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Shots at the Breeze... with Kris Kline

A little transactional news, first. The Nats today named Devon White as their special assistant for player development; they named Pat Corrales as their special consultant to the senior vice president and general manager. Both had been with the organization last year -- White as a roving minor league coordinator, and Corrales as a bench coach.

But I wanted to go back to Kris Kline, who was mentioned in yesterday's blog post, and who today will be given a little belated limelight. Kline's job -- and his knowledge -- is the kind that requires mileage. His job, of course, also ensures anonymity. He's a scout, promoted yesterday by the Nats into a national crosschecker position that means, as Kline joked today, "the responsibilities stay the same, but the travel is larger." Now, Kline goes everywhere in the US, instead of remaining mostly in the west. I'm using Kline today to introduce what I hope will become a semi-regular NJ segment, ala Esquire's What I've Learned. (We'll get some players involved, hopefully, and some other behind-the-scenes types too.) Anyway, here is Kline's wisdom, excerpted but largely unfiltered...

* "I'm at home right now [outside Phoenix], just trying to lay low and avoid everybody. But in a few days, I'll start scouting the Arizona Fall League. That goes until the 20th of November. I have two teams [to scout], both in Peoria. Obviously it's great weather, nice ballparks. A high percentage of these guys will be playing in the big leagues; these are guys you'll eventually be seeing on television. But the crowds are small. I guess the real negative is, the games are played at 12:30 p.m., when most people are at work. So you get a couple hundred people, that's it. I get to pick my seat."

* "I was actually just talking about this with my daughter. She asked the same question. Well, I've never been to Hawaii. Never been to either of the Dakotas. Never been to Vermont of Maine. And that's it."

* "I went to Alaska for the first time this September to visit my son, who's in the coast guard. He loves it. He's 18. He went through boot camp at 17 -- the youngest who did that. I was joking with my ex-wife: I was always giving him bats and balls and sports equipment when he was growing up, and she was giving him guns and plastic toys like that. By the time he was 10, all of the balls had disappeared from the toy box. He's more of your extreme sports guy -- anything where there's risk involved. I was driving there to Valdez (where he's stationed) and I was thinking two things: How beautiful it was, and how intimidating it was. It's just so vast. He ended up taking me out on a boat, doing J turns where you just hit the brakes on a dime. We were about 30 miles out. Saw otters, little puffin birds... One of the two best experiences of my life with him. He was with me for Game 7 of the 2001 World Series when I was with Arizona."

* "Beyond 10 days, travel on the road gets a little crazy. You get a little burned out. But my dad was in the military, so I learned how to pack as much into a small suitcase as you possible can."

* "From the time the season starts, you only have 13 Fridays until the draft. You'd like to see every Friday night starter -- with college teams, those are typically the ace of your staff. You'd want to see -- well, if you could, every Friday night starter of every school in ACC, Pac 10, and SEC and the Big 12."

* "Absolutely Strasburg lives up to the hype. He's a big strong kid. Good body, good pitcher's frame. His velocity has been as high as 100. He's a strike-thrower. He's poised. Any of the 30 teams would love to have him."

* "You know, I'm still going to go about my business the way I always have. I'm there to support Dana Brown and Mike Rizzo and Jim [Bowden] and see as many players as possible. Just get as deep into the draft as I possibly can. Even if it's just to put a name to a face -- see the positives and negatives of every priority player. I'll start out the year in California, and typically there's a lot of tournaments going on there in the beginning of the year [where you can catch multiple teams]. Then during the Easter break a lot of cold weather schools go to Florida; it's a great place. If you have a lot of schools in one place, you can't afford not to be there. From the guys I've seen this summer, Florida colleges are down this year. The better talent areas as far as the high schools and colleges would be in northern part of Texas, and the Carolinas are especially good this year too. You've got your Strasburgs and Grant Greens in Southern California, but the depth isn't as good there as it usually is. So we just go where the players are, and it goes through cycles -- ups and downs."

* "I'll give you five names -- the best I've seen. One is John Lackey -- that's a kid I signed when I was with the Angels. B.J. Upton. Evan Longoria. Joe Mauer. But the most fun I've had scouting a player or watching him play was Troy Tulowitzki. I'm kind of an old school guy, and Troy -- when you watched him play in college, he gave you that impression of how players went about their business in the 1920s or 30s. just the way he competes. How aggressive he was. His work ethic. The way he carried himself -- like he'd play for nothing."

