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“One day, I think people might want to know my story.’’

Tommy Harper still haunted by time with Red Sox

By Bob Hohler  SEPTEMBER 21, 2014

For decades, Tommy Harper encountered strangers eager to share their Red Sox memories: their first games with their fathers, their first awed glimpses of Fenway in green, their farewells to Ted and Yaz.

Harper listened patiently, even when the stories turned so predictable he could finish them himself. But he never shared his memories. Some were too unsettling for casual conversation.

As a central figure in the troubled racial history of the Red Sox, Harper endured years of discrimination as a player, coach, and front-office staffer under the team’s Yawkey-affiliated regime. He once fought back and received a measure of vindication with an out-of-court settlement. But he later carried scars from the experience into the autumn of his life.

Now, at 73, Harper has decided against taking his untold stories to his grave. He said future generations should know what it was like for him as a black man to make his way in an organization that long operated on the wrong side of racial justice before the franchise changed hands in 2002.

As a second-class citizen in a climate of prejudice, Harper said, he endured inequities in pay, accommodations, and opportunities. He said he heard racial slurs uttered not only by the team’s fans but its uniformed personnel. At times, he said, his Boston baseball life was an exercise in indignity.

“They called it Red Sox Nation,’’ Harper said, “but it was never my nation.’’

Harper, who bears no ill will toward the current owners, filed state and federal discrimination complaints against the club in 1986 and received a financial settlement. He alleged the Sox retaliated against him for helping to expose the club for fostering a whites-only policy for team employees at a private social club near the former spring training facility in Winter Haven, Fla.

Harper, in a series of recent interviews at his suburban Boston home, said the episode marked the second time the Sox stripped him of a job for blowing a whistle on racial intolerance. The ’86 case was widely publicized, though not fully reported until now, and Harper has never spoken publicly about an earlier incident, in which he was dismissed from a front-office position in 1979 after he informed the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) that the Sox had violated their pledge to improve the franchise’s racial diversity.

The Sox never acknowledged unjustly firing Harper in either episode and accused him in ’86 of poor job performance. He said he is speaking out partly to counter the disparaging image they cast of him.

“I am not an angry man seeking revenge,’’ Harper said. “I just want to give my side of the story about a team that did me wrong and would not admit it, publicly or privately. I cannot let it stand.’’

Harper said he is not speaking for anyone else who wore a Sox uniform. Nor does he believe the Sox were the only sports institution through the years with a shoddy commitment to racial equality.

But historians have chronicled the singular role of the Yawkey-era Sox in defying racial progress, and Harper’s personal experience with the franchise is as telling as anyone’s.

Red Sox president Larry Lucchino, in a recent interview, credited Harper with fighting for racial justice during the club’s decades of intolerance.

“Aside from being a ballplayer, coach, instructor, and administrator, Tommy most importantly has been an agent of change for the organization in very positive ways,’’ Lucchino said.

Life’s cruelties

A son of the racially segregated South, Harper said he never considered himself a social activist. Born in Louisiana, he moved as a boy with his family to the housing projects of Alameda, Calif., where his father worked in an industrial mill, his mother at a naval air station.

Harper was 4 years old in 1945 when the Sox held a sham tryout at Fenway Park for three black players, including Jackie Robinson and Sam Jethroe. An unidentified Sox employee insulted the men with a racial slur before they were sent off, never again to hear from team officials.

Two years later, Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, en route to the Hall of Fame. Jethroe was the 1950 National League Rookie of the Year, with the Boston Braves.

Harper was 8 years old in 1949 when the Sox again staked a position on the wrong side of history by spurning an opportunity to sign one of the game’s greatest players, former Negro League prospect Willie Mays.

The team’s intransigence was traced to owner Thomas A. Yawkey and his surrogates, who controlled the franchise from 1933 to 2002. Their early unwillingness to sign African-Americans helped explain both the club’s chronic mediocrity and Robinson’s statement that Yawkey was “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball.’’

Not until Harper turned 19 in 1959 did the Sox become the last team in the majors to racially integrate, with the debut of a marginal infielder named Pumpsie Green.

Yet Harper soon learned that change was coming slowly not only in Boston but across America. By the time he began his minor league career in 1960 with the Cincinnati Reds, much of the nation remained in the grip of de facto segregation.

When Harper arrived at the Tampa airport in 1961 for his first spring training, he joined a line waiting for taxis, only for a dispatcher to say, “Boy, this line is for white people only.’’

White and black major leaguers ate and slept in racially segregated accommodations. When camp broke, Harper was assigned to ride to the team’s minor league affiliate in Topeka, Kan., with two white players. En route, they stopped at a diner in Jacksonville, Fla., where a waitress informed Harper, “We don’t serve [N-word] people.’’

Harper said he left, “shaken and embarrassed.’’ In a memoir he wrote for his family, he remembered striking a philosophical bargain to cope with life’s cruelties.

“After some soul-searching, I resolved to enjoy what I could and endure what I must,’’ he stated.

In late 1971, Harper was 10 years into his major league career when the Sox acquired him from the Brewers in a deal that sent two of Boston’s Impossible Dream stars, Jim Lonborg and George Scott, to Milwaukee.

Harper brought a rare quality to the Sox roster: speed. In 1969, he led the major leagues with 73 stolen bases for the Seattle Pilots. He was an All-Star outfielder in 1970 for the Brewers, finishing sixth in the American League MVP voting and joining Mays, Hank Aaron, Bobby Bonds, and Ken Williams at the time as the only members of baseball’s all-time 30-30 club (he hit 31 home runs and stole 38 bases). He also led the NL in runs in 1965 with 126, eight more than Mays.

Harper, unlike Reggie Smith, his outspoken African-American teammate, kept a low profile as a Sox player. He made no public comment even when he witnessed free guest passes to the Elks Club being distributed in the Sox clubhouse during his first spring training in Winter Haven in 1972.

