Monday, February 22, 2010

This Ain't Nepotism

  • Does this look like a prospect?

While doing my research into the Astros minor league system and scanning the numbers for their High A team in Lancaster, California, I stumbled across a player who put up the following stats; stats that are borderline ridiculous at any level:

Batting Average-.341

On Base Percentage-.415

Hits-150; Runs-76



Home Runs-22



These numbers were compiled in 121 games and 513 plate appearances.

Without knowing the name of this 22-year-old catcher---yes, catcher----and part-time third baseman, you'd automatically think that he was not only going to end up in the big leagues at some point, but he has a chance to be an All Star.

You might even be more shocked when you see the name of this player.

Koby Clemens.

That's right. Rocket's son.

Who knew?

It's natural to look at the son of one of the greatest pitchers in history when he's drafted and automatically think there's nepotism at work especially when the hometown of said pitcher and former and current employer of Roger Clemens is the team that does the drafting. It wouldn't be the first time that a player wound up in a club's system or even in the big leagues due to a favor (see Glavine, Mike-New York Mets, 2003; and Sullivan, Marc-Boston Red Sox ); but sometimes these players can actually play, as is evidently the case with Koby Clemens.

In fairness to the examples of Glavine and Sullivan, they may genuinely have had some ability to warrant being a professional player. Could they be any worse than a chunk of amateurs who are drafted and signed specifically to be minor league filler because they look good; or because they can run; or because they have the loosely defined appellation of "tools" that validate why they were selected to provide an excuse if (when) they fail?

Occasionally those "filler" players come up with a pitch or a wrinkle or simply mature and make it to the big leagues and succeed (Doug Jones; Bruce Sutter; and Tim Wakefield were examples of this); but most of the time, you can gauge which players are ticketed for the big leagues and big league success and which aren't. Occasionally all it takes is an opportunity as happened with Casey Blake.

Of course, there are even players who make it to the majors for no discernible reason and have even managed to carve out moderately long careers for themselves without being able to do much of anything at all and for reasons that no one can explain or define such as Eric Bruntlett and the immortal Cody Ransom. Do they have a greater claim to a big league job than another player who wouldn't be any worse, but has to walk around with the stigma of being a relative of a powerful baseball figure?

The allegation of "oh, he's here because of his last name" is cheap and easy and many times, accurate; but there are times when it's not. There are times when said performer is good enough to make it on his own. If anything, the pitchers who face Koby Clemens will be even more determined to get him out since there are extra eyes watching everything Koby does because of who he is. What better way to get noticed than to strike out Roger Clemens's son five times in a game or to make him look foolish?

It's not easy being the son of an icon; especially an icon who's been under such heavy fire and scrutiny in recent years. Some progeny wilt under the pressure; but in looking at the way Koby Clemens bashed the league in 2009, he's apparently a genuine prospect; not because of his name, but because of his ability and according to the numbers, Koby Clemens's ability is pretty substantial.

  • Sympathy and business:

Contrary to popular belief, I have absolute sympathy for someone who is dealing with whatever personal issues are causing them to be unable to perform, but there comes a time when business has to take precedence over sympathy and it's reaching that point with Rangers infielder Khalil Greene.

Greene, signed to a 1-year major league contract with the Rangers worth $750,000, won't report to Rangers camp and there's no timetable for joining the club, if he joins them at all----ESPN Story. Greene had a social anxiety problems with the Cardinals last season and it's clearly affecting him on the field.

This is a case of the Rangers having to do what needs to be done for the good of the organization as a whole; and that means cutting ties with Khalil Greene. They can't be wasting a spot on the 40-man roster for a player who is mentally unable to perform and, with brutal honesty, can't physically perform all that well anymore either. The issues might be related, but Greene was never all that productive a player to begin with.

If Greene were a different player, the Rangers would be well-served to keep him around and hope he got everything together. The Reds were in a similar situation with Joey Votto, but Votto is an All Star caliber player; the Tigers dealt with "social anxiety" last season for Dontrelle Willis; but Willis has a better resume that Khalil Greene and was being paid a ton of money.

It's different with Greene.

If I were the Rangers, I'd offer him all the help I could while terminating the contract because that's what's best for the club. They can't waste a roster spot on him; nor can they sit around and wait, hoping to get something from him, especially when he may not have all that much to offer on the field to start with.

  • It must be spring...

The birds are singing; the sun is shining; pitchers and catchers have reported...and Manny Ramirez is saying stupid things that are more complex than people realize.

The latest from Manny is that 2010 is going to be his last year in a Dodgers uniform----ESPN Story. Here's a couple of Manny snippets:

"I won't be here next year, so I just want to enjoy myself,'' Ramirez said. "I don't know [if I'll play next year]. I just know I'm not going to be here. When the season is over, I will see where I'm at.''

