Monday, March 28, 2011

Attanasio Scenario Still Alive

     By Ross Newhan

     Peoria, Ariz.--A few last thoughts on a last swing through the Cactus League:

     --The scenario that has refused to die, from the beginning of the divorce procedures between Frank and Jamie McCourt, to a conversation with a major league owner before my departure from Arizona, continues to paint Milwaukee owner and L.A. based Mark Attansio as the inevitable owner of the Dodgers. The point: It will simply be easier to find a Brewer owner than for Frank to lay out a plan to satisfy a debt of more than $450 million no matter how his settlement talks with Jamie play out. I don't know if I buy it, but the scenario simply won't go away.

   --I acknowledge the talented young pitching of the Oakland A's, but I'm not joining all those other "experts" in jumping on the bandwagon. I think there will be a lot of stress on that pitching staff given the questionable nature of the A's offense and the strength of the Texas and Anaheim lineups they're going to be asked to control.

   --A scout of more than 40 years closed out his latest spring travels by saying that nothing in Arizona really opened his eyes. With due respect, I think you'd have to be pretty near sighted to have missed the maturity-- yes, it's only spring--of two young talents, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton, and a barrage of first basemen who may or may not eventually make it but give the tape measure impression of having a chance, including: Mark Trumbo of the Angels, Brandon Belt of the Giants, Juan Miranda of Arizona and Anthony Rizzo of San Diego.

   --Opening day choices (relegating Virginia Commonwealth to the hardwood):

  AMERICAN LEAGUE--Angels in West, White Sox in Central, Red Sox in East.

  NATIONAL LEAGUE--Giants in West, Reds in Central, Phillies in East.   

Monday, March 7, 2011

More on Eddie Bane's Dismissal by the Angels

      By Ross Newhan

      Two oversights in my most recent blog, which carried the headline: Bane Remains a Presence Despite Surprising Firing by Angels.

      Eddie Bane was fired by the Angels after seven years as scouting director last September, but the blog dealt with the many prospects, scouted and signed during his tenure, who are drawing headlines in the Angels current spring camp, including Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Hank Conger, Jordan Walden and Peter Bourjos.

      Bane's tenure can also take credit for Jered Weaver and others who have already made their mark, are a little father away or have been used in trades for Dan Haren and Scott Kazmir, among others, but I was remiss in leaving out Nick Adenhart, who was certainly on his way to becoming a high quality starter in the club's rotation before his tragic death in an automobile accident. In a phone interview with Bane, now a major league scout with Detroit, he said he was touched by the many calls he received from members of Adenhart's family after the accident, thanking him for his warm relations with Nick and the family during the scouting process.

    The second oversight was my failure to report that in June the Angels had fired Clay Daniels, who had been their Supervisor of International Scouting for nine years. Daniels was one of several international scouts who were investigated by Major League Baseball for the skimming of signing bonuses given to prospects from Latin America.

    Daniels was responsible for the signing of Ervin Santana, Eric Aybar and Kendry Morales, among other Angels, and vehemently denied the accusations, but he and other Angel scouts from Venezuela and other Caribbean countries were also fired by the club, which has never said whether the firings were a direct result of the MLB investigation. Nor would the Angels comment on whether the firing of Daniels played into the firing of Bane three months later.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bane Remains a Presence Despite Surprising Firing by Angels

      By Ross Newhan

      The stories coming out of the Angels camp in the early phase of spring training have suggested a parade of prospects, including: Mark Trumbo (who could start at first base if Kendry Morales isn't ready), outfielder Mike Trout (who one scout had the temerity to compare to a young Mickey Mantle), Hank Conger (in the battle for the catching role) and Jordan Walden (who could end up the closer).

      Those and others, some already having arrived and some still on the come, were all scouted and signed during the tenure of Eddie Bane as Director of Scouting. Bane, now 59, was appointed to the position on Oct. 3 2003 and unceremoniously fired by General Manager Tony Reagins in late September of last year along with four other scouts, including Dale Sutherland, brother of the Angels' assistant general manager, Gary Sutherland.

      "I was shocked and I think a lot of people were shocked," Bane, now a major league scout with the Detroit Tigers, said by phone in regard to his dismissal. "I think a lot of people would say 'wow, that scouting system has produced a lot of players.'"

     Ric Wilson was named to replace Bane, who can't explain his firing.

    "I suppose there was a clash of personalities with Tony," he said. "Sometimes these things don't make a lot of sense.

    "All I know is that I was called into Tony's office and told my contract wasn't going to be renewed. All Tony said was that he didn't like our last three drafts. I wanted to say 'you've got to be kidding,' but I thought it was best to just get up and leave. I loved working there and loved Arte Moreno. He's a great owner with great passion, and I'm lucky to have found that same passion in the people I'm working with in Detroit. There are no egos here. Everyone has one goal. I'm very fortunate to have found the position."

    Reagins would not discuss the specifics of Banes firing.

   "I don't think the media is the appropriate forum," he said from the Angels camp in Arizona. "I have a lot of respect for what Eddie has done in baseball, but sometimes in my position I have to make a tough decision in the hope that it will move the organization forward, and you have to live with those decisions. We are hopeful that some of the players you have mentioned will continue to develop and become part of our future, as some are already part of our situation. We also have areas in which we need to grow, develop and get better (as a scouting and farm system)."

     An Angel executive who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak on the situation said that under Reagins the circle of internal communication has become smaller.

     "Similar to others whose contracts have not been renewed or were dismissed, reasons are kept within the company, and I assure you, among a small circle at that," he said.

     Prospects are prospects until they prove to be more than that, and any ranking by any publication is purely subjective. Baseball America, for instance, has the Angels farm system ranked 16th among the 30 clubs, but it moves from one plateau to another every year--sometimes up and sometimes down.

     This much is certain: Jered Weaver, Peter Bourjos and Walden, all scouted, drafted and signed during Bane's tenure, are expected to play key roles for the Angels this year (providing Bourjos hits enough to keep his speed in center field), and Trumbo's status may depend on the status of Morales, who was signed by Bane's international staff.

     Some of Bane's scouting products went to Arizona for Dan Haren and others to Tampa Bay for Scott Kazmir. Trout is No. 2 on Baseball America's list of the top 100 prospects, and infielder Jean Segura (signed as a free agent) and young pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Garrett Richards (also drafted during the Bane tenure) are highly ranked.

     Scouting is a transient business in more ways than one. Bane was reminded again of how transient last September, a shock personally and a surprise to many. In this current Angel spring, however, he continues to leave a bold mark.