“What happened to ours?’’ Harper recalled asking Smith.

“We don’t get any,’’ Smith replied, pointing to the color of his skin.

So it was for 13 more years, as black players came and went to Chain O’ Lakes Park but never to the Elks Club.

“The most disappointing thing was that [the discriminatory practice] was never a secret to Red Sox management or the Boston media,’’ Harper said. Several Boston baseball reporters later expressed regret for not reporting the story.

John Harrington, a trusted confidant of Yawkey and his wife, Jean, served in Sox leadership for nearly 30 years. He was chief executive from 1988 until he handled the Yawkey Trust’s sale of the team in 2002.

Harrington declined to comment. But while he has defended the Yawkeys and Sox against charges of racial bias, he has acknowledged shortcomings.

“We’ve had some problems in the past, and I don’t have to mention names, but we had some difficulties with some great young men of African-American heritage,’’ Harrington told the Globe in 1997. “We’ve patched those up.’’

Targets of hate

Harper said he and Smith regularly received racist hate mail as Sox players in the early ’70s. They also were targets of racial slurs from Fenway patrons. But when Smith publicly described Boston as a racist city, his teammates and management remained silent.

Not only was there little tolerance in baseball at the time for social activism, but Boston itself was rife with racial tension. Because the Sox did not support Smith when he spoke out, Harper said, “It was easier for the media to make it seem like Reggie was making a big deal out of nothing.’’

On the field, Harper ranked among the league leaders in several categories during his first two years with the Sox. He was the club’s MVP in ’73, when he led the AL with 54 stolen bases and broke Tris Speaker’s Sox record of 52, dating to 1912. Harper’s mark stood until Jacoby Ellsbury stole 70 bases in 2009.

In 1974, Harper slumped and was shipped to the California Angels, his best playing days behind him. The Angels sent him to Oakland midway through the ’75 season, and by ’76 he was retired and pursuing a second career in baseball.

Spurned by the Sox in his bid for a coaching job, Harper turned to the Yankees, who gave him a three-year contract as a minor league instructor, at $25,000 a year. Then the Sox came calling, not because they needed Harper for his baseball acumen, it turned out, but for his skin color, he said.

The club had a racial hiring problem. In 1977, the MCAD had settled discrimination complaints against the Sox, with the team agreeing to enact numerous policies aimed at improving racial diversity in its workforce.

The Yankees would not free Harper from his contract except for a higher-level job. So, the Sox told Harper and the Yankees that they wanted him to serve as both a minor league instructor and public relations official, at $40,000 a year.

Only after Harper arrived at Fenway did he discover the Sox had another task for him. He learned it from a national reporter who was researching the team’s racial history. The reporter asked about Harper’s role as the team’s affirmative action officer.

“I didn’t know what she was talking about,’’ he said.

He approached Harrington, then the team’s treasurer.

“Nobody told you?‘’ Harper remembered Harrington responding.

Indeed, he was the franchise’s new equal employment opportunity officer.

“Had I known my job would include that title, I would have stayed in New York,’’ he recalled.

Harper said Harrington handed him the team’s affirmative action policy and put him to work. Harrington then temporarily left the Sox and Harper began answering to Buddy LeRoux, who struck him as dismissive of the MCAD mandate.

When Harper informed LeRoux he wanted to attend an MCAD seminar to learn about his new job, he recalled, LeRoux nixed the plan, saying, “We are going to humor those people.’’ LeRoux died in 2008.

Weeks after Harper’s encounter with LeRoux, an MCAD investigator paid the Sox an unannounced compliance visit.

“I told them the Red Sox were ignoring everything in the settlement,’’ Harper said. “I told them it was business as usual and the Red Sox didn’t intend on hiring anyone [of color]. It was all a charade.’’

He informed the MCAD that team officials hired whites for two front-office jobs without following the affirmative action rules. When he complained to team executives, Harper alleged, Sox officials responded by instructing one new employee to take a temporary leave while they pretended to satisfy fair hiring practices by placing a job ad in the Bay State Banner, a newspaper that primarily serves the minority community.

Harper reported other allegations, including sham interviews for minority job candidates who had been sent to Fenway by Action for Boston Community Development.

“They never got to my office,’’ he said of the job seekers. “Some of them were interviewed by the switchboard operator and sent off.’’

Harper also reported that when he warned team officials they had ignored a pledge to meet annually with Boston’s minority leaders, he was told it was “not a priority,’’ according to an MCAD letter to Haywood Sullivan, then the Sox president.

The MCAD took action in 1979, citing the team for numerous alleged violations of its compliance agreement. The Sox responded, Harper said, by firing him from the affirmative action position, without informing the MCAD or the public.

For nearly three more years, while Harper performed other jobs, the Sox continued to identify him to the MCAD as the team’s affirmative action officer, according to documents he provided to the Globe.

He also provided a 1982 letter from a Sox executive to state representative Mel King, then a leader of Boston’s minority community. The document described Harper as the team’s affirmative action officer. In fact, Harper was serving as the club’s first base coach.

In stripping him of the affirmative action job, Harper said, the Sox reduced his salary to $26,000 from $40,000. They did so despite his serving throughout the season in the roles for which he was hired. He said the team never made good on his lost wages.

“I placed my trust in the wrong people and got screwed,’’ he said.

The next spring, Harper began a four-year stint as Boston’s first base coach — a mixed blessing.

“I was happy to be back on the field,’’ he said, “but I soon discovered that the racist culture in the clubhouse was similar to that of the front office.’’

Nothing had changed

Harper had grown accustomed in the 1960s to hearing the N-word in baseball. But he was dismayed a generation later to hear it spoken by players and uniformed staffers, including members of the Sox. He declined to identify the individuals because 30 years have passed and some may have changed their attitudes. Others are deceased.

