Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ringolsby: Pete Incaviglia paying dues as independent league manager

Hopefully Laredo has some sidearmers. (And hopefully the Lemurs have guys named Joey.)

Twenty-eight years ago, Pete Incaviglia went straight from the campus of Oklahoma State University into the cleanup spot in the Rangers’ Opening Day lineup. He never spent a day in instructional league. Incaviglia never rode the buses. He never caught the 5:30 a.m. connecting flights to get from one Minor League city to another.

Now look at him. Incaviglia knows all about bus rides, and meal money that can barely cover the cost of coffee, much less meals.

Incaviglia is the manager of the Laredo (Texas) Lemurs in the independent American Association… And on Wednesday night, the Lemurs clinched an American Association playoff spot for the second time in three years, earning the Wild Card berth with five games remaining in the regular season…

Incaviglia was so intent on going directly to the big leagues that after Montreal made him the eighth overall Draft pick in 1985, he refused to sign without a guarantee. The Expos declined and then traded his rights to the Rangers, who signed him. That led to Major League Baseball adopting what is known as the “Incaviglia Rule,” which forbids a team from trading a Draft pick until one year after he signs his first pro contract…

Incaviglia played 12 years in the big leagues, the first five with the Rangers. He hit 206 home runs during his time with the Rangers, Tigers, Phillies, Astros, Orioles and Yankees… the Dallas-Fort Worth area native took a job as manager of the Grand Prairie Air Hogs in 2008, leading them to the American Association championship in ‘10. After that season, the Grand Prairie ownership bought the American Association franchise in Shreveport, La., and moved it to Laredo. Incaviglia decided to make the move with them.

The players in independent baseball don’t get rich. They all need offseason jobs so they can pay bills. However, they all have the dream to playing in the big leagues, and Incaviglia wants to help them achieve their dream… It’s something Incaviglia never even thought about when he came out of Oklahoma State.

It’s something that, nearly three decades later, consumes his life.

The District Attorney Posted: August 28, 2014 at 03:28 PM | 12 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: independent leagues, laredo lemurs, pete incaviglia

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Rennie's Tenet Posted: August 28, 2014 at 04:27 PM (#4781073)
The Lemurs do Margarita Mondays and Bark in the Park Sundays. I feel a rooting interest coming on....
   2. Moeball Posted: August 28, 2014 at 07:57 PM (#4781218)
Incaviglia was so intent on going directly to the big leagues that after Montreal made him the eighth overall Draft pick in 1985, he refused to sign without a guarantee. The Expos declined and then traded his rights to the Rangers, who signed him. That led to Major League Baseball adopting what is known as the “Incaviglia Rule,” which forbids a team from trading a Draft pick until one year after he signs his first pro contract…


As always, there is more to the story than just the cover.

Part of the issue was the way Montreal’s talent evaluation of players went. I believe Bill James wrote about this in one of his abstracts or his books. IIRC, Montreal was focusing way more on Incaviglia’s weaknesses than his strengths. He struck out way too much, needed better strike zone judgement, plus he wasn’t the best of baserunners and he was an absolute butcher in the outfield. Therefore they wanted him to get some seasoning in the minors before bringing him on to the big league club.

Everything the Expos said about Incaviglia’s weaknesses was absolutely true, and can be seen in the stats from his career. He did strike out too much, he was no gazelle on the basepaths and he was a lousy fielder. For his career he only had 10 WAR and was -5 WAA, so he was a below average player overall, although he did have a few decent seasons. Perhaps he did need more seasoning.

But Montreal was so focused on Inky’s weaknesses that they were totally missing the point on his strengths. His rookie season with Texas he hit 30 HRs, drove in 88 runs, batted .250 and had a 109 OPS+. So here’s the thing: At no point in major league history – even during the most explosive offensive eras – has a player capable of putting up those kinds of numbers not been able to find a starting job somewhere in the major leagues. And if you are already good enough to start somewhere in the major leagues, there’s not really much point in wasting away in the minor leagues somewhere. Incaviglia knew this. Texas knew this. Montreal apparently didn’t.

As an aside, of course Montreal also had some other issues to consider that Texas didn’t – the Expos already had a couple of guys named Tim Raines and Andre Dawson as their corner outfielders, and Andres Galarraga was at first base, so it was going to be pretty tough for Incaviglia to get in their lineup anyways. In which case, maybe Montreal shouldn’t have drafted Incaviglia?

