ON THE FINAL day of the baseball winter meetings near the fantasy land that is Disney World, Scott Boras gave his annual "State of My Clients" report.
The super agent's spin on outfielder Domonic Brown was littered with unchallenged inaccuracies.
The outfielder's contract with Leones de Escogido, defending champions of the Dominican Winter League, called for him to be with the ball club between Nov. 15 and the end of the regular season Dec. 21.
He needed a few days after his arrival to regain his timing and took extra batting practice. When manager Ken Oberkfell deemed Brown ready to play, he batted him No. 3. The DWL is taken seriously by its managers. Oberkfell's defending league and Caribbean Series champions were off to a bad slow start. In retrospect, it appears the former Cardinals infielder was sending the Phillies a message by batting the unready rookie in such an important slot. As Dom's 0-fers mounted, he was benched for a game. When Brown returned to the lineup, he was dropped to No. 7. He was benched for two more games after taking an 0-for-4 while batting No. 8. It became apparent the benching was permanent. The Phillies did a pre-emptive and flew the 23-year-old rightfielder home. He had been rated the No. 1 minor league prospect in the game by Baseball America after Braves and Marlins wunderkinds Jason Heyward and Michael Stanton became established big-league players.
Listen, any agent who could spin Jayson Werth a contract that will pay him $126 million - or 4.1 times the 1981 value of the Phillies - by the time he turns 38 in 2017 would be a master of hyperbole.
Boras had this assessment of his young client's embarrassing performance:
"I think he was really tired, to be honest with you. He played a full season, and then he was in the big leagues in September. That's the longest baseball season he's ever had. He went over there and was, really, I think, physically tired."
That's the spin . . .
Now, the truth.
Between Sept. 1 and Oct. 23, when the Phillies lost Game 6 of the National League Championship Series to the Giants, Dom Brown had 19 plate appearances. He started three games during that 53-day period. Thousands of Phillies fans got better aerobic workouts waving their rally towels and jumping up and down than Brown got while collecting bench sores on his rump. Of course, Dom took part in the timeless pregame activities of batting practice, shagging, running sprints, etc., with the rest of the extra men. But every player at every level of the professional game does that from the first day of spring training to the final out of the season. No way that routine will wear out an athlete who was headed for a University of Miami ride as a wide receiver when the Phillies made it worth his while to choose a baseball career.
If Dom Brown was suffering from anything, it was inactivity. Even if you tack another month onto Brown's rookie resume, his August through Oct. 23 activity line includes 59 plate appearances and only 10 starts.
When batting coach Greg Gross was one of the best pinch-hitters and extra men in the game, he told me the less playing time he got, the harder he worked to make sure he was ready when called on to hit or play the field.
"You have to go to the ballpark each day assuming you'll be in the lineup, and when you're not, then you have to work harder than the regulars to make sure you can contribute when called on," he said.
When Brown was promoted from Lehigh Valley July 28 after Shane Victorino went on the DL, it was holy writ that if Werth exercised his free agency the 6-5 athlete with the long legs and high ceiling would inherit rightfield. Dom had torn up the Eastern League and Triple A. He ran into a wall called major league pitching. But his final .210 battling average was Stargellesque, compared with his .069 clunker in the Dominican.
Bottom line, when Baseball America released its Top 10 Prospect rankings for each team yesterday, Brown still held the Phillies' No. 1 slot. The three Mariners prospects exchanged for Cliff Lee - pitchers Phillippe Aumont and J.C Ramirez, and outfielder Tyson Gillies - did not make the list.
On the other hand, three Phillies prospects sent to the Blue Jays for Roy Halladay, are in their Top 10. Righthander Kyle Drabek is No. 1, and young catcher Travis D'Arnaud, No. 4. Fleet outfielder Anthony Gose, who went to the Jays via Houston in the Roy Oswalt trade is No. 3 on Toronto's list. Outfielder Michael Taylor, passed on to the A's by the Jays, has slipped from prime prospect to No. 10 on Oakland's list.
Of the package the Phillies shipped to Cleveland in 2009 for Cliff Lee, righthander Carlos Carrasco and catcher Lou Marson are in the major leagues and 20-year-old righthander Jason Knapp is rated No. 6.
Meanwhile, Domonic Brown has made himself a lock to be a prime exhibit under the spring training microscope. He will have to win a roster spot. Scott Boras said his client needs no further Triple A experience.
Then again, the agent told us last week Dom Brown was exhausted by the heavy weight of all that September and October non-baseball activity. *
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