I sat down to talk with Corpus Christi Hooks Manager Keith Bodie about his players on Saturday. I got that, but I got a great deal more. Prompted by my question about the streaky win-loss record of his crew this season, half of the interview ended up being a primer on his player development philosophy. At times his words seem defensive, but I can assure you that wasn't the case at all. He was much more passionate than defensive when talking about his players and his team. He wants people to understand the realities of minor league baseball. Here is what he had to say.
What will it take for the Hooks to win consistently?
"You look at the pitching. It all revolves around pitching. We're second to the bottom of the league in pitching statistically speaking. Statistics tell the story. They tell the story of pitching ahead in the count and behind in the count, how many hits you've given up, innings pitched, how much damage you're doing as opposed to minimizing damage. And like any team, our success will be directly related to the consistency of the starting pitching which has been very good in the last two weeks. Previous to that, the bullpen was very good and now the bullpen is kind of scuffling a bit. We've got to match it up. We've got to match up the starting pitching with the bullpen.
What people don't understand is that this is still minor league baseball. It's AA baseball. What do you do to win in baseball? It takes an awful lot of things to win in baseball, especially consistently. What these kids [have] got to do is continue to develop their confidence and their trust of their own ability. And I can't tell you when that's going to happen.
You just take any player apart from anybody else. The two things that make them who they ultimately become is the confidence and trust ... anybody."
Bodie went on to talk about Mike Remlinger. He had handled the lefty pitcher at the AAA level when he was in the Seattle organization when Remlinger was 26 and 27. Remlinger always had the stuff but it never translated between the lines. As Bodie described it, things finally clicked for Remlinger at the age of 31 or 32. He ended up an All-Star at 36 and got his big payday at the age of 37. The point being that every player develops in his own way and in his own time.
"This is the way it is. I know people don't want to hear this but I've been in the game a long time and I've talked to a lot of people that have been here long before all of us. A pitcher becomes mature pitching-wise at the age of 28 and a hitter has to have at least 2000 to 3000 at bats under his belt before he becomes a viable hitter. At age 28, you look at Curt Schilling who was just starting to come into his own. At age 33, Curt Schilling started to strike out 300 hitters a year.
It's a process and I don't expect these kids to get it this year. The key is to get them on the road, to get them on the road and when they're on the road, keep them in the right lane so they don't sway out of it because it's a natural regression.
I sound like a broken record but it isn't that easy. Trust me, if it was that easy there would be no need for lower levels of minor league baseball. The big league would have so many great players that it wouldn't be any fun. Everybody would be great. it's just life. [Bodie went on to talk about Albert Pujols' struggles this season.] This is not an exact science."
Bodie summed things up with this analogy.
"[With] your first child, you're on the floor with them all day long and then they get to a certain age and you want them to sit up on their own, just hold their head up. And you try to do it and they fall down. And it's frustrating. You keep picking them up and they keep falling down. And one day they get it. They just get it. They sit there and they bob around like this and then one day you want them to start crawling and they won't crawl and then just one day, they start crawling. And then a couple of months later, you want them to walk. You stand them up and they fall down. You stand them up and they fall down. You don't stop trying. You just keep standing them up and then one day, guess what? They walk. And this is what player development is. They've got to keep their heads up first. Then they've got to sit up. Then they've got to crawl. And then they've got to walk before they can run. And I'm sorry if that's not what people want to hear, but that's the reality of it."