General Baseball

Inside the WBCC


For the second season in a row I had the honor and privilege of attending the World Baseball Coaches Convention in Uncasville, Connecticut. The event is put together by a group headed by former major leaguer Pete Walker. This year's speakers included John Farrell, the pitching coach of the Boston Red Sox, Trey Hillman, manager of the Kansas City Royals and Turtle Thomas, head coach at Florida International and formerly of LSU. Other notable speakers at the convention were Matt Nokes, Rich Gedman, Steve Phillips and Jim Penders. Nokes is pedaling a new approach to hitting, which in my eyes needs a lot of help to catch on. There is just far too much movement before the swing for high school players to grasp. Jim Penders is the head coach over at UCONN and absolutely brilliant baseball man; I would not be shocked to see him at the next level sometime soon. Also in attendance, but not speaking was Jennie Finch. She was promoting her new device she has called The Finch Windmill. After being around a bunch of Oakley wearing dudes for three days, she was a sight for sore eyes.

The convention (for the most part) is a place for coaches of all levels to get together and exchange some new ideas and techniques through lectures and forums. From frisbee drills, to new ways to soft toss, everyone has their own take on what works best. There were very few coaches from New Jersey; the convention is made up mostly of coaches from the Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. That didn't matter though, all you need to do is throw on some coaches’ shoes, a hat and a pair of Oakley’s (upside down on the brim of course) and everyone automatically becomes old friends. We are all pretty much in the same boat. We have to endure the same weather and the same cramped practice spaces, but are still expected to be successful in what we do. The convention gives you a way to share and learn new ways of dealing with these east coast obstacles.

Each year the people that put it together usually throw in a few notables that draw the big crowds. This year that notable speaker was John Farrell. I attended just one of his lectures, but found him to be a very honest and very intelligent man. The topic of the lecture I attended was Maximizing Your Pitchers Performance. The room was filled with coaches that had changed out of their respective team's gear and into Red Sox jerseys, except for some big dope (Three guesses, first two don't count) in the fifth row wearing a Yankees hat. I tried to remain focused and listen to him as a coach looking to learn, but I kept reverting to the guy who writes for YFSF. So while I won't bore you with his pitching practices, here are some of the tidbits I thought you guys would be interested in:

  • Did you know that on days he pitches Josh Beckett eats a turkey sandwich at exactly 2 o'clock? Me either. He also keeps a very detailed journal of all his performances. Something Farrell recommended for all pitchers.
  • While warming up for the game in which he threw a no hitter, Jon Lester threw four balls off the back of the bullpen wall. (You hear this a lot when people speak of their no hitters, it's fairly common. His point was you don't have to be perfect, to be perfect.)
  • During Jon Lester's no hitter last season there was almost a point where they pulled the plug and went to the bullpen. Going into the ninth inning Francona and Farrell were concerned with Lester's pitch count, so they called up to Theo to get the ok for him to continue. That ninth inning was in fact batter to batter he said. The rest is history.
  • One of the most fascinating things he mentioned was that Daisuke long tosses from 300 feet. In comparison Wakefield goes from 90 feet, Beckett and Lester go from 200. Take a second to think of how far 300 feet is.
  • In Lester's first season Farrell noticed that after every inning Lester would come off the field, walk over to the catcher at the time and go over the previous inning. Farrell put an end to that because in his eyes that "reinforces the things that went wrong."

Overall I thought Farrell was one of the better speakers at the convention. He really has an interesting take on pitching and I am glad that I had the chance to listen to him speak, regardless of the team he works for.

The other speaker I found to be very interesting was Trey Hillman, manager of the Kansas City Royals. Trey's lecture was titled "Getting the Most out of Your Staff and Players." Trey Hillman was a "very average player" by his own estimation. He decided to retire at the age of twenty-five to become a scout with the Indians. At that time he was the youngest scout in baseball. After spending one season with the Indians he was offered a job by the Yankees. He spent more than ten seasons in the Yankees system before heading over to Japan to manage. Long story short he is a true student of the game. He respects the game and the opportunity he has tremendously and really understands his role. He knows he will be fired someday, as he puts it "everyone is." He spoke of Jose Guillen and how his goal this season was to really try and connect with Jose. He said Guillen has the most passion for the game and strongest desire to win of any of the players in his clubhouse. Hillman also said that "they are elated to have Coco Crisp." He also said that since the trade, Coco has been working with the Royals on strengthening his arm because in Hillmans words Coco "grades out to have a below major league average arm." Hillman does think however that this can be corrected. On the topic of the John Gibbons hiring he said "It was 100% my idea." After being fired from the Blue Jays last season the Royals hired Gibbons to be their bench coach. Hillman said this was not the controversy that some made it out to be. He wanted a guy that was familiar with the American League and John Gibbons was that man. Hillman comes off as a very likeable, down to earth guy who truly loves the game.