"The game is still fun, but I think I have to wait until the season ends and see where my family is at before I make a choice,'' Ramirez said. "I will just wait and see how my body reacts."

"From the waist down, I feel 15,'' he said. "From the neck up, I feel 43. I feel good.''

This is "Manny being Manny" but not in the way that most define "Manny being Manny".

Manny Ramirez is seen in many circles as a space cadet who says things that don't make any sense at all; that he's a hitting savant who doesn't think; doesn't plot; doesn't have something else in mind when he behaves outrageously or speaks bizarrely.

That's not the case.

Manny is more savvy and clever than people give him credit for. He does and says weird things. Sometimes it's innocent; other times it's not. This first statement isn't simply Manny walking into camp and saying stuff about his swan song; about how unsure he is about continuing to play after 2010; about how he's enjoyed being a Dodger and will move on if necessary.

This was the first shot of Manny implying he wants a contract extension. And if he doesn't get it, he's going to start the negative parts of Manny being Manny; the parts that the Red Sox saw over-and-over again that led them to repeatedly try and get rid of one of the best hitters of this generation; that saw them finally say enough and trade him even though they were in the middle of a playoff run and ran the risk of blowing that for the sake of getting Manny off the team.

Trust me when I say this wasn't a rambling bit of incoherence from Manny Ramirez. It was a message that if he's playing well at mid-season (or in May), he's going to want a new contract. He's not going to get it from the Dodgers; but reality has never been a hindrance to Manny when he's got something entrenched in his head, sensible or not. It's starting now. And it's not the first thing we'll hear from Manny.

Manny being Manny can be good; Manny being Manny can be bad. This may be a combination of both because a money-hungry Manny puts up massive numbers; but a financially motivated and bitter Manny can cause serious issues with the club. I have a feeling the opening statement from Manny is an indicator of both.


Jeff said...

And I have no sympathy for the Dodgers and their Manny situation. Any team that utilizes his services knows what type of drama they're getting into ahead of time.

As for the social anxiety disorder, do this seems to be a new age dilemma, though I doubt it really is. Greene, Votto, Willis, Greinke... these guys have all come forward because now it is okay, it is acceptable to come forward and call it what it is. In the 40s and 50s and 60s one would be shunned and ridiculed to admit as much, which proves the social zeitgeist continues to morph. I wonder what other dynamic shifts are in store for us this decade...

RicNunez said...

That kid sure can put some great numbers. Will this guy play well in the majors? time will tell

theBrooklynTrolleyBlogger said...

Pete Rose Jr. comes to mind. He had an 800 pound gorilla on his back and kinda caved. He put together a nice little independent career for himself, for what it's worth.
And you're dead on about Manny. I have my reasons for knowing but he's very cerebral about hitting and preparation.
I'm not even touching that social anxiety disorder. Pfff.

Beeeebzy said...

Khalil Greene: Social Anxiety Disorder, Schmocial Schmanxiety Schmisorder. The man can't play baseball. Simple as that. At his best he was mediocre, at his worst he was abysmal.

If you can't handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen. To play any professional sport you need to be fit mentally as well as physically. If you're regularly unfit, then you shouldn't be a professional athlete. Especially if, when you're fit, your skills aren't even good enough. Hang up your cleats, put your bat and glove away, and start a blog, bitching and whining, like Schilling did when his skills declined.

Teams shouldn't have to nurse these players suffering from mental illnesses with no timeframe for recovery. Especially when the player himself doesn't seem to be making the effort to get better or learn how to play with his issues. With a physical injury, there's normally a timeframe you can work with. With mental illnesses, there's a chance they'll never go away. If the player can't overcome it and perform, and won't even try to, then you should cut the cord.

A team is not a player's biological family. They're not stuck with a player and his baggage. Ruthless as it may be, a player's own personal wellbeing isn't the organization's true concern. Winning and making a profit are the organization's concern.

It's not personal, dear. It's strictly business.

Also, you would mention Cody Ransom.

Joe said...

Well, I am not very adept at minor league numbers. But Clemens is 22 and still in A-ball. Also, the parks and leagues in the minors vary for how easy it is to hit. I have no idea how that affects Clemens, but it needs to be looked at.

jmichaelblanks said...

Prince, Koby was a star pitcher in HS who happened to hit well and play 3B, he chose to not pitch. He had a good rookie season, but then fell off. He rebounded last year and I believe he did get a call up to AA Corpus Christie. Koby's, and the Astros problem is that he must have some hole in his game defensively. He keeps getting moved around (3B, DH, OF & C). If He had major league talent defensively at either 3B or catcher, you would think the Astros would be inclined to have pushed that development. As it is, if he can make the jump to AAA this year, he may hold some value later as a trading chip to an American League team. BTW, you always write good stuff, and I have read your take on things since you were part of that "other" site. -Mike in Houston