After a reading on Thursday night at one of our nation’s finest independent booksellers, I had the pleasure of a dinner with the sporting side of the YF clan: cousins John (a nominee to the 16-inch Softballl Hall of Fame), Cliff (chief counsel for the Bears), Kevin (a scout for the Astros), and Jesse (whose sweet t-ball stroke—he’s only 5—augurs well for the future). We are a distinguished brood, what can I say. Spirits were naturally high at the table, what with the ‘Stros recent signing of Roger Clemens. (The NL Championship ring Kevin was sporting, by the way, was really, really nice—as chic as a ring the size of a lug nut can ever hope to be.) Best story of the evening, and an insight into the challenges of the scouting life, came when John—who’s always on the lookout for talent—let Kevin know about the son of a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, a high-school “phenom” with a very large upside:
“Supposed to be a great kid, real live arm, wanted to let you know about him.”
“Well, the thing is, there’s a catch. kind of a family problem.”
“Well, the kid, he’s from California, but currently he’s in Mexico.”
Anyway, it was funny at the time. To his credit, Kevin, a true gentleman, offered to help the kid find a junior college where he might be able to straighten out his life, after his release. (His other questions: How big is he? How hard does he throw? And there was a big warning about the second question; it seems like folks have a habit of, um, rounding up. A lot. Which wastes everyone’s time.)
We also got to discussing the sorry state of the Cubs, and YF got a talking-to for picking on the club for starting Juan Pierre and (especially) Neifi Perez at the top of their order. His take: the Cubbies are beset by injury; only the Yankees have enough cash to cover for themselves when a player goes down, that rushing kids up from the minors (ie Felix Pie) isn’t a solution, and that guys in the majors generally deserve to be there. These are all reasonable points, and not knowing the Cubs too well, I was a bit humbled. Perhaps Neifi Perez has earned his right to be in the majors. Still, he doesn’t deserve to hit second. And pinch hitting for your ace pitcher in the sixth with Tony Womack–I’m never gonna think that’s a good idea. But I think the larger issue was a certain and understandable bit of dissatisfaction, from someone within Organized Baseball, to hear a player being ripped by an outsider. Guys like Kevin work with players every day, they discover them, they mold them, they befriend them, they have a stake in them, they understand what nice folks they generally are, and know how much effort they put in—even the lousy ones—to acheive their ML status. So to hear an outsider just casually cast-off one of these folks—well, I understand why that might touch a nerve. And that’s why I hope we keep the ad-hominem attacks and needlessly derisive comments on players off this site. (These things damage credibility; certainly, I think they hurt the way professionals look at a site like BP.)
On the other hand, we all must live with the truth that Neifi Perez is not a valuable asset on a baseball field. And I’m guessing that, as a member of the Astros, every time the Cubs run him out onto the field, Kevin—well, let’s just say he’s not crying.
Meanwhile, we look forward to seeing Kevin’s own prospects—and he has some dandy ones—develop into big leaguers.