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At the letters: A scout's life

Jeff Passan
Yahoo Sports

I got an e-mail Tuesday from Tyler Wilt, the Cincinnati Reds scout and one of Brian Wilson's closest friends. He wanted to tell me that donations to the memorial fund for Wilson, a Reds scout who died at 33 of a heart attack, continue to pour in from across the country.

Much of that is thanks to you.

The response to the Wilson story was overwhelming. Little did I know when I started reporting the story that Brian Wilson was such a character, a notion emboldened by the hundreds of people who e-mailed saying they only wish to have met him.

"I work in a business built on old-school, manly ways," Tyler wrote, "and to hear some of these grizzled veterans and brash neophytes become emotional is awe-inspiring."

The power of the public continues to amaze me. I wrote about Major League Baseball's television blackouts because a 24-year-old named Jey Cho, who lived in Las Vegas, wanted to watch the Oakland Athletics. Thousands of e-mails later, commissioner Bud Selig said he plans to remedy the issue. And, trust me, we'll hold him to that.

A few months ago, we asked fans to make their case for Chad Carroll, the wayward Kansas City Royals fan, to switch allegiances. Though Chad's friends won the auction for his loyalty on eBay, they agreed to let the winner of their annual poker game, which will take place in Cleveland on Saturday, choose the team. If Chad wins, he agreed to let Yahoo! readers pick his team, and the inbox is still taking choices at pickchadsteam@yahoo.com.

"I must say that the most agonizing might be the idea of my buddy Brian winning," Chad wrote in an e-mail this week. "He is a Pirates fan and I just may have to give up baseball altogether."

I'll make sure that doesn't happen. Too many good things are going on in baseball these days, and readers seem to have an opinion on all of them.

As usual, my comments below are in italics.

BRIAN WILSON ("Scout's honor," July 7, 2006)

I'm writing this with tears in my eyes. My god, man – what a beautiful piece of writing, and what a celebration of an outstanding life!

Although I haven't lived there since 1986, I grew up in Northern Kentucky and still consider the Reds my home team. So naturally, I was drawn to your piece, as I am to nearly all stories about the Reds. I also spent 10 years living in Texas, and at the time I was there, my daughters were the age of Brian's. You cannot imagine what a welling of emotion you triggered in me with your story.

Brian Wilson's story must be told. It is truly inspirational – making the absolute most of your life, loving your profession and demonstrating the values and family commitment that makes the term "father" jump to life. How sadly ironic it is that Brian's death occurred on Father's Day weekend.

As you so properly noted, like thousands of other Reds fans, I missed any mention of this, presumably due to its minimal coverage, especially at the national level. What a privilege it is to read about it with the respect and admiration you included in your story. I'm seldom moved to contribute to causes merely because of an emotional appeal, but I will be making a sizable donation to Brian's memorial fund. I hope others will be similarly moved.

Jay Seifried
Lake Villa, Ill.

I hope so, too.


I just thought I would tell you that your piece on Brian Wilson was done with grace and style and it touched my heart. I guess God needed a scout worse than the Reds. Can you imagine the team Brian could scout in heaven? Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio …

Greg Stanger
Tacoma, Wash.


I'm a huge baseball fan and was surprised to not know who Mr. Wilson was. Thanks for an incredibly moving article that told us about the organization guy, but even more about a great guy – a guy that we all could've grown up with in our own town. Hopefully, his family, friends and associates continue to celebrate this young man's life long after reading your article. As a 40-year-old who survived cancer, I realize each day is precious at any age, but I think your article will help others realize this as well.

Armen Arisian
Delray Beach, Fla.

Baseball fans need not take shame in lack of knowledge about scouts. They are, by and large, a terribly underpublicized group because they not only work on the front lines of player procurement but they also seek no recognition. Many great baseball writers have advocated a wing at the Hall of Fame for scouts, and count me among the latest to leap on that bandwagon.


Great, great, great story, Jeff. Humanity is what makes sports interesting to me. The games without the stories just don't mean quite so much.

Matt Ethridge
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

I couldn't have put it any better myself.

