Saturday, July 14, 2007

Arlington vs. OKC

AAA Oklahoma City has an outfield which rivals the Texas Rangers OF in Arlington. These five divvy up the OKC Outfield/Designated Hitter positions:
  1. Jason Botts - a switch hitting Travis Hafner - with a better concept of the strike zone than Hafner.
  2. Nelson Cruz, Jr - a seeming star quality, five tool player with two problems: A) an overlong swing B) shaky confidence
  3. Victor Diaz - dangerous power hitter is still learning strike zone
  4. Freddie Guzman - super-speedy .300 hitter is still fighting to learn strike zone - and might be losing the fight.
  5. Kevin Mahar - 6'7" basketball-playing latecomer to baseball is progressing nicely through Rangers' system. Can play all three OF positions.

All of these are intriguing and talented players. All are on the extreme cusp of being major league ready. If Botts came to Arlington today, he might have stretches of the season where he was the best hitter on Ranger team. Compare them to the Rangers who divvy up the OF/DH slots in Arlington:

  1. Kenny Lofton
  2. Brad Wilkerson
  3. Frank Catalanotto
  4. Jerry Hairston, Jr
  5. Marlon Byrd
  6. Sammy Sosa

Which group is better: OKC or Arlington?

OKC's Cruz, Jr and Mahar have better physical talent than any of the Arlington six. Guzman has slightly better physical talent than Lofton. Diaz hitting talent is equal to Wilkerson's. In Arlington, Hairston Jr. and Byrd have good all-around talent. In OKC, EVERYBODY has better talent than Catalanotto and Sosa (at this point in his career).

Yet, the Arlington six are better. Arlington is better because the veterans understand major league nuance better. Arlington is better b/c of the brains/knowledge and the heart/competitiveness which define the Arlington six.

Baseball, above all other major sports, is vastly about ingrained qualities which are separate from a player's physical skills. Yogi Berra: "Ninety percent of this game is half mental." Yogi Berra was living proof of his own statement, as Yogi had limited physical talent. You inject Yogi's - or Kenny Lofton's - brains, heart, and competitive stubbornness into Nelson Cruz, Jr., and Nelson Cruz, Jr. morphs into Roberto Clemente.

Slightly expanding the conversation:

In the NBA, teams loosely acquire the best offensive talent available, then pray to God that the offensive talent will learn to and choose to play defense.

In MLB, teams loosely acquire the best athletes available: the fastest runners, the hardest throwers - then pray to God that brains/knowledge and heart/competitiveness will somehow take hold inside those players.

MLB teams might search for better ways to coach the insides of their young players. They might focus on improved coaching of the half mental part - including the spiritual and philosophical knowledge and confidence which produce dogged competitiveness - since the half mental part comprises ninety percent of success at the major league level.

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