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GM Searches Ignore Impact Of Talent Evaluators

Jim Callis -Premium Content

If I were running a team and looking for a GM, the No. 1 attribute I'd value would be the ability to judge talent. When it comes time to make the call on player moves, I'd want my GM to have the knowledge and experience to make intelligent, confident decisions. Yet four of the five clubs who filled GM vacancies this offseason passed on attractive in-house candidates with a proven track record of talent evaluation. None of them got beyond a perfunctory interview, if even that.

Minors | #2005#Column

Talent Goes Beyond Top 10 Lists

Jim Callis -Premium Content

Here's our annual all-star team of prospects who weren't quite good enough to make the National League Top 10 lists that have run in these pages. Last year's version included Cubs outfielder Matt Murton, who hit .343 in the minors and .321 in the majors, plus Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins and Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez, who had solid debuts as big league regulars.

Minors | #2005#Column

Sifting Through Round Table Reactions

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Baseball America's debate between two scouts and two statistics analysts, the second installment of which begins in issue 0503, could be seen to concern high school pitchers, Double-A hitting prospects, the modern confusion between DIPS and dip. But that is only a smokescreen. It is about humility. Constructiveness. Debate. These are the fibers that, braided together, will lift these two groups from the muck of obstinacy and contempt into an air more healthy and breathable—and, ultimately, sharable.

Majors | #2005#Column

A Different Kind Of ‘next Year’ In Boston

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

No doubt, the Red Sox' 2004 championship came along just when New England—as well as the thousands of fans across the country who now wear their B hats in public—was about to blow. No professional sports franchise, for so long, so determined the mental state of its populace, whose release from psychological bondage required memoirs to confirm the separation, just before they started eating each other's limbs.

Majors | #2005#Column

Going Deep: Barry Zito

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Barry Zito's career is at a crossroads. Two years after his 23-5 record for the Athletics won him the American League Cy Young Award at age 24, Zito spent last season devolving into an average starter with an 11-11, 4.48 record. And as he prepares for 2005, with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder traded, Zito finds himself the sole remaining member of the A's vaunted Big Three, an old man on a rotation rebuilt with youngsters Rich Harden, Joe Blanton and Dan Meyer. In this first installment of Going Deep—Alan Schwarz' new column in which he will regularly sit down with a baseball newsmaker for a one-on-one interview—Zito discusses his fall from stardom, his approach to 2005, and being "a prisoner of my own mind."

Majors | #2005#Column

Going Deep: Mark Prior

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Considered a possible (if not probable) Cy Young Award winner coming off his 18-6 breakthrough performance in 2003, Mark Prior spent the season's first two months on the disabled list with a mysterious Achilles strain and then balky elbow. Even when he returned, the once picture-perfect pitcher looked anything but, his suddenly sketchy control leaving him oddly hittable and with a final 6-4, 4.02 record. The most promising pitcher in years had lost a lot of his luster. Prior enters 2005 comparatively under the radar, trying to reassert himself on a Cubs team that enters the post-Sammy Sosa era relying on their rotation more than ever before.

Majors | #2005#Column

James Adds Insight As Insider

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

When the Red Sox hired Bill James as a consultant several years ago, some complained that allowing an outside stathead influence over player moves would run the club into the ground. They don't seem to be complaining anymore. James' moving from the outside to the inside has had other effects, though—including a recent essay that repudiates some of his theories.

Majors | #2005#Column

Alderson Returns To His Roots

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

It was a good day for San Diego, a bad day for baseball as a whole. Sandy Alderson's exit from Major League Baseball in early May, to return to his club roots as president of the Padres, comes after seven exemplary years of getting baseball's house in order: fixing the umpire mess and the strike zone, restoring some order to the amateur draft, speeding up game action and more. The longtime Athletics executive, Alderson brought intelligence and pragmatism to MLB's central office and substantially improved the modern game. On one of his final days with MLB, Alderson sat down to discuss the Padres, the work he did (and couldn't do), and what lies ahead at MLB.

Majors | #2005#Column

The World Baseball Classic Comes To Life

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

We've waited so long for the World Baseball Classic—the world-cup style tournament featuring major leaguers playing for their home countries, just announced for next March—that it seems sadistic to waste much time here. Let's instead jump right in with Tim Brosnan and Paul Archey, MLB International's two prime architects for the event, as they discuss the road to now, Cuba's prognosis and just how in the world they're going to get this thing done.

Majors | #2005#Column

Varitek Becomes New Face Of The BoSox

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

One decade ago, Jason Varitek was all but a baseball pariah, a player who turned down the Twins as a first-round pick, held out for another 10 months before signing with the Mariners, and began his professional career with most scouts and executives wondering whether he had the heart to be a pro. They're not wondering anymore. Varitek has evolved into one of the most respected players in the game, the linchpin of the defending World Series champion Red Sox, and a player whose only questions surrounding him resemble, "How can he get even better at age 33?" Varitek sat down at Yankee Stadium to discuss his storied preparation, his evolving relationship with the Red Sox and if he's ever wanted to tell baseball, "I told you so!"

