A classic tool for sportswriters to resort to when looking to fill some column space is to find a major league scout and ask him to just riff on a bunch of players. To be fair, Mark Feinsand did so on his blog, where pretty much any content goes. However, reading the things the scout said reaffirms for me the validity of the general movement away from pure scouting towards statistical analysis. Here are some of the highlights:
On Derek Jeter:
“Jeter is the No.1 guy on the club no matter how you look at it. He makes that team go. He can play for my team any day. He has the damndest inside-out swing I’ve seen in my life. He’s a smooth player. He doesn’t have a lot of time left at shortstop, but he’s what he should be – a captain. He’s the leader of this team and has the greatest makeup of any player ever. He’s the consummate professional. His defense is solid. He can make all the plays, can turn the double play and still has good feet. Is he the best? No. But he’s still good enough. I like everything about Jeter.”
This is the kind of stuff that makes people call Jeter overrated. Is he still a good player? Certainly. But his defense is by no means solid, and all the intangibles in the world do not make him the player that “makes the team go.” And how exactly can you make the call that he has the greatest makeup of any player ever?
On Johnny Damon:
He’s always been a great runner. He’s come a long way in his career and found a way to hit. I don’t know how he does it with all that movement, but he can make contact. He’s a dangerous hitter. He never could throw great, but now he can’t throw at all. He’s still the best center fielder on the team. He can go out and get the ball.”
Where has this guy been for the last 3 seasons? Damon is an awful CF at this point, and he is at most the third best CF on the team. The guy then goes on to contradict himself with the following about Brett Gardner:
He always looks good in the spring and looks like a heck of a player, but the regular season is different. I like Gardner though. He’d be my center fielder if I’m running that team. He has good makeup and great hustle. I like speed and this team definitely needs speed.”
So….Damon is the best CF’er on the team, the Yankees have a logjam in the outfield, and he would go with Gardner? Seems pretty crazy, unless he does not like Nick Swisher:
“Swisher doesn’t fit in this organization. He’s a goofball for one, but more than that, I don’t think he’s that good a fielder anywhere you put him. As a corner outfielder and first baseman, he’s not what I would call a good defender. He doesn’t run that good. He can jump on some pitches and hit them far, but you’re banking on him doing something with the bat if you’re going to play him. The only way he works himself into the lineup is if Damon or Nady don’t perform.”
The scout doesn’t like Swisher because of his defense on the corners. For some reason, I do not think I am going to put much faith in the assessment of a guy who considers Johnny Damon the Yankees best defensive CF’er and Derek Jeter a solid shortstop. The lesson here is to avoid putting much faith in the words of unnamed scouts, as they like to make bold statements that they will never be held accountable for.