USA VS. THE WORLD ("Time to break tradition?," July 10, 2006)

U.S. versus the World? It was such an overwhelming dud every other time it was tried, so you think it will work now … why? Here are some notable flops of this idea that you've conveniently ignored:

1. Last year's home run derby had significantly less appeal with Andruw Jones batting for the Dutch Antilles and Hee-Seop Choi slugging for Korea.

2. Whenever the U.S. is in international competition lately, it gets its butt whooped. People will not line up to see a repeat of the WBC debacle where the U.S. is pitted against not just one country, but all the other good players.

3. You're obviously not a hockey fan because you might remember that the NHL tried that format for a while, and to not that much acclaim. Last I noticed, they are back to the East vs. West format.

4. Everyone but the Bush administration recognizes that U.S. vs. the World is not a very successful foreign policy, either.

Please leave the tradition of American League vs. National in place. It may not be as interesting as it used to be, but at least it's a tradition fans can agree on. If you want to fix the All-Star game, have it start at 7 p.m. and have fewer commercials. Then it will be watchable again.

Jordan Wolf
Astoria, N.Y.

Before I get to Jordan's points, I received more than 200 e-mails on the idea of changing the All-Star game format. About five were positive, and one of those came from the guy my sister is dating, so that really doesn't count because he's obviously trying to curry favor.

1. The Home Run Derby is a lot like the slam dunk contest in the NBA: Tons of hype, rarely delivers. In its current format, it's not enjoyable no matter the contestants. Make it a longest-homer contest and some of the appeal would return.

2. Isn't the United States' failure part of the intrigue? I don't understand the notion that the U.S. needs to win for its constituency to keep interest. Losing brings drama to things written off as foregone conclusions.

3. Nobody watched the NHL All-Star game in the first place. Specious argument (and one made by dozens of others, too).

4. Can't argue with that one.

Perhaps time will change people's minds on this issue, mine included. For now, I'm standing pat, in spite of the brow-beating that's sampled below.


Who is "the World"? What is their fan base? People who hate America and Americans? Immigrants to America from some other country?

I was kind of humored by your interview of Jason Bay, a Canadian. I can imagine him on the World team. Instead of being the cleanup hitter for the "home team" (the NL) in his own home park, he would always be part of "them" in the morality play of us vs. them.

Imagine a U.S. vs. World game hosted in Canada. Can you see the Canadians strongly identifying with being part of the World? I can see them identifying with being part of the American League, as the Blue Jays' best players – U.S., Canadian, Japanese or Latin American – toe the rubber or slide into home.

The World Baseball Classic is different, since the athletes really do compete for their countries. Ichiro really is a part of Japan. I'm not sure he would identify with being a part of a non-American, rest-of-the-world group.

Eddie Facey
Las Vegas


Albert Pujols plays in the U.S., he lives in the U.S., he has set up and gives his time and money to a U.S.-based charity. He is an American regardless of where he was born. I was born in Germany and wouldn't want the commissioner's office pressuring me to play on the World team.

And why do Ichiro and Bobby Abreu get to be teammates? What's the connection between Japan and Venezuela? Why not the U.S. and Japan vs. Latin American?

I believe intelligent people everywhere are trying to rid the world of the U.S. vs. the World idea, not do more to support it. Doesn't the world include the U.S.?

Brian
Decatur, Ill.


So in a sanctioned Major League game you want to pit teammate vs. teammate. You want Albert Pujols to hit a walk-off home run off of Jason Isringhausen, making Izzy feel horrible for letting down his country and having to look at Pujols in the St. Louis clubhouse only days later? At least the WBC is before the season and only once every four years, not like this horrible yearly idea of yours (and only yours, as you can see by your survey of players). Please let steroids ruin baseball. It doesn't need any of your help.

Evan Knopp
Austin, Texas


Your idea to change the All-Star game is, and I am being generous here, asinine. Baseball is a game that transcends borders and nationalities. When David Ortiz dons his uniform, he becomes David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox. Not David Ortiz, Dominican. While some players may hype where they come from and are proud of their country, their origins pale when compared to the traditions and origins of the uniform they put on. To suggest that pitting a player from the U.S. against a teammate from the Dominican Republic would make good competition flies in the face of all that those players strive for during the season.

