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.




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