At any rate, Incaviglia was an interesting test case for what a team looks for in a player – do you look at what he can’t do or needs to improve upon? Or do you look at what he can do for your team right now?
   3. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 28, 2014 at 08:11 PM (#4781226)
Incaviglia started as manager of a different team in the same indy league in 2007. He's already 50, he needs to pay his dues faster than that. At this rate he'll work his way up to the Western Michigan Whitecaps at age 65.
   4. John Northey Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:02 PM (#4781308)
My favorite bit with Inky was his first spring with Texas when he literally hit a ball through a fence. It was a weak wooden one, but none the less he hit the ball and it smashed through it. Was all over the news as it was just such a fun story, this kid who forced a trade and refused to play in the minors smashing a ball through a fence instead of over it.

Checking B-R he played in Japan at 31, then finally saw minor league baseball at age 33 (3 games), and a lot of it at age 34 (76 games). Had his last ML plate appearance at age 34, but played in the minors (mainly indy leagues) until age 38. Interesting to avoid it as a kid but then spend so much time in the minors at the end.
   5. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:23 PM (#4781310)
. So here’s the thing: At no point in major league history – even during the most explosive offensive eras – has a player capable of putting up those kinds of numbers not been able to find a starting job somewhere in the major leagues. And if you are already good enough to start somewhere in the major leagues, there’s not really much point in wasting away in the minor leagues somewhere


And yet, he was barely above replacement level overall. Perhaps the Expos believed Pete spending a little time working to fix his many weaknesses down on the farm, rather than assuming he was already big-league ready, might have helped Inky become a genuinely good major league baseball player, rather than the pedestrian one he amounted to.
   6. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:38 PM (#4781318)
Perhaps the Expos believed Pete spending a little time working to fix his many weaknesses down on the farm, rather than assuming he was already big-league ready, might have helped Inky become a genuinely good major league baseball player, rather than the pedestrian one he amounted to.


This.

James (I think?) once observed that a lot of teams did themselves a disservice by looking at what a player couldn't do instead of what he could, and of course there's value in that -- we wouldn't all be repeating it to each other all the time now if it didn't. The poster boys for this observation were probably Weaver's Orioles, though the late-90s A's were good at it, too, what with Jaha, Stairs, Phillips, and Velarde giving them solid value around an offensive core that hadn't totally coalesced yet. (Miggy Tejada hit 251 /325 / 427 that year -- for an OPS+ of 95! My, how times have changed.) But there are some guys whose weaknesses can be worked on, or whose weaknesses are too profound, for this to apply. Inky might well have benefitted from a year or two in the minors, and come up a more complete hitter than he was.
   7. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 28, 2014 at 11:52 PM (#4781327)
Speaking of independent managers and moving up, I'd love to see my local guy, Greg Tagert, get a shot at affiliated ball. He's won three league championships (in two different leagues) with the Gary RailCats, and has a 953-770 record (.553 WP) overall. Remarkably, he's never had a losing season in 19 seasons of managing (one year of .500 ball in Gary's second year in the American Association). He's got to be doing something right.

   8. The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:06 AM (#4781334)
Certainly James often made that point about how a player's weaknesses shouldn't obscure his strengths, but the riff I can find about Inky in the 1987 Abstract (p. 203) isn't about that. Rather, it argues that the Rangers' willingness to buck convention and take on Incaviglia indicates that they're a forward-thinking organization, which is a good sign for them going forward.

(This optimism was very common at the time -- after all, the Rangers had just won 87 games with a terrific-looking young OF and a bunch of promising flamethrowers, and manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Tom House were indeed regarded as innovators. But, it turned out to be incorrect. Texas wouldn't win that many games again, nor make the playoffs, until 1996.)

As far as how quickly to promote guys, I think it's mostly a question of what's best for the player. Pros of staying down: Might learn new skills, or at least build up confidence. Also, financial concerns. Pros of getting called up: Might learn even quicker playing against the best competition in the world, or perhaps is "ready now." Cons of being called up too early: Risk of loss of confidence. Cons of being called up too late: Might become depressed and stall out. So, it's basically balancing the pros and cons, based on where you think the guy is at.