David Kahler
Gastonia, N.C.


USA vs. the World? How about they do MLB vs. Japan? They could get the MLB All-Star team against Japan's All-Star team. That would be worth watching.

Frank Fernandes
Boston

I love the idea. In fact, it's even better than MLB vs. the World. I just can't imagine MLB's best traveling to Japan or Nippon Baseball's best coming here in the middle of the season unless the All-Star break is extended by a day or two. The idea of the world's two top baseball leagues tangling, even in exhibition form, is quite tantalizing.

ALL-STAR GAME ("All-Star game unplugged," July 11, 2006)

I hope you didn't get paid for that "All-Star game unplugged" article.

Nick Paradise
Pittsburgh

I did. In pennies.


Was your piece on the "secrets transcripts" of what the players said during the All-Star game supposed to be funny? I mean the All-Star game is a sham anyway but you're not even worthy of "Last Comic Standing." Thanks, and best of luck at the Chuckle Hut.

Nathan Sauser
Phoenix

Gigging there this Saturday. Be there or be square.


Your "All-Star game unplugged" column had tears rolling from eyes it was so funny. Keep up the great work.

Jerry Pech
Grayslake, Ill.


Your "All-Star game unplugged" was hilarious. Thanks for brightening up my day.

Michael Schindley
Cleveland


I just have to say that your take on the 2006 All-Star game shows that you must not have a real interest in baseball at all. I am a National League fan and thought it was a great game to watch. For starters, Brad Penny came out throwing darts at 99 mph and struck out Ichiro, Derek Jeter and Big Papi. There were home runs by Vladimir Guerrero and first-time invitee David Wright. Stolen bases by Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran. A close play at the plate resulting in an out for the NL, thanks to a great throw by Vernon Wells. There was great pitching on both sides, which the "highlight fan," like yourself, simply despises. There was also an incredible comeback by the AL as they were down to their last strike in the ninth inning and going against one of the all-time great closers (although he is definitely past his prime). Pujols even dazzled the crowd with a barehanded catch! Just because this game was not an all-out shootout like other sports' All-Star games does not mean it was not enjoyable. I think you need to stay away from ESPN and their highlight reel and learn to enjoy the basics of the game of baseball.

Brian Gannon
Tampa, Fla.

I love baseball, just not its All-Star game. And before I address your point about pitching: the first inning was great, the Guerrero home run was a flyout in most parks, stolen bases in exhibitions don't exactly titillate me, but Wells' throw, which was a thing of beauty, did. Now, as for the pitching, I consider a well-pitched game one in which the starter goes deep. A bunch of guys throwing an inning of scoreless relief does not make a classic. It makes me think of Tony La Russa.


What were the yellow wristbands everybody at the All-Star game was wearing? Who was RCW?

Floyd Kenderdine
Reading, Pa.

It stands for Roberto Clemente Walker, which was Roberto Clemente's full name.

THE METS ("Amazin' grace," July 17, 2006)

Being a New York Mets fan for almost 18 years, life has been hard. From living with heartbreak year after year, scandal after scandal and Scott Kazmir, every year was getting more and more difficult. Now every day is a happy day. No longer will I watch games and worry if we will score a run. The new era has begun.

Mike Carson
Secaucus, N.J.

Are Mets fans really that masochistic to keep bringing up Kazmir's name? It's just painful to think all they got was Victor Zambrano. For Carlos Zambrano? OK. But Victor Zambrano? Ouch.


It's worth noting, in response to your Mets column, that the New York Yankees are beginning to act against the folly of free-agency farming. Look at their gutty performance this year, through injuries and inadequacies, and you'll find at the heart of it a handful of homegrown talents breaking through.

Dennis O'Brien
Stroudsburg, Pa.

Got a few letters similar to this. I did not include the ones arguing that grooming Andy Phillips and Bubba Crosby was something special.

