouting side. I played with some really good players along the way who went on to the big leagues and you looked at their skill-sets. That helped formulate my thoughts and ideas on the scouting side.
It was really a challenge in itself to come into a new organization, not really knowing everyone there and trying to get the guys on board with what you’re trying to do from and organizational standpoint and be aggressive with the kind of player we were trying to procure at that time. It was fun.
You look at Kearns, you look at Dunn, you look at B.J. Ryan, you look at some of the athletes that we were able to acquire in ’99 and 2000, there were some bodies and some athletes. We were looking for some power arms and power bats at that time.
On mentors in the game:
[Scout and executive] Gary Hughes on the scouting side, [Tigers president and GM] Dave Dombrowski, [Braves GM] Frank Wren and [Indians president] Mark Shapiro from the front office and executive side. Bill Lajoie [a longtime MLB scout and executive] before he passed away was unbelievable as far as going back and picking his brain and getting some thoughts on how to put together an overall program from a player development standpoint.
I’ve worked with guys here [in Los Angeles] – [longtime manager] Tommy Lasorda, [former player] Tommy Davis, [former player] Don Newcombe, [veteran scout and executive] Ralph Avila, getting to pick Sandy Koufax’s brain. When you’re putting together actual programs and you’re talking about the ‘Dodger Way’ and how it was done, my resources are limitless.
On when to use stats and when to ignore them:
Everyone uses them. We all use them to a certain degree. When you’re talking about the amateur side, I’m not sure you can find a lot of balanced stats when you’re talking about a high school kid in a small town. Austin Kearns, for example, from Lexington, KY, who’s he’s matching up against, really? I think it’s a little harder on the amateur side, but there are stats on the pro side that you can use to help you. They show how guys are trending, if they’re going up or down.
On the possibility of becoming a GM:
It’s an honor to have your name considered. The opportunity to speak with the Diamondbacks last year was really cool. I’ve been very fortunate and I’m comfortable doing what I’m doing right now. If an opportunity arises for me to sit down and talk to someone about being a general manager, that’d be great. But I don’t feel like it’s my life goal or calling by any stretch of the imagination. I just enjoy working in the game and working as a team to try to build something that’s really strong.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced the MLB executives who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re now going to bring you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces.
It's time to get acquainted with Braves director of professional scouting John Coppolella. John worked his way from the ground up in baseball, landing an unpaid internship with the Lake Elsinore Storm back in 1997. By the time John graduated from Notre Dame he had an Angels internship in his pocket as well, and that led to a couple of positions with the Yankees. John joined the Braves' front office five years ago and currently has a hand in player evaluations, acquisitions, and contracts.
I recently exchanged emails with John covering a wide range of topics, many of which follow up on comments he made in a Baseball Prospectus chat last month.
Which people have served as mentors for you in baseball?
At the Yankees it was Brian Cashman, Mark Newman, Kim Ng, Damon Oppenheimer, Gordon Blakeley, and Billy Connors. Damon taught me a lot about scouting and got me to spend less time on the computer and more time in the stands. At the Braves it was and continues to be John Schuerholz, Frank Wren, Bruce Manno, Jim Fregosi, and Paul Snyder. I consider John to be the best GM in the history of the game while Frank and Bruce are extremely bright and hard-working leaders who have helped me grow and provided me with opportunities.
How has your job description changed with the promotion to director of professional scouting?
Not at all. Like Frank said it was more a case of having my title match my job description. I still continue to lead our analytics department, statistical efforts, and arbitration research, but the most important work I do is with our scouts. All of that work ties in with waivers, free agency signings, etc, and helps me assist Frank and Bruce in all facets of baseball operations.
You've called the current arbitration system "terrible." Can you elaborate?
It’s a flawed system that leaves both parties unhappy. I’ve done dozens of deals and don’t feel great about any of them, but I feel even worse about the process. A couple of years ago Bruce and I were getting ready to pull two of our players out of big league spring training so we could fly them across the country to Phoenix in order for them to attend a hearing where they would hear us berate their performances in an effort to take money out of their pockets. The cases got settled, but neither player is still in the Braves organization.
Assuming the current arbitration system stays in place, do you envision a day, perhaps five years from now, when advanced statistics will help one side win a hearing?
Arbitration is a complete crapshoot. Either side – club or player – could make a compelling case and still lose based upon the whims of an arbitration panel that knows very little about baseball.
Do you have any ideas on changes that could eliminate the manuevering some teams do to prevent top prospects from getting Super Two status?
I don’t think a perfect system exists. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think some clubs tried to prevent prospects from getting Super Two status, but I think it’s overstated. Teams need to win games, otherwise the management team holding these players back will themselves be held accountable. We all need to win and I know at the Braves we have never held somebody back because it might save us a few million dollars a few years down the line.
All of these waiver claims and minor league signings make me proud because it shows the great work our scouts are doing for the Braves. A week ago we closed out a doubleheader sweep of the Mets in New York with Cristhian Martinez, Eric O’Flaherty, and Anthony Varvaro, all three of whom were claimed off waivers. Dom Chiti and Jeff Wren pushed hard for Martinez. Fregosi and Dick Balderson pushed hard for O’Flaherty and Varvaro. Tim Conroy pushed hard for Constanza. All of us talk about these players and Frank makes the final decision, but we are all part of the process, and I feel like we have had more success in these markets than any other team in baseball.
You've mentioned how the next Cubs GM will be entering a challenging situation. What would be your approach to fixing the club? Do you think the Cubs should use 2012 as a rebuilding year, despite the size of their fan base?
I don’t feel comfortable commenting on how other clubs should approach the construction of their club. Our focus at the Braves is on getting into the playoffs, advancing as far as possible, and putting together another great club for 2012.
