Feb 27

Coffey’s gamble on himself

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com relates a great story about new Dodger reliever Todd Coffey:

… He didn’t look much like a major league ballplayer 14 years ago, either. That was when Coffey, then a 17-year-old who had just graduated from Forest City High School in North Carolina, was taken by the Cincinnati Reds in the 41st round of baseball’s amateur draft.

In those days, when a team maintained exclusive signing rights to all of its draft picks for 11 months, a common practice in the lower rounds was to take players as “draft-and-follows.” That meant drafting a player with no intention of signing him immediately and continuing to scout him as he played junior-college ball the following spring, then making a decision whether to sign him. If the team did sign him, it usually meant he was an “organizational” guy, there to fill out the roster of one minor league affiliate or another, with little to no chance of ever playing in the majors.

That was the way DeJon Watson, the Reds scouting director at the time, viewed Coffey.

“We liked his arm and his size,” said Watson, now the Dodgers’ assistant general manager in charge of player development. “He had some projection to play. But in our mind’s eye, he was a draft-and-follow. We wanted him to go to a juco.”

But there also was another draft rule in place then: you had to make at least a nominal, if half-hearted, offer to every player you drafted. So Watson authorized Steve Kring, the Reds’ area scout who had recommended Coffey, to offer Coffey something he was certain the big right-hander would turn down, a $1,000 bonus and an $850 monthly salary in the low minors.

But Coffey accepted it. …

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  • Clip and save: Top 2014 MLB Free Agents, compiled by Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors. (If you can’t wait that long, here are some earlier posts related to 2013.)
  • Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus looks at what contracts top youngsters Mike Trout, Matt Moore and Bryce Harper would get if they were free agents.
  • Rafael Furcal was a top-five defensive shortstop last year, according to David Pinto of Baseball Musings and his probabilistic model of range (PMR) stats.
  • Charles P. Pierce of Grantland on steroids and baseball:

    … From its very beginnings, the “war” on performance-enhancing drugs in sports, and especially in baseball, has been legally questionable, morally incoherent, and recklessly dependent on collateral damage to make its point. Long ago, I went over to the purely libertarian position on this question simply because any other solution seemed to me to be incompatible with civil liberties and an equitable sharing of power in the workplace — and because every other “war” on drugs that I’d seen had been an enormous waste of time, money, and manpower.

    There always have seemed to me to be two main arguments against this position. The first is the question of the player’s health. This is not one to be dismissed lightly, even though, in almost every other context in professional sports, it is always secondary to profits in the mind of management. And the second, more hazy argument is that it is somehow unethical to ingest a substance that will make you play better. Too often, it seems, the former consideration is used to camouflage arguments based primarily on the latter.

    The health consideration is doomed to failure in the long run because, well, Science Marches On. Sooner or later, someone’s going to invent a substance that enhances performance without any risk to the athlete involved. The reason this will happen is because whoever invents the stuff is going to get wealthy beyond Warren Buffett’s wildest dreams. Eliminate the health-of-the-athlete fig leaf and all you’re left with is the moral and ethical argument and, on its own, that falls apart with the slightest nudge.

    Can someone seriously argue that it is ethical to take a drug to make a performance possible, but unethical to take a drug that makes that performance better? Isn’t making a performance possible at all the ultimate performance enhancement? If there had been a drug that would have given us five more seasons of Sandy Koufax at the top of his game, how would that have been a bad thing, everything else being equal? Sports are rife with drugs. Without drugs of one sort or another, the NFL season would never begin, and the baseball season would end sometime in June owing to a lack of participating teams. …

  • Learn how a 1955 San Bernardino gang fight sparked the creation of “West Side Story,” from the Press-Enterprise and the Times.