This is something I’ve been waiting to write about for some time now. I spent most of today thinking about how I would attack this news, and I think I’ve decided on just saying it outright:
The Orioles scouted a player that eleven other teams looked at and passed on. The other eleven teams didn’t see anything in Kim Seong-min at all. In fact, they kind of thought Kim was useless and not worth the time, with many calling him a non-prospect.
Apparently, Orioles scouting thought he was pretty fantastic for whatever reason, so they decided that there was plenty of competition to get him and cranked up the price tag, then even risked international relations with South Korea and signed him illegally. Yup.
To sum this up, here’s a quote from the article I just linked to by Ben Badler of Baseball America:
However, Baseball America surveyed 11 other teams that scout Asia (two of which did not have a report on him on file) and could not find any organization that had interest in signing Kim or had a similarly glowing scouting report. While scouts often disagree about the futures of international teenage prospects, most of the other teams’ reports on Kim’s present ability and future potential were consistent with each other.
According to the other teams, Kim’s fastball ranged from 78-85 mph. The maximum velocity another team had on Kim was 87 mph. Other scouts called his breaking ball a slurvy curveball in the mid- to high 60s and graded it from 20-30 on the 20-80 scouting scale, which rates as well below average. Scouts say he’s likely an inch or two shorter than his listed height of 5-feet-11, has little projection and some funkiness in his arm action. Scouts were mixed on his command, though some said he was generally around the plate and would be able to pitch in the KBO.
Many believed the Orioles were the only team interested in Kim. Several teams turned him in as a non-prospect.
“Where was the competition,” asked one international scouting director, “to drive the bonus to $575,000 when they could have signed him for $5,000?”
Yeeeeaaaah. About that. See, the Orioles are kind of stupid, so things like this are inevitable and kind of normal here in Birdland.
By the way, I’m convinced the anonymous international scouting director looks like this:
Anyway, let’s move on here.
Let’s look at the next thing Badler is telling us:
Duquette said he never personally had seen Kim pitch and was going off the team’s internal scouting reports, though he declined to identify the scouts who had seen him or what other teams they believed were interested in Kim.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Duquette said. “I don’t have to answer for the integrity of our scouts (from people) outside the organization. We’ve signed players based upon their ability and their capability to help the team, period.”
After hiring Duquette in November, the Orioles announced the hiring of Ray Poitevint as their new executive director of international baseball in a Jan. 9 press release. Poitevint has extensive experience signing players in Asia, including during Duquette’s tenure as Red Sox GM from 1994-2001. The two have worked together since Duquette began his career in baseball with the Brewers in 1981. Poitevint said in an interview that Duquette started out as his assistant, and the two were together in Milwaukee until Duquette left to join the Expos after the 1987 season.
Poitevint said he scouted Kim for two and a half years, and that he and an associate he has known for 30 years—whom he declined to name—evaluated Kim for the Orioles. When asked who else was interested in signing Kim, Poitevint said, “Everybody,” adding, “This is the type of guy who draws scouts.”
“What he has is difficult to come by as a scout,” Poitevint said. “He has mental toughness and emotional control. Those are a couple of things that are hard to find. He’s advanced in his composure and things of that nature. He’s a little advanced in his physical tools, but what’s really going to get him over the top is his mental toughness and the way he can control himself.
I really can’t find Dan Duquette at fault here. He’s just taken on the GM role for this team and he’s got a lot of things to get done, so he doesn’t have the time to personally see every single player the team scouts. He certainly doesn’t have the time to fly out to South Korea right now. Additionally, he’s known Ray Poitevint for a very long time and apparently trusts his opinon, so it’s really not Duquette’s fault that this happened – except the signing bit kind of being against the KBO and KBA’s rules, which he should have probably pointed out to his scouts in Korea.
Poitevint’s opinion suddenly looks questionable, however, in light of this new report. If he’s the only one saying Kim is this incredible pitcher, do we believe him considering that everyone else says otherwise? Then again, there are certainly times when someone with a minority opinion does end up changing the minds of many people and becoming influential (numerous figures in early Christianity and Islam come to mind for me). In this case, though, Poitevint’s not trying to convert anyone to a new religion – he’s just trying to convince people that the pitcher everyone else agrees isn’t very good is incredible.
Basically, here’s what we’ve got here: Ray Poitevint is either delusional or a Barnum-style salesman (“there’s a sucker born every minute”), and Duquette either trusts him blindly or…well, trusts him blindly, I guess. Duquette doesn’t really have access to other teams’ scouting reports, since teams generally don’t share that information, so how was he supposed to know that what Poitevint was sharing wasn’t really the truth according to the eleven other teams in South Korea?
In short, don’t blame Duquette for this – this one’s not on him. Poitevint, you’re either an excellent spin doctor or blind as a bat, and if you’re the former, maybe you can convince people my cartoons are actually good. Please.