Building A Ballclub With Bill Bavasi: Part I
The dimly lit room smells of smoke. The ash is palpable in the air. The ember of a cigar floats down to the wood-stained laminate. The table is embossed with an ornate “M”. A lanky man sits quietly, tapping his manicured fingers on a vinyl-covered notebook. He scratches his bald head, cracks his wrinkly neck and lets out a sigh. As he strokes his goatee, a man loudly enters the room. He wears a dull linen suit, his round head frames his glowing countenance. The two look at each other cautiously, not moving an inch. They breathe as the other breathes. They extend their hands and grip firmly, increasing the strength of their grasp with each shake.
“Bill,” the round headed man says as his voice struggles to find air. “If you want to know the secret to winning a World Series, you will listen to what I have to say.” He lifts up a notebook of his own, engraved with an “F”. A blue fish slithers along the letter.
The goateed man replies, “Mr. Huizenga. The pleasure is all mine.”
April 1st, 2004
Bill: *Puffs on a cigar*
Bill: Alright, Wayne. Where do we start? The Mariners won 93 games last season, and I intend on increasing that. They have momentum, and that will surely fuel my success.
Bill: *Shuffles through his notebook*
Bill: I signed Eddie Guardado. Nice pickup, right?
Wayne: Well, why did you spend $16 million over three years on a relief pitcher?
Bill: Firstly, you have to build your pitching staff from the back to the front. Secondly, the 2004 draft prospects don’t seem to have a high ceiling, so I decided to throw that pick away. Who needs it with Eddie shutting the door?
Bill: And lasty, Eddie’s been an All-Star for the past two years! Don’t you see? Once a player reaches his ceiling, he can only get better. It makes perfect sense to throw loads of money at them!
Bill: He had 86 saves over those two years with the Twins, and he only hit a batter once. Once! That’s supreme control, dude.
Wayne: Well, what’s wrong with Justin Verlander or Jered Weaver? They are highly touted prospects!
Bill: No way those guys will pan out! If I had a pick, my scouting reports point towards Matt Bush. He definitely has the biggest chance of long, successful career.
Wayne: *slams fists on table*
Wayne: Bill! Forget drafts picks! Forget the farm! I’m going to tell you the secret of my success with the Marlins.
Bill: Mr. Huizenga, you don’t have to tell me. I’ve seen how you work. I’ve got the money.
Bill: *Takes a breath*
Bill: Wayne, don’t tell me: show me.
Bill: I’ve locked down Raul Ibanez. Three years, $13 million. With the Royals, he put up a .297/.347/.492 – definitely worth replacing Mike Cameron.
Wayne: Well Cameron put up an average of a 4.8 WAR during his tenure in Seattle, it seems that…
Bill: A what?! WAR? What is that good for?
Wayne: Well, Wins Above Replacement is a metric that attempts to summarize the amount of wins a player…
Bill: Shush! I don’t need to hear all that saber-metric-statis-mumbo-jumbo.
Bill: *Adjusts tie*
Bill: Billy Beane may have won the West, but we don’t see him with a championship, do we? Just tell me how to win!
Bill: *Puffs on a cigar*
Bill: There are only five days in the work week. I don’t have time for all of this. Show me.
Wayne: *Pauses. Pulls out a handkerchief and wipes the sweat that is dripping down his face*
Wayne: You’ve already started down the right path. You signed Rich Aurilia and traded Carlos Guillen. Perfect. You signed Scott Spiezio. Perfect. You need veterans that have proven themselves on the field. That’s what I did when I signed Bobby Bonilla and Moises Alou. See, these veterans will foster a great work ethic amongst the rookies. I signed Edgar Renteria. You have Jose Lopez.
Wayne: You’re on the right path. But this is just your first year. Your greatest success will be in years to come. You will have the vision of the future, that is yours and only yours.
Wayne: *Pulls out a checkbook*
Bill: *Examines the checkbook. Pulls out a pen*
Bill: I know exactly what I have to do.
Bill Bavasi stands up as Wayne Huizenga stands. They shake hands and smile politely as Huizenga exits the room. As the door slams behind him, Bavasi sits down in his suede chair, relighting the cigar he had been smoking. He leans back, takes a drag, and chuckles to himself.
Adam H. Wong