1: Build a strong farm system. It keeps your costs down when you constantly produce quality players. You also keep them under salary control for six years at the major league level.
2: College players are closer to the big leagues. In the early rounds, if choosing between a college player and a high school player of near equal ability, I choose the college player. (The exception is an A-Rod type of high school player.)
It’s also easier to project the college player. The high school player has more growing to do in more ways than one.
3: Speed kills. Having players with speed that can run the bases and take the extra base creates more scoring opportunities.
I think back to “Whitey ball” under Whitey Herzog with players like Vince Coleman, Tommy Herr, Willie McGee, etc. Having players with speed can also help you with defense, especially playing in bigger parks on the road covering the outfield.
4: The importance of the “right” leadoff hitter. Having a leadoff hitter that knows how to work the count, gets on base no matter how he has to do it, and can steal bases greatly enhances a teams’ ability to put runs on the scoreboard.
It also helps the batters hitting after him. The pitcher has to concentrate on the runner, throws over to first, and throws more fastballs to give his catcher an opportunity to throw him out if he tries to steal. (A perfect example was the White Sox of 2005 when Scott Podsednik was the key addition that led to them winning the World Series.)
5: A good number two hitter is another important cog that makes a team work right. He has to have good bat control, be able to hit to the right side of the field, and know when to take a pitch to give the runner an opportunity to steal a base.
If he’s also a good base stealer, it’s an added bonus.
6: In building a team I look for baseball players more than just athletes who happen to play baseball. If you can combine both -- great; but I would prefer players that know how to play the game.
My preference is to look at ballplayers that do have speed though, because I think that means so much to the success of the team. It's an overlooked part of the game today.
7: My strategy is to try to score first. The team that scores first wins the majority of games -- even bad teams. A few years back when looking at the stat sheet in the press box when the Cubs were playing the Pirates in the last week of the season, the Pirates were thirty games under .500 but over .500 when they scored first.
8: I always try to score the extra run, and I’m not afraid to give up an out to do that. (That’s one more run the other team has to score to beat me)
9: Against the norm, I play for the tie on the road. You can’t win the game if you don’t tie it first.
10: Except in rare situations, I don’t intentionally walk a batter, especially to load the bases. It puts too much pressure on the pitcher to throw a strike, and to lay a fat one in to the hitter because he doesn’t want to walk him.
I’ve seen this happen so many times after a walk to load the bases. Unless an Albert Pujols is batting, I never do it in a tie game where a walk can win the game for the other team.
11: From rookie ball on, I build up my pitchers arm strength. I have them throw more often between starts, including throwing batting practice like pitchers used to do many years ago.
Throwing more often and also more long toss helps to build up arm strength and endurance. (I have never understood how baseball players today are much bigger and stronger except for pitchers, who can barely pitch six innings and do it in a five man rotation vs. four in the past.)
Teams baby them today and do not get the most out of them.
12: I believe pitching eight or nine innings is a quality start, not pitching five or six. Nolan Ryan of the Rangers started pitching his starters longer last year and it worked. He is an example of the kind of pitcher I’m talking about from the past.
13: I do not pull my starter to start the ninth inning if he’s pitching well. No matter who your closer is, sometimes the starter is unhittable, and your opponent is relieved to see him taken out.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this backfire. I’m going back to the closer being the fireman and coming in when my pitcher is in trouble, not just because it’s the ninth inning.
If you build up the pitchers arm strength, the pitch count is nowhere near as important as it’s made out to be in today’s game. Steve Stone exhibited a similar belief when I interviewed him in 2004.
14: I go back to a four man rotation. It’s easier to find four quality starters than five. If you look at a teams’ won-lost record with a fifth starter going, it’s definitely inferior to the first four with your chance to win.
15: I talk to and hire pitchers from the sixties and seventies that used to pitch complete games on a regular basis in a four man rotation like a Fergie Jenkins and a Bob Gibson. I have my pitchers learn from them how to build up their arm strength and be able to finish a game.
I also talk to ex-Cy Young award winner Mike Marshall, who used to pitch an unheard of amount of innings in relief, and has some interesting ideas of why pitchers experience arm trouble and what they can do to avoid it. He has been largely ignored by team executives including Jim Hendry of the Cubs.
It’s worth at least listening to what he has to say.
16: My players always run hard after hitting the ball, whether it looks like an easy grounder to an infielder, or a hit to the outfield that they jog on assuming only first or second base.
I want to put pressure on the defensive team to make a play and force them into mistakes. If your players don’t hustle, you can’t do that.
I teach that in the minor leagues from rookie ball on up to the major leagues. If you play for my team you always hustle, and if you don’t, you don’t play and I don’t care if you’re the best player on the team.
There’s never a reason not to hustle because it’s just laziness and accepted by everybody today. For the money players make, that’s inexcusable. THAT’S MY TEAM RULE, PERIOD.
17: My players also never stand and admire what they ‘think’ is a home run. ‘Never.’ They run hard out of the box until the ball clears the wall.
I’m tired of home runs turned into singles and sometimes the player is out at second because he watched the ball. (If they do, they are immediately pulled from the game.)
Also, some doubles might be triples if you run hard out of the box. As I said before, I challenge teams into making mistakes.
18: My team always tries to take the extra base. Put pressure on the fielders to make a play and force them into mistakes. This doesn’t mean to run recklessly, but to be smart base runners.