October 2010

Whither Bobby Jenks

Bobby Jenks pitching for Arkansas in May 2002.


Long-time visitors of the FutureAngels.com web site know that each winter I post recordings of Angels minor leagues to help us through the off-season. My personal Methadone for our baseball addiction.

These go back to 2003, so I’m rummaging through some of the earliest games for “classics” I can post starting this Friday.

Right now I’m listening to an August 14, 2003 game in which Bobby Jenks started for the Double-A Arkansas Travelers against the now-defunct El Paso Diablos. After all the early setbacks in his career — injuries, immaturity, an infamous profile in ESPN: The Magazine — Jenks appeared to be turning a corner in his second stint with the Travs.

But such hopes were optimistic.

Bobby injured his elbow while pitching for the Triple-A Salt Lake Stingers at Fresno on April 19, 2004. (Click here to watch the video; Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection required.) Later that year, he would be suspended after getting into a fight with a teammate while on rehab at the Angels’ minor league complex in Mesa, Arizona.

That winter, the Angels tried to pass Jenks through waivers from the major league 40-man roster onto the Triple-A roster so they could sign free agents. They hoped Jenks’ injuries, diminished velocity and immature reputation might discourage other teams from claiming him.

The White Sox took a chance, paid the Angels the waiver fee, and Jenks became their headache.

Chicago sent him down to Double-A to start 2005, and moved him into the bullpen. Perhaps more mature, or simply viewing the waiver deal as a wakeup call, Jenks pitched his way into the White Sox bullpen and was on the mound when they won the World Series over the Houston Astros.

Bobby has been a decent, but not spectacular, reliever. Over six seasons, he’s averaged a little over an inning an appearance, averaging 59 appearances per season over the last five years.

For those into WHIP — (Walks + Hits) / (Innings Pitched) — that number has crept up the last four years:

2007 – 0.892
2008 – 1.103
2009 – 1.275
2010 – 1.367

Those aren’t bad numbers, but as Bobby passes through the prime years of his career (he’ll be 30 in March) they’re trending in the wrong direction.

Bobby’s physical conditioning and periodic injuries remain a concern in Chicago, and an October 3 article on WhiteSox.com suggests he may have worn out his welcome.

As an arbitration-eligible closer, the White Sox have control over Bobby Jenks going into the 2011 season.

General manager Ken Williams’ comments on Sunday, though, made Jenks’ return seem less likely and put the right-hander on the list of possible non-tender candidates.

“That’s something we have to evaluate strongly because I’ve been disappointed on a number of levels,” Williams said. “And there are certain things that I’m not going to talk about right now.”

Which got me to thinking …

When Bobby began his professional career in 2000, he was assigned to the Rookie-A Butte CopperKings. His pitching coach that first summer was Mike Butcher, who himself was starting a new career as an instructor. Butch was the minor league roving pitching instructor during Jenks’ last two seasons with the Angels, so he knows Bobby as well as anyone does. Angels general manager Tony Reagins was the farm director during Bobby’s last three seasons.

If the White Sox let go Jenks, and with the shaky condition of the Angels’ bullpen, would it make sense to bring him home?

Do Tony Reagins, manager Mike Scioscia and Mike Butcher want to introduce an unpredictable element to the bullpen, having rid themselves of headcase Francisco Rodriguez two years ago?

It’s a thought to ponder.

As for that August 14, 2003 Travs game, look for it on FutureAngels.com in a couple weeks.

Reagins: “No Personality Conflict” in Bane Dismissal

The Orange County Register quotes Angels general manager Tony Reagins as saying there was “no personality conflict” that led to scouting director Eddie Bane’s dismissal.

Angels GM Tony Reagins denied Wednesday’s dismissal of scouting director Eddie Bane was the result of a rift among the Angels’ decision-makers or the sign of a philosophical shift in the way the Angels will approach scouting and drafting players in the future.

“That’s not accurate,” Reagins said. “There was definitely no personality conflict. I have great respect for Eddie and what he’s done in this organization. But you have to make difficult decisions in this business sometimes.”

Reagins did indicate there is dissatisfaction within the organization over what recent drafts had produced. “We have good players. It’s more about the process,” Reagins said, denying that Bane’s firing was a direct referendum on his draft strategy. “In order to be successful, you have to have talented players in your system and we feel we do. But some of the players that we have that are very talented have not materialized with that talent within the system.”

Personal comment … If a “very talented” player does not materialize from “within the system,” that’s the player development department, not scouting.

But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Angels’ player development program. It’s one of the most respected in baseball.

As I wrote yesterday, the perceived lack of talent at upper levels might have more to do with the Angels losing high-round draft picks for several years earlier in the decade due to signing free agents.

Register columnist Mark Whicker comments:

Ah, philosophical differences.

Apparently the Angels fired scouting director Eddie Bane because they liked John Stuart Mill and Bane was partial to John Locke.

Or maybe they mean differences in the ways to assemble baseball talent. Since Bane’s philosophy was to draft and sign really talented guys, it is left to the reader to determine the Angels’ philosophy.

What we do know is that Bane was not fired for lack of performance.

Whicker talked to Bane briefly, who didn’t comment at length, but notes that “one of the few bright spots Wednesday was the supportive call Bane got from [Nick] Adenhart’s father, Jim.” Eddie was the one who negotiated the deal for Nick to sign despite his recent “Tommy John” surgery. The Angels offered to supervise his rehab at their minor league complex in Mesa, and Eddie arranged for Nick to attend nearby Arizona State, Bane’s alma mater, to begin his college education.

Whicker quotes long-time Angels scouts Tom Kotchman and Chris McAlpin as saying of Bane, “”He let you do your job.” Whicker wrote, “That was at least a majority opinion,” suggesting that Bane trusted his people and gave them the freedom to succeed without interference.