Two tidbits from Buster Olney’s “evaluators”

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I read Buster Oleny’s column every day. It’s handy, as he links the great bulk of the day’s major stories. And while I don’t always agree with Buster’s take on things, I think he gets stuff right more often than a lot of the other big national guys do when they take off their reporter’s hat and think about the issues of the day.

Buster also seems pretty ego-free, and I get the sense that I’d enjoy sitting down for a beer with him more than I would the other handful of guys with whom he competes. Assuming he drinks beer. I’ve been to two Winter Meetings now, and I don’t recall him hobnobbing in the hotel lobby with the rest of us lushes, so maybe not. No matter.

Anyway, one of the things that has amused me lately about Buster’s column is that he uses the term “evaluator” all the time when referring to his sources. Maybe he’s done this a while, but I’m just noticing it. I’m pretty sure he used to use “scouts,” but now it’s “evaluator.” Probably pretty handy because you can include GMs and others farther up the chain with the same anonymous description. Although to be honest, part of me wants to think that it’s just Buster adding flair to the title, because I like the idea of the extremely straightforward Olney adding flair for no real reason.

Today there are two “evaluator” notes in his column that caught my eye. The first:

One evaluator loves the work he has seen out of Prince Fielder this spring, saying that Fielder is playing very hard and hustling.

Note to those who keep score of such things: a non-white, non-middle-infielder was described as “hustling.” That should bring the score to 1,345,224 to 2.  Also:

A rival evaluator stationed in Arizona thinks that the worst team he has seen this spring is the Diamondbacks. “They just don’t have a lot (of talent) over there,” he said.

I think the “stationed in Arizona” part is key, because I can’t see how the Pirates aren’t going to be the worst team in baseball this year.  Though, yeah, as far as the Arizona teams go, I think he probably has a point about the Diamondbacks

Dusty Baker drops truth bombs

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Dusty Baker was fired last offseason despite leading the Nationals to 95 and 97-win seasons. This was not new for him. Cincinnati let him go after taking a miserable Reds team to back-to-back 90+ win seasons — three in the space of four years — and making it to the playoffs in his final two seasons. In both cases the team that let him go cratered as soon as he left. There are likely reasons that have nothing to do with Dusty Baker for that, but it seems like more than mere coincidence too.

I say that because every time someone gets to Dusty Baker for an interview, he drops some major truth bombs that make you wonder why anyone wouldn’t want him in charge. Sure, like any manager he has his faults and blind spots — more so in his distant past than in his recent past, I should not — but the guy is smart, has more experience than anyone going and is almost universally loved by his players.

Recently he sat down with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic to talk about life, baseball and everything, and once again the truth bombs were dropping. About the state of front offices today. About the different way black and white ex-managers and ex-players are treated. About what seems to be collusion on the free agent market. And, of course, about the state of the 2018 Nationals, who are likely to miss the playoffs despite being, more or less, the same team he led to those 97 wins last year. It’s an absolute must-read on any of those topics, but taken together it’s a “block off some time this afternoon and enjoy the hell out of it” read.

Two of my favorite passages follow. The first one is a great general point in life: always beware of people who spend more time telling you why they are successful than actually, you know, being successful.

In Cincinnati, no matter what I did or what we did — we brought them from the bottom — they were all over me, all the time, no matter what. If we won, it wasn’t winning the right way. They were like, “I don’t understand this mode of thinking.” Well, I don’t want you to understand my mode of thinking. That’s how I can beat you.

The second one is just delicious for what he does not say:

Rosenthal: Bryce Harper struggled for two-plus months. He didn’t struggle for two-plus months when you had him…

Baker: I know.

Based on the tone of the rest of the interview, in which Baker does not hesitate to say exactly what he thinks, it’s abundantly clear that he believes the Nats have messed Harper up somehow and that it wouldn’t have happened under him.

Like I said, though: there is a TON of great stuff in here. From a guy who, if you’ve listened to him talk when he does not give a crap about what people may say about him, has time and again revealed himself to  be one of the most interesting baseball figures of the past several decades.