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Mets Shake Up Scouting Organization

Sep 03 2005 09:25 AM


MIAMI - Unhappy with the production from their farm system, the Mets quietly conducted a purge of their organization over the past two days.
Vice President Gary LaRocque, who joined the organization in 1997 and oversaw the minor leagues and draft during his tenure, was the highest-ranking employee to take a hit, though he likely will remain in some scouting capacity, deputy GM Jim Duquette said. The Mets have fired or demoted at least nine other members of the scouting department.

"It's still ongoing, so I don't have a number for you," Duquette said. "But there have been a fair amount of scouts fired or reassigned on the amateur side."

Paul Fryer and Terry Tripp, the organization's two national crosscheckers, responsible for quality control of underlings' recommendations, were fired along with area scouts Dave Birecki (Arizona), Quincy Boyd (Illinois), Greg Morhardt (Connecticut) and Jon Bunnell (Florida), baseball officials said. Bob Minor, Gene Kerns and Joe DelliCarri, the three area crosscheckers, were reassigned.

The Mets had been prepared to remove LaRocque a year ago, but Omar Minaya nixed the plan, wanting to observe the situation for a year before making moves. Russ Bove took over major responsibilities for the draft in June.

Team insiders maintain the reshuffling was made at the highest levels of the organization, with special assistant Al Goldis having aggressively lobbied for a turnover since his arrival two years ago. Bove, the first-year director of amateur scouting, was said to be pleased with the job the scouts were doing and wasn't responsible for the purge.

Special assistant Sandy Johnson has pushed for Rudy Terrasas, the assistant director of amateur scouting who joined the organization from Texas in December, to assume LaRocque's role, but Duquette indicated the position may be eliminated.

The Mets have had some high-profile products of their system make an impact this season - chiefly, Jose Reyes and David Wright. However, only Heath Bell, Aaron Heilman, Mike Jacobs and Jae Seo are the other homegrown products on the major-league roster, and team brass generally hasn't felt like it could reach down into the system to promote major league-ready players in recent years.

Critics of the reshuffling counter that internal studies commissioned by Fred and Jeff Wilpon in recent years showed the Mets to be near the middle, and in the upper half, in producing talent.

One person intimately familiar with the team's inner workings pointed to the number of draft picks the Mets have forfeited in recent years in order to sign free agents. The Mets had no first-round pick in 1999 and no second- and third-round picks in 2002 (for signing David Weathers and Roger Cedeņo), '03 (Cliff Floyd and Tom Glavine) and '05 (Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran).

In 2001, the year the Mets had a rare extra pick after Mike Hampton signed with the Rockies, they used it to draft Wright 38th overall. Meanwhile, the Braves were compiling extra picks for losing free agents.

Compounding the issue, Mets insiders said, is that the organization became tight with its purse strings. One prime example: The Mets drafted pitcher Kyle McCulloch - a University of Texas signee - in the 18th round two years ago, knowing he would command top-round money to sign, but figuring it was worthwhile because of the lack of early picks. After the draft, LaRocque was denied the money by superiors. McCulloch may go in the first round next June as a junior at UT.

Critics of the dismissals also note that New York teams are reluctant to trust their talent, and that elsewhere, upper-level prospects like pitcher Brian Bannister would be given the opportunity to succeed the way rookie Zach Duke has in Pittsburgh.

Tripp had been with the Mets for 20 years and was credited with signing 44th-round pick Jason Isringhausen. Minor signed the undrafted Bell and was responsible for Jacobs' 38th-round selection.



Johnny Dickshot
Sep 03 2005 11:03 AM

It's hard for us fans to know what really happens among the decisionmakers, or to compare it to other teams, but seems on the surface that when and if the team was willing to put $$ behind the amatuer regime it was as capable as any other of making good choices on talent -- often better given their resources, as supposed high picks fell to them.

Maybe where LaRoque failed was in being unable to convince the brass that his department needed the support so aside from the high picks selected amatuers based on signability to fill organizational roles rather than reach for exceptional talent such as McCullough mentioned in the piece. I do think LaRoque probably succeeded better than his predessor (who?) responsible for gathering in Paul Wilson, Ryan Jaroncyk, Terrence Long, Robert Stratton with early round draft picks.

