Former Angels Minor League Coaches in the Majors
Tim Wallach managed the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2001.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported on October 25 that Dodgers’ Triple-A manager Tim Wallach had been eliminated as a candidate to manage the Milwaukee Brewers.
Wallach began his managing career with the Angels. In 2001, he ran the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in their first season as an Angels affiliate. The Quakes finished 63-77 with a roster largely devoid of talent. Wallach was very frustrated with the players’ inability to grasp what he was teaching, although I think it was more that he couldn’t accept they didn’t have the talent to execute what he wanted.
I remember Wallach being tossed from a game, then sitting up the runway in a folding chair. The camera well is at the bottom of the runway where it connects to the dugout. I was in the well shooting photography; Wallach would call down to me when he wanted to relay a message to the bench.
On another occasion, Wallach made a pitching change and while the pitcher warmed up the umpire approached Tim and gestured in my direction. Whatever it was, it was quite the animated discussion. What had I done?! Tim approached me and said:
“The umpire wants to know if you’ll take pictures of him.”
Only in the minors …
Doug Sisson, another former Angels minor league manager, recently landed the first base coaching job with the Kansas City Royals. He managed the Arkansas Travelers in 2002, finishing with a 51-89 record. That would have been largely the talent pool Wallach had in 2001.
Former Yankee Bobby Meacham managed the Quakes in 2002-2004. He began a major league coaching career in 2006, when he was the third base coach for the Florida Marlins. He was the Padres’ first base coach in 2007, then the Yankees’ third base coach in 2008. This year, he was the first base coach for the Astros.
And although he never coached in our system, the Nationals’ general manager Mike Rizzo played in the Angels’ minors from 1982 through 1984. (The 1984 Redwood Pioneers were Tom Kotchman’s first Angels team.) Rizzo just added the title Vice-President of Baseball Operations to his business card, giving him the authority to report directly to ownership.
No More Earthquake Jokes
When the Angels affiliated with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes on September 15, 2000, it was inevitable that we’d hear all sorts of earthquake-inspired jokes, such as the marketing slogan “Shake, Rattle and Roll.”
So when it was announced by the Quakes yesterday that they had dumped the Angels for a two-year affiliation with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the first temptation of course was to write something like, “Angels Rocked by Rancho Cucamonga Temblor.”
The rumors began circulating on September 15 when the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported the Quakes might leave the Angels for the Dodgers. The Angels and Quakes had been partners for ten years, but at times it was a rocky relationship, with Rancho Cucamonga filing to terminate after the 2002 season, but the teams eventually reconciled.
It’s hard to say what goes through the mind of a minor league team’s ownership when they file to terminate. Winning sometimes is a factor, although most casual minor league fans haven’t a clue how the team is doing. A desire to partner with a locally popular major league team such as the Angels or Dodgers, or a nationally popular organization such as the Cubs or Yankees, also sometimes plays a factor.
According to today’s Daily Bulletin, Quakes managing partner Bobby Brett cited “the mutual interest in the Dodgers purchasing a minority share in the Quakes.”
It seems an odd reason to terminate a successful ten-year affiliation, especially for one of the most dysfunctional organizations in major league baseball. Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt are going through an ugly divorce, and one of the major issues of contention is who actually owns the team. There’s been much speculation in the papers about the McCourts’ value on paper, and how much that affects the Dodgers.
The Dodgers and Angels have had disappointing seasons, but both have fruitful farm systems that produced several post-season contenders. In the Midwest League, one level below the California League, both the Angels’ Cedar Rapids Kernels (82-56) and the Dodgers’ Great Lakes Loons (90-49) went to the post-season, suggesting that the 2011 teams in the Cal will be very competitive.
Brett claimed, “When you’re partners with a major league team, you get more of an effort to win. You get more cross-marketing and promotion in your own backyard.” But there’s a difference between the interests of a minority owner and a majority owner. The parent club won’t be calling the shots in Rancho Cucamonga. Brett will.
