How baseball failed Steve Delabar

Pro Ball NW‘s editor Jon Shields showed me Driveline Baseball. I thought for a bit, and told him:

Most people will see this and think: “Wow, that’s great for him!” What I see is a colossal failure by MLB teams. Why wasn’t Delabar exposed to better training methods before he flamed out, or after he was injured, by MLB organizations?

People like Dave Cameron have posted how ridiculous it is that teams don’t provide adequate nutrition for their minor league baseball players, and this philosophy certainly extends into training as well, as evidenced by the Delabar story.

It’s easy to point to Steve Delabar and say: “Wow, what a great story! A guy who came back despite facing major adversity and made his mark in major league baseball!”

But the story is far more complex than that.

For every Delabar out there, there’s many more Jason Neighborgalls (the golden arm) who needs unconventional coaching and doesn’t get it, and eventually quits baseball or becomes severely injured, ending his career. There’s no reason that Delabar should have been released from professional baseball and forced to find his own velocity training program. Major league organizations should have rehabilitation plans for their fringe guys and should have experimental plans for their non-prospects (like Delabar) to get the most they can out of so-called “organizational players.”

Organizations that have lower payrolls can’t just get the most out of their top prospects if they hope to compete in the playoffs. They need to develop their organizational players and develop “lesser talented players” into players who can contribute at the highest level. And it shouldn’t be up to the Steve Delabars of the world to find out how to break back into professional baseball.

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Comments

  1. Brad Johnson said...

    This has long been a topic I’ve championed to anyone who will listen. MLB teams put in too little effort with their farm systems. Investment in more advanced training protocols and better nutrition should be considered low hanging fruit.

    The Phillies have a former first round draft pick, Anthony Hewitt, who is basically Pedro Cerranno. Huge power and good athleticism, but he can’t hit a bendy pitch to save his life. What I would like to see is for the Phillies to hire some college curve ball specialists, and basically have them pitch a game to Hewitt a couple times a week. As it stands, he’s getting 500ish MiLB AB’s and simply not improving. Get him another 600 AB’s against curve balls and the organization would at least know if it is possible for him to succeed.

    Another point that stuns me is how many players find out they don’t have 20/20 or better eye sight once they reach one of the higher levels. You’d think frequent eye tests would be the norm. And not those crappy machines from the grade school nurses office.

    Clubs should be far more aggressive than they are with their minor leaguers, but they seem to take the kiddie glove approach they use with their blue chippers and apply it to the whole organization. There’s not one organization that isn’t lazy in some way.

  2. Fred Stratton said...

    Kyle:

    Why organizations never undertand this is just disappointing.  Not every athlete’s ability is readily apparent.  I’m reminded of Mike Piazza, drafted by LA only as a favor to Lasorda (in the last round?)

    Why can’t each organization value all of their players with proper training to achieve their best?  Then, if the player fails to achieve, at least it is understood the best was done to reach this goal.  It is certainly not the lack of adequate funds. You would think the small market teams would understnd this best, it would appear a way to get the largest bang for the buck.

    Thanks for bringing this to light.

  3. Kyle Boddy said...

    Fred:

    The anecdote about Piazza is a good one. Teams nearly missed on one of the best-hitting catchers of all time.

    Large teams can afford to ignore these types of players, even if it’s a mistake – because they can make up for the problems with free agent signings and vultured draft picks from the broken arbitration system MLB currently enjoys.

    But small market teams need to develop their lesser-known players; the 24 year olds repeating High-A ball and struggling to get guys out on the verge of quitting professional ball. These are the players that need an experimental training program – because if it doesn’t work, who cares? Tell the players that they can either do this program or they will be released. Most will jump at the chance to improve themselves.

  4. Fred Stratton said...

    Brad:

    Interesting you noted eye problems.  There is a large body of medical evidence from many years of study that indicates nutrition and eye exercises can improve eyesight.  NYC actually has some practitioners, one I have become friendly with.  He had worked with three of my boys at improving their eyesight for focusing, peripheal vision, and other aspects, and it has helped greatly in baseball, other sports and in school.  Just like any muscle, you can strengthen and improve your eyes through physical therapy, much of it done at home with realatively simple equipment.

  5. Darin Terry MS ATC CSCS said...

    Kyle,

    This is a great follow up by you to Delabar story. I have seen this for years and continue to see with players I work with. It does not shock me anymore when I hear a players story after injury or being released for what could have been so easily prevented/rehabbed.

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