Sunday, April 25, 2004

Rosenthal, Almanzar, and Scouts Covering Their Butts 

Ken Rosenthal's latest notes column includes this tidbit:

The Rangers' bullpen, which was fourth in the A.L. in ERA at the start of the week, faces similar questions, but RHP Carlos Almanzar has been a revelation after spending all of last season with the Reds' Class AAA affiliate in Louisville. Almanzar is throwing 95 to 96 mph, an increase of 4 mph from last season, scouts say.

Almanzar has been a revelation, that's true, but he was also dominant in AAA last season, with 54 strikeouts to only 3 walks. And more importantly, there's nothing that suggests Almanzar hitting 95-96 mph is anything new.

The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2002 said that Almanzar hits 95 mph; the Las Vegas Review-Journal, talking about Almanzar when he was the closer for the Las Vegas Stars, mentions a fastball that clocks in at 91-95 mph; and the Dallas Morning News said that Almanzar can get up to 96-97 mph.

So one has to wonder...what are these scouts talking about? Did Almanzar suddenly find some adjustment, some mechanical flaw to correct, that added that much to his fastball?

Hardly...more likely, the scouts Rosenthal has talked to are scrambling to explain why this hard-throwing journeyman pitcher was allowed to sign with the Rangers as an NRI, and are trying to justify missing on him by claiming that his fastball is somehow different than it was last year.

It is similar to Gerry Fraley's 180 on Gerald Laird. Just four months after writing off Laird as a back-up, at best, Fraley this spring declared that Laird needed to be the Rangers' starting catcher.

So was Fraley wrong in November, when he made his original pronouncement? Of course not...Laird still sucked back then. But Fraley assured his readers that scouts told him that Laird had made "more progress" than any other Ranger player. So somehow, the lousy catcher who would never amount to anything in November had metamorphed into a quality catcher.

It is important to remember that the writers, and their sources, are human...and rather to admit to error in judgment, particularly in an area so subjective, they'd prefer to explain away their mistakes by ascribing the changes to fundamental, and unforeseeable, changes in the player in question.

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