Majors | #2005#Column

Meet The Mets Dynamic Duo

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

All last winter, New York buzzed about the new Mets—Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran and more. But now they're talking more and more about the young Mets, namely David Wright and Jose Reyes. Discerning eyes are recognizing that it's Wright and Reyes, both 22, who are the foundation of this rapidly improving franchise. In his first full season, Wright was hitting .305-10-34, with power and discipline. And Reyes, after a year of persistent injuries, was batting .270 out of the leadoff spot while setting basepaths ablaze with seven triples and 16 steals. All this while forming one of the youngest left sides of the infield in major league history. Wright and Reyes sat down together at Shea Stadium to talk about growing up in the spotlight, following the Mets' draft and being all-star luggage-carriers.

Majors | #2005#Column

Cashman Faces Bronx Changes

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Brian Cashman went on national television and used the E word: embarrassing. His $200 million Yankees spent most of the first half fluttering around .500, incurring the wrath of the Gotham press and the guffaws of Yankee haters everywhere, who delight in how this team of aging stars suddenly looks only aged. With a roster he calls "inflexible" and a farm system with few prospects, Cashman is facing the most challenging summer of his career—with the Boss circling overhead. He sat down to discuss his team's wild inconsistency, his valuation of his thin farm system and his future with the Yankees, now as uncertain as ever.

Majors | #2005#Column

Bad Santa Tries Coaching Bad News Bears

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

He's played an air-traffic controller, a psychotic murderer and even a really bad Santa. But in real life, Billy Bob Thornton plays one heck of a baseball fan. The Academy Award-winning actor, an immense Cardinals fan since his youth in rural Arkansas, carries his love for the game to each of his movies—none more so than the new remake of "Bad News Bears," which opens nationwide on July 22. Thornton naturally plays the tattooed and profane boozer who coaches a group of Little League goofballs to their championship game. Very true to the original 1976 hit, the movie adds dozens of updated one-liners—he calls his foreigner-infested squad "a damn League of Nations"—to keep today's kids laughing (and parents covering their ears). I sat down with Thornton recently to discuss "Bad News Bears," his ill-fated professional pitching tryout, and learning his nasty slider from Bob Gibson.

Majors | #2005#Column

Hoffman Heads Toward Saves Record, Hall?

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Trevor Hoffman, who failed as a position player deep in the Reds system 15 years ago, has since gone on to become one of the best closers in baseball history. The longtime Padre saved his 400th game early this season and is churning his way toward Lee Smith's record of 478, his changeup as baffling as ever. Off the field, the 37-year-old Hoffman is far more down the middle than his pitches—he's one of the straightest shooters in the big leagues. He sat down to talk about the best role for a closer, his possible Hall of Fame speech and being the son of a British ballerina.

Majors | #2005#Column

MLB.com Emerges As Internet Powerhouse

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

In only a few years, mlb.com has gone from a somewhat haphazard league portal to one of sports' most potent websites, leading baseball fans into the era of streaming highlights, print-at-home ticketing and other 21st-century goodies. And did we mention it'll bring in more than $200 million this year, giving hope to the notion of revenue balance? This leaves Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, one of the most influential behind-the-scenes executives in sports. Yet matters aren't all rosy: MLBAM has butted heads with Fox executives, is suing a fantasy site over rights to players' names and statistics, and more. I spoke with Bowman recently about the ups and downs of an Internet powerhouse.

Majors | #2005#Column

Francoeur Explodes In Atlanta

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Here at Baseball America, we usually speak of prospects in either the future or past tenses: A player will either be great, like Justin Upton, or once was, like Brien Taylor. Rarely do we get to speak of them in the present tense—exactly while they are fulfilling their promise, even more than anyone had hoped. But we can with Jeff Francoeur, whose astounding .353-10-30 numbers in his first 36 games for the Braves have made him one of the hottest midseason callups of all time, a fan and media favorite who is as shocked as anyone at his newfound celebrity. No one—not Francoeur, the Braves or us—knows how long this will last, but as Francoeur will tell you, it sure is a blast while it does.

Majors | #2005#Column

Larkin Learns Front Office 101

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

Most people think it's the Expos who relocated to Washington this year. But in some ways it was the Reds: from general manager Jim Bowden to his handpicked assistants, Barry Larkin, Jose Rijo and Bob Boone, the Nationals have become Reds reincarnate. The most intriguing face belongs to Larkin, who throughout his Hall of Fame caliber career was considered one of the brightest players in baseball and a strong GM prospect. But after less than one year inside the front office, exposed to the schedule and other demands of running a major league organization, is Larkin having second thoughts? I sat down with Bowden and Larkin to discuss the transition to a star's new baseball life.

Majors | #2005#Column

Will Hails Game’s Return To D.C.

Alan Schwarz -Premium Content

George Will holds a unique spot on baseball's landscape. He's not just a huge Cubs fan (baseball memorabilia and autographs cover his Georgetown office walls) and prolific author ("Men at Work," his 1990 masterpiece, is the best-selling baseball book ever). As one of Washington's top insiders, Will has a keen eye for how the worlds of baseball and politics intersect, both intellectually and emotionally. To mark the end of this first season of baseball back in Washington, I sat down with Will in his D.C. office to talk about the Nationals, Congress's role in the steroid mess and his deep—very deep—Cubs-fan scars.

Majors | #2005#Column