I’m often asked to explain the type of work I did in my Cubs Baseball Operations days. “What did you do? Were you involved in making trades?”
Information Manager, I say. Collector-and-passer-on of information.
Most of the time, I’m hesitant to get into specifics. Either the work I did was proprietary in nature, or I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to pat myself on the back. It’s the general manager that makes the decisions. It was my job to get him as much info as possible so he could make the most educated decision possible for the ballclub.
Some of the moves were made strictly for financial reasons. Some of the moves were made for reasons the general public couldn’t know about.
Some moves turned out one-sided in our favor. Some turned out one-sided the wrong way. Most were somewhere down the middle.
Whether it was a player we acquired … or a player that was a pipe dream to obtain … or some player or team that we went down a road with, but the transaction never took place – every possible move was tens of hours of research and analysis.
Well, almost every move.
When I recently wrote about the near magic of 2008, I jogged a little note out of my memory bank. It’s one of those, “Hey, I can pseudo pat myself on the back for that one.”
It was during March of that year that we were hopeful of obtaining a veteran presence to supplement our outfield group. In plain English, we needed a platoon right-handed bat to magically fall into our lap.
In baseball, magic doesn’t happen when you need it to. When you have a need, that typically means you’re going to overpay to get it – if you can find it at all.
This one March morning, about a week before the end of spring camp, I was standing in the HoHoKam Park kitchenette shooting the breeze with assistant general manager Randy Bush. It was early – maybe 7:30ish – as we chatted in the front office section of the Cubs’ old spring training ballpark.
All of a sudden, my Blackberry buzzed with a breaking sports alert. The Toronto Blue Jays had just released Reed Johnson.
Showing my nimbleness and my ability to read and talk at the same time, I immediately was able to scan the alert and say out loud to Randy: “The Blue Jays just released Reed Johnson.”
You ask: “What did you do in Baseball Ops? Were you ever involved in player acquisitions?”
I respond: “This might have been the easiest thing I ever did.”
We were very familiar with Reed Johnson. Right-handed bat. Gritty outfielder who would run into a wall for you. Solid clubhouse presence. Veteran role player.
I had done my part to get the ball rolling when I read the text aloud to Randy. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.
Within minutes, Randy had relayed the information to Jim Hendry.
Within minutes, Jim had contacted Tim Wilken – the Cubs’ scouting director. Wilken had been a longtime member of the Blue Jays’ organization – and was the scouting director who selected Reed in the 1999 draft.
Within minutes, Tim tracked down Reed – calling him to let him know the Cubs would have interest in signing him.
Officially, Johnson was placed on unconditional release waivers. A couple days later when the waiver period expired and he cleared waivers, he signed with the Cubs. His impact on the team was immediately felt.
Again, I didn’t sign him. And I realize I didn’t do much – other than read a text. But being a part in an acquisition is, indeed, being a part. I’m pleased to say I was able to play the first part in this acquisition.