Harper coached under three managers: Don Zimmer, Johnny Pesky, and Ralph Houk. When Houk departed after the 1984 season, so did his coaches. Harper then accepted a job as one of Sox general manager Lou Gorman’s special assistants, serving in part as a field instructor, a role that would take him back to Winter Haven in 1985.

There, trouble ensued. Two years earlier, Harper had become irate when he reported to spring training and discovered a stack of free guest passes to the whites-only Elks Club in his locker, an apparent prank. He said he complained to Sullivan and was assured the segregationist practice would end. Sullivan died in 2003.

But when Harper returned in ’85, he learned nothing had changed. He kept quiet at first. Then his teammate, Jim Rice, who had recently agreed to a contract extension, inadvertently thrust the issue into the public domain by joking to Sullivan in front of reporters, “Now that I’m signed, do I get an Elks Club card?’’

The secret was out, although it initially commanded little attention. The Globe tucked Rice’s comments into the bottom of the next day’s Red Sox notebook.

“The local Elks Club gives privilege cards to the Red Sox delegation — except those who are black,’’ Peter Gammons wrote. “Believe it or not, there is still a segregated institution in this country, so Rice, Mike Easler, Tommy Harper, and others can’t eat there.’’

Then the Globe’s Michael Madden began digging. He asked Harper about the policy and was told the practice had been ongoing since at least 1972.

“I don’t care that much what happens to me — if they want to fire me or whatever — but this has gone on too long with this ball club,” Madden quoted Harper as saying. “They are still condoning racism, and it is wrong.’’

Madden reported that he was threatened at the Elks Club by a customer who accused him of trying to revive the Civil War.

“Boy, you know what they fought the Civil War with? With guns,’’ Madden quoted the man as saying. “If there are any bad words about Winter Haven you write, I’ll be taking mine out.’’

Free passes to the Elks Club were not seen again in the Sox clubhouse. But Harper paid a price for his stand. His car tires were slashed, and he began receiving mysterious phone calls throughout the night at his Winter Haven hotel, the callers saying nothing before hanging up. And, though he had not reported the vandalism or disturbing calls to law enforcement, an FBI agent later asked if he had received any direct threats. He had not.

But Harper’s stance ruined his relationship with Sox management. He said team executives immediately shunned him — barred him from spring training staff meetings, gave him no assignments during the regular season, and otherwise ostracized him until he was fired the week before Christmas 1985.

As it turned out, Harper did care what happened to him. He filed racial discrimination complaints with the MCAD and US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Sox denied the allegations, portraying Harper as a disgruntled, subpar employee.

Team officials accused Harper of failing to fulfill many of his regular duties. They alleged he carelessly cut short his stay with a minor league affiliate competing for a league championship, failed to report to the instructional league, and neglected to submit player evaluation reports.

Worse, in Harper’s view, the team accused him of improperly using a company credit card for personal expenses.

“There was no racism involved in the firing,’’ Gorman told reporters at the time. “We simply felt he was doing a lousy job.’’

Harper presented evidence to the EEOC rebutting each allegation, and the commission ruled in his favor. The panel found probable cause that the Sox had unlawfully fired Harper, that his firing was retaliatory for the Elks Club episode. The commission also ruled that “sufficient evidence’’ supported Harper’s allegation that team executives had “created and perpetuated a working environment hostile to minorities.’’

In reaching a financial settlement with Harper, the Sox admitted no wrongdoing but once again agreed to adhere to nondiscriminatory employment practices.

For Harper, the settlement provided cold comfort. The firing cost him two years of his baseball career, he said, as several teams rejected his job requests and another withdrew an offer so as not to anger Sox management.

Then came a milestone in baseball’s racial history. In 1987, Dodgers general manager Al Campanis created a firestorm by asserting on national television that blacks “may not have some of the necessities’’ to serve as major league managers and general managers.

Campanis was fired, but the damage was done, his remarks suggesting a measure of lingering racial intolerance throughout baseball. Commissioner Peter Ueberroth directed teams to improve minority hiring, and the Montreal Expos soon signed Harper as a minor league instructor.

Improved relationship

Harper climbed the ranks and by 1990 — a year before Dan Duquette became Montreal’s general manager — he was promoted to the major league coaching staff. Harper coached with the Expos until 1999, when Duquette, then the Sox GM, hired him as Boston’s first base coach.

“I was told that everything about the Red Sox organization had gotten better,’’ Harper recalled. “I discovered it had not.’’

That same year, the Sox paid a financial settlement to a former manager of Fenway’s 600 Club who alleged he had been racially harassed by his coworkers and the team had failed to properly investigate his complaints.

For his part, Harper was particularly offended by the Sox hiring a former player, Mike Stanley, in 2002 at a coaching salary more than $50,000 greater than his, even though Harper had 15 years of major league coaching experience and Stanley none.

Harper said he informed the current Sox owners about the alleged inequity and they made up the difference between his salary and Stanley’s — an account the team confirmed.

Harper remained first base coach until the fall of 2002, when he was reassigned as a player development consultant, a position he has held since.

The new Sox owners wasted no time acknowledging the club’s “undeniable legacy of racial intolerance,’’ as Lucchino put it in ’02. Changes were made, the team’s racial diversity improved, and in 2010 the Sox inducted Harper into their Hall of Fame.

Team executives attributed Harper’s induction both to his baseball achievements and his struggle for racial justice. Lucchino issued a statement praising Harper for his “instrumental’’ role in exposing the Elks Club scandal and ensuring “the organization would no longer tolerate this practice.’’

Harper recently met with Lucchino in the executive offices on Yawkey Way, where he had long felt like an outcast. Lucchino acknowledged the Sox must continue striving to repair damage from the past, but he said he was heartened by Harper’s improved relationship with the club.