And according to the Daily Bulletin article, the Dodgers’ expressed earlier interest in a financial partnership seems to have waned. Brett rationalized that by saying, “When you become partners, you have to know each other a little bit better,” which in my opinion sounds like a bit of spin now that the original scheme seems to have misfired.
In a column published before yesterday’s breaking news, Baseball America columnist Will Lingo wrote about the lack of sentimentality in affiliation switches:
… What the process reinforces is that very American desire to be on the lookout for a better deal. Sure you may be happy with your current situation, but you could probably do better if you could just get to that hot new market with the shiny new ballpark . . .
Times like this remind us that professional baseball is a business. Sentimentality is a gimmick owners use to separate you from your money.
Brett says he’s not concerned about losing Angels fans. “There may be some people (who leave as Quakes fans),” he told the Daily Bulletin. “It’s hard for me to believe people come to Quakes games solely because the players on the field get their paychecks from the Angels. If people decide to watch future Angels elsewhere, we understand. We believe there are diehard Dodger fans to offset that.”
I’ve heard anecdotally from several Quakes season ticket holders and host parents that they will have nothing to do with the team now that it’s affiliated with the Dodgers, and certainly we’ll see far less red in the stands next year. Brett seems to think he’ll see more blue. That’s his choice.
As for the Angels, the breakup ends a ten-year streak of stability. Starting with the 2001 season, the Angels did not change any affiliations, a record very few other teams (if any) can claim. Stability comes from good relationships with the affiliates, but sometimes the affiliates have a different agenda and that’s their privilege.
So the Angels move on.
Their choices are limited. At the Advanced Class-A level, only two openings remain and they’re both in the Cal League. Inland Empire (AKA San Bernardino) was the Dodgers’ home, and Bakersfield just lost the Rangers to the Carolina League.
Inland Empire would obviously be preferable, not just geographically but also because Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield is decrepit. Built in 1941, it hasn’t been renovated, it’s 354 feet to center field, and the field faces into the setting sun. Bakersfield usually gets whatever major league club loses the game of affiliation musical chairs every two years, and will wind up with whatever team doesn’t go to San Bernardino.
The Inland Empire 66ers can choose between the Angels and Cincinnati Reds. The Angels would seem the obvious choice, but 66ers management might think the Angels are so desperate not to go to Bakersfield that they can issue their own demands.
David Elmore’s Elmore Sports Group owns the 66ers, and his son D.G. Elmore individually owns the Blaze. It doesn’t take much imagination to suspect a little collusion might happen out of mutual interest.
Whether it’s Inland Empire or Bakersfield, we should know soon enough where the halo will shine in the Cal League the next two years. But Angels fans are considered expendable in Rancho Cucamonga.
Minor League Game of the Week
A new minor league game of the week is now on FutureAngels.com. This is the second of four games in memory of Nick Adenhart.
May 9, 2006 … The Cedar Rapids Kernels visit the Dayton Dragons (Reds affiliate). Nick pitches seven shutout innings, striking out nine and walking one while giving up four hits.
Some other interesting notes about this game.
Two players in the lineup were converted later in their careers into pitchers and made it to the big leagues with other organizations. DH Warner Madrigal, who homers in the game, is now a reliever with the Rangers. Travis Schlichting, who plays third base, pitched briefly for the Dodgers this year in relief.
In addition to Madrigal, Mark Trumbo and Jordan Renz also homer in the game.
The link is on the home page at www.futureangels.com. You need Windows Media Player to listen.
The First Shall Be Last
Joe Torres was one of two Angels first-round selections in the June 2000 draft. In this August 2000 photo, he’s pitching for the Boise Hawks.
Joe Torres was arguably the top left-handed high school pitching prospect in the nation entering the June 2000 draft. He was selected by the Angels with the first of two picks they had in the first round, selected #10 overall.