* "It's unfortunate for me that a lot of teams are basing their scouting on stats and all kinds of formulas. It seems like they're trying to reinvent the game. And the game is still the same. If you walked into a ballpark and saw Troy, you just had a sense that he'd be in the majors. You develop that instinct, first, I guess, as a player. I've been playing baseball since I was 7 or 8 years old, and when I got into the baseball I wasn't the best player -- jack of all trades, master of absolutely none. Knew I wasn't gonna play in big leagues, but I always paid attention to better players, listened to managers, picked their brains, and after a while, you have a larger database to go by. You learn it. Nothing replaces your instincts as far as evaluating a player. Statistics tell a part of the story: If a guy hits .300 everywhere he's been, he's a pretty good hitter. If he's a .240 hitter in Class AA and he's 24 yrs old, he's probably just that. But stats are stats -- and yeah, some people put a lot of emphasis on that; it's how they're graded in the end. But as far as putting a draftboard together, it should be just a small piece to the puzzle."

* "Always pack a good jacket, especially if you're traveling to Chicago."

By Chico Harlan  |  October 29, 2008; 4:45 PM ET
 
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Next: Cordero, Orr, Wagner Become FAs; Pena Exercises Option

Comments

Thanks Chico, that was really cool.

In the future could you maybe include the questions? For some of them I had a hard time figuring it all out.

Posted by: NattyDelite | October 29, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Why am I shocked that this team is on an extreme end of the "I like his tools and the cut of his jib" vs. objective data method of evaluation?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 29, 2008 5:24 PM | Report abuse

SInce when are tools an extreme and/or bad thing. Lackey, Upton, Tulo, Longoria, and Mauer all have tools. I love the Jamey Carrol's and 'got heart' guys too, but without tools heart has its limits. This ongoing criticism of 'toolsy players' as being a bad thing baffles me. It implies that somehow there are successful teams out there who shun toolsy players in favor of intangible qualities. Tools and heart are not mutually exclusive. Neither are tools and patience, tools and good eyes, or tools and hard work. But without tools all those other things are will only get you to AAA.

It is nice to see the emphasis on building the organization. One top scout brought in from the outside, one promoted from within. Continual focus on a common philosophy and vision. Perhaps we will see some results soon and later.

Posted by: natbisquit | October 29, 2008 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Tools? There are lots of tools who post here. I'd name them, but they'd never admit that they're tools. But we all know who they are, don't we?

Posted by: nunof1 | October 29, 2008 10:52 PM | Report abuse

love scouts. want to be one. baseball is baseball, and some people just know how to play it. stats can be useful, but in judging talent, instincts, you have to see it. a specific skill set, a look, timing. i hope kris is among the best at it.

Posted by: formerlylove | October 30, 2008 2:39 AM | Report abuse

I don't think he is in any way saying that he doesn't like tools guys. He's simply saying that all of the teams who forget about the intangibles and try to fit some guy into statistical matrix are missing a big part of the player.

As he said about Tulowitzki, he just had a gut feeling about him. We all get those gut feelings pertaining to some aspect of our jobs, and because we've become excellent at our jobs, we listen to those gut feelings. It seems like that comment was more about nostalgia than anything. And I think he knows that if a kid can't play, he can't play.

Posted by: Cavalier83 | October 30, 2008 6:18 AM | Report abuse

Hearing all these scouts and crosscheckers give comments about how they do there job reminds me of those storm chasing, tornado watching weathermen. They know lots about storms and tornados, but they have no idea where they will go, just an instinct.

Posted by: NatsWin | October 30, 2008 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Chico, as a vet I have to correct you. Coast Guard, not coast guard. Semper Paratus no Simply Forgotus!

Posted by: 6thandD | October 30, 2008 8:11 AM | Report abuse

"we listen to those gut feelings"

What do you mean? You never listened to me!

Posted by: RayKingsGutFeeling | October 30, 2008 9:15 AM | Report abuse

Very cool piece, Chico. I definitely support a "What I've Learned" segment at NJ.

Posted by: JohninMpls | October 30, 2008 11:00 AM | Report abuse

OK, slightly stupid question, but what's the difference between a crosschecker and a scout?