Harper, meanwhile, will continue to represent the Sox in speaking annually to school children about the legacy of Jackie Robinson.

He said he may even begin discussing his own experience with the Sox.

“People bring up Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Pumpsie Green when they talk about the Red Sox and their racial history,’’ Harper said. “One day, I think people might want to know my story.’’

http://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/09/20/tommy-harper-still-haunted-time-with-red-sox/Tw0RLaFinaqTqkt8jLsYeP/story.html

 

“That’s why people would run through a wall for him,” 

The long arrival of Dayton Moore: His first Royals playoff team was eight years in the making

BY ANDY MCCULLOUGH THE KANSAS CITY STAR 09/28/2014   

CHICAGO 

On the day after his night of validation, Dayton Moore strode into his team’s clubhouse and slipped on a Royals pullover. He poured himself a cup of black coffee. He had been up late the night before, much later than usual, even if he said he was “probably the first one home” from an after-hours party for the front office and coaching staff at Ditka’s steakhouse.

Moore walked out into the visitors’ dugout at U.S. Cellular Field. The corks, bottle caps and puddles of spilled alcohol had been swept away, but the fact remained: The Royals were headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1985. It took nearly a decade, but Moore had built a team that gave a generation of fans their first definitive triumph.

The Royals will end the longest postseason drought in the four major North American professional sports leagues this week. The night before, as his players poured onto the field, Moore felt an emotion that revealed the complexity of his eight-plus seasons as general manager.

“Relief,” he said.

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Moore arrived in 2006 as a savior. He looked like an ideal fit for the job. He soaked up the franchise’s glory years as a kid growing up in Wichita. He learned the art of team-building after more than a decade in Atlanta. Royals officials and rivals’ executives alike laud his faith and character.

But the slog of six consecutive losing seasons sullied his reputation within the city. A controversial trade two winters ago transformed 2014 into a deadline. For the first time in decades, a season with the Royals not in the playoffs would be considered a failure.

On Friday night, Moore combined celebration with exhalation and exhibited the characteristics that have united his organization during his tenure. The Royals clinched in the same ballpark where two months prior Moore had issued a vote of confidence for manager Ned Yost and a team with a losing record. The players rewarded Moore for his faith. And the fans were rewarded for their patience.

“The thing that I’m most proud of is we have grown the game of baseball in the Kansas City area,” Moore said. “There’s a renewed interest. There’s a following — that has always been there. But I believe a group of young people, we’ve captured their interest and rekindled the passion of a lot of our fanbase in the game of baseball and the Kansas City Royals.”

Moore, 47, projects stoicism. He wears a suit and tie to the office. He shakes hands. He remembers names. He rarely swears. He never criticizes his players publicly.

He asks about your relatives. After he demoted outfielder Alex Gordon in 2010, Moore instructed him to worry about family before baseball. Moore never asked Gordon about his on-field progress. “I always felt like he really did care about me,” Gordon said.

He cares about your stability. When pitcher Danny Duffy walked away from the game in 2010, he called Moore a few months into his sabbatical. Duffy told him he was ready to return. Moore told him to wait another week. “A lot of people would just be like ‘Oh, hurry up,’” Duffy said. “He never pressured me to come back.”

For this historic weekend, Moore invited a sizable contingent of scouts, executives and other officials to U.S. Cellular Field. As the players gallivanted, the group massed in the back of the clubhouse, soaking in Cook’s Brut and Miller Lite. The next morning, multiple rival officials reached out to The Star to praise this decision by Moore. “That’s why people would run through a wall for him,” one executive said.

Raul Ibañez ignited his career in Kansas City from 2001 to 2003. The growth of this organization can be traced to Moore, he explained, to his ability to connect with individuals and unite them as a group.

“He’s a great human being,” Ibañez said. “These guys really want to break their back for him, and for the organization, because of the way that he does things.”

So Moore’s appeal to others in the game is obvious. As the Royals approach the postseason, an offseason of intrigue awaits. The Atlanta Braves have an opening for their general manager position. Moore could become a candidate. He has refused to discuss the matter.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said George Brett, the franchise icon, Hall of Famer and Royals vice president of baseball operations. “I hope he stays.”


Moore grew up a Royals fan in Wichita, but his baseball education occurred in Atlanta. The organization plucked him from a coaching position at his alma mater, George Mason University, in 1994. Two decades later, Moore insists he still has never even fashioned a resume. He says he has never applied for a job. People seek him out.

The Braves hired Moore as a scout. He graduated to the front office two years later and began scooping up titles. He studied player development. He ran an international scouting department. John Schuerholz, the general manager of the Royals from 1982 to 1990, groomed Moore to replace him in that role with the Braves.

Until, of course, David Glass visited Atlanta in 2006.

During Glass’ first six years of owning the Royals, the franchise went to seed. It was not just the losing. The stories have become legend, a caricature of an organization trafficking in slapstick: Scouts without cellphones, running out of money midway through a draft, a season without a team picture. The restrictions handcuffed Moore’s predecessor, Allard Baird.

When Moore interviewed for this job, he presented conditions. In order to abdicate his likely promotion to the top spot in Atlanta, he required assurances from Glass that the organization would funnel money into hiring the game’s best scouts and signing the most promising amateur players. Glass agreed, tired of the losing, willing to trust Moore.

“I don’t think Mr. Glass gave the other guy the luxury to do the things that he’s allowed Dayton to do,” Brett said. “But Dayton’s done a tremendous job, and he convinced the Glasses, ‘If you want me to come here, then this is what we’ve got to do.’”