(The Angels selected RHP Chris Bootcheck with the #20 pick, which was compensation from the Oakland A’s in exchange for signing a former Angel as a free agent. Who was that Angel? The answer is at the end of the article.)
Joe began his career with legendary manager Tom Kotchman, who at the time was running the Boise Hawks in the Northwest League. Not quite 18, he posted stellar numbers. In 46 innings, he struck out 52, walked 23, and had a 2.54 ERA.
Then it started to go wrong.
Torres suffered a sore shoulder in spring training. He finally reported to Cedar Rapids in late May but after four starts was returned to Tom Kotchman, this time in the Pioneer League with the Provo Angels (today’s Orem Owlz).
Joe got through a full season in 2002, posting a 3.52 ERA in 133 innings, but wildness crept into his game — a SO:BB ratio of 87:66 — and his strikeout rate showed an alarming decline.
Torres began 2003 with Rancho Cucamonga but clearly something was wrong, and eventually he underwent “Tommy John” surgery. He spent the next year and a half on rehab at the Angels’ minor league complex in Mesa, joining another top high school pitching prospect — Nick Adenhart.
Top pitching prospects Joe Torres and Nick Adenhart show off their “Tommy John” scars while on rehab at Mesa in August 2004.
Nick’s recovery was successful, but Joe’s was not.
During the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Torres walked more than he struck out. He found himself in the bullpen, and since 2005 has not started a game.
After 2006, he took his minor league free agency and signed with the White Sox.
The 2009 season found him in the Rangers’ organization, pitching for Double-A Frisco in the Texas League. This May 22 article in his hometown newspaper recounts Torres’ career history, and concludes with his optimism that a major league job was in his near future.
But he was released on the Fourth of July.
Perusing this morning the minor league transactions listed on MiLB.com, I saw that the Dodgers had signed Joe and assigned him to the Inland Empire 66ers in the California League, the same league as the Angels’ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Joe is back in High-A ball for the first time since 2006, a big step backwards in his dream.
For all his years in pro ball, Torres is only 26 years old, turning 27 in September. He could still find his way to the big leagues one day; the baseball gods sometimes reward those who are persistent.
But his career to date is yet another reminder that first-round draft status guarantees nothing. Too much uncertainty awaits ahead.
The Angels got the A’s first-round pick in the June 2000 draft in exchange for Oakland signing reliever Mike Magnante as a free agent. A’s GM Billy Beane admitted making a mistake because he signed Magnante before the Angels could offer him arbitration. The penalty was losing his first-round draft pick.
Better Living Through Chemistry
Much of the baseball world has been obsessed with the revelation that Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez tested positive for the drug human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) which is banned by Major League Baseball.
This followed on the heels of the revelation last February that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested positive for anabolic steroids in 2003.
I may be in the minority, but I really couldn’t care less.
Not that I advocate the use of body-altering substances. When it comes to that sort of stuff, I’m a pretty vanilla personality. When I was in college in the mid-1970s, I was one of only two guys on my dorm floor who didn’t smoke pot. I just couldn’t see the point.
Perhaps my apathy stems from my generally cynical view of a certain segment of people who call themselves fans yet are more interested in being entertained than having an emotional dedication to a team or a player.
Los Angeles Times sportswriter Kurt Streeter suggested in a recent column that “All will be forgiven, as long as No. 99 comes back swinging a fat bat.”
I think he’s right.
Not that everyone who follows the Dodgers feels that way, but I think a lot of people do. It’s all about results, it’s all about entertainment, and so long as Manny hits dingers they’ll look the other way.
It was the same in 2001 when Barry Bonds hit 73 homers. There were rumors of steroid use, but the mainstream looked the other way as they enjoyed watching Bonds hit monster home runs. The outrage came later, when the novelty had worn off. For some people, there’s nothing they enjoy more than seeing someone more successful than them knocked off a pedestal.
