I missed this last week, but my buddy Vince Grzegorek pointed me to a two-part interview of Bob Feller from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which the living legend disses Willie Mays’ amazing catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series:
PD: The 1954 World Series?
BF: The first thing that comes to mind has to be the Dusty Rhodes’
bloop home run.
PD: Not the Willie Mays catch against Vic Wertz?
BF: A lot of center fielders could have caught the ball Mays caught.
He put on the act pretty good; he always did. He let his hat fly off,
then threw the ball back to the infield. The ball was hit into a small
wind. The ball came down like a popup. He was playing shallow, but Vic
Wertz was the hitter, so he should not have been playing shallow.
PD: So you’re not impressed by the catch.
BF: Not at all. Not at all.
Feller has a habit of saying arguably impolitic things about famous stuff that happened during his heyday. I still can’t get over the fact that, when asked about Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech a couple of years ago Feller said “He’s wrong. I am. I’m still alive.” Yikes. But you know what? When 91 years-old you reach, so opinionated you shall be too.
As for the catch, many people think of Mays’ play as the stuff of legend. But Feller was there and didn’t view the thing through newsreel nostalgia. I’ve watched the catch as objectively as possible and I still think it’s great, but it’s probably worth listening to Feller about this. I’ll grant that maybe he still harbors some resentment over his heavily-favored Indians team losing that Series, but it’s also possible that he saw that catch a little bit differently — and a little more realistically — than the rest of us did.
Earlier, Craig wrote about the latest in the Mets’ search for a new general manager. Their list has been pared down to three candidates: Chaim Bloom (Rays senior VP of baseball operations), Doug Melvin (Brewers senior advisor), and agent Brodie Van Wagenen (of Creative Artists Agency).
It’s a diverse list, for sure, which makes one wonder what process allowed them to arrive at these final three candidates. Bloom is new school, Melvin is older-school, and Van Wagenen is… just inexperienced. Van Wagenen in particular is an interesting candidate as he has spent years advocating on his clients’ behalf. As a GM, he would do the exact opposite: he would try to take advantage of his players whenever possible, like every other GM in baseball does (e.g. manipulating service time).
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, agent Scott Boras thinks there would be a conflict of interest if an agent were to become a GM. Boras, in fact, says he has turned down opportunities to lead front offices. But there is no verbiage saying that an agent must divest himself of his business interests before taking a job in a front office. Dave Stewart and Jeff Moorad are two examples of agents who later went onto the ownership side of the business. Stewart, in fact, moved into the front office after retiring and held various roles in with various organizations until he started Sports Management Partners (renamed Stewart Management Partners). He transferred control of the agency to Dave Henderson before he joined the Diamondbacks’ front office near the end of the 2014 season.
Ownership and labor are in constant conflict, even when things seem peaceful. Ownership wants to extract as much labor as possible as cheaply as possible. Labor wants to be paid for their work as much as possible. Their goals contradict each other and yet they need each other. While not required, usually being deeply on one side or the other — as agents and GM’s are — speaks to one’s personal ethos about the eternal tug-of-war. That Van Wagenen is so eager to switch sides speaks, perhaps, to opportunism. I would be, at minimum, unsettled if I were a client of Wan Wagenen’s at CAA. How might he use the sensitive information he was privy to as an agent to his advantage as a GM?
We have seen the analytics wave take over front offices around baseball. As ownership looks for ever more ways to pocket more cash, Van Wagenen’s candidacy may signal an upcoming wave of agents transitioning into front office roles. Hopefully that doesn’t become the case. There may be no one better equipped to take advantage of labor than someone experienced on that side of the battlefield.