During my 8-day trip to Camelback Ranch last week, on Thursday, March 25th, I sat down with Logan White in his office for a twenty-minute interview which lasted about an hour an a half. While it is impossible to present it all, I have selected certain aspects of the interview which I think you will find interesting. His Blackberry was constantly going off – phone calls, e-mails, voice mails and he ignored them all to give me his undivided attention. What a guy! I am sure you can think of other questions to ask him, and I had a lot more too, but I could have spent another two hours asking them. If you have some questions you would like me to ask him in the furture, let me know and I’ll try and do it.
What I say is in in bold. What Logan says is in italic.
Q. De Jon Watson says he would have better success if you would draft him better players.
A. (Laughs) You know what? He’s exactly right. You know what else? He and I get along great. We really do.
Q. I received a lot of positive responses on the last interview I did with you an De Jon.
A. Ah, I know, I got in trouble - my wife went on there because somebody told her that I was talking about her too much.
Q. There’s a lot of questions I’d like to ask you but I know that you wouldn’t/couldn’t answer them so I won’t.
A. Go ahead, ask.
Q. No, it’s a waste of time. He’s one that’s not difficult: Is Joe Torre brain dead? Vicente Padilla, come on?
A. Hey, he pitched great for us last year. He’s always had good stuff.
Q. If Jon Broxton had a changeup he’d screw hitters into the ground, why doesn’t he have a good one?
A. “If you think about it, Eric Gagne was a starter in the minor leagues and so developed some additional pitches in that role. Brox wasn’t a starter for long so his repertoire of pitches wasn’t as developed. One of the reasons we signed Eric Gagne was to hopefully provide Jon some more development of his change-up. Of course, they already knew each other, but Brox was talking to him quite a bit.
Q. How about Hiroki Kuroda?
A. It was nice to see him pitch well last night. You know, he ‘s had those flashes where he’s pitched no-hitters, pitched extremely well, and then he’ll have games where he ‘s not just as consistent. I think that in Japan they throw a lot of innings when they are young. They throw a lot of pitches, and I think that we are not catching them in their best years. We are catching them at the end of their careers. It’s also difficult to get acclimated to pitching every five days instead of every six days.
A. Josh is a just a big and strong kid. He’s a fantastic makeup guy. You know, it sounds weird, but last night I was sitting with his father at the game and I think we were both in agreement that while we didn’t want him to struggle, it was good that he did. His mechanics were out of whack. He was pitching uphill and had a stiff front leg. That’s what caused him to pitch uphill a bit. You saw his fastball coming up in the zone because of that. But he battled and that was impressive. When you see that come out in a kid, that’s a good thing. He didn’t let [the bunt] affect him, and I was happy with how he competed. I wished his mechanics had been better. I think that he’s one of those “special makeup” guys, that I think can handle the major league environment.
Q. Is he a starter or a reliever?
A. You know, I think he can do either, or… If you really had to pen me down, he’s best suited as a pen guy because he’s done it more. When you see the pitches that he throws up there – he has four pitches, he throws strikes, he’s big and physical – I think he can start, but he’ll throw harder out of the bullpen. I think he’s somewhat of a quicker fix out of the pen and could help us quicker there.
Q. We might have to have him this year?
A. Yeah, we might need him too. It’s been good for him to learn how to pitch as a starter instead of coming out of the pen. It’s helped him to learn how to pitch when he doesn’t have that great fastball. When he pitched in college he was coming out of the pen exclusively and was 95-96. Last night, he was 88-93, so he’s got to pitch now, instead of just blowing it by guys, and that’s good that he’s learning. That part was good for him. Plus the other factor is, for the longest time here, if you go back “pre-Billingsley” and I don’t know if you want to count Edwin Jackson, because he wasn’t here very long, but look how long it was before we developed a starter in-house? It was a lotta’ years – you could make a case back to Dave Stewart. We need to develop starters, and that’s the most difficult thing to do. What’s the toughest thing every offseason? It’s finding starting pitching. I think what happens is that it’s easy to move guys to the bullpen, especially a two-pitch guy. It’s a little harder to develop a starter. We just can’t move someone to the pen.
