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June 27, 2008 June 27, 2008

Posted by atlanticleaguenews in Uncategorized.
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The Long Island Ducks knew that Jay Gibbons and Nook Logan were available.

So did the Somerset Patriots.

But when it came time for both players to sign with a team in the Atlantic League, it was hardly surprising when the duo of outfielders, both mentioned in The Mitchell Report, went to Central Islip instead of Bridgewater.

It isn’t