I attend a few conventions each year and this to me is by far the best run and most informative one there is. There is such a great mix of all levels of the game, from high school to the major leagues. This is an event that I hope continues for years to come.

32 replies on “Inside the WBCC”

Fascinating stuff. I am looking at getting involved in coaching (entry level stuff for when young gerbil is ready to play ball if he chooses) and it is fantastically entertaining and informative to read of the education and camaraderie at the higher levels of coaching.

Terrific information, John. I really appreciate you posting this for us to read. It solidifies my belief that Ferrell is one of the best in the business. I also had heard that Cashman was disappointed when Hillman left the organization because he was considered a candidate to replace Torre. I can understand why.
I am, however, disappointed in you that you didn’t take advantage of a chance to punch Steve Phillips in the gonads.

That story about Lester reminds me of a story about Nolan Ryan’s 7th no hitter (I’m paraphrasing from memory, so apologies if any small details are off).
Warming up before the game, Ryan went to pitching coach Tom House and said “Something’s wrong with my arm, I don’t know if I can pitch today.” He was also fighting a back injury, and pitched 131 pitches in his previous start, but the Rangers had nobody else that could start in his place. House was thinking “Oh god, this is going to be Ryan’s last game, the day has finally come.”
So Ryan went out there and struggled through the first, walking one and inducing a couple of pop-ups and a K. He goes back in the 2nd inning and strikes out the side on 10 pitches, and when he comes back to the dugout he says “Boys, I’m only gunna need one [run] from you today.” He went on to strike out 16; only 8 balls were hit in fair territory.
It’s weird that Lester struggled with his command similarly while warming up before the game. I’m jealous you got to listen to Farrell, John, but glad you were able to share your experience with us!

Thanks a bunch for the recap, John. Great stuff.
I’d bet a lot of money I don’t have that Beckett learned the journal-keeping from Schilling. And watching Daisuke do long toss is simply amazing. I got to see him do some in KC when I went up there for his debut in 2007. He was in center field, Hideki Okajima was on the left-field line, and Oki was still having to jump to catch some of Daisuke’s throws. The man’s got an incredible arm.

IBM, I too am not a big fan of Phillips but after he proclaimed that “the Yankees are GOOD for baseball” I would have felt awful. LOL.
I am headed to another convention this Saturday given by Cal Ripken, his brother and John Habayan (Sp?). She be interesting to hear what Cal Ripken has to say about coaching. Hopefully this time I can sneak a few pictures.
Paul that’s exactly it! A lot of players play long toss and then can stretch it out, but their throws look like fair catch punts…Daisuke throws it on a line, that’s crazy. I am sure he’s not alone at the ML level, but I preach long toss to my kids to build arm strength and it’s nice to get some info like this to back up my beliefs.

Did you know that on days he pitches Josh Beckett eats a turkey sandwich at exactly 2 o’clock? Me either. He also keeps a very detailed journal of all his performances. Something Farrell recommended for all pitchers.”
Josh Beckett is so meticulous in his preparation that he also keeps a very detailed journal of all his bowel moments, with each one precisely timed on days that he pitches.

Josh Beckett is so meticulous in his preparation that he also keeps a very detailed journal of all his bowel moments, with each one precisely timed on days that he pitches.
At 7:38am every morning Josh Beckett punishes a toilet.

A great coach is hard to find. But when you cross paths with one, cherrish the experience. I was lucky to have some during my high school years and they not only helped me become a better player, but a better person as well. And that’s not even including an added respect, appreciation and understanding of the game. You often hear cliches in the papers or on TV about techniques, but these guys are doing it every day and it’s a very difficult task. Thanks for giving those ambassadors of the game their due.

Well I mean, of course the Yankees are good for baseball. They’re a baseball team that plays baseball games. Same for the Red Sox, and even the Pirates.
A far worse statement would be to say the Yankees are BAD for baseball.

The question that was asked was RE: the amount the Yankees spent in the offseason and spend in general.

Of course it’s good for baseball when four or five teams can, and do, spend 10 times that of some teams.
What’s not good about not being able to keep or maintain players that your organization worked so hard to groom?
NOBODY can make the argument that it’s good for baseball without their pinstriped blinders on.