Q. Yeah, and you draft third basemen and turn them into starting pitchers…
A. (Laughs) Like with Jansen, I grew up scouting with people around the game who taught me to look at the possibilities of the guy – what could be, not what is. Like with Kenley Jansen, this guy has a great arm and big and physical and might grow out of the position of catcher, and that’s one of those God-given talents – a great arm. There’s been a number of converted guys – Trevor Hoffman was a shortstop, Joe Nathan was a shortstop. You have to be open-minded…
Q. Before I forget, James Loney. Is he faster? He looks visible faster. A. He is. It will be interesting to see how it plays out. He was on a diffreent workout this Winter and he’s leaner. He was in the 220 range last year and now he 205-208. You know what, he has gotten with track people in the offseason to try and improve his speed. He spends a lot of time with Maury [Wills] even though he’s not a basestealer, but Maury will tell you that he’s one of our best baserunners, because he’s pretty smart on the bases… It’s funny that you say that because I thought the exact thing and I was thinking, ‘James, stop at second, do not go to third.’ (Laughs). I was afraid that he would try for a triple. The thing you hope for is that the loss of weight and the leanness will not affect his power. James Loney is the same type of hitter that Garrett Anderson is. Everyone thought that Anderson would not hit 25 HR, that he would not have enough power. I think that James will hit 25+ HR whether it’s this year or next year. For me though, it doesn’t matter if he does – if he hits .300 and drives in 100 runs and plays gold glove defense. I’ll take that guy. I think that if you put James in Tanpa Bay, he’s a 25 HR hitter the last few years. Dodger Stadium is a tough stadium to hit homeruns.
Q. Predictions, surprises and breakouts – who might surprise us this year?
A. Major league level – I think James Loney is going to have a big year and I think Russell Martin is going to come back once he gets over this injury and have a big year.
Q. Was Martin trying to pull everything last year?
A. Yes, he used to be a guy who was really good, had a short swing, used the center of the diamond and went to opposite way. He was really good at taking the outer pitch and going the other way. He’d hit ball over the second basemen (in his first two years) and in the gap and then he’d surprise you and hit one out in dead-center. You know, I’ve watched his swing over the years and when he’d get out of whack is always when he would fly open, his front foot would lift and collapse. Then I could talk to him or the coaches would talk to him and get him back on track. Now, Donnie’s really working with him and getting him staying consistent with what he is doing and I believe that will help him a lot. I do think the fact that he went into a “lean, lean” program last offseason affected his ability to stay strong. I think the added strength will show up in improved bat speed, and you know what, Russ has a lot of pride. He’s young player who strugged and didn’t know how to get out of it. On thing I will tell you is that Russ Martin has one of the greatest work ethics around. He works his butt off. It may not always show up in the boxscore, but he is always working. One winter he stayed at my house all winter and everyday he was up at 6 AM and he was working hard every day. That hasn’t changed. I think he has to be smart how he works as he gets older. He’s one of those guys who could work too hard. The thing with Russ is that he plays hurts. Every little hangnail, he’s not going to Joe or the trainers. He doesn’t ask out.
Q. Anyone else?
A. On the pitching side, I would say that Bills is going to have a really consistent year, a really good year. His motion is much better. Last year, he breaks his leg, he tweaks his hamstring and he has a really good first half, but from a conditioning standpoint, you get into the fifth inning, get a little tired, then you get whacked around. And I think it was related to conditioning because when you get tired the first thing that goes is your mechanics. It was mechanics driven, when you get off just a little bit, it messes everything up. Now, he’s physically fit, he’s visibly leaner and his conditioning is better. The thing that bothers me is comments about Chad’s competitiveness, and I know he as well as anybody, and he’s a competitor. He’s a very competitive guy. He’s not happy that he didn’t finish good last year. That’s good and I think that competitive drive will push him to a very good year this year.
Q. What about James McDonald?
A. James, I’m not making excuses for him, but he’s never had a good spring training in his life, and to me that a lack of preparation beforehand. There’s something that he’s not doing before he comes to spring training. He’s going to have to grow up and mature and figure it out. I think that James is his own worst enemy at times. I think he covers up some insecurity sometimes by seeming to be a “happy-go-lucky, mess around” type of guy and he’s really not. He’s a great person, a good person, but I think that until he figures out “you know what, I have really good stuff,” and he goes out to the mound and believes in himself, he’s always going to struggle. To me, there only one of two things, the kid has always thrown strikes in the minor leagues, and I don’t think it’s mechanics at this stage. I think he gets up here and there a little insecurity, but once I think he gets settled in and sees a level of success, you’ll see him take off. He’s on of those guys who will feed off that. I think with him – I love him death – but he needs to realize (a) I’m not believing in myself the way I need to; (b) I’m not as prepared as I need to be; or (c) both of the above.