MLBTR’s list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re now going to bring you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Yankees executive Damon Oppenheimer.
The Padres were a natural fit for Damon Oppenheimer when his playing career ended in 1985. He was a) a sports-obsessed southern California native b) a former peanut vendor at Jack Murphy Stadium, then the home of the Padres and c) the son of a Padres’ front office employee - Oppenheimer’s mother handled San Diego's minor league operations for decades before retiring a few years ago.
The Brewers drafted Damon as a catcher out of USC in 1985, but it didn’t take long for him to join the Padres as an area scout and begin a career in player evaluation when his playing career ended after one season.
Oppenheimer scouted for the Padres, Rangers and Yankees, both in the U.S. and in Latin America before assuming his current role as the Yankees’ scouting director. Though he continues to scout on special assignments in Latin American and Asia, his primary responsibility is evaluating domestic talent for the amateur draft. Since becoming scouting director in 2005, Oppenheimer has selected the likes of Brett Gardner, Austin Jackson, Ian Kennedy and David Robertson with the help of his scouting staff.
He and I spoke last week; here are some highlights from the conversation:
MLBTR's list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Nationals assistant GM Bryan Minniti.
Though Bryan Minniti of the Nationals is one of the younger candidates on our list, the 31-year-old has been working in baseball for over a decade and has already served under four GMs.
Minniti started under former Pirates GM Cam Bonifay in Pittsburgh, where he worked full-time hours for part-time pay. By the time the Pirates had replaced Bonifay with Dave Littlefield and Littlefield with current GM Neal Huntington, Minniti had graduated from intern to director of baseball operations.
Then, after nine seasons with the Pirates, the University of Pittsburgh graduate (Mathematics & Statistics) headed to D.C. in 2009. Washington GM Mike Rizzo made Minniti assistant GM, a role that includes contract negotiations, arbitration preparation, budget work and roster decisions. His role does include procedural work and number crunching, but Minniti is a people person whose problem solving skills apply in diverse situations.
MLBTR's list of general manager candidates introduced 20 people who were identified by their peers as potential Major League GMs. We’re bringing you closer to the candidates with a series of pieces. Today the series continues with Rockies senior vice president of scouting and player development/assistant general manager Bill Geivett, who ranked 15th on our list.
Bill Geivett grew up in Sacramento rooting for the Swingin' A's. A speedy third baseman, he played ball at Sacramento City College and later majored in economics at the University of California-Santa Barbara, telling me, "I'm a Gaucho, and will always be a Gaucho." Geivett was drafted four times, but a desire to complete his degree compelled him to wait until after his senior season to sign with the Angels. A knee injury ended Geivett's playing career at the Double-A level, after which he obtained a Masters and coached collegiately at Loyola Marymount and Long Beach State.
Geivett got into scouting after that, telling me, "I still believe I'm the only person that has taken a pay cut to go to the New York Yankees." After about four years with the Yankees he took a step up to become the Expos' farm director. After three years there he joined Chuck LaMar as a special assistant to the GM for the Devil Rays, helping prepare for the expansion draft and taking part in many firsts for the organization. Next came an eventual assistant GM position with the Dodgers under Kevin Malone, after which Geivett began his long tenure with the Rockies in 2000. He now oversees scouting and player development and assists with all baseball decisions. I talked to Geivett on the phone yesterday.
On his mentors:
Bill Livesey is one of the biggest mentors I've had in baseball. He really taught me how to scout and how scouting and player development worked [while with the Yankees]. The biggest thing I've learned from [Rockies GM] Dan O'Dowd is perseverence. There were a lot of lean times here, as we were involved in a rebuilding-type situation. To see our leader show up every day, grinding it out, he kept on going when times looked tough for us. The perspective of a MLB manager I learned from Felipe Alou and Tommy Lasorda. Keli McGregor, our former president, and Dick Monfort, our owner, had a big influence on me also.
On stats and scouting:
If you talk to the scouts they'd probably say I'm too involved in statistics. Talk to some stat guys, they'd probably tell you I like scouting too much. I think there's always times where you lean on one or the other. As you're dealing with Major League players, it's a lot more appropriate to lean on stats. I think statistics are a fabulous indication of what's happened. I think the scout's job is to try to tell you what will happen.
I've never really understood the scouts versus stats argument; I don't see it. For somebody to make a good decision they need a clear understanding of all it. You can get the oldest scout you want and he's going to pull out stats and look at them. There are a lot of scouts who will look at statistical information and already have an opinion before they even watch the player. And they've got big floppy hats and gray hair.
The trade he was involved with of which he's most proud:
The Matt Holliday trade was definitely big for us. If we're going to trade Matt we need to get a young, middle of the order position player back, and we got Carlos Gonzalez. You have a criteria in your mind and to be able to make a deal that actually fit was tremendous. We were at an advantage because Arizona had him originally and we were down in Tucson and played Arizona all the time. I can remember [senior director of international scouting] Rolando Fernandez and I were sitting there watching him in the instructional league one year, and we were talking about how that's the type of position player we need to sign. We really hadn't broken the position player barrier at the time. We always looked at CarGo as the type of guy we wanted to get. We had a long history with him.
The draft pick of which he's most proud:
Troy Tulowitzki. I coached at Long Beach State; Bill Schmidt, our VP of scouting, went to Long Beach State. We felt like we knew him very well. If available, we were going to be able to acquire a corner bat at a premium defensive position. Bill Schmidt said he would be available, but I didn't think he'd be there for us [at the seventh overall pick]. The first day [Tulowitzki] showed up he said, "I just want to tell you guys I want to be here my whole career," and he hadn't even played in A ball yet.