At the start, the tangible successes occurred away from the big-league level. He proved willing to tangle with Scott Boras, the superagent who often advises the most talented prospects in each class. Moore built a commendable international scouting department — “one of the best,” one rival scouting director said — out of virtually nothing. The club refurbished its ballpark.

Moore strove to repair the damage wrought before his arrival. He felt a connection with the past was imperative to the organization’s future.

“One of the things I heard when we first came here is, ‘I’m tired of everybody talking about 1985,’” Moore said. “We were kind of the opposite. We needed to restore that sense of pride, acknowledge it and embrace it. But also build from it. It’s what good organizations do.”

Yet as the view in the background looked promising, the foreground was unsightly. Moore’s managerial appointment of Trey Hillman proved disastrous. A pair of lucrative contracts for Jose Guillen and Gil Meche backfired. In the draft, the club chose Christian Colon over White Sox ace Chris Sale and Bubba Starling over budding Nationals superstar Anthony Rendon.

And the losses piled up. In an inadvertent manner, Brett captured the source of some fans’ discontent. He explained how, when during the 2006 interviews Moore informed the owners, “‘I’ve got a five-year plan, a six-year plan, a seven-year …’” Brett said. “I don’t know how many years he told David Glass it was. But he had a plan.”

The organization branded 2012 as “Our Time,” then saw the season fizzle into the team’s fifth 90-loss season under Moore’s watch. The acquisition of James Shields for Wil Myers incited howls after its consummation and derision after the season’s completion, when Tampa Bay made the playoffs with Myers as the American League Rookie of the Year.

The Royals won 86 games, not enough to reach October but sufficient to inspire Moore to remark, “In a small way, it feels like we won the World Series.” He absorbed another torrent of invective. By now, eight years into this role, he insists he does not require shelter from unrest.

“There’s no question that will surprise me,” Moore said. “There’s no mistake that will catch me off-guard. There is no criticism that I’m not aware of. Because I’m a pretty good self-evaluator when it comes to this stuff. I’m an honest evaluator. I know where we make our mistakes.

“I’ve learned to decipher the difference between your critics looking at you with a critical eye or a critical spirit. A critical eye? We can have a discussion, and a lot of times we can have a very healthy discussion.

“If somebody looks at you and evaluates you with a critical spirit? I can’t help that person. Those issues are much deeper than I have the ability to fix, to influence.”


On Thursday afternoon, Moore leaned on the dugout railing during batting practice. Into the cage stepped Eric Hosmer, the striking, 6-foot-4 first baseman. Standing nearby, ready to hit, were Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez.

Hosmer was the No. 3 pick in the 2007 draft. Moustakas was chosen second the year before. Perez was signed on the regime’s first scouting expedition to Venezuela, a masterstroke for assistant general manager Rene Francisco. A few years ago, the trio represented the next generation of Kansas City superstars, a group assembled by spending in the draft as never before and scouting with an acumen not displayed by this organization in a generation.

Yet at times this summer, the trio formed another layer in the exhausting tapestry of this season, a nightly test for the fans and the front office alike. The offense was intermittent. The Royals survived thanks to reliance on pitching and defense, the hallmarks Moore imported from Atlanta. The formula was effective but taxing, with low-scoring victories and constant tension.

As Moore watched his players hit on Monday, a fan called out to him and offered encouragement. Moore managed a smile.

“Good,” Moore said. “I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”

As the Royals inched closer to clinching, their front office exhibited visible signs of nervousness. They had spent nearly a decade building toward this moment. Moore staked his reputation on this process. Now, in the final hour, they found themselves almost helpless. There were no more moves to make, no more acquisitions to ponder. The players would decide their fate.

Brett arrived in Chicago on Thursday night. He took a 90-minute walk through downtown the next morning and gauged the general manager’s stress level.

“He was fine,” Brett said. “Now, we’ll see how he is in the third inning. We’ll see how we all are in the third inning. Because it’s more nervous sitting up there than it is playing.”

In the evening, Moore gathered inside a suite at U.S. Cellular Field. He surrounded himself with organization lifers and his own lieutenants. The tension among the group was palpable. The television cameras captured their angst.

“That one was hard to watch,” assistant general manager J.J. Picollo said. “We got that three-run lead and just wanted that game to be over.”

When Perez gloved the last out, Brett thrust his arms in the air and accepted a bear hug from pro scouting director Gene Watson. Team president Dan Glass pumped his fist. Art Stewart, the 87-year-old scout, appeared on the verge of tears.

Moore stood in the background. He stepped into focus to offer fist bumps and embraces. The members of the front office rode an elevator down to the clubhouse. In the center of the room, the players huddled around ice chests packed with champagne. Jeremy Guthrie grabbed Moore and forced him onto a makeshift podium.

After each victory, the Royals celebrate in this manner. They elect a player of the game and douse him with water. Shields brought the ceremony with him from Tampa Bay. Moore had watched enough of these to understand the script.

“I’ve got something to say!” he shouted.

Then he stepped down and let his players do the talking.

To reach Andy McCullough, call 816-234-4370 or send email to rmccullough@kcstar.com. Twitter:@McCulloughStar.

MILESTONES IN DAYTON MOORE’S CAREER IN PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL.

1994

Joins Atlanta Braves organization as a scout under Atlanta GM, and former Royals GM, John Schuerholz. Eventually rises to assistant general manager/baseball operations for the Braves.

2004

Baseball America names Moore its top general manager prospect in Major League Baseball.

2005

Named one of Baseball America’s top 10 up-and-coming MLB power brokers.

2006

Named senior vice president-baseball operations/general manager of the Royals on May 30. Assumes duties as Royals’ sixth GM about a week later.

Signs free-agent pitcher Gil Meche to franchise-record-tying contract: $55 million over five years.

2007

Hires manager Trey Hillman, who had no major-league experience as a player or coach, a move that proves disastrous until he’s fired in 2010.