Posted by: Juan-John | October 30, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

So, before I go off an confirm this I'll throw it off the top of my head. Scouts will scour an area to look at as many prospects as they can and then send their lists ranking those players to the team. Then the Regional Crosschecker shows up to have a look at the players and make sure they still look good to a second pair of eyes. The National XCKR (ooh, look, I made an acronym!) then looks at the cream of THAT crop to make sure again again.

Hang on, Google search time...

Yep, that's pretty much it (except the Regional guy isn't always referred to with a XCKR label)... See here: http://www.hsbaseballweb.com/pro-scouting/scouting_ranks.htm

Posted by: OldDude | October 30, 2008 12:57 PM | Report abuse

One fewer tormentor in the NL East? Jacobs on his way to KC for a reliever?

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/royals/story/865476.html

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 30, 2008 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I suppose this guy is supposed to be the uberscout, so I suppose it is natural to for him to push scouts cmoe up with lines like: "It's unfortunate for me that a lot of teams are basing their scouting on stats and all kinds of formulas. It seems like they're trying to reinvent the game," and "Nothing replaces your instincts as far as evaluating a player." Sure he acknowledges stats are a small piece of the puzzle in putting together a draft board.

Most of you follow the organization more closely than I do, so please answer this: We know a number of members of the FO that are identified with looking for raw athleticism when evaluating players rather than performance and historic trach record. I'd suggest both Rizzo and Bowden are in that camp. Can we identify one guy who is the data cruncher and tries to identify players that way? Sure Manny is known as a bit of a stat head, but he is at the end of the system, not the front. Anyone else?

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 30, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

How do we feel about potentially signing (i.e., awarding a supercontract to) AJ Burnett? ESPN puts us in the mix, and cites potential geographic reasons for him to come to the mid-Atlantic.

http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=3673272

Burnett is 31 and going to be looking for at least 4 years, 60 million. Is this a premature move that would be inconsistent with (and potentially cripple) the Plan by expending dollars better spent on youth and the farm system, or would it be a step that could appease some of the impatients among the NJ readers and other Nats fans?

For me, 4 yrs and 60 seems just about at the right side of reasonable. Putting $15M/year into one player still seems like it could leave plenty of money to pursue other options and sign all of our draft picks, as well as let our young pitchers in both MLB and A/AA/AAA continue to develop at appropriate paces. If that's our splash, I don't mind it, although realistically I don't know if there's money left over to then get the left-handed impact bat thereafter. Further in the plus column, Burnett had no injury issues this year, despite pitching a career-high number of innings and getting a career-high number of Ks. On the downside, Burnett is someone who has had recurring right elbow issues in '04 and '06, and then two stints on the 15-day DL for right shoulder soreness in '07.

Posted by: faNATic | October 30, 2008 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Nats.com reporting that Cordero, Wagner and Orr all declined outright assignments to Syracuse AAA and are all free agents.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Nats.com reporting that Cordero, Wagner and Orr all declined outright assignments to Syracuse AAA and are all free agents.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 4:08 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say this, but is it just me or is Chico getting continually scooped by Bill Ladson of all people!!! What is Chico doing? This is the home town team for the home town paper and I don't think Chico has another beat to write for.

Chico, I love your writing, I just want to see some more of it!

Posted by: NatsWin | October 30, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

@NatsWin

Maybe Chico needs a surrogate. I regularly read the Post's Caps blog and Katie Carrera updates when Tarik El-Bashir isn't available. Hey, DeNunzio! How about a little help here?

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

In other news, only 107 more shopping days until pitchers and catchers report on February 14. Chocolates, flowers, and baseball (I'll have a #1 starter, please). It doesn't get any better than that!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 30, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

In other news, only 107 more shopping days until pitchers and catchers report on February 14. Chocolates, flowers, and baseball (I'll have a #1 starter, please). It doesn't get any better than that!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 30, 2008 4:35 PM | Report abuse

In other news, only 107 more shopping days until pitchers and catchers report on February 14. Chocolates, flowers, and baseball (I'll have a #1 starter, please). It doesn't get any better than that!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 30, 2008 4:37 PM | Report abuse

Daggone new interface. I give up.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 30, 2008 4:39 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a

I too got burned with a double post because I didn't wait for the godawful long period between submit to post. Seems there are still a few bugs in the system.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Tracee Hamilton has posted AP stories on the Baseball Insider blog about the White Sox and Tigers declining options on Griffey Jr., and Renteria respectively but NOTHING ANYWHERE on the Nats' roster moves. This is shameful.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, one of the editors on the new blog responded to a question from me and said that they would be posting on this blog too. I think Cameron has made one post to NJ with a news update, but that's it. Too bad...

