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BCB Interview: Don Money (Part One)

The last tidbit from my trip to Huntsville is the interview with Stars manager Don Money.  I got over an hour of time with Coach Money so this transcript is only a partial transcript. Part Two will be coming shortly.

BCB: When did you decide that coaching was something you were interested in?

Don Money: After I finished my career in '83 I went to Japan for a few months, and then in '84 I completely got out, and starting in '87 I coached a high school team for five years and also a semi-pro team.  This was a full time job then because the high school was during the week, and the semi-pro team was during the weekends.  Once my kids got out of high school my wife said that I should get a job back, so I got a job for three years working in a shipping and receiving department part-time, and then I saw that Cecil Cooper got the minor league director's job in 1997, so I gave him a call during spring training to see if there were any openings for next year.  Coop said that there would be, but he wasn't sure where and he would call back during the summer.  So he ended up getting offered the job in Helena [Rookie ball], so then two weeks later Cooper called back and said he changed his mind and offered me the position in Beloit.  So I was in Beloit for seven years.  I had an opportunity to go to California a couple of times, as the Brewers had a team in High Desert, but it was a move from A to A, and my family was on the East Coast, so I decided to stay in Beloit.  Then four years ago when Cecil got a job in Houston, Frank Kremblas, who was the manger at Huntsville, moved up to AAA, and I moved up here.

BCB: Can you compare this team you currently have to the Beloit team you had in 2003 with [Prince] Fielder, [Rickie] Weeks, [Tony] Gwynn, [Manny] Parra, [Dennis] Sarfate, [Callix] Crabbe, and so on?

DM: The year before Prince had come up from Rookie ball, then Gwynn and Weeks came in the draft, so that team wasn't together for the full season.  That team too had more prospects on the pitching side, and this team is more on the positional players.  You go back to the scouting department and Jack Zduriencik because when I first came here in '98 and '99 and 2000 the talent was kind of thin.  You have to give credit to the scouting department.  [Zduriencik] goes out there and busts stones, as we say, and you have to find these players.  You don't just take the word of a guy who is saying this is a ace pitcher who will be in the big leagues in a few years.  You have to follow up on these players.  If you go and then the game was canceled by rain you have to stick with them.  So he has done a really good job of bringing in the talent, and it isn't just the number-one picks and the number-two picks, it is the fifth-round picks and the tenth-round picks, all the way down.  You always expect the fourth or fifth pick to be guys who are ready to go, but if you find guys who are in the 11th round and the 12th round who are better than the guys who other teams are picking there, that is really important.  And that team in Beloit was loaded, with Prince and Rickie and Manny.  Manny was dealing that year.  Now, it looks like he has finally made the turn and, knock on wood, he has pretty much solidified his spot in the rotation and maybe is over the injury bug that seemed to get him every year for three or four years.  Sarfate was there and he always had a big-league arm; he just had to throw it over the plate.  He was always a starter and now he is a reliever.

BCB: That seemed to be the role that the Brewers were projecting him into down the road.

DM:  It is hard to set up a short man or a reliever in the minor leagues.  If you look at stats here and you look at a guy like Pena and he is earmarked to be a setup or closer, but I don't know how many innings he has got.  A guy like Sarfate, because of pitch counts, after five innings he was done.  He would have thrown 100 pitches because he had a lot of strikeouts and a lot of walks and that eats the pitches.  All guys are on pitch counts, even the guys in the big leagues, and what happened was he could never turn the corner to be a consistent pitcher, and now he has been traded and maybe a change of scenery has helped him.  The thing about him is he has never been injured and that was the thing with Manny.

This team here I am surprised on the hitting side, and you got guys like [Alcides] Escobar who are [ranked] like one or two in the organization, and guys like [Mat] Gamel who are two or three in the organization, and [Cole] Gillespie, who is seven or eight, and you got [Michael] Brantley in center, and it looks like he has finally turned the corner in center, and right now he is on suspension, and that is neither here or there.  You had guys one through eight in the lineup who were hitting.  We aren't quite that team right now.  We have [Lorenzo] Cain, who is a young kid, in center field taking Brantley's spot, actually taking [Matt] LaPorta's spot, technically.  He has been here a few games, and it is early to say, but he is playing well.  He is doing a good job in center and has shown a good arm and just needs to get his feet wet.  [Chris] Errecart was having a solid year until he sprained his wrist and had to go to Arizona.  [Angel] Salome is having a great year, he just needs to work a bit better on calling games.  It is a solid team.  Gamel is having a great year--now will he go to the majors and hit .370? I think no, but will he go there and hit .300? I think with his approach he will. He should be a .300 hitter, and you look at the charts and that should be a 60 or 70 [on the 20-80 scouting scale], and the big knock on him is his defense, but it getting better.

BCB: I had heard an interview you had done with Jim Powell, and you mentioned that Gamel's footwork was his biggest problem.  When [Ryan] Braun was here 90% of his errors were throwing errors, but Gamel has made about as many fielding errors as throwing errors, so is it footwork getting to the ball and getting to the good hop and then getting ready to throw?

DM: Footwork.  Footwork is involved with both sides of it.  You have to be light on your feet, and he isn't really light on his feet right now.  He is more of a plant guy than nimble, but it is better than it was, as I have been told, because I had never seen him before this year.  He had about 55 errors last year and they were about 50/50 throwing and fielding, but this year he had mostly fielding errors until about a week ago.  He had only one or two throwing errors, but it all reverts right to his footwork.  If his footwork gets out of sync, then this [points to his arm] gets out of sync.  You can ask him, and he feels much better about it, but it is still a work in progress.  Can he make the turn and become a consistent Major Leaguer? I think he can.  Derek Jeter made 30 to 40 errors in the minors, but once he got confidence he made the turn, and now look at him.

BCB: Footwork was considered Rickie Weeks' big problem at second as well--do you see some parallels with him?

DM: Rickie, when you look at him, I only had him for a month, and he was raw.  He was oriented around hitting, but he had a great arm, and at times it looked like he relied on the strength of his arm instead of getting his footwork under him.  And if you need it the arm should be there, but you shouldn't rely on it.  Take Escobar for example: very good arm but he doesn't have to throw it at 110% until he needs to, but Rickie was doing that all the time, and that is why he was throwing it off-line and in the dirt, and that is where a lot of his errors were coming.  And now he is doing a lot better but now has to pick up his offense a little bit.

BCB: I'd like to believe that offense won't be a problem with Rickie long-term--he is still walking and showing some power.

DM: You hope it comes around at some point, because he has been there now for a few years and I think he is still working at it.  Then he hurt his wrist sitting in the dugout twirling his bat, and that has been a real nagging thing for him.  He stands there holding his bat like this [imitates Rickie's bat wiggle], and that is how he hurt it in the first place, and it is just one of those instances where he has to start getting a little better, and I think he is, but the season is a long season.

BCB: The other thing about Gamel that people haven't really touched on is how good he hits against left-handed pitching.  Many young left-handed batter struggle against left-handed pitching but Gamel seems to do just fine.  What about his approach let's him do that?

DM: He doesn't try to pull.  That is the biggest thing.  He approach is [to] left-center and right-center, and right now he very rarely pulls the ball and hits to right field with some pop.  Once he learns to recognize the pitch and he can turn on the ball, he has a chance to increase his power numbers and still hit [for average] well.

Part Two coming soon.