It’ll be the same with Ramirez one day, when he’s no longer productive and therefore no longer entertaining.
Angels fans can smirk at Dodgers fans, but what if it had been Vlad Guerrero who tested positive?
Owner Arte Moreno showed little tolerance for Gary Matthews Jr. in 2007 when Sports Illustrated reported that Matthews had ordered human growth hormone in 2004. But if it were Vladi who tested positive and was suspended for 50 games, would the Angels fan react any differently than the Dodgers fan?
If Guerrero returned and went on a hitting tear that took the Angels to a world championship, I suspect a lot of Angels fans would suddenly come down with short-term memory loss.
Because there’s so much money at stake in professional baseball, and therefore the pressures are so great to entertain by winning, I’m really not surprised that so many ballplayers are resorting to chemicals that protect and enhance their physiques. If an actress gets a facelift or a tummy tuck to look youthful so she can keep playing roles that might go to a younger actress, are theater goers going to complain? I’ve yet to hear one movie patron walk out in disgust and demand a refund because an on-screen performer had his or her body enhanced.
The most extreme example of where sports and entertainment cross is professional wrestling, where athletes subject their bodies to a grueling schedule and nightly physical abuse to tell a story. Wrestlers are just as athletic, if not more so, than the typical ballplayer, but they’re under pressure to entertain too or they’re out of a job. It’s really not a surprise, then, that so many wrestlers have died young from steroids, alcoholism, or painkillers. But most fans still go to wrestling events, just as attendance at baseball games is still strong and enthusiastic despite all the embarrassing headlines about drug use.
I suppose it could be argued that, in wrestling parlance, A-Rod and Manny and their ilk have “turned heel,” i.e. they’re now a bad guy whose job is to get booed by the crowd. “Heel” or “face” (bad guy or good guy), the bottom line is the take at the front door, and isn’t that the same with professional baseball? You can fill Angels Stadium with 40,000 screaming and obnoxious Yankees fans, and Arte will gladly take their money, because it’s a business.
Besides, the notion of athletes altering their bodies with chemicals is nothing new. Troy Percival was infamous for chugging coffee before a relief appearance to get a caffeine high. Ball Four author Jim Bouton told ESPN that “In the 1970s, half of the guys in the big leagues were taking greenies, and if we had steroids, we would have taken those, too. I said in Ball Four, if there was a pill that could guarantee you would win 20 games but would take five years off of your life, players would take it. The only thing I didn’t know at the time was the name.”
There were also athletes whose performance diminished from chemical abuse. Mickey Mantle’s career suffered from his alcoholism. Babe Ruth was frequently out of shape, and his carousing caught up with him during spring training in 1925 when he underwent surgery for what was billed as an intestinal abscess, although it was rumored he was suffering from gonorrhea. What might their career numbers have been if they’d taken care of themselves. Yet no one ever questions that, it’s just considered “colorful” and a part of baseball lore.
With so much at stake, with fans demanding so much, with all that money on the table, I can understand why athletes succumb to temptation. They are mentally geared to compete at everything in life. Part of that is competing against their own bodies. It’s that mindset that wins titles, and if that’s the end then how many people will quibble about the means? Maybe later, but not while they’re winning.
On the rare occasion that I hear about a ballplayer I know testing positive for a banned substance, I feel disappointed but I tend to be forgiving — not because I want to be entertained by them, but because I understand the pressures that led to the decision.
And many times, you’re dealing with someone who isn’t exactly the Stephen Hawking of pro sports. I don’t think you’ll see Manny Ramirez joining Mensa any time soon. Players from impoverished Third World countries long ago forgot about ethics because simply feeding your extended family back home is more important.
I’m glad MLB continues to rigorously pursue drug testing, and more importantly is actually enforcing the rules. But I’m not sanguine about the notion that paying customers will walk away from the game any time soon because of positive drug tests. It’s all about entertainment, and so long as they’re entertained, they’ll be back.