The kid has really great stuff. I know his makeup. I know it’s there. It’s just a matter of getting his routine and preparation different. One of the things that bothers me is that when he struggles at times, his body language puts off a bad vibe – he looks defeated. The hitters pick up on this. You can’t do that. I think that’s what he’s got to work on a lot. His parents are outstanding – his father was a NFL Football player. It’s hard to have belief in yourself when you struggle – it’s that old chicken and the egg thing. I think it’s just one of those things where he’s just got to start believing in himself a little more and how that’s going to happen – it’s kind of like hitting rock bottom as an alcoholic and you have to make a decision one day as to whether you are going to die with a bad liver or I’m going to change this thing. He’s, in my opinion, in that stage where he’s got to figure that out. He’s going to have to say “I can’t keep going out there with that approach”. I can tell right away with his body language that his approach is not right. I can see when he starts hanging his head and slowing everything down and stuff like that. So, he’s got to figure it out and start believing in himself. I can believe in him all I want, you know, and I do. I’m one of his biggest supporters, but you know, until he starts believing in his own stinkin’ heart, it won’t happen.
Q. Do you think he’s better suited to pitch out of the pen?
A. Obviously, he’s pitched well out of the pen. I’ve seen him pitch well as a starter in the minors, but saying that he’s a pen guy is an easy fallback. I think there’s no reason he can’t start. Although he’s pretty good out of the pen. I think it all depends upon his level of committement. I think that if I am him I am embarassed and I am pissed and I say, “you know what – this is going to change.” It’s in his power to do that, but only he can do that. You are talking to his biggest fan. I’m not his harshest critic, but I am his biggest fan. I am realistic and I know how this game works and you cannot play in the big leagues with self-doubt.
Q. It sounds like you need to have this conversation with him.
A. You know, I have. I have had a lot of conversations with him over the years, but this one… you are getting a little preview.
Q. Of all the players who have been moved or traded over the past five years, which one would you most like to have back?
A. “That’s a tough one, but based upon where he is playing, it would have to be Edwin Jackson. Carlos Santana would be in that equation too, although we aren’t sure if he can be a major league catcher, and Josh Bell because of his great power.”
Q. Can Ethan Martin play 3B in the major leagues and can Pedro Baez pitch in the majors?
A. ”Yes! …. and if Pedro doesn’t continue to progress, we won’t hesitate to put him on the mound.”
Q. One thing I am interested in, and maybe you can shed a little light on this, but at last count, Ned has 53 or 54 Assistant General Managers (laughs). I want to know how that works. Do you guys gather around a secret round table and discuss trades and players or is it conference calls, reports, etc. How does this all work?
A. (Laughs) When you are general manager you want to hire people you have confidence in, vent with, bounce things off. It’s no differenet with me and all the scouting staff. I have a pretty large circle of people with input and many times I will have eight of the guys say “I think we should do this” and I say “Thank you very much, but we are going to do this.” Sometimes I go with them, sometimes I don’t. I think it’s the same way with Ned. I think he tries to gather all the information he can. The guys he brings in all have different strengths. Obviosuly with me, before he brought a lot of others in, it was impossible for me to see all the minor league prospects. It’s nice to have Vance to cover some teams and Rick to cover others. You try to get good quality people around yourself and he is obviously comfortable with that group.
When we get together, Ned is great about saying “do what you need to do, just keep me informed.”
Q. OK, so let’s just pick a deal. When Manny came here and there were other players involved, Carlos Santana, Casey Blake and others, how did that work? At some point in time, you were involved with Santana, as was De Jon – so did Ned say “Logan, De Jon, Tell me about Carlos and whether we should trade him or not?”
A. Yes, that’s exactly how it works. They actually asked me to go scout Santana before the trade to try and determine if he could catch or not. It wasn’t whether he could hit, we all knew he could hit, but we all wondered if he could catch at the major league level. And we go with a consensus of opinions. But it’s not like we go with the consensus. Sometimes we go against it. It just depends upon the situation and the player. Last year he had Vance and myself see Halladay and Cliff Lee. Some scouts may have seen a certain player while I have not, so Ned would have to rely on that more than what I might say. One may say, “we need to trade for this guy” but maybe they haven’t seen Chris Withrow (who would be traded in the hypothetical deal), so while I haven’t seen the other player, I have seen the player we might have to give up and so it’s give and take. And I may say “Whoa, you are not wrong in thinking this player will be good for us, but not for Chris Withrow.” Sometimes we get into some good little tussles, especially about players other may not have seen. Ned is really good about relying on De Jon, myself and coaches within the system.
