Veteran Leadership

marc w · December 28, 2012 at 2:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I was reading Jeff Sullivan’s latest post, as I’m wont to do, despite its off-putting title (“A Post About Jose Lopez“). Near the end of the somewhat depressing recap of Jose Lopez’s career, Jeff mentions that motivation may have been Lopez’s undoing, and that Raul Ibanez has been acquired in large part to provide motivation and a positive example to others:

“But it sure seems like the motivation thing. This is sort of the reason the Mariners signed Raul Ibanez. Ibanez, more than anything else, is supposed to be a hell of a role model, a great positive example, and the Mariners hope that their young players can learn from Ibanez how to conduct themselves and make themselves better.”

Of course, Ibanez himself was in the position to be a role model to Lopez once upon a time, and that didn’t work out too well. But what if we expand the search a bit? Let’s take a look at every young player (defined somewhat arbitrarily is a player 25 or younger) that the mature Ibanez played with. Raul Ibanez turned 30 in the 2002 season, while he was a member of the Kansas City Royals. This was a pause between rebuilds for KC, so the team had very few young players – the average age was over 29. The only player 25 or below was Carlos Beltran, who was 25 that season. That sounds great, but I’m not sure it really works. Beltran came up in 1998, and going into 2002, he had played about 100 more MLB games than Ibanez. If anything, Ibanez could’ve learned from Beltran (and just looking at his stats after joining the Royals, maybe he did). In 2003, the Royals went young, and Ibanez’s veteran savvy could finally work its magic. That season, KC had three important pieces (over 100 plate appearances) that were 25 and under: Angel Berroa, Ken Harvey and Dee Brown. Hmmm.

Ok, Ok, the Royals were/are terrible. In his first year with Seattle, the M’s were at a transition point with a declining (old) core of veterans and some raw talent that was perhaps not quite MLB-ready. Still, two “young” players played a role on that 2004 team: the 20 year old Jose Lopez and 25 year old Miguel Olivo. The next year marked more of a typical rebuild, with Jeremy Reed in CF, Lopez at 2B after Bret Boone’s ouster, and the arrival of perennial Gold Glove SS, Yuniesky Betancourt. The next year, we can add Chris Snelling and Rene Rivera to the mix – both had seen glimpses of Ibanez’s professionalism the year before, but got to bask in its warmth for longer stretches of time in 2006. The next two years saw Bill Bavasi’s attempt to add “experience” to the team, pushing its average age at or near 30 years, so there were fewer opportunities for youngsters. Still, Wladimir Balentien, Jeff Clement, Bryan LaHair qualified in part-time duty in 2008.

Following that, Ibanez headed to Philadelphia and New York where his leadership was wasted on his fellow veterans. From 2009-2012, Ibanez played with two players (2) who were 25 or younger and got at least 100 plate appearances in a year: Dom Brown in 2011 and Eduardo Nunez last year (Nunez had exactly 100 PAs). So, we’ve learned that Ibanez has played with several young players, many for several years at a time. He’s played with up-and-coming players in several organizations, including numerous top-100 prospects. Let’s review (bolded names indicate top 100 prospect):

2002:
Carlos Beltran (again, Beltran had much more MLB experience than Ibanez, but he fits the criteria)

2003:
Angel Berroa (Good in 2003, then utterly collapsed. Out of MLB before he turned 30)
Ken Harvey (Weird career; All-Star in 2004, but out of MLB for good early in 2006)
Dee Brown (Tools-prospect bust. Outside of 8 PAs in 2007, was done in 2004)

2004:
Jose Lopez (You all know what happened to him)
Miguel Olivo (Mmmhmmm)

2005:
Yuniesky Betancourt (Released last year, still waiting for another offer. Motivational problems cut his career short)
Jeremy Reed (2005 would be his best season in MLB. He posted an 85 wRC+)

2006:
Chris Snelling (Apparently, ‘leadership’ doesn’t cover avoiding injuries)
Rene Rivera (A back-up C, his wRC+ this year was 8. 8! There’s only one digit there! He finally got another 100 plate appearances in 2011 with the Twins, and was able to push his wRC+ to a solid 13).