Fact is, the Yankees haven't developed a star since Alfonso Soriano came up for good in 2001. The time before that was Derek Jeter in 1996. Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera and Chien-Ming Wang are nice players, but stars? Not now, and probably not ever.

The Mets, on the other hand, have David Wright and Jose Reyes, both 23, both stars already. With his fastball, Mike Pelfrey has that potential, as does Lastings Milledge, now at Triple-A. Pitchers Aaron Heilman and Brian Bannister are both products of the Mets system, too, and are above-average talents.

If you head to the minor leagues, the best single talent is Yankees pitcher Philip Hughes, though the Mets counter with a Philip H. of their own, Phil Humber, a 2004 first-rounder who is back from Tommy John surgery and struck out nine in five shutout innings Wednesday. Both the Yankees and Mets have 17-year-old outfielders who have torn up Class A (Jose Tabata for the Yankees, Fernando Martinez for the Mets), and the Mets one-up them in the teenage pitching department with 17-year-old right-hander Deolis Guerra, who has a 2.82 earned-run average at low-A despite iffy strikeout numbers.

PREDICTIONS ("Midseason reset," July 13, 2006)

Gotta disagree again. The Reds are, as usual, a lock to fall off the map. In fact, if the Reds even make the playoffs, I will send you a bonus check for $500 for being so genius. Hold me to it, but it won't happen.

Gregg Hiller
Winston-Salem, N.C.

Deal, Gregg, as long as you send the $500 along to Brian Wilson's memorial fund.


Can you see the St. Louis Cardinals going to the World Series? I watched a broadcast of you picking the Mets at the All-Star break, but does this recent seven-game winning streak by the Cardinals change your mind at all?

Will Evans
Gable, S.C.

No. The Cardinals starters' aggregate ERA is 4.94. Without Chris Carpenter, it's 5.55.


It seems to me everyone is on board to select the Los Angeles Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra as the comeback player of the year, but I see no mention anywhere about Scott Rolen. Rolen was injured in the 60 or so games he played last year and hit .235. His numbers are back where they were in 2004, if not better, and I guess I can attribute it to people forgetting about his injury and thinking that his numbers never fell off. I just think he deserves some consideration and recognition for working hard to get back to being a premiere player.

James
Holly Springs, N.C.

Rolen has been every bit as good as Garciaparra. I remember seeing Rolen struggle in spring training – he usually does – and wondering whether he'd ever be the same as 2004, when he was the best player in baseball for the first 75 games. Rolen isn't quite there, but he's close.


I should have learned not to read pundits' articles about MVP candidates by now, but once again I can't believe the twisted logic the experts use to justify picks. You say that "if the Red Sox lost Ortiz, the hole would be greater than any team losing any other player." Even ignoring that David Ortiz is, so far, the third-best DH in the league (behind Jim Thome and Travis Hafner), if a team loses a DH, even one as great as Ortiz, they replace him with the next best hitter (say, Wily Mo Pena in the Red Sox's case – he's no Ortiz, but still, not a disaster). Another team loses a position player, and they've got to find the next best bat and glove to fill the void. By this rationale, how close do you think the Minnesota Twins would come to finding another .380 hitter who can play catcher if Joe Mauer went down?

Mark Glickman
San Francisco

Looking at single seasons only, I'll take a DH who hits .280 with 32 home runs, 90 RBI and a penchant for dramatic clutch hits over a very good defensive catcher who hits .377 with seven homers and 48 RBI any day – Win Shares, VORP and all other sabermetrics be damned.


You guys use every excuse out there to disrespect the Detroit Tigers. Remarks like those Tigers are for real is only a cover for totally blowing preseason predictions. Bottom line is winning. Who has the best record in baseball?

Christy Smith
Grass Valley, Calif.

So I admit I screwed up royally in my preseason prediction and Tigers fans are still mad. Fine.

The Tigers are going to win the World Series.

I'm going to name my first born Leyland.

Little Caesars pizza doesn't taste like cardboard.

That better?