Perhaps this was also a flaw of Phillips who appeared to have directed so much of the team's budget to the MLB squad, picking up hefty salaried players produced elsewhere to fill roles (guys like Burnitz, Stanton, etc); and surrendering draft choices via free agency far more often than gathering them in. There had to be some push-pull with how the various departments were budgeted. I'm definitely not saying there was right or wrong way to do this -- fans (and probably the Mets whole financial plan) demand the MLB team be competitive enough: But whenever they watched the budget in pursuit of MLB talent (Arod, Vlad and now Delgado) fans and media howl about how cheap they are.

It's true that the team produced very little depth capable of pushing or replacing their MLB talent, especially between 1999-2002, and that many of the youngin's competing for time now were gathered in by Duke's dealing off the remnants of those teams (Diaz, A. Hernandez, etc).

LaRoque may also be getting the axe due to (thus far) not fully realizing the capabilities of a great position in the '04 draft: Picking 3rd and 44th we came up with 2 pitchers who have already been injured in Humber & Durkin. That's prolly not his fault but its results that matter.

Bret Sabermetric
Sep 03 2005 11:11 AM

Glad to see some heads finally rolling. If I had my way, it would look like a disaster in the cabbage aisle but this is a start, as the lawyer joke goes.

Johnny Dickshot
Sep 03 2005 11:39 AM

]Glad to see some heads finally rolling.

Really? It's been alledged in some circles that Goldis, who also supported this move, was the guy campaigning for the Kazmir trade. He of course was new last season and supposedly had been pushing for the removal of LaRouque and his team, as noted in the news story.

One of the dangers in this kind of change is that the "new guys" tend to want the organization to reflect their preferences and their people: You could argue, for instance, that Lastings Milledge is more tradeable today than yesterday.

Johnny Dickshot
Sep 03 2005 11:48 AM

I think what we'd all like to see is for the Mets stand up and say: "Among our other goals, we're fully committed financially and philosophically to developing a bountiful farm system from which we can produce new talent in our organization, and use to gather in that which we don't have. We know it's hard, and sometimes we'll make mistakes but rest assured, fans and fanbois: We're doing all we can to improve in this area, and I hope you realize that Wright and Reyes show you (and us) every day the value in doing it. That's where we stand. Thanks for your business. Be sure to tip your waitresses, they're working hard for you tonight. And now, here they are, the Violent Femmes!"

Bret Sabermetric
Sep 03 2005 11:51 AM

Yes, really. As I said it's a start, and the least important part of the goal you want served here. The most important part is: Who do you replace them with?

The Mets have been very slow to fire people, IMO, under Wilpon, but they also and more critically lack skill in finding competent people to replace the current crew of incompetents. I've had the feeling that (aside from nepotism, which is high on my list of THINGS THAT WILL SCREW YOU UP FOR YEARS), Wilpon or his underlings look for

1) guys who have name recognition value

2) guys who work cheap

3) guys who value "toeing the party line" above "speaking your mind, to the press, if necessary"

and several other undesirable attributes, with not enough focus of "Wants to win, doesn't give a shit who gets the credit," which is my number one criterion.

Johnny Dickshot
Sep 03 2005 12:02 PM

The story suggests LaRoque's position may go unfilled.

If I could make a guess I'd say Omar is seemingly getting more resources to address the amateur situation than did Phillips. Where we for instance selected a leverageless college senior with a 1st round pick in '00 (Heilman) we went for a Boras-clinted high-ceilinged junior in Pelfrey this season, while also making a huge statement for Dominican teenager Jesus Martinez.

Be aware that doesn;t always work either: The Yankees recent history shows many overleveraged amatuer selections who didn't work out (that QB/third baseman, whatever his name was); Wily Mo Pena (good but basically hamstrung Cincy by being forced to honor a MLB contract that wasn't warrented) etc etc.

Bret Sabermetric
Sep 03 2005 12:07 PM

Johnny Dickshot wrote:
whatever his name was.

Drew Henson.

You're too young to be suffering from CRS.

Sep 03 2005 06:41 PM

This is major news.
Im surprized LaRocque got the axe as part of this house cleaning.

Hey, Im available.
Ill scout for peanuts.

Sep 03 2005 06:54 PM

I would like to thank Mike Hampton for leaving the Mets and allowing us to end up with David Wright and Aaron Heilman.

Edgy DC
Sep 30 2005 03:55 PM

I always get worried over this stuff.

Evolution, not revolution.