Hands lucrative contract to outfielder Jose Guillen, paying him the most the Royals had ever given a player per season: $36 million over three years.

2009

Gives Zack Greinke a four-year contract extension; Greinke goes on to win 2009 American League Cy Young Award.

2010

Fires Hillman and installs Ned Yost as manager.

Uses first-round pick on infielder Christian Colon, bypassing pitcher Chris Sale, who becomes the Chicago White Sox’s ace.

Trades Greinke to the Milwaukee Brewers for a package of players that includes present-day Royals starters Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar.

2011

Baseball America names the Royals’ farm system the best in baseball.

Royals reach four-year contract extension with fan favorite Billy Butler.

2012

Royals extend contract of catcher Salvy Perez through 2019 on team-friendly deal.

Club extends contract of another immensely popular player, left fielder Alex Gordon.

Trades struggling pitcher Jonathan Sanchez to Colorado for much more effective Jeremy Guthrie.

Kauffman Stadium, recently upgraded, plays host to MLB All-Star Game.

Trades first-round draft pick Wil Myers to Tampa for pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.

2013

Royals win 86 games, most since 1989, and keep fans’ interest into September but miss playoffs.

2014

Club overcomes several swoons and early loss of key relief pitcher Luke Hochevar to injury to clinch first playoff berth since 1985.

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/mlb/kansas-city-royals/article2279444.html#storylink=cpy

 

 

“When the game got a little fast for him, he promptly gathered himself.”

 

Texas Rangers rookie gets assist from Greg Maddux on way to first home win

 

By Evan Grant/reporter egrant@dallasnews.com  September 23, 2014 

ARLINGTON – Texas Rangers rookie right-hander Nick Martinez earned the first home win of his major league career Tuesday in his ninth attempt.

All it required was a little get-together with Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, who also serves as a special assistant to Rangers’ GM Jon Daniels. Martinez met with Maddux during the Rangers recent trip to the West Coast. In his first start after the meeting, Martinez threw 6.2 scoreless innings without a walk in the Rangers 2-1 win.

“I’ve learned a tremendous amount this season,” Martinez said. “On the last roadtrip in Anaheim I was able to talk to Greg Maddux quite a bit. We were going over the mental process out there out on the mound. I was telling him sometimes I go to my out pitch early in the count and create early contact.

“He told me, ‘There’s no need to do that. Focus on getting strike one and strike two and after that you can focus on getting him out.,” Martinez said. “That’s what I did today. I just focused on getting strike one, strike two today.”

Martinez did not allow a walk for the first time in his major league career on the way to the win.

“I really liked the way he attacked with his fastball,” interim manager Tim Bogar said. “I saw a guy take another step today. When the game got a little fast for him, he promptly gathered himself.”

Martinez allowed a pair of two-out singles in the second, but struck out Jon Singleton to end the inning. In the sixth, he allowed a leadoff single to Robbie Grossman, then got the AL’s leading hitter (Jose Altuve) and second-ranked home run hitter (Chris Carter) before getting Dexter Fowler to pop to third.

After allowing a two-out double to Marwin Gonzalez in the seventh, Martinez was lifted for reliever Spencer Patton.

http://rangersblog.dallasnews.com/2014/09/texas-rangers-rookie-gets-assist-from-greg-maddux-on-way-to-first-home-win.html/

 

“the picture in baseball is often a shifting snapshot. “

 

 

ANTHONY CASTROVINCE

 

September 24, 2014

THE ROYALS' STAYING POWER

CLEVELAND -- Here's a moment within their moment. A group of Royals hitters sitting together at a table in the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field, laughing about some swings on tough pitches they wish they could have back from the previous night. And they could laugh because they won. And in this 2014 season -- a season circled as the pinnacle of their "Process" -- they've won often. 

They've laughed often, too, and that's no small point about these Royals. For as young as their core is, for as many guys on their roster who have never been through a September this meaningful, they've remained relatively loose, all things considered. 

"There's a lot of talent in this room, and there's a lot of confidence in this room," says midseason addition Raul Ibanez, who has seen his share of rooms. "This went from great talent to a great team, and the confidence now is unwavering."

But what of that "great team" label? How fleeting -- and, therefore, meaningful -- is this moment? How much payoff will "The Process" reap beyond the end-of-September scoreboard-watching going on in Kansas City and whatever follows, should the Royals indeed ascend to October for the first time in 29 years?

These are questions worth asking at the tail end of a successful season, because there are other significant questions looming in the winter. 

Among them: 

• Where will James Shields, the unquestioned ace of the staff, land in free agency, and what effect will his expected departure have on the rotation? 

• Is the magnificent bullpen that has sustained this club itself going to be sustainable in 2015? 

• Where will the offensive improvement come from for a team that has just two regulars with adjusted OPS marks above league average and another season's worth of concerns about the direction of former top prospects Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas? 

• And for that matter, who will be making these decisions if Dayton Moore -- whose turn in the general manager's chair spans the equivalent of two presidential terms -- does decide to go to Atlanta, as has been rumored this week?

Well, it's too early to know the answer to any of these questions, obviously. But the asking itself does underline the urgency of the moment at hand.

Remember, Moore's plan, his timetable, called for this to be a club led by the likes of Hosmer, Moustakas, Wil Myers, John Lamb, Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi. And as you can see, that's not the case. The plan reaped rewards not for the way it was plotted but for the way it was revised on the fly. 

There was, of course, the greatly contested trade of Myers, Montgomery, Odorizzi and Patrick Leonard for James Shields and Wade Davis, which seemed, in some ways, to define the measurements of the Royals' window. It was a trade born out of understandable impatience from a GM whose contract was, at the time, set to expire at the end of 2014 (and even the intent of that trade has been slightly revised, with Davis acquired as a starter, not the eighth-inning relief force he's suddenly become). There were, a year later, moves made to acquire "old" guys like Omar Infante and Nori Aoki and Jason Vargas to help round things out, and then in-season adjustments involving Ibanez and Josh Willingham. 