2007:
None

2008:
Wladimir Balentien (The toast of Japanese baseball after belting 31 HRs in 106 games and posting a .958 OPS last year for Yakult)
Jeff Clement (Never a great defensive C, injuries helped force him to 1B, where his bat simply won’t play. Just signed minor league deal with Minnesota)

2009-10:
None

2011:
Domonic Brown (Vaunted tools prospect, he’s disappointed in brief stints in 2011-12. May get the chance to start next year).

2012
Eduardo Nunez (Utility infielder who’s played in 180 career games. Oddly has a higher career wRC+ than Jeremy Reed).

So what can we determine from this, besides the fact that it resembles a list of the most famous prospect busts of the past ten years? Nothing. For all of you who are saying that this isn’t fair, and that Ibanez couldn’t have prevented Snelling from getting injured all the time, or that it wasn’t his responsibility to physically remove the 5th hot dog from Yuni Betancourt’s grasp, I agree with you. This isn’t “analysis,” it’s just a quick recap of correlations involving Raul Ibanez. No one, certainly not me, blames Ibanez for Jeff Clement’s career going up in smoke. But it is sort of odd, given the stated reason for his acquisition, that he doesn’t really have much of a track record in the way of helping young players develop. Maybe 95% of that is playing in the Kansas City and Seattle organizations, two of the worst orgs in the 2000-2010 period in developing position players. But if he developed these leadership skills playing alongside Chase Utley, Placido Polanco, Jayson Werth and Chooch Ruiz, well, how sure are we that those skills will translate to players 15 years younger? I have no idea, and yes, this entire post is essentially a joke. But what value should we place on ‘leadership’ and ‘example’ when the guy who’s by all accounts the Babe Ruth of the pep-talk, well-timed high-five and quiet dignity has so few examples of players whose careers he helped (positively) influence?

Postscript: Ditching the 100-PA requirement brings several more players into the mix, including some all-stars, so I wanted to at least acknowledge that. Adam Jones got fewer than 100 PAs with the M’s, as did Shin-Soo Choo, but they played so rarely with Seattle it’d be odd to credit Ibanez for their success in other orgs. You also bring in everyone from Tug Hulett to Matt Tuiasosopo to Rob Johnson to Luis Valbuena to Guillermo Quiroz to Ramon Santiago. But Mike Morse!

Comments

27 Responses to “Veteran Leadership”

  1. terryoftacoma on December 28th, 2012 2:18 pm

    You’re right this post is a joke and a waste of your talent. He’s on the team. I await seeing what he does rather than dwell on why they say they signed him.

  2. ireportyoudecide on December 28th, 2012 2:21 pm

    This is a great article. Seriosuly, what are the Mariners doing? If Jack Z had died a week after taking over and we had no GM and just resigned the same players the last 4 years and made no moves we would still have

    Dickey
    Fister
    Morrow
    Morse
    Vargas
    LeHair
    Beltre
    Ichiro

    Who has he brought in? He’s just been terrible.

  3. Beniitec on December 28th, 2012 2:24 pm

    I think it’s good for the Mariners. I think he’s a class act and has learned from Edgar Martinez moreso than any of the other Mariners in the past did. I think he has some offensive skills that can be shared with the young kids. I don’t know what it is, work ethic, daily habits, positive influence, daily adjustments, the black book on every pitcher…who knows. Just what he did last year in the post season is proof enough that he has something special and that in itself is something those kids can ask him about and talk to him. He’s not going to put people in the seats. But he is a veteran hitter with post-season experience. One who has been with some small market teams and large market teams and done well at least offensively. He could be a decent DH for us.

  4. 9inningknowitall on December 28th, 2012 3:17 pm

    Although I think it is important to have clubhouse leaders I strongly believe that those guys need to be starters who can lead both on the field and off of the field. I like having Ibanez on the team but can we just state the real reason is so that Ibanez can have a farewell tour with the M’s and not because of some magical leadership skills he has.