I'm curious about your revised picks. For the AL Cy Young ballot, you didn't even mention Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has the most wins, is fifth in ERA, tied for third in innings pitched and tied for second in complete games. Are you expecting him to totally collapse in the second half? After all, he has won the Cy Young before and was well on his way again last year until his injury.

Donald Hicks
Toronto

This was one of about 20 Halladay e-mails. And I had him down in third place, at one point. Ultimately, I looked at dominance. Johan Santana, for the last two years, has been unhittable in the second half. And he was excellent in the first half. A no-brainer choice. Hitters may figure out Francisco Liriano during his second time around the league. I'm still waiting. And the third spot ended as a toss-up between Jonathan Papelbon and Toronto closer B.J. Ryan. I went with Papelbon because I think his team will win the division.

FREE AGENTS ("Scouting the free agents," July 14, 2006)

"The only question about Daisuke Matsuzaka concerns his pitch counts. He did once throw a 250-pitch game as a high schooler, and just this week he won his 10th game by going the distance in a 10-inning victory."

Huh? What is the issue? Isn't the ability to go 10 innings for a win a really, really good thing? Is the issue that he throws too many pitches? If he has proven that he can go the distance, why would that be an issue?

William Nelson
Charlotte, N.C.

Ah, the million-dollar question in baseball: What is the point of diminishing returns for a pitcher?

When the 120-pitch threshold is hit, nerves start tingling. Old-time baseball men think throwing, throwing and more throwing is the key to a good arm. Today's management keeps strict pitch counts because it believes there's a correlation between lots of pitches and arm injuries.

There is no definitive answer. While 10-inning complete games are fine, 250 pitches seems awfully excessive, no?


You really think Barry Zito will get $15 million a season? He will be lucky to get $10 million a season. Look at his numbers since his Cy Young year – mediocre.

Derek Shane
Minneapolis

Look at A.J. Burnett's numbers since, well, the beginning of his career – mediocre.

In a poor class for starting pitching, the best is going to get rich. Zito happens to be left-handed with a durable body and playoff experience. In his walk year, he's leading the American League in innings pitched and has a 3.20 ERA, which is anything but mediocre.

To gauge the dollar figures, I surveyed two agents and two top personnel men. Initially, I had Zito at five years for $65 million. All four told me go to higher. They're the ones who would know.


BLACKOUTS ("Selig's promise," July 11, 2006)

Will you please post Fox TV's address and who we should write to express our displeasure at the blackout on Saturday afternoons. It is absolutely ridiculous that Fox dictates who fans watch on Saturdays. If we are on the East Coast we cannot watch any games in the afternoon yet Fox does not broadcast a 4 p.m. game on the East Coast. I want to advise them that I won't be forced to watch a game I do not want to see. MLB should not have agreed to this. Bud Selig really does annoy the average baseball fan. At least he is going to look into these other stupid blackout rules. It is about time.

Carol Ryba
Ormond Beach, Fla.

Sorry to say, but nothing is going to be done about Saturday afternoons. A lot of the money Fox paid in the $3 billion deal is for exclusivity on Saturdays. Is it stupid? Of course. But if baseball believes there is a price for angering its fans, that's its prerogative.

Here is the address.

David Hill
Chairman and CEO, Fox Sports Television Group
Fox Network Center, Building 101
10201 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035

AT THE LETTERS ("At the letters: Sensitivity edition," July 6, 2006)

I was born and raised in Texas, and while it may come as a shock to you, we can indeed read. So if you want to throw insults at a reader that's insulting to you, fine, do as you wish. However, in the future why don't you limit your area of insults to just that reader?

Ethan
Dallas

OK, people in Dallas can't read then?

Seriously, Texans can be a sensitive bunch. I have no problem with Texas. I enjoy Houston quite a bit, in fact. And if Brook from Missouri City wants to invite me to his place when he gets back from Iraq, I'd love to buy him a Shiner, so long as he doesn't punch me in the face.

In the interest of fairness, we'll give the final word to a Texan: David Delph from Wichita Falls.

People from Texas can read much better than people named Passan can write.

Amen.