Sunday, April 25, 2010

Inside Pitch Live @ The PNC Diamond Club

Before Our Washington Nationals took on The Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park on Saturday, April 24th, The PNC Diamond Club hosted the first Inside Pitch Live--a new 30-minute Q & A session hosted by MASN's Phil Wood and featuring Nationals Staff and Players. Throughout upcoming homestands this year on South Capitol Street, Diamond Club and Lexus President Club Tickets holders will be given the opportunity to sit in, listen, question and meet Nationals Representatives.

Saturday's inaugural session featured the Baseball Administration Staff for Our Washington Nationals. Our General Manager Mike Rizzo was joined by Assistant GM Bryan Minniti, Jay Sartori--Director Baseball Operations, Adam Cromie--Assistant Director Baseball Operations and Mark Scialabba--Director Minor League Operations. This lively session began with Phil Wood having each panelist describe their roles within the team--then questions were taken from the audience. Much of the conversation surrounded Washington's still developing Minor League System, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and the upcoming 2010 Amateur Draft--where Washington has the first pick again--for the second year in a row.

With that--here is the Q & A transcript from the very first Inside Pitch Live @ The PNC Diamond Club.

Question: I have a question about the Adam Dunn negotiations. How are they going? Should I be worried that I am not hearing about progress yet?

Mike Rizzo: “Obviously, we don’t discuss negotiations in public. It is a very individualistic thing that we do. What I will say about the relationship between Adam Dunn and The Nationals is there is mutual respect and there is mutual admiration. Two sides that are really going toward the same goal. When two people seem to want the same thing, something usually gets done. I am not sure where we are at. We certainly have a long way to go with that and there is nothing set in stone right now. But we have two parties that are talking and amicably discussing things”

Question: Phil Wood mentioned that most people know about Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen and you’ve touched briefly on player development. How far along in their development are Danny Espinosa, Jeffrey Kobernus and Destin Hood?

Mike Rizzo: “Destin Hood was a young, raw athletic guy that we took in the second round. He’s come a long way, his progress is great. Kobernus is what we call an accelerated guy to the big leagues. He comes from a great college program. He’s a pretty polished player from the amateur ranks. And should be a guy that goes through the minors very quick. And Danny Espinosa, an accomplished player from Long Beach State who is also on an accelerated path to the big leagues. Mark, do you want to add it?

Mark Scialabba: “Jeff Kobernus and Destin Hood are both in A Ball--in Hagerstown. Both have been off to great starts. Jeff is a really exciting player to watch. He runs very well. He’s got quick wrists. He’s strong and aggressive. He’s got the approach like Cristian Guzman when he swings the bat--and we like that. He’s a baseball player. We don’t want to put a timetable on anyone--that’s unfair to the player. But he’s in A Ball right now and, as Mike pointed out, he’s going to be more of a quick riser. Destin Hood, as Mike pointed out, is a raw player. A high school player--he’s only 19-years old. He’s younger and has a little farther to go, but he’s off to a tremendous start. He’s hitting.370 right now. We really like what we see on Destin Hood.”

Question: Using the book Moneyball as the original sabermetric guide for scouting players, what do you look at first when you are scouting a player?

Adam Cromie: “I don’t want to throw out any information. You do want to identify the baseline hits. But every single piece of information will tell you something about a player. And the most important thing is to make the decision as an organization. And what those of us up here are going to weigh as most important. So it’s not necessarily that one way (of scouting) is better than the other, it’s understanding what the information is telling you; what the metric is telling you and how to weigh that in your final decision making process. Everything matters when scouting any player.”

Question: Have things changed over time?

Jay Sartori: “I think it changes over time. I think as information comes to us we can quantify things we couldn’t quantify in the past. And I certainly think it’s an information explosion in baseball now. It has been that way for a couple of years now--and will continue to be. Again, with more information, we can find out more things that might lead us down a different path and make our analysis more efficient. That said, it’s not just school data we consider. We take the eye ball opinions of our scouts and we can do analysis on that. So we take into account all the information given us. It’s not just on base percentage, slugging percentage, etc. It’s an aggregate of all the information that allows us to make a more educated decision.”

Question: I’ve noticed in the outfield, no longer are you cutting in the Curly “W” logo into the grass. Why is that?

Bryan Minniti: “That's actually a great question. I hired the new groundskeeper this year. And from what I heard industry wide, doing that affects not just the grass, but the ground underneath it which traps air underneath--and the ball starts to skitter. It’s actually more of a preventative thing, more safety and how the field plays.”

Question: Can you give me a good reason to tell my wife that during the Cincinnati Reds series here in June that you are calling up Stephen Strasburg so I can be here and not in Florida for some stupid wedding? (Laughter all around) Not to put you on the spot?

MIke Rizzo: “Stephen Strasburg, like any other prospect that we have, his development is contingent on how we see him making progress in the minor leagues. There is no timetable. There can’t be a timetable. It’s impossible to gauge where he is going to be at and when he is going to be here. When we feel, when I feel, he’s done everything he needs to do in the minor leagues to prepare himself to pitch in the big leagues, and to have success in the big leagues--and never to go back down to the minor leagues--we will bring him up. And he is going to be a big performer for us. We are always looking, not only short term, but for 2010 and the long-term. You have to be true to your philosophies and the way you develop players. And we treat Stephen Strasburg no different than we treat any other of our really good prospects. Although he is a unique talent and as high profile of a minor league player as I have ever had. But it’s contingent on where he’s at and what is best for him as a player and us as a franchise--and that’s long term.”