The Royals are where they are in part because of a low-profile investment made long ago in a kid from the Dominican Republic named Yordano Ventura and because of the patience they displayed with former third-round pick Danny Duffy. They're here in part because they put a value on defense and showed an uncanny ability to build the back end of a bullpen. They're here in part because Alex Gordon -- their long-ago third baseman of the future -- matured overnight in 2011 and became and remains one of the best left fielders in the game. They're here because they developed one of the game's great young catchers in Salvador Perez. They're here because their long-time DH Billy Butler got hot in August despite an otherwise difficult season. 

All of these things are valuable, essential pieces of the big picture. But we know -- and the Royals know as well as anybody -- that the picture in baseball is often a shifting snapshot. Truth is, despite many prognostications to the contrary, the Royals were a pretty uninspiring squad for the bulk of the first four months of 2014, yet they pounced upon a surprisingly vulnerable Tigers team in the standings in the second half to make the AL Central a closely contested race going into the final week.

What's clear is that the Royals have many more adjustments ahead if 2014 is going to be the first step in a sustained run, a la the way the Rays emerged in 2008 and posted 90-plus wins in four of the next five seasons. 

For the Royals to do anything along those lines is going to take continued health and ample effectiveness from Duffy and Ventura, two guys who helped elevate the rotation as this year evolved while also dealing with some physical uncertainty (Ventura with elbow discomfort in late May and Duffy with shoulder tightness earlier this month). Assuming Shields departs, they'll step into the starting five's frontline at the outset of 2015. 

"You've got a couple of very good building blocks there," pitching coach Dave Eiland says. "A young power left-hander and a young power right-hander. And you've got Vargas, a crafty veteran left-hander and [Jeremy] Guthrie for one more year. He's kind of a right-handed version of Vargy. We'll see what happens with Shields. We'd love to have him back, obviously, we'll see what happens with that. But with Duffy and Ventura, we have a 25-year-old and 23-year-old power guy, and that's a good start." 

This is a team built on solid starts, steady D and back-end bullishness. It is not a team built on offense, and that's something that might need to be addressed in a meaningful way. It's telling that manager Ned Yost singled out the 32-year-old Aoki, another pending free agent, as the offensive lynchpin in the second-half surge. 

"We'd be in trouble if he didn't get hot when he did," Yost says. "If he didn't, I don't know what would have happened." 

Probably not much, because no matter how many hitting coach changes the Royals make (and in Kansas City, that's become an annual event), the would-be cornerstones on the corners have largely fallen flat. Hosmer has a .270/.327/.403 slash line dating back to the beginning of 2012, while Moustakas has a career .670 OPS as he nears 2,000 plate appearances. You don't count out either guy (Hosmer is 24, Moustakas 26) reaching his full potential, if only because of the Gordon example. But 2014 might have been the last year the Royals could count their upside as a definable piece of the plan.

What they can do is hope this experience in a legit race propels those guys forward in some meaningful fashion. 

"It's going to be a significant carryover effect," Ibanez promises. "Once you're on a winning team, you realize it's all about winning and that's all that matters at the Major League level. This is a great opportunity for everybody in here moving forward, and I expect this team to keep getting better and improve over the next few years." 

It's going to be difficult for the Royals to improve upon what they've gotten out of the back end of the bullpen, though, in fairness, we said that after last season, as well. 

Given their overall offensive needs, however, the Royals' best play this winter might be to dangle closer Greg Holland in the trade market while his salary is still reasonable (he'll be a second-time arbitration-eligible) and his value is still high. 

The Royals have further rotation hopes in their farm system, particularly if Kyle Zimmer can get past the injury issues that have hampered his development and if current lefty relief stud Brandon Finnegan (a 2014 Draft pick) successfully stretches out as a starter. But, like so many others teams in this climate, they've struggled to develop dependable bats, and the depth in the 'pen might be the only way to address that issue for a club not likely to significantly increase payroll. 

In the present tense, the Royals have shown they can overcome their overall offensive issues, which includes a ranking in the AL's lower half in runs per game (3.98), on-base percentage (.312) and slugging percentage (.375).

"The pitching's carried us," Butler says. "Offensively, no one has had the year they wanted to, to be honest with you." 

Yet no matter how they got here, the Royals have ultimately had the kind of year they envisioned as an organization. They have manufactured this moment, their moment. And with tomorrow promised to none of us, much less a baseball club with an ever-evolving process, it's a moment they need to seize.

http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/96076652/royals-2014-success-translate-to-2015

 

“Long ago, batters decided to give up control for power”

Goldman's baseball quotables #11: Will Javier Baez ever make enough contact?

By Steven Goldman  @GoStevenGoldman on Sep 23 2014, 4:04p 3  

Cubs rookie infielder Javier Baez has struggled to a nigh-historic strikeout pace. He's still young enough to rebound, but are hopes for his future just whistling in the dark?

 

 

The Cubs almost certainly waited too long to call up Javier Baez for him to strike out 100 times this season. He's whiffed 85 times in 206 plate appearances/191 at-bats with five games to go. Assuming he plays every inning of every game and the Cubs avoid some insanely long extra-inning contests, he probably has 25 plate appearances left at most, and even given one of the highest small-sample strikeout rates of all time, Baez probably won't miss three of five times up in each of those five games.

