Scorps should be improved in 2010
It'll be good this time. I promise.
Kevin Outcalt didn't use those words when talking about the Yuma Scorpions' new affiliation deal with the Venezuelan Baseball Federation. The Golden Baseball League commissioner said everything but those seven words.
The Scorpions had an affiliation deal last season with the Colombian Professional Baseball League. It was announced two days before the season started, and the players arrived from Colombia on little to no rest. So that explains a 3-13 start.
And while they remained on the fringe of making the playoffs - thanks to the season being divided in halves - they finished with the worst overall record in the league.
It was originally sold as two-year deal, but apparently there was a mutual option on the second year - although that option was downplayed or overlooked at first, then was looked upon as a formality.
But come February, with the Colombian league still not committed to renewing the deal, Outcalt and league CEO Dave Kaval looked elsewhere. And they found the Venezuelans.
I don't know how it's possible to look on the deal with the Colombians as anything but a failure. Financially, it may have worked out good for the league. But there were a lot of people who were upset that the entire Scorpion roster was cut two days before the start of the season for this deal.
(Note: "There were a lot of people who blah blah blah..." is a common coward's phrase a writer can use to attribute negative thoughts to these nameless others. But actually, I kind of understood the business side of it. I had plenty of other questions, but that wasn't one.)
The team finished 13-7 down the stretch last year. Having seen the Scorps play all year, I don't think this was .650 team. I think their .381 percentage on the year was low, but am not so sure it was a .500 team.
Am I scarred? Probably. But I'm still cautiously optimistic about this deal with the Venezuelans, for three main reasons.
First, the timing is much better. Last year, issues with the hospitality tax - i.e., making sure it passed the election three days before the season started - delayed the Colombian deal. No hospitality tax, and the league's deal with The Ray Kroc Complex becomes much more, let's just say, complicated. Now, the deal is done three months before the season starts, so the players will have more than 48 hours to deal with leaving a South American country where it's winter to come play baseball in the middle of a desert in the summertime.
Also, the level of talent in Venezuela is much, much higher than in Colombia. Venezuela has produced Omar Vizquel, Bobby Abreu, Magglio Ordonez, Alex Gonzalez, Carlos Guillen, Freddy Garcia, Melvin Mora, Johan Santana, Cesar Izturis, Carlos Zambrano, Victor Rodriguez, Francisco Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Lopez and Felix Hernandez - and that's just the list of active players who have made an All-Star game. The list of every Colombian to play at least one game in the big leagues is one-third that size. Of course Yuma won't see the top level talent - those players will be in the big leagues, obviously - there's a much larger talent pool to draw from.
The final thing is the manager, Darryl Brinkley, has played in both Venezuela and the GBL. While he hasn't managed before, that shouldn't be as big a negative as those first two points are positive.
The GBL isn't Major League Baseball. The league does what it can to get find revenue, and bringing in foreign players so they don't have to worry about salaries - the players are paid by the Venezuelan Baseball Federation, not the Scorpions - then I like the idea, especially if it keeps the team in town.
But last year's moved reeked of desperation, and even though I was hoping it would work as much as anyone, it just didn't.
(Note No. 2: League officials have consistently said that baseball in Yuma isn't dependent on an affiliation deal, but this last time Outcalt said it helps a lot.)
This year's arrangement - which Outcalt said was for three years with an option to extend it even longer - seems much more promising.
It'll be good this time. I promise.