YOU JUST MIGHT HEAR SOMETHING
After watching their bullpen give up eight runs last night Red Sox fans can only wonder if there’s help on the way. They’ll be happy to know about 27 year old Chris Martin, who’s setting them down in Pawtucket after earlier breezing through the Eastern League in Portland. The Sox got him for what some would describe as “A bag of balls”, and those in the know have him ticketed for the majors, after a long ride in the minors, by next season. How do I know? I just happened to find the right place to pull up a chair and keep my mouth shut during yesterday’s rain delay at New Britain Stadium. Minor league parks are packed with veteran scouts, looking for the next “bag of balls” bargain, and the conversation when they come in from the rain is gold. The focus is usually on the guy with the World Series ring on his finger, more accurately, on the ring. Those major league baubles are blinding. They all have stories about the ones they found hiding in the bushes in the independent leagues, the ones that got away, the ones they wished got away and stories of long stays in the minors that eventually pay off. Ron Guidry and his wife leaving Syracuse and driving home to Louisiana as he gave up on his career is a favorite. Halfway home the Missus talked Ron into going back. Two years later he won 25 in the show, and a Cy Young Award. Another favorite story of a player who stayed too long in the minors is Wade Boggs, who twice was overlooked for advancement within the system while the Red Sox promoted organization “golden boy” Glenn Hoffman. A natural hitter, Boggs couldn’t field the position at third, until he put in countless hours in training camp taking ground balls from Johnny Pesky on his way to the Hall of Fame. His last two years in the minors Boggs could have been had by anyone for 25 grand. No takers. There’s the kid from Port St. Lucie with family issues, including a father in jail, when he signed with the Cardinals as a pitcher. Unable to find the plate, Rick Ankiel reinvented himself as a big league outfielder. Now that he’s struggling as a hitter, opines one scout, and he’s mature, and wiser to the ways of the majors, he still has the arm, why not try him as a pitcher again? Or, how about the infielder with the gun for an arm who has trouble getting the ball into the first baseman’s glove. “Put him in the outfield and let him air it out.” Remember, it was a scout who not only insisted the Astros wait until Jeff Bagwell became available before trading Larry Anderson to the Red Sox, he also told the Stros how to use Bagwell when they got him. That story is also destined for a Hall of Fame ending. The conversation turned to coaching. “Sometimes the best way to coach”, went the conversation, “Is to just get out of the way.” A classic example was noted Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone, who had a staff that included Tom Glavine, Greg Maddox and John Smoltz. “Some days all he had to do”, said one member of the clatch, “Was make sure the other team’s bus got to the ball park so his pitchers had hitters to mow down.” Boy, I love that kind of talk. And then the tarp came off and it was back to their seats in the baseball sunshine where they do what they do best. As that wise old baseball sage, Yogi Berra, is purported to have said, “You can hear a lot by listening.” Especially when you listen to guys who know what they’re talking about. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.