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  Sun, July 4, 2004


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Elliott on baseball column
In defence of scouts: Bane gets refund on moneyball
By BOB ELLIOTT, TORONTO SUN

The subject of the ex-Blue Jays scouts was being discussed on ESPN's Outside the Lines the other night.

Moneyball author Michael Lewis claimed that Jays scouts were fired because they did not do a good job.

Former Jays manager Jim Fregosi defended the scouts, saying the departures were strictly based on finances.

Eddie Bane, the Anaheim Angels scouting director, who has been scouting since 1984, defended those exiled in 2002 and '03 by new Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi.

"I'd dispute the fact that Toronto scouts did not do a good job," Bane said. "Any time you were on the road scouting and saw Chris Buckley or Tim Wilken, you knew that you had a fight on your hands for a player."

Wilken is a former Jays scouting director, now with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, while Buckley still works for the Jays. The scouts who left, took roughly 50 World Series rings with them. The Jays lead the majors in producing major leaguers again this season.

Bane is proud to belong to the anti-Moneyball faction.

"My wife bought me the book for Easter. I told her to take it back," Bane said. "No way I'm contributing to that guy.

"Why doesn't someone write a book on John Schuerholz, Terry Ryan or Bill Stoneman," Bane said, of the three GMs.

Schuerholz has guided the Atlanta Braves to 11 consecutive National League East titles. Ryan survived the threat of contraction to reach the post-season in 2002. Bane's own boss, Stoneman, and the Angels won the 2002 World Series.

"Some teams sold their soul to the Moneyball approach and on-base percentage, but can't play defence," he said.

Bane scouted for the Cleveland Indians, then became an assistant to Los Angeles Dodgers GM Fred Claire, and then Tampa Bay GM Chuck LaMarr when Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli came into the organization.

"You watch Tampa Bay when a ball is in the gap and either Baldelli or Crawford chase it down.

"With Toronto, you have Frank Catalanotto, or some of those other guys, chasing it and the ball will go for a triple."

Bane does not subscribe to liking college kids over high schoolers, nor is he in love with on-base percentage and computers the way the Oakland A's and the Jays are.

"I've watched Toronto's offence the past few years and it was mostly Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells and Shannon Stewart. Their best pitcher was Roy Halladay. None of those guys went to college. If you draft strictly collegians, you'll wind up with a bunch of slow guys with a good eye.

"I'm good with a computer and we use it as a tool. But we don't buy into it like some teams. A computer can't measure range."

Bane wonders how scouts compare "say a first-round Maine high-schooler to a California player?"

"Or a college guy," Bane said. "Try comparing the numbers of a guy from UConn versus a kid with Cal State Fullerton? A college coach's job is to win. They get fired if they don't. We keep our pitchers on pitch counts in the minors."

Then, you have Oakland's third-round pick, Jason Windsor of Cal State Fullerton, who threw 332 pitches at the College World Series in Omaha.

THIS YEAR, MAYBE, NO

WE'VE BEEN told that the Blue Jays would contend ...

In 2004, in 2005, in 2006 and now in 2007.

The former regime was knocked for fibbing to fans that the Jays would compete every year. Some years they did. Some they didn't.

While the "we-will-contend plan" has jumped around like the pre-election polls for the recent federal election, never did ever hear "we're going to win 86 in 2003 and maybe 81 the next."

Twenty of Major League Baseball's 30 teams went into yesterday's games with a .500 record or better.

And the Jays, injuries and all, are not one of them.

BIG MONEY

The Oakland A's are now paying recently acquired closer Octavio Dotel, whom they got from the Houston Astros, and Arthur Rhodes, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season $100,000 US more than ex-closer Keith Foulke, who bolted during the off-season to join the Boston Red Sox.

STREAKING

Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne has a record streak of 82 consecutive saves. As a point of reference, it is nearly five times longer than the next-longest.

In second place among the streakers is Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, who has a run of 17 consecutive saves. Minnesota Twins' Joe Nathan has reeled off 15 in a row, while Atlanta Braves' John Smoltz had saved 13 in a row and Milwaukee Brewers' Danny Kolb 10.

QUOTE, UNQUOTE

"My biggest pet peeve is when a hitter swings and misses and asks the umpire if it was a strike. Well, you swung at it." -- San Diego GM Kevin Towers.

WALKER OFFERS A RARE CAP TIP

LARRY WALKER stood at second base at Coors Field on Wednesday, the scoreboard blinking 2000 in bold numbers, and fans standing.

Walker had doubled to become the 234th member of 2,000-hit club.

"A big, fat Canadian kid has come a long ways from scrubbing pins at bowling alleys in Kelowna, B.C.," said the Maple Ridge, B.C. native said.

Walker tipped his hat and said it was only the second time he had done so in his career.

"I don't tip my hat often," he said. "The first was in 1992 when I got my third double in a game in Montreal and they got excited."

Walker won the National League's MVP award in 1997, has appeared in five all-star games and won seven Gold Gloves. Not bad for an injury plagued career.

"If I avoided injuries, it could have been easier and more fun, but it is what it is. I could sit and moan about the bad stuff," Walker said. "I'd croak right now if I thought about the things that have gone wrong."

Manager Clint Hurdle said Walker reminds him of former teammate George Brett.

"There are a lot of similarities in their skills," Hurdle said. "Walker is a five-tool player. He still feels he has something to prove and wants to get it done."

The Blue Jays were supposed to visit Denver to play the Rockies on the original interleague schedule, but they went to San Diego last month to play the Padres instead.

THORMAN ROLLS

Cambridge first baseman Scott Thorman, of the Greenville Braves, earned player of the week honours in the double-A Southern League. He hit .375 (9-for-24), with 10 RBIs and .542 slugging percentage.

SIGNING

The Milwaukee Brewers signed righty Craig Langille, of Bedford, N.S., the top Canuck high schooler selected in June, to a 2005 contract. He also got a $107,000 US signing bonus.

EX-JAY OF THE WEEK: BOB BRENLY

WHEN BOB Brenly arrived in 1989, he was either a right-handed designated hitter or the third-string catcher.

The first half of that '89 season for the Blue Jays was a half to forget. They got off to a 12-26 start and manager Jimy Williams was fired.

When Cito Gaston took over, Brenly seldom played. Yet, as the season turned around, he'd sit in the corner of the clubhouse after a close win and shout: "Boy, are you guys fun to watch."

It was meant as a compliment and in the Jays' first win after Brenly was released -- on July 18, in Seattle -- Kelly Gruber took up the chant as a tribute.

Brenly had only 88 at-bats with the Jays, then joined his old team, the San Francisco Giants.

After a turn in the broadcast booth, Brenly guided the Arizona Diamondbacks to the 2001 World Series and this week he was fired.

Sure, he traded Curt Schilling. But it wasn't his fault 16 players wound up on the disabled list -- most in the majors.

He will work again.