April 10, 2009 - Atlantic League (AtL) - York Revolution
(York, Pa.): As York Revolution Spring Training gets underway this week, the club will head to camp with a new weapon, one that it hopes will be the greatest on-base threat in the history of the game. In the modern era of baseball, with an ever-increasing value being placed on the ability to get on base by any means necessary, and with teams constantly looking to gain an edge on the competition, the time is right to answer the question that fans and baseball executives have wondered about ever since Eddie Gaedel drew that famous walk: Had Gaedel been allowed to continue to play, would he be the greatest offensive force in baseball history?
Intrigued by the research done in Gallagher's book "Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan", the York Revolution have decided to find out by bringing in a former member of the Tampa Rays organization, 3'2 Dave Flood as a pinch-hitting specialist.
"Todd called and asked whether we would assist in the experiment, and we felt that Spring Training would be a great time to try to answer the question," said Revolution chairman Peter Kirk. "Most baseball innovations began in the minor leagues, including night games, promotions, the designated hitter, and even Jackie Robinson\'s breaking of the color barrier," Kirk added. "I would like to believe that somewhere, Bill Veeck, Charlie Finley and Syd Thrift are smiling their approval."
The player selected by Gallagher is 3\'2" Dave Flood, no relation to Curt Flood. Flood is a former member of the Tampa Bay Rays organization and has a passion for the game. He sees his unique advantage as a player. "If I were seven feet tall I'd be putting a basketball through a hoop," said Flood. "I should be able to take advantage of my height to draw a walk. Sometimes this might be leading off a game, sometimes it could be as a pinch hitter with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 9th."
The York Revolution have extended an invitation to Flood to participate in the Revolution\'s Spring Training, which is being held this year in York at Sovereign Bank Stadium from April 13 to 22. During this period the Revolution will be preparing for the 2009 season which begins April 23. The team and Spring Training are under the direction of manager Chris Hoiles, and coaches Tippy Martinez, Sammy Snider and Al Bumbry. Flood will join the Revolution in time for the "Meet the Team" breakfast and afternoon workout this Tuesday, April 14.
According to Gallagher, other sports have embraced controversial experiments that have changed the landscape of their game. This is an attempt to find a game break that takes advantage of a player's natural physical attribute. A good comparison is Manute Bol's quick indoctrination into the game of basketball, or the NFL bringing in European soccer kickers who had never even seen a football before.
Gallagher has been doing research on the topic for a few years. Dana Kiecker, former Red Sox rookie of the year, faced a team of short hitters coached by Gallagher two summers ago and was so worn out after one inning that he had to be removed from the game. It was his opinion that a little person could make an impact in the majors. "Look, if they're going up there one after another, a pitcher might be able to strike some guys out by getting in a rhythm, but even then it's going to be tough," said Kiecker. "If you just sprung one on a pitcher, forget it. That's too hard a slot to hit." Similarly, Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan and single season save leader Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez believe it's a plan that has real potential. Said Rodriguez: "First of all, I'm not going to be able to throw strikes. No way. My target for the hitter is very different so my approach would be completely messed up. He's going to get a walk immediately. I'd rather face Barry Bonds in the bottom of the ninth."
Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus took it a step further. His team worked up the numbers and concluded that a player with the ability to ensure getting on base once via walk, once per game, would be more valuable to a major league team than Albert Pujols. Tim Purpura, COO of Minor League Baseball, went as far to indicate that he would have been willing to sign a little person to draw walks if major league baseball would have allowed during his tenure as general manager of the Houston Astros.
Micheal Gogin, the head of the Little People of America's Los Angeles chapter, sees the value and potential as well. "First of all, it's a great strategic maneuver. But just as importantly, baseball is America's pastime and everyone should have equal opportunity to play, especially if they can bring legitimate value to a team." Gogin's son Matthew, himself a little person, impressed Long Beach Armada coach and former Los Angeles Dodgers player Steve Yeager in an open tryout.
This is a strategy that Gallagher, who is an on-camera contributor at ESPN and television producer, has been pursuing since the release of the successful book. "It's a brilliant strategy and one that's supported by the data and research. I'm thrilled that the Revolution are willing to embrace basic logic and give equal opportunity to a player who can help their team."
Revolution Director of Baseball Operations Adam Gladstone agrees that the idea has tremendous potential. "Certainly I would think a player like that would have value. This forces our baseball staff to devise a strategy on how to best utilize his skills to help our ballclub. But is a guy with a high on-base percentage attractive? Heck yeah. We just need to determine how to best use him."
The Revolution will practice at 10 a.m. and again at 1:15 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday, before playing their first game of the spring on Thursday, April 16 at Somerset. The club will practice again on Friday, April 17 at Sovereign Bank Stadium, at 10 a.m. and at 1:15 p.m. The first home exhibition game of the preseason is on Saturday, April 18 at 1 p.m. against the Susquehanna & Central League All-Stars. The Revolution will then travel to Lancaster on Sunday, April 19 for a 1:30 p.m start. Exhibition week concludes with two more chances to catch Flood and the Revs at home: Monday, April 20 and Tuesday, April 21, both at 1 p.m. The club will hold one last workout, beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, before departing for Bridgeport to open the 2009 season.