Thankfully, Steve Phillips has never been near the pinstripes and he was certainly trying to…

the pinstripes and he was certainly trying to…
Why not? Everyone wants a little piece of that money cookie.
John, were any of the UCONN guys there?

Brad, he’s one of the few guys there that actually give out his email address for questions that do not get answered during the convention. I have a player that will be a Div. 1 prospect by the time he grads, I am going to recommend he attends Coach Penders summer camp in hopes he see what I see in Coach Penders. We use a lot of his drills and rules, great coach. Did you play for him Brad?

Yeah. He was assistant coach on the teams I played on, and after I left he took over as coach. He’s a wonderful guy, and would probably give you the shirt off his back without even knowing you.
He will drill you to death. And, he constantly asks questions and catches you by surprise. He just up and say something like “if it’s a passed ball right now, where you going, Brad?” Sometimes, it gets you, but after a zillion times, you learn to anticipate well before the pitch every scenario you can imagine.
He’s forgotten more than any of us are ever going to learn. 20 some years he’s been there.

He had a few assistants there with him…I think one was Podwelza or something along those lines.

yeah, I’m glad you had a good time.
Call me the next time you’re up. We’ll grab a beer or your beverage of choice. Mine is beer. ha.

I assume then that Brad thinks baseball was ruined forever when the Yankees signed Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson, and the subsequent championship teams filled with fighting mercenaries and prima-donnas turned all fans off to the game forevermore (oh how can our teams compete with the Yankees! I’ll just not watch baseball anymore, that’s how mad I am!), dooming baseball to a dark and gloomy hell.
Oops. Didn’t happen.
It’s a dumb argument, and always has been, and always will be. This latest bout of teeth-gnashing and whining is just a rehash of the advent of free agency, whom many (laughably) claimed would ruin the game forever. Instead, it brought the game to heights no one ever could have imagined.
I wouldn’t say it’s a great thing that the best free agent talent has gone to the Yankees, but that’s more the fault of other teams than it is the Yankees. It’s not pinstriped glasses. It’s simply reality.

I guess it’s fine then.
One team spent more on free agent players than the rest of baseball combined this offseason. No, I see no problem in that whatsoever. It’s just reality, I guess.
oops. Or it isn’t. It’s a fanboy approach to having the biggest toy in the playground (no pun towards CC’s gut).
How is it the Brewer’s fault that the Yankees outbid them by so much, then under intense pressure from several different teams, outbid themselves again just to be sure? Or how is it Toronto’s fault that they’re fiscally incapable of spending the kind of money NY would spend in order to keep Burnett? Explain to me how it’s anyone else’s fault they (other teams) didn’t sign Texiera? Are all the other teams to blame for a lack of willingness to drop that kind of money, or is it a factor of them simply not being able to do it? If they Yankees are the only team that can spend that kind of money, how the heck is it the other team(s) fault? Is it poor managment that 4+ million people don’t go see KC play year in and year out? Really, Andrew? It’s not a dumb argument in any way; labeling something “dumb” just because you can’t see/don’t agree with the other side of the coin doesn’t make it so.

Oh Brad, they’re certainly able to do it. Just not AS able as the Yankees are, for a variety of reasons.
The Yankees have run their business beautifully. They created their own network which is outrageously successful. They had the fortune (or was it future planning?) of shedding about $80 million in payroll in a year that boasted the best free agent class since 2000. They are the most valuable baseball team in the major leagues (the only one that’s worth north of $1 billion), a lot of that has to do with past success that they can build on, a lot has to do with the market that they’re in, but a lot has to do with their business model of pouring their money back into their product. This is evidenced by Steinbrenner being so far down on the list of net-worth businessmen. The Yankees aren’t the absolute best investment out there, but they’re by far the most invested-in team. Please try to tell me how an owner pouring money into his team instead of pocketing it or investing it in other things is bad for baseball. Please, please, please try.
Perhaps Sabathia couldn’t be had because the Yankees had to have him. How is that so terrible? The Yankees were in a great position to give a player a lot of money, a player they needed more than anyone else. Are you telling me that you’d rather players get LESS money than what the market would bear, simply because you don’t want the Yankees to get better? Really, Brad?
And come on, dude. You’re telling me the poor, pitiful, penny-scraping Red Sox or Angels couldn’t afford to give Teixeira that contract? That’s utter garbage, and you know it.
Atlanta was right there with the Yankees on Burnett. In the end, they lost out by a couple million, and instead decided to invest a good majority of that money into Derek Lowe. And you’re telling me Atlanta couldn’t afford AJ Burnett? You’re simply full of it.
And yes, it is nearly a decade of poor management that the Royals are a terrible baseball team.
It’s shameful how little MLB pays its players in relation to the revenue they pull in. In fact, total player salaries in relation to revenue have gone down. Now tell me that teams can’t afford to pay free agents more. They absolutely, absolutely can. It IS up to the other teams to spend money on free agents. They haven’t, and that’s their choice. You’re faulting the Yankees for their success. That’s it.

“Please, please, please try”.
Who said I was trying to say that? See, this is the problem when it comes to arguing this point with a Yankee fanboy: It’s not that the money isn’t being put back into the team, it’s that the market the Yankees are in allow them to put back so MUCH money into the team. It’s awesome that NY does that, and I’m not trying to begrudge Steinbrenner for doing such, but other teams, no matter how they try, aren’t going to get the kind of game to game turnaround and fan merchandise (et all) that NY is going to get. Ever. No matter how Pittsburgh or Tampa try, they aren’t going to get that kind of revenue. People just don’t care enough, nor do they think they have a fighting chance, and NY and Boston (amongst others) have a lot to do with that sentiment.
And, how the hell did this turn into the “poor, pitiful Red Sox”? I wasn’t even arguing on behalf of the Red Sox, who in my opinion, are just as guilty of raping baseball when they need to. I guess the difference, if you were going to include the Sox here, is that they managed (somehow) to get the same player for a percentage of the years and money, so there was not a REAL need to sign Tex, whereas in NY, he was needed much more.
And Atlants wasn’t “right there” with NY with Burnett. That “couple of million” or “couple of years” are huge risks for other teams, Andrew. Teams like Atlanta can’t just eat contracts when they go bad in the final two or three “throw in years”. It’s not that they couldn’t afford it, it’s that they can’t afford for it to go sour, and NY has no problem just eating contract after contract after contract when things don’t go as planned. That’s why AJ opted out: he knew NY had a crush, and he knew that Cashman is a moron that he and his agent could milk for every single unearned penny, and guess what, that’s exactly what happened. That’s why Manny doesn’t have a job (well, until later this month when he’ll prob be DH in NY, and you’ll be arguing that it’s a good thing for baseball that NY has over billion dollar lineup).
And no, I’m not telling you that I think players should get less than what the market would bear. But, New Yorks market, and the rest of the world’s market are decidedly different. Who else would have given any one of those players the years and money New York did? New York spent more than the rest of baseball, and that’s not a good thing.
I want players to be able to stay in the cities that they came up in. I wan’t teams to be forced to stay within a salary cap. I want baseball to be affordable once again. By putting a 135-160 million dollar cap (and a enforced minimum as well), removing the luxury tax, and forcing teams to abide, baseball would be more fun and afordable for the rest of the country. It’s what made the NFL simply great: everyone has a chance, and it’s on the shoulders of the franchise to build good teams. Imagine if the Steinbrenners couldn’t throw money at the problems at every turn? Now, that’s a baseball season the rest of the league can get into.
I think this year is going to be a banner low in baseball attendance, and even in New York, when they’re trying to recoup some of that billion dollar payroll, it’s going to be noticed, and all of those teams that didn’t spend a half billion dollars in December won’t be so bad off.
And seriously, you think Brian Cashman is smart enough to have “planned” for so much money to come off the books in the year that so much talent was available? Really? My guess is that NY just lucked out in shedding so many bad, and oversized, contracts that they’ve just been eating for the last three years at exactly the right time.
Hopefully, in four years, we’ll be talking about the same kind of scenarios as we did the past three or four years.
Hey, maybe then NY’s payroll will be 500 million a year, and this current spending spree will matter not.

I am not getting in the middle of the this BUT I will say this…the Rays have the right idea with how they handled Longoria. It’s risky business for both the player and the team BUT in the end they could save millions of dollars AND keep their young stars. Lock up these guys early.
Here’s what he got:
08:$0.5M, 09:$0.55M, 10:$0.95M, 11:$2M, 12:$4.5M, 13:$6M, 14:$7.5M club option ($3M buyout), 15:$11M club option, 16:$11.5M club option
That’s an absolute steal. Sure it’s an issue if he turns into Wes Helms, but what is the probability of that happening?

