Classic Controversy

PHOENIX–Hours before World Baseball Classic competition began in
North America, competition for scouting reports was getting hot itself.

Team
USA, and to a lesser extent the teams representing Puerto Rico and
Canada, are receiving old scouting reports and live scouting assistance
from the Major League Scouting Bureau to prepare for tournament games.
This relationship surprised officials from several other teams, some of
whom called it unfair and said it appeared Major League Baseball–the
primary organizer of the WBC and operator of the scouting bureau–is
helping some nations but not others.

Officials from USA
Baseball and the scouting bureau said they have worked together since
1999, and that bureau reports and assistance were available to any WBC
team with active major or minor league players. But Venezuela general
manager Mike Perez and Dominican Republic manager Manny Acta both said
they were not aware of this resource.

“I didn’t know
that,” said Perez, whose Venezuelan federation hired four scouts for
the tournament. “I think a fax or e-mail should have been sent. Maybe
we didn’t ask them. They didn’t tell us anything, so we assumed it
(scouting) was needed, and got our four. They could have said, ‘Why do
that if we have the scouting bureau?’ “

Acta’s Dominican
team has two scouts–Dodgers scout Angel Santana and former minor
league pitching coach Marcos Garcia–advancing the Venezuela, Italy and
Australia clubs in the Dominican’s pool in Orlando. He said he would
demand the bureau reports immediately.

“It’s unfair,” Acta said. “We should have the same rights as everybody else. We’re part of MLB, too.”

Paul
Archey, MLB’s top official overseeing the WBC, said tournament
organizers made no specific provisions for scouts, other than providing
two tickets a game for scouts working on each team’s behalf.

“Everything
that we did with this tournament, we tried to be as equally fair to
everyone in every case, although in player availability the rules were
written to favor teams with fewer major league players,” Archey said.
“(Scouting) wasn’t something that we put out there, to go to the
scouting bureau. It wasn’t a tournament resource.”

Owned
and operated by Major League Baseball since 1974, the Major League
Scouting Bureau employs 34 scouts who typically prepare reports on
amateur and professional players for all 30 major league organizations.
In 1999, several high-ranking MLB officials who were helping to
assemble the U.S. roster for an Olympic qualifying tournament requested
the bureau’s assistance in scouting potential international opponents.
The bureau has done this for USA Baseball ever since.

Bob
Watson, MLB’s vice president of on-field operations, helped assemble
Team USA in 1999 and is reprising his role as general manager for the
WBC. He characterized the bureau’s working on behalf of USA Baseball
during that time as “part of their duties.” He said it was incumbent on
other national teams to request bureau assistance.

“That’s
their fault. That’s not my fault,” he said of other teams not knowing
of the resource. “You know what? I think if I was in their shoes I’d
probably say the same–’Oh, I didn’t know.’–Well, hang with ‘em. You
didn’t know.”

Watson said Team USA manager Buck Martinez
and his coaches have consulted player reports compiled over the past
five years. “We got their library,” he said. “(When) we got the 60-man
rosters, they went back and got the reports.”

Puerto
Rico–whose general manager, Lou Melendez, is MLB’s vice president of
international operations–and Canada also asked for and will receive
bureau reports. According to several sources, no other countries asked
for bureau assistance.

“What would happen if more clubs
did ask? If we could handle it, we would,” bureau director Frank Marcos
said. “Japan has people here scouting–they’re not looking for anything
from us. I don’t know about the Dominican Republic or Australia. If
it’s their own coaches watching games, I don’t know.”

Mexico
GM Alejandro Hutt said he was surprised to see two bureau scouts at his
team’s exhibition games this weekend, reporting on his players. Mexico
and the United States opened Phoenix pool play Tuesday.

“It’s
obviously a source that the USA is using that doesn’t make the
competition fair for everyone,” Hutt said. “They should have provided
the same chance for everyone.

“We didn’t talk to anyone
about it. But obviously if they were there you have to think that
they’re doing that for the USA team, not for Canada or the South Africa
team.”

Informed that Puerto Rico and Canada were also
receiving bureau assistance, Hutt said, “Nobody has told us that we
would have that choice for information.”

MLB and the union
are staging the World Baseball Classic with the blessing and assistance
of the International Baseball Federation and its member national
federations, such as USA Baseball. Both MLB and the union have
maintained that while they are based in the United States with
primarily American employees, they would exhibit no favoritism toward
any team.