Given a floor of 450 plate appearances, the highest strikeout rate in history was recorded by Adam Dunn, who struck out 177 times in 415 at-bats in 2011, or once every 2.34 at-bats. If you limit the class to between 150 and 250 plate appearances, Baez wouldn't quite top the list -- Kelly Shoppach failed to connect with strike three once every 2.22 at-bats in 2010 (71 strikeouts in 158 at-bats). Baez is right behind him at 2.25. Put both lists together (courtesy of Baseball-Reference) and you get an incomplete story, because three member of the top 20 are still completing their seasons:

Rk

Player

Year

AB/SO

PA

AB

SO

BA

OBP

SLG

1

Kelly Shoppach

2010

2.23

187

158

71

.196

.308

.342

2

Javier Baez

2014

2.25

206

191

85

.168

.228

.340

3

Cody Ransom

2012

2.26

312

246

109

.220

.312

.411

4

Mike Olt

2014

2.28

256

223

98

.161

.250

.359

5

Dave Nicholson

1962

2.28

202

173

76

.173

.289

.364

6

Rob Deer

1985

2.28

187

162

71

.185

.283

.377

7

Melvin Nieves

1997

2.29

405

359

157

.228

.311

.451

8

Jon Singleton

2014

2.31

354

302

131

.169

.288

.338

9

Russell Branyan

2004

2.32

182

158

68

.234

.324

.525

10

Dave Nicholson

1964

2.33

351

294

126

.204

.329

.364

11

Trayvon Robinson

2011

2.34

155

143

61

.210

.250

.336

12

Adam Dunn

2011

2.34

496

415

177

.159

.292

.277

13

Russell Branyan

2007

2.36

194

163

69

.196

.320

.423

14

Mark Reynolds

2010

2.36

596

499

211

.198

.320

.433

15

Russell Branyan

2001

2.39

361

315

132

.232

.316

.486

16

Chris Carter

2013

2.39

585

506

212

.223

.320

.451

17

Jack Cust

2007

2.41

507

395

164

.256

.408

.504

18

Adam Dunn

2012

2.43

649

539

222

.204

.333

.468

19

Tyler Flowers

2012

2.43

153

136

56

.213

.296

.412

20

Jack Cust

2008

2.44

598

481

197

.231

.375

.476


In addition to the 2014 players, the list is dominated by recent players. As you know, the story of the last few years, and of baseball in general, is of ever-increasing strikeouts. Long ago, batters decided to give up control for power, and except for the occasional Ichiro or Altuve, most batters conform to that model. Still, for a long time, striking out even 100 times in a season was considered a mark of profligate wastage of plate appearances. In the 1940s, Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson averaged about 76 strikeouts per 154-game season and got hung with the nickname "swish." Today, 76 strikeouts would make you the new Joe Sewell.

Casey Stengel said the above about Vince DiMaggio, Joe's older brother, who played for him in Boston in 1938. Vince wasn't the player his two younger brothers were (Dom, the third, being a standout for the Red Sox), but he was still very good. The problem was, no one could tell at the time, and the assumption was he was in the majors due to a Joltin' Joe coattails effect. Unlike Joe, who was kind of like Mike Trout if Trout never struck out, and Dom, who was more of a Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury type, Vince was Mark Reynolds if Reynolds could play center field like, well, like Joe DiMaggio. He was a low-average hitter with some power. Add in the defense and he was quite valuable at times, if not a star (he did make two All-Star teams during World War II).

The year Casey had him, Vince set the single-season strikeout record with 134, and held it for 17 years. Even then, it took until the 1960s (Dave Nicholson) and 1970s (Bobby Bonds) for hitters to put Vince's record in the rearview mirror. Vince led the NL five more times, and even if he was hitting .289/.365/.519 (142 OPS+) or .267/.354/.456 with 21 home runs and 100 RBI (127 OPS+) all anyone could really see was the strikeouts. Still, if what Casey said was true, at least he enjoyed himself.

 

What's true of a center fielder is also true of a middle infielder like Baez. We now understand that for a hitter a strikeout is just another out, and even confers some benefits, like not hitting into double plays and, of course, power. The problem, as the table of strikeouts per at-bats suggests, is that there's an upper limit -- it's very hard for a hitter to strikeout that much and maintain anything like a batting average that teams feel like they can live with. Even assuming a goodly number of walks, a hitter has to have inordinate luck (or skill, or both) on every ball he puts in play to have a solid on-base percentage.

Baez is currently hitting .168/.229/.340 in 206 plate appearances. His nine home runs in that time suggests what he can do when he makes contact, but a 55 OPS+ is what it is. As we head into next season, one of the most compelling stories of the Cubs' rebuilding will be whether Baez can get a better grip on the strike zone. He's still very young. The results make it self-evident that he was rushed despite putting up impressive power numbers (.278/.336/.545) in the minor leagues.

Just one player, Brett Wallace of last year's Astros, has climbed 100-strikeout mountain in a single season without benefit of more than 300 plate appearances. It took Wallace 285 PAs/262 at-bats to compile 104 strikeouts. Given that many, at his current rate Baez would whiff 116 times. Unless he just goes hog wild these last few games, he just won't get there. It doesn't matter, of course; whether he gets to the big round number or not, his future challenges are clear. It only makes a difference to we combination collectors of statistical oddities/sadists.

That said, when you look at that strikeout rate in context, the implications are awfully scary in terms of the Cubs coming back quickly. It's a warning that a team can pile up prospects, but not as good as they might look at times, they might not all pay off the way we hope and expect. The Cubs have enough middle infielders around that they can continue to rebuild if Baez fails, but it will be a setback nonetheless. Yes, it's too early to write him off, but it wouldn't be totally paranoid either, not when he's already one of the greatest strikeout artists of all time, small sample be damned -- you can't whistle your way out of that many Ks.

I have had the bad taste to take today's quotable from my own book on Casey Stengel. If this be self-promotion, let us make the most of it.

http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2014/9/23/6835015/baseball-quotables-javier-baez-strikeouts-cubs-vince-dimaggio

 

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