The other factor is who's in front of the player in the majors. If it's an average player, then this factor is secondary. But if there's a big hole on the major league roster, you might err on the side of calling the guy up earlier, and if on the other hand you've got Tim Raines, well, then there's an issue. Which is very likely going to result in trading the prospect. You can't get rid of Tim Raines in his prime to make room for a prospect.
   9. zonk Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:46 AM (#4781350)
Mayhap this doesn't bode well for Javier Baez, but I'm trying to think of a player that's ever really 'expanded' his offensive game at the plate to become something he wasn't inherently to begin with.

Sure - Barry Bonds became a much better hitter as he got older, but he was already walking a fair bit for a 21 yo, hitting for power, etc... I guess you could say he'd never hit .223 again, but he began his career as pretty much a miniaturized version of the hitter he would eventually become famous for being.

Can anyone think of a player that actually turned a relative weakness in his plate game into a strength?

Someone mentioned Tony Phillips upthread - he might be the closest I can think of... he wasn't a BB machine by any stretch early in his career before becoming an OBP monster later.

Generally speaking, though - it seems like the idea of accepting and accentuating strengths is the best bet... just browsing around a bit, guys who hit homeruns tend to hit more. Guys who will take a walk, walk more. Guys who hit for a decent average, hit for high averages. Guys who emerge as relatively complete hitters become even better complete hitters.
   10. The District Attorney Posted: August 29, 2014 at 12:59 AM (#4781355)
Jose Reyes had 27 walks in 161 games at age 22, and since then has averaged 60 per 162.

I'm sure you know that Baez has been a truly extreme player, though. No precedent there is going to be exactly on point, because he is super weird.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:03 AM (#4781357)
Can anyone think of a player that actually turned a relative weakness in his plate game into a strength?


Sammy improved his plate discipline. Puckett had almost no HR power when he came up, but added that in a hurry in Year 3. Boggs didn't even have doubles pop during his minor league days. Jose Bautista spent a long time as a crappy hitter, then turned into a great one on an off-day in September 2009. It's not common, but it happens.
   12. zonk Posted: August 29, 2014 at 01:20 AM (#4781363)
Good calls...

Yeah - I guess it does happen

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
The Id of SugarBear Blanks
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogPirates DFA Ike Davis, clear path for Pedro Alvarez - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
(12 - 9:09pm, Nov 23)
Last: Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 2014 Ballot
(10 - 9:09pm, Nov 23)
Last: MrC

NewsblogOT: NFL/NHL thread
(8643 - 9:09pm, Nov 23)
Last: Howie Menckel

NewsblogPablo Sandoval leaning toward Red Sox, to decide next week — Padres have highest offer, all offers on table (including SF Giants’) - John Shea
(32 - 9:04pm, Nov 23)
Last: the Hugh Jorgan returns

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - November 2014
(981 - 9:03pm, Nov 23)
Last: Maxwn

NewsblogRed Sox trying for mega-free agent double play: Panda and Hanley - CBSSports.com
(7 - 8:47pm, Nov 23)
Last: Pat Rapper's Delight

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(4207 - 8:44pm, Nov 23)
Last: GregD

NewsblogMatthews: Cashman sleeps on the street, says all is quiet on the free-agent front
(21 - 8:21pm, Nov 23)
Last: eric

NewsblogMike Schmidt: Marlins' Stanton too rich too early? | www.palmbeachpost.com
(31 - 6:53pm, Nov 23)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogOT:  Soccer (the Round, True Football), November 2014
(451 - 6:43pm, Nov 23)
Last: JuanGone..except1game

NewsblogCashman in wait-and-see mode on retooling Yanks | yankees.com
(22 - 6:14pm, Nov 23)
Last: ReggieThomasLives

NewsblogKemp drawing interest, raising chance he's the Dodgers OF dealt - CBSSports.com
(21 - 6:09pm, Nov 23)
Last: Pops Freshenmeyer

NewsblogSunday Notes: Arroyo’s Rehab, Clark & the MLBPA, Doc Gooden, AFL Arms, ChiSox, more
(16 - 5:53pm, Nov 23)
Last: ReggieThomasLives

NewsblogAstros interested in Robertson: source | New York Post
(15 - 5:45pm, Nov 23)
Last: The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB)

NewsblogBraves shopping Justin Upton at a steep price | New York Post
(33 - 4:24pm, Nov 23)
Last: spike

Page rendered in 0.3262 seconds
52 querie(s) executed