Q. So, you guys frequently come together in one place for a meeting?
A. Yes, especially around the trade deadline or winter meetings and stiff like that.
Q. So, you might say “You are crazy, he’s a good player” and the other guys says “you’re crazy”.
A. Yeah, you try and be more respectful, but every once in a while that word might come out but not too often. In any baseball room, there’s going to be disagreements and that’s a good thing. If everyone is saying the same thing all the time, what use is that? A lot of people say they don’t want “yes” guys, but they do want “yes” guys – we don’t have yes guys here. We try to give our opinion. That’s what I want my people to do.
Q. How far away from the majors is Chris Withrow?
A. That’s a tough question. He’s as close or as far away as you want to make it. What I mean by that is that he could pitch up here now. But, the concern is if you are bringing a guy up too soon, too fast. Sometimes a young pitcher can miss a year or two and benefit. I think that if you look at the history of the game that a lot of converted guys were good. Why? Because they had fresh arms. I think that he’s a guy when he has 85% fastball command he ‘s ready, and he is close to that right now. I know when I told people that he had a better arm than Clayton Kershaw, they said “Are you kidding me?” No, he does have a better arm than Clayton.The deal with young pitchers is they don’t know how to weather the storm when they don’t have their best stuff. Veteran pitchers can weather the storm and that just the growing pains with young pitchers.
In conclusion, Logan talked about Economics and how money doesn’t buy a pennant. One only needs look at little Butler University, hidden near downtown Indianapolis to realize that big schools with big money don’t have a monopoly on everything in college basketball, any more than the Yankees having it in baseball. Logan ended the interview with an analogy on building a million dollar house:
“A guy says to you that he wants me to build a million dollar house for for him. ’How much do I have to work with?’ I ask. ’Unlimited, whatever. I don’t really care, here’s the checkbook’, he says. So, I built him a million dollar house and when you look back, I spent a million two to build it. I bought extra tubs and faucets, screwed up a few things, I didn’t do the right architectural work and I had to redo some things, but all-in-all, it’s a beautiful home. The flip side is ‘hey, let’s try an build a million dollar home, but let’s be smart about our money. Let’s try and get things on discounts when we can. Let’s be wise, not cheap, wise!’ Now, you are wise and you don’t order extra bathtubs and you don’t screw-up projects, you think things out and you know what? Both homes, when they are done are beautiful million dollar homes, but one person spent $600,000 and the other spent $1.2 million. To me what’s wrong with being wise and spending less money when you can. Now, to me it’s all about being wise in your choices.
Q. When you have a $200 million dollar payroll, you can make some mistakes and just go out and buy another player to cover up those mistakes.
No disrespect to the Yankees, but it was a long time between World Series and they were still spending a lot of money. That can happen too. There’s no guarantee that spending a lot of money gets you to the World Series. You can have a bad homebuilder and give him $600,000 dollars and the house can’t passs inspection, and you can give another homebuilder $600,000 and it’s gorgeous. It’s the same way in the baseball world, you give some people a lot of money and I don’t care. … There’s a lot a great baseball people, there’s a lot of great peers in this game, and I don’t want you to think I’m negative on them, but there are some that you can give them whatever they want – all the draft picks they want, and all the money they want and they aren’t going to get it done, and that’s just the reality of the world. So, it’s a bigger issue of how much money you spend – it’s a talent issue and who is running the ship. We have a lot of people who are pretty smart here and know what they are doing and what they need to do… when. I just think we have some very good young talent, and no one should be faulted, Ned or Frank, for having a low payroll. I understand where the fans are – that they are looking at the big free agents… I will say this though. One of the people who is mentor of mine and one of the finest general managers there will ever be in the game of baseball is Pat Gillick, and I remember that there was a story written called “Stand Pat Pat” and they were criticizing him because sometimes he didn’t make any trade, but that man had a knack for winning World Series Titles. Sometimes no move is better than any move.
Tony Jackson of ESPN/LosAngeles has a good read on Rafael Furcal