Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Finding Ways For Evan Longoria To Fail

With no clear word from the front office yet, speculation is rising in Tampa that the Rays will send hot-crap prospect 3B Evan Longoria (no relation) to AAA to begin the season.

Most observers, including some of Longoria's teammates, have concluded that the reason will be to delay Longoria's service time clock thus allowing the team to control his rights for an additional year. One could certainly argue that this is a smart move for a small market team. However, Andrew Friedman, executive vice president of baseball operations, specifically denied that economics would be a factor in the decision.

So, what's left?

According to club officials, spring training was for evaluating Longoria on all kinds of things.

Friedman and manager Joe Maddon say they'll consider a series of factors beyond actual performance and results, everything from how Longoria carries himself and interacts in the clubhouse; his thought process at the plate and how he makes adjustments during, and between, at-bats; his preparation, work ethic and knowledge of the game; how he plays defense and does the "little" things. And they'll try to gauge other things more subjective such as how he'd handle the frustrations of what would be his first extended slump as a pro.

By all accounts, Longoria has passed the spring tests with flying colors. He's delivered on the tangibles and the intangibles. Coaches have raved, teammates have raved. The only thing he failed to do, it would appear, is fail.

Let's look at that last line again.

And they'll try to gauge other things more subjective such as how he'd handle the frustrations of what would be his first extended slump as a pro.

So, isn't this what it really comes down to? They want to see him fail, because they want to see how he reacts to failure. It's difficult, the story goes, for a hot-crap player to experience failure for the first time at the major league level. I have no idea if there's anything to this, but it has a certain logic and is often offered as a reason why, for example, Brandon Phillips' development curve got skewed.

The flip side of the argument is that a player yet to fail at any level is highly unlikely to fail on a return trip to the International League.

Or, as Cork Gaines puts it:
This is not the first time that the team has stated their concern over the fact that Longoria has yet to experience a slump as a professional.

If this is the biggest concern the Rays have with Longoria, then they have no concerns. "He has never slumped" is not a reason to keep somebody in the minors. "He can't handle curveballs" or "He smokes too much weed" are reasons to keep somebody in the minors. "He is too good" is not.

I think Rays officials are going about this all wrong; if they really want to give Longoria a taste of failure, there must be hundreds of ways.

Here's a few:
  1. Make him buy ice cream for spring training teammates and coaches using only spare change found in dirty laundry carts of visitors' clubhouse

  1. Eat 100 hot dogs in 5 minutes

  1. Resolve nuclear contest between India and Pakistan

  1. Compete on American Gladiators

  1. Compete on Project Runway

  1. Prove that methamphetamine is not addictive

  1. Adapt The Wire into Broadway musical

  1. Adapt The Eliot Spitzer Story into Disney animated feature

  1. Develop perpetual motion machine

  1. Foot race with B.J. Upton

  1. Crazy race with Elijah Dukes

Just pick one and let's get this over with.

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