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | October 30, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, leetee. I agree with you and CiL on the lack of posts here, particularly now that the WS is over.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | October 30, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1a, CIL

I just shot an e-mail to the Post sports desk about this situation. Should have asked when are they expecting to hire a full-time, year-round writer to cover the Nats in cyberspace and in print.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Expected moves w/ Cordero, Orr, Wagner. Thought I thought perhaps the Nats would try to convinced Wagner coming off an injury to stick w/ the team. I wouldn't be surprised if we re-sign him to a MinorLeague deal.

Burnett may live in Baltimore but I can't see him (or Lowe, or Sabathia or any marquee free agent) coming here right now. We have no pieces, nothing to show that we're trying to win. If you're a marquee free agent and teams like NY, Boston, LA and other high-payroll teams with commitments to winning come knocking, why would you even think about our nickle-and-dime franchise? Come here so you get dead-last in the league run support while you toil away? Bergmann got 2.84 runsupport/9, Lannan 3.76 runs/9.

Posted by: tboss | October 30, 2008 5:55 PM | Report abuse

I'm personally a little suprised by the timing of the moves. Cordero, we already knew about (thanks to 'loose-lips' JimBow); but I thought the team would wait a while before non-tendering Orr & Wagner, then offer minor-league deals to both of them.
On another note, this lowers the 40-man salary to around $50 - $53M for 2009, including projected renewals / resigns / Arbitration. That puts some money on the table for a couple of FA pieces, yes?

Posted by: BinM | October 30, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I'm personally a little suprised by the timing of the moves. Cordero, we already knew about (thanks to 'loose-lips' JimBow); but I thought the team would wait a while before non-tendering Orr & Wagner, then offer minor-league deals to both of them.
On another note, this lowers the 40-man salary to around $50 - $53M for 2009, including projected renewals / resigns / Arbitration. That puts some money on the table for a couple of FA pieces, yes?

Posted by: BinM | October 30, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Danged WaPo submit delay. A couple of names to bat around in the hot-stove league would include Lowe (LAD), maybe Sheets (MIL) & Dempster (CUB) on the pitching side; Sabathia's asking price is going to stupid high. In terms of bats, I'd love to see the team toss an offer to Teixeira, but realistically they should look at players like Ibanez (SEA), Burrell (PHI), or (I can't believe I'm writing this) Dunn (CIN/AZ).

Posted by: BinM | October 30, 2008 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Great stuff, Chico! Especially after watching the Phillies win. It's encouraging. Thanks!

Posted by: PattyinSJ | October 30, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

OK, mlb.com had a story line up on the roster moves (credit Bill Ladson) at 5:11pm, the Times had a line up in their "chatter" section (credit Mark Zuckerman) at 6:53pm. It's now 7:50pm & nothing from the WaPo? I'm moving to CiL's camp - This paper is apparently just going to toss minimal coverage toward this franchise until it becomes a winner - then & only then will they ramp up the bandwagon. Here's a news flash for the editors - a large proportion of the regular suspects may even stop reading the on-line version of the WaPo's coverage by the time you people catch a clue.

Posted by: BinM | October 30, 2008 7:58 PM | Report abuse

BinM

Even worse, the Times reports the Wasteland of Minimal Production has exercised his $2 million option for next season. Wish the Post had full-time local baseball writers.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

As for the Nats remodeled unis to be unveiled a week from today. The Times says...

"The club will unveil its new uniforms for the 2009 season next Thursday in a noon event at the ESPN Zone. Among the changes are new road jerseys that utilize script lettering for the word "Washington" instead of block lettering."

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

At 8:25 pm the so-called paper of record FINALLY gets around to blogging on a more than three hour old story.

Posted by: leetee1955 | October 30, 2008 8:45 PM | Report abuse

>I was joking with my ex-wife: <

At least you know that Kline's a real scout. They spend all their time on the road.

Posted by: Brue | November 3, 2008 3:41 PM | Report abuse

>I was joking with my ex-wife:

At least you know Kline is a real scout. They spend all their time on the road.

Posted by: Brue | November 3, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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