  5. KBomb on December 28th, 2012 3:23 pm

    I know this is an attempt to make a rhetorical point, but it needs to be said that none of this “analysis” seems really very quantifiable, and suffers from a very small sample size. It doesn’t disprove that Raul brings positive potential leadership anymore than had a bunch of young players flourishing on his teams proves that it works.

    I have my own reasons for not being thrilled about signing Raul, but good clubhouse presence and leadership > bad clubhouse presence. Think of the alternatives: we could have signed a washed-up bench bat that is a bad influence on those kids!

  6. stevemotivateir on December 28th, 2012 3:35 pm

    ^Small sample size? He’s been in the league since ’96 and Marc just covered 11 seasons of examples.

    I think you missed the point anyway. This wasn’t a shot at Raul. It’s more of a challenge to the reasoning.

  7. KBomb on December 28th, 2012 3:35 pm

    This post does call to mind a question I’ve been mulling over for a while. Does it seem that in recent years, more of our position player prospects have gone bust than average? Can there be some way to measure if our coaching staffs in the minors are underperforming in their player development duties?
    I suppose this thesis might be better supported if young prospects traded away found flourishing in other organizations, but the Pirates couldn’t get much out of Clement and neither did the Reds do much with Balentien.
    What kind of work has been done on measuring different organizations ability to turn prospects into major league regulars?

  8. ripperlv on December 28th, 2012 3:39 pm

    I’m am of the belief that there is some value to a positive experienced clubhouse presence, esp. to overcome any cancers, and that’s ok. I think Jay Buhner was a good example of someone who helped produce a good clubhouse. I don’t know what value you place on that, but I also don’t know what negative value you place on that absence. Either way, Ibanez (and Morales) may be here for only one year. Is the plan for Smoak and Wells to get Ibanezed over the next season? Because as placeholders, I don’t see anyone else in the system pushing to be the next 1B or LF. That’s why I see the Ibanez signing as window dressing and does nothing to address the long term needs, and minimal positives to the short term needs. Basically, $4 millon to play Chief Petty Officer of the ship. So if we were to, say trade for Upton….ah never mind.

  9. stevemotivateir on December 28th, 2012 3:39 pm

    @Kbomb
    There’s plenty of examples that actually support what you just suggested. Sure, there’s busts too, but guys like LaHair, Choo, Cabrera, Morse, and Jones all went on to be successful elsewhere.

  10. PackBob on December 28th, 2012 4:52 pm

    On the money. For every example of a team playing well with someone who fits the bill for veteran leadership, there are examples of teams not playing well with the same veteran leadership. What in the world could you measure for comparison that wouldn’t carry loads of outside factors?

    The highest benefit, by far, that Raul can have for the team is to play well.

  11. MrZDevotee on December 28th, 2012 6:55 pm

    So wait, veterans can’t turn crappy baseball players into good ones? Seriously? Peguero’s not gonna become Pujols after this signing?

    And this– “The Babe Ruth of the pep-talk, well-timed high-five and quiet dignity”?

    That’s low.

    You’re entirely missing the point of “veteran leadership”/role models. It’s about a certain comfort level coming to the park.

    They know where the restaurants are for out of town games… They know where the restaurants are for HOME games… They know the best lockers, the tricks of different outfields… The low spot between center and left field at Fenway… Pitchers tendencies. Habits of other good ballplayers (what was it like playing with Griffey? A-Rod? Edgar? etc.)… They know which groupies to avoid? Which clubs are trouble…

    It’s more FUN to play with guys who have done it before. It provides a REAL comfort level. You’re not so out of your element as a bunch of kids heading to Yankee Stadium to face “real” ballplayers– if some of those “real” ballplayers are on your team.

    And I don’t see a causal relationship between at-bats and the effect a role model has on a young player? 100 AB’s? Huh?

    Guys with 100 AB’s are affected (or not) while those on the bench are oblivious to his work ethic/advice/experience, and UNaffected? (Morse, Choo, Jones, etc.)