Bryan Minniti: “Remember, that person is only going to get married once. Strasburg will have many, many starts.”

Question from young child: What does it take to be a Nationals baseball player?

Mike Rizzo: “I think it takes hard work, dedication, and you have to be an intelligent person. My advice to any young person who wants to become a major league player is to listen to your parents, get a good education, work really, really hard, have a passion for the game and the rest will take care of itself. Just do those things and you will be on your way.”

Phil Wood: Mike, you were a professional player but you never made it to the majors, but you still found a way to dedicate yourself to the game.

Mike Rizzo: “The love for this game is why we are all here. It’s why we choose this occupation. There are many ways to fulfill your passion. Obviously, first and foremost, I wanted to be a major league player. And I was a bad self evaluator. I thought I was good enough to be in the big leagues. After my Double A season (in The Angels System), they said no--you are not good enough. But you have abilities and talents that could keep you in the game. I worked my way up to this and here we are.”

Question: Where do you stand on Bryce Harper, the presumed number one pick in the upcoming 2010 draft?

Mike Rizzo: “He is definitely one of the top candidates for our draft. As you know we pick first this year in the 2010 Amateur Draft. He’s one of a small handful of players that we are considering with that pick. And he’s a terrific talent. It’s a very deep draft this year--we think. And we are going to get several good players. But obviously, first and foremost, we need to make the right decision on One-One (The First Overall Pick). With talent evaluators like Roy Clark--who set up The Atlanta Braves System--and Kris Kline who has been with me since our Diamondback days (both now in Washington)--we feel really, really confident we are going to have an impact draft this year. And we are going to make a major step forward in adding inventory in our system--especially because of the impact players we are going to acquire.”

Phil Wood: Everything you read about Bryce Harper says he’s arrogant, a huge sense of self-entitlement. Basically, he is not the nicest kid in the world. I know in talking to you the word makeup is something you mention frequently. Is there a difference between makeup and character? And what do you see as makeup? And how do you judge that?

Mike Rizzo: “Makeup separates your top talent evaluations from your average talent evaluations and it’s a difficult thing to gauge. You really have to have experience in instincts to know what in makeup will enhance a career? And what in makeup will distract from a career? Needless to say, we have and will continue to upturn every stone about Bryce Harper and everybody else we are preparing to draft. To me a bit of arrogance is an important thing and, I think, can be good for a player. Obviously, that has to be turned into a positive, focused into a positive way. Bryce, for one, is an extremely talented player whose had an unique amount of publicity for a 15 & 16 year old. Now at the 17 year level, he’s continued to be under a microscope. I remember when I was 17, you didn’t want me under a microscope. I can guarantee you that. And I believe I am a person of good character and good makeup. When we hold 16 & 17 year old kids to up to standards of major league athletes, that’s a formula that is really, really difficult for young players to handle.”

Mark Scialabba: “The scouts also have a relationship with the players. And once we get them into our system, we begin to instill in them The Nationals Way--playing the game, playing the game hard, playing the right way. At that point, they really begin to understand what discipline is on a professional level. Coming out every day, being on time, be ready to play--have respect for your managers. So we want good character in our players. That’s what our scouts really try to acquire. However, sometime makeup and character don’t always mesh. You can have players with really good makeup on the field, but are problems off the field in character. We try to instill good character, discipline in our players off the field, not just on the field--through our coaches, employee assistance program, through out trainers--we just try to instill that discipline from the top all the way down to the bottom of the minor leagues.”

Question: What can you learn from The Montreal Expos, who had an excellent talent evaluation system in developing talent, but that didn’t translate to success on the field?

Mike Rizzo: “They scouted and developed as well as anyone in baseball at the time. The lesson learned there is to have success now often costs you success down the road. When you trade for Bartolo Colon and trade away the young talent they gave away in that trade--to win today because your sight is only on today only--is the main lesson I learned from that situation.”

Phil Wood: Damn Yankees is a popular play and movie here in this town where The Washington Senators with an unknown Joe Hardy, rise up, beat the hated New York Yankees and go to The World Series. The days of finding a player that no one has ever heard of is long over--is it safe to say that?

Mike Rizzo: “It’s much, much more difficult, yes.”

Phil Wood: Then what about Latin America and the Pacific Rim?

Mike Rizzo: “Those are certainly breeding grounds for players. They have quite a passion for the game also. 33% of all players in the major leagues are not from the amateur draft. So they are being acquired through international scouting, signing the players and those types of things. It’s become a huge focus for all the organizations in baseball to be successful internationally. We made steps in that direction and made a focus on international baseball.”

With that final answer the first Inside Pitch at The PNC Diamond Club concluded. The second in this season long series will take place on Saturday, May 8th and a player for Our Washington Nationals will be the scheduled guest. Other events are upcoming for Presidents Club ticket holders as well.

All Photos Copyrighted--Nats320--All Rights Reserved

No comments: