10 February 2011
On Thursday night, Sherlock's in Dallas played host to the a Newberg book release party and had John Rhadigan, Chuck Greenberg and Don Welke on hand for a Q&A along with the Ben and the Skin from ESPN radio. With that sentence, I am assuming you know a lot of things about the Rangers, in case you don't... Jamey Newberg is of course the man behind newbergreport.com and the author of the Newberg Report Bound Edition which is an annual book on all things Rangers from the previous season with an extra focus on the minor leagues. John Rhadigan is the Rangers new TV play-by-play announcer and long time sports reporter in the Dallas area. Chuck Greenberg is the Rangers CEO and commonly referred to as the "owner" (even though he has a minority interest in the team) as he led the group that bought the team in 2010. Don Welke may be the name with which you are least familiar. Welke is the Senior Special Assistant to the GM & Scouting, but more than just a title. Welke is probably the Rangers most trusted scout and might well be one of the key figures behind the organization's farm system transformation over the last few years. And it was Welke who really delivered in the Q&A if you are a hardcore Rangers fan.
Everyone knew the questions about Michael Young were going to be there tonight and it would have been easy for Chuck Greenberg and Don Welke to just not address them in any real manner or give an excuse for not being able to make it to the event all together. To some extent, Greenberg gave the Rangers pat answer and did not go into it in any detail and for anyone who has heard Chuck speak, you know that he did it in a way that still seemed genuine. Welke on the other hand did not really pull punches. He told a pretty straight forward story about how the situation with the Beltre signing went. It seemed clear that much of the communication was done through Michael's agent. It sounded like it wasn't until they nearly had Beltre signed that Daniels asked to talk with Michael directly... and that's how it was phrased, asked to speak with Michael. Maybe that's just how it's done in sports, but I guess I thought the GM could call a player when he needed to with out asking the agent. In any case, Young was reluctant to make the move to DH at first, but then changed his mind and the Rangers signed Beltre. As has been the team's line, they don't understand what happened after that. When Welke said it, it seemed very genuine... he and the rest of the front office were just trying to make the team better and felt that Beltre and 3B and Young at DH was better than Young at 3B and [insert one of several free agent alternatives] at DH.
There has been plenty of speculation about what changed. Obviously the Rangers attempted to sign multiple players that would have been a DH (Thome, Manny, etc.) and ultimately traded for Mike Napoli. Was it the attempt to bring in another player that threatened Young's playing time that "pushed" him "into a corner" and made him change his mind? Was it the repeated rumors about the Rangers talking with other teams about trading him? Was it something else Jon Daniels did or said? I don't know if there will ever be a straight answer. I did like what John Rhadigan said about the situation. I don't know if he has any inside information at all, but Rhads said very plainly, if Michael could be objective about the whole situation he would see that all the team is trying to do is get better, but he can't be objective. Enough Michael Young talk already...
The reason Welke is so interesting is because he is one of the smartest scouts in the business. He freely admitted that he scouts by what he sees and by gut feel and has little use for sabermetrics. Beyond pure talent, he feels that player makeup may be just as important in a player reaching his full potential and that the Rangers as an organization put a big focus on what kind of person the player is. Pointing to the big league club, Welke said it's not just about talent, but also about chemistry and having good character guys in the clubhouse that show a lot of heart goes a long way toward achieving both team and individual goals.
Despite the fact that I am mostly a stat guy, I agree with Welke's feelings on this. My problem is, how do you systematically identify these guys and avoid making mistakes. In Welke's words, they are more willing to go after all or nothing players, what you might call tools players, because they think they can identify the ones that have the right makeup to actualize their potential. I actually think Welke probably can do that, but he also can't see every player the Rangers consider drafting. At some point other scouts have to be relied on to have that same ability and that's where it starts to fall apart a little bit. The Rangers obviously have had tremendous success in building their farm system so they are doing something better than most teams, I'm just not ready to sell out completely to run the organization by gut.
Here are some Welke Q&A responses:
name one Ranger prospect you would bet the farm on to become an All-star: there are two... if he had to pick one it's Jurickson Profar, the other is Jorge Alfaro.
what is the potential of Elvis Andrus: ideally Andrus would be a #2 hitter in the lineup up behind a burner... you could really see what Andrus is capable of by the way he adjusted to leading off, remaking his approach at the plate to do so and doing it successfully... also could see his potential in how he elevated his game in October... as a scout he looks for a player that really brings it when the big lights go on.
who could be the Rangers leadoff hitter in that scenario: still hope Borbon can do that, he is a burner... might be Engel Beltre... Kinsler did a really good job when he led off a couple of years ago
on Tanner Scheppers: he'll tell us when he's ready to be in the big leagues and when he does, he'll be good... like Feliz, Scheppers has a very live arm... he had Scheppers as his number one the year the Rangers drafted him and thought they were lucky to get him at #44
what do you look for: likes to look for players that do things easy like how Feliz seems to throw so easily and Elvis makes the tremendous plays in the hole so easily
I regretted not jumping up to ask Welke about Martin Perez, but there were tons of great questions asked. Huge thanks to Jamey Newberg for putting the event together. This is probably my favorite of the Newberg events because the crowd is not too large (probably because there were no players there for autographs) and I'd rather hear from the scouts and front office types than the players anyway.
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