    And he was never a veteran leader of this team before now anyways. He was a middle-of-the-road guy, trying hard to play a role. HE was the one looking for role models. Now he’s definitely a veteran who’s been to the playoffs & World Series with the Yankees and Phillies…

    Honestly not trying to bust your balls, Marc. And I really enjoy you’re writing. But this one, it doesn’t resonate. Isn’t even reasonable evidence of any real point (which I guess you admitted by crossing it all off and calling it a joke at the end).

    I’m NOT a fan of this signing. But I’m not a fan of the tar and feathering the guy is getting. He’s just an extra bat on a mediocre team. With loads of MLB experience. For cheap.

    How did Raul Ibanez become the poster boy for our distaste for every Ken Griffey Jr. last hurrah, Milton Bradley, Mike Sweeney, Eric Byrne, Jack Cust, etc.?

    He’s just an extra bat on a mediocre team. For cheap.

    But for some reason the fact that he’s been here before, is old, isnt’ a superstar, and isn’t who we WANTED makes him a pariah for the failures of the Mariners organization?

    And his presence here is worth nothing. Period. (?)

    (sigh)

  12. Westside guy on December 28th, 2012 7:38 pm

    I think Marc did make a point here, and Steve hit it spot on. It’s certainly not an indictment of Ibañez himself, nor a claim he’s not a good clubhouse guy – just a question regarding the apparent lack of significant evidence that Raul has shown himself to be some sort of proven clubhouse leader par excellence.

    I don’t think the two sides of this debate are going to find common ground, frankly.

  13. Westside guy on December 28th, 2012 7:53 pm

    Actually I should’ve said three sides to include folks like MrZ. :-D

  14. djw on December 28th, 2012 8:04 pm

    It doesn’t disprove that Raul brings positive potential leadership anymore than had a bunch of young players flourishing on his teams proves that it works.

    Furthermore, this post also fails to disprove my hypothesis that Raul Ibanez, because of his all-around awesomeness, will hit 40 home runs and win a gold glove in right field.

    Seriously, when efforts to defend a proposition get to the “you haven’t proved the negative!” stage of argumentation this quickly, you know you’re dealing with something pretty indefensible on the merits. Signing a 41 year old with negative WAR in the last two years is always a bad idea, even when that person is someone you have past positive associations with.

  15. amnizu on December 28th, 2012 11:09 pm

    The way I read this is more about pointing out logical fallacy of assuming correlation provides any bearing on causation.

    Just because Raul has not played with any budding superstars bears no meaning on his influance in the clubhouse. Furthermore, I’m sure if you looked hard enough you can find examples of players who were considered ‘cancers’ that played on teams that were stacked with young talent. Darryl Strawberry comes to mind.

    I’m sure Raul is a great guy who can show the kids the sites of the big city. However, giving someone a roster spot and paying them millions of dollars to do so is in my opinion a waste. Of course this is not Raul’s fault, I hope he has a great year and gets traded to a contender. However, Z and the front office should be called on this signing by the press and the fans. It is the only outlet avaialble, other than not buying tickets which I will be doing this season, to show our displeasure with the direction of the orginization.

  16. Jopa on December 29th, 2012 4:41 am

    Somehow this strikes me as meddling by Lincoln/Armstrong. It reeks of the Griffey Jr. second-time-around. With Ichiro gone they need a “familiar face” to “put fans in the seats”.

    There are simple questions to ask that bring this “leadership” thing into question. For example, will Smoak improve more by playing 1B and getting an extra 100-200 AB’s or by sitting on the bench watching Raul play 1B? Then ask the same question for Thames in RF and Montero at DH. Raul could take AB’s from Jaso.

    How do young guys get better sitting on the bench?

    I like Raul but I don’t like the signing. And I could buy a little bit into the argument Jack is making, but only in the case of a starter in his prime. This will backfire.

  17. heyoka on December 29th, 2012 7:50 am

    Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!

  18. Ike Clanton on December 29th, 2012 1:10 pm

    My initial thought, after reading the first paragraph, was that players who see significant playing time prior to 25 are usually pretty talented. Maybe this assumption is faulty, but it seems to make this facetious analysis seem even more damning.