I agree, John.
Also, Andrew: there is not common ground upon which you and I can both stand on this issue; changing the mind of each other is clearly not something that either of us is going ot be able to accomplish, thus I vote we not run around in circles. I see your points, and hopefully you see mine, and we’ll just agree to disagree on the issue. Both of our standpoints are valid, and while neither is correct or incorrect, both are viable arguments, with no real conclusion or ending in sight, to the issues facing baseball today.
Longoria’s contract is just silly.

Other really good examples of this are Reyes and Wright. They are getting far less than they would if they hit the market tomorrow.
David Wright: 08:$5M, 09:$7.5M, 10:$10M, 11:$14M, 12:$15M,
13:$16M club option ($1M buyout)
Jose Reyes: 08:$4M, 09:$5.75M, 10:$9M,
11:$11M club option ($0.5M buyout)
The smaller market teams (no the Mets aren’s small, I know) need to be creative in order to keep these players under contract during their peak years. Not only does it ensure that they will be able to keep the player BUT it also increases their trade value if they HAD to be traded. The smaller market teams that just sit back and hope to catch lightning in a bottle are also at fault. It took the Rays YEARS of being bad before they even sniffed being good. They also had a plan and drafted VERY WELL. Have the Royals not been bad for many many years? Why have they struggled so mightily? What about the Pirates? They have been bad far longer than the Rays and still nothing to show for it. That’s the part where I get the feeling those teams are content with what they are. There is enough blame for everyone, it’s not just the Yankees, Red Sox, etc…

The tactic described above (contracts to emerging stars during their team-controlled years that exchange up-front guaranteed money for back-end flexibility) is relatively new still, right? If I’m remembering correctly (which isn’t a sure thing), this only became common after the last CBA a few years ago. It seems to me that this strategy slightly favors the teams over the players, so I have a feeling that the market will adjust itself eventually. It was a creative and smart thing a few years ago for teams like the Padres and Brewers, but I’m not sure that this option will be there forever. Or, I could be babbling…

Brad, I really think that trying to argue that Yankees are good for baseball or bad for baseball is just silly in the end and serves no purpose. They’re the Yankees, they’re not going anywhere, and like it or not, the players union will never, ever, ever, ever, ever (ever, ever, ever, ever) accept a salary cap. The last time that idea was floated (among other things), baseball went on strike, and going on strike would be much more harmful to the clubs than it would be to the players, given the amount of revenue these clubs pull in vs. the amount they pay their players, so the union will easily win out. It’s never going to happen. Ever. Completely and utterly useless to argue about it, and even more useless to whine about it.
I just happen to think that saying the Yankees are bad for baseball is about ten times more indefensible than saying they are good for baseball, as evidenced by the fact that baseball has absolutely flourished in large part due to free agency, and that the Yankees constantly raise the bar when it comes to free agents, and parity in the game has actually never been greater. I’m sure you’ve heard all these facts before and passed them off as “fanboyism” or whatever you call it in order to try and diminish my arguments without actually presenting facts to argue with, but what facts do you have that show that baseball has suffered, without a doubt, due to the Yankees?
And it’s very easy for players to stay in their home town. They can choose to or not. That’s why it’s called *free* agency. I can’t believe you’d actually fault the Yankees (or any large-market club) for players wanting money more than they want to stay in their home towns. The only way you can assure that is to abolish free agency outright, and force players to stay with crappy teams and get paid a pittance because that’s all their teams and their billionaire owners “can afford”.

I said there is no common ground on which you and I will stand here, so why keep it going, man?
The only facts I have that the Yankees are bad for baseball are the same ones you have that they’re good for it. Also, I was simply stating that I’m a fan of the idea of a salary cap. I’m also a huge fan of small government, but neither is going to happen: I’m fully aware of this.
Baseball has not flourished because of the Yankees, it has flourished due to 10 good years of good economy, more fan-friendly parks, more and more good advertising, and yes, even big name superstars signing huge contracts.
And, I’m not faulting players for wanting the money. I’m faulting the system for making that money available. If all things were able to hold true, and no team could offer CC that kind of money, do you still think he’d be in NY? Or would he have gone where he wanted to go, and made some other team a little bit more competitive?
This is an argument that neither of us can or will win. The Red Sox and Yankees are good for other teams, but only on the days they play those teams. Other than that, they’re both slowly widening the gap between the mights and wont’s of baseball.
Have a great weekend, man.

So you’re saying that you would gladly sacrifice player salaries in favor of ‘competitiveness’.
And here I thought you were in favor of smaller government!

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