At least in the cases of the United States
(Watson) and Puerto Rico (Melendez), having an MLB official as GM
helped them to know about the Major League Scouting Bureau’s role with
Team USA and the aid it could provide.

“If I was aware of
that,” Acta said, “I would have a stack of reports of all the clubs
right here. I’d like to get information on Australia and Italy.”

Marcos
said the national teams that requested assistance for the WBC, not the
bureau, were paying the travel and hotel expenses for bureau scouts.

“We
work for Major League Baseball,” Marcos said, distinguishing between
MLB and USA Baseball. “I can’t differentiate among different countries.
If we were requested to provide information, I don’t think we could say
no.”

Archey said aside from the scouting bureau, all teams enjoyed advantages based on their specific personnel.

“(Venezuela
manager) Luis Sojo was the third-base coach for the Yankees last year.
Who knows how to pitch Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter better than him?”
Archey said. “In every competition you have advantages and
disadvantages.”

Bureau scouts Jim Walton and Carl Moesche,
who attended Mexico’s weekend exhibition games against the Diamondbacks
and Pima (Ariz.) Community College, met with Martinez, Watson and other
Team USA coaches and officials Monday night to go over written and
video reports on the Mexican team.

The two scouts will
then report on the two other teams in the U.S. pool, Canada and South
Africa, in other games. Walton has scouted international competition
for the bureau for years and is considered an expert on many foreign
players who might be relative unknowns to Martinez and his staff.

Martinez
said the reports will be standard, featuring assessments of players’
speed and throwing arms, batters’ typical hit locations, pitchers’
repertoires and managers’ patterns of calling for bunts, steal attempts
and the like.

“This will help me quite a bit, to know who
can throw and who you can challenge–it’ll definitely come into play,”
said John McLaren, Team USA’s third-base coach. “Scouts are a big part
of our game, I don’t care what competition you’re in. Any advantage you
can use during a game, that’s what we’re looking for–any kind of edge
whatsoever . . . Besides the great talent we have on the team,
tendencies–how to play hitters, how to pitch hitters, what to expect
from their pitchers–is going to be a big part of it.”

Two
other bureau representatives, Paul Mirocke and Mike Larson, are
scouting the Orlando and Puerto Rico pools, respectively, with Team USA
planning to review their reports before later-round games. Another
scout with significant international experience, Larson will also share
his reports with Puerto Rico team officials in San Juan.

“I
think any little piece of information can help you,” Melendez said. “To
have a resource available and not utilize it, it’s a waste.”

Walt
Burrows, a Canadian and the bureau’s Canadian supervisor, is preparing
separate reports on teams in the Phoenix pool for Team Canada. Sources
said Burrows was the only bureau scout working on Canada’s behalf.

Team
USA players downplayed the significance of the scouting information.
Lefthander Dontrelle Willis, who will start Wednesday against Canada,
said, “I’m a guy where I just show and go.” Third baseman Chipper Jones
said hitters would do their own scouting.

“You learn the
most from the guys in the dugout,” Jones said. “Each and every guy who
comes back, you pick their brain–what was that pitch, what’s his best
pitch, this, that and the other. Scouting reports usually go in one ear
and out the other, because when you’re out there 60 feet away from
them, you’re not thinking about a scouting report. They help to a
degree in that they give us a repertoire and the variety of pitches we
can look for, but we want to know specifics.”

Watson,
however, raved about the bureau’s role in helping Team USA win the 2000
Olympic gold medal in Sydney. Asked how much credit the bureau
deserved, he said, “All of it. They gave us all the information on
Japan, Korea, Cuba. All of the countries there we had a full scouting
report–do’s, don’ts, video, the whole bit.”

Mexico’s Hutt
said he would seek out MLB officials to ask why bureau information and
manpower are being used by some teams while Mexico and other team
officials were not informed of the opportunity.

“I think
right now the best thing we can do is concentrate on our team,” Hutt
said. “We’ve been doing a big effort to have the best team possible, to
have the best preparation, to have the best atmosphere. We will have to
ask those questions at the right moment. Whenever we ask them, we’ll
find out what the answers are.”

International | #2006 #International Affairs #World Baseball Classic

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