  19. Typical Idiot Fan on December 29th, 2012 1:48 pm

    The only thing I want to add to any discussion about Ibanez and leadership is that we don’t know how many times anybody has asked him to fill that role. Most of the teams he was on had older, more veteran ball players, so he never had to be “the man”. Maybe no coach ever asked him to mentor players.

    It’ll be interesting to see what he does when we know he’s being asked to fill this role.

  20. Mathball on December 29th, 2012 8:05 pm

    So a completely different way of thinking of this, we traded Olivo with Raul. Cost about the same and they are to fill a veteran presence. Not sure how important veteran presence is, but would you rather it filled with Olivo or Raul? Looking at K% of this team and some other plate discpline stats, he could help the team if the kids watched him. (Sure the kids would learn more if they watched Jaso, but a second example won’t hurt).

    So a good guy that works hard and is a good example at the plate, we had worse.

  21. Kazinski on December 29th, 2012 11:37 pm

    We know the whole veteran leadership thing is bullshit, but we know Wedge, and now obviously Zdurincik believe in it to at least some degree.

    So I ask you, if a young player is looking at an old washed up veteran’s AB from the dugout, who do you want them to be watching Olivo or Ibanez.

    Or put it another way: if you have a young latin player like say Montero, on a team with very few other latin position players do you want Ibanez or Olivo mentoring a kid like Montero.

    I actually think Montero was at least 50% of the reason they got Ibanez.

  22. stevemotivateir on December 30th, 2012 6:03 am

    If a young player on the team NEEDS a veteran to learn from, he shouldn’t be in the majors.

  23. bfgboy on December 30th, 2012 9:30 am

    Please, please, please! Stanton and Nolasco would make the offseason perfect!

    https://mobile.twitter.com/JimBowdenESPNxm/status/285410259768582144

  24. Typical Idiot Fan on December 30th, 2012 1:18 pm

    How do you say “dream on” in your native language, bfgboy?

  25. stevemotivateir on December 30th, 2012 6:13 pm

    ^Way to tell him off. What a jerk for sharing his wishful thinking like that. Probably wishes for a winning season too.

  26. FelixFanChris420 on December 30th, 2012 10:41 pm

    The Stanton idea is a long shot, but its not THAT far fetched. Marlins are looking for good, cheap young controllable players with potential… IMO (and I’m no expert) a package that started with 1 of Montero or Ackley and also included 1 of Hultzen/Paxton plus Nick Franklin and maybe Smoak would at least get them interested. Probably won’t happen, but to dismis the idea as completely out of the realm of possibility is kind of short sighted…

  27. vetted_coach on December 31st, 2012 9:47 am

    Everyone is over-thinking the Ibanez signing. It’s simple. An overrated, over-matched, under-performing ineffective GM made a desperate last minute signing after it became obvious that the club couldn’t sign anyone else. It’s not about leadership. It’s about smoke and mirrors.

    What does Ibanez add? He’ll probably hit 15-18 HRs if given 400 ABs. At what cost? Jesus Montero has to get 500 ABs. He’s the only solid young hitter on the roster aside from Seager, and Montero has to be the primary DH. Kendrys Morales is the primary 1B. Where does Ibanez play? Gutierrez, Saunders, and Wells have to play the OF or your squandering your young corps of MLB ready prospects and investments.

    What the hell is Zduriencik doing? (“Nothing” is the correct answer. “Even he doesn’t know” is a reasonable alternative.) The last thing this team needed was a 40 year-old pinch hitter with no real position. Beats Smoak and Carp, I guess, but all you’re getting is either 100 ABs and maybe 10 HRs, or 400 ABs and 15 HR’s at the expense of developing your club.

    Ibanez would be a reasonable fit with Toronto, St. Louis, or San Francisco. Those are contenders.

    More flailing and fumbling. I see maybe 70-73 wins. And nothing developing. It’s like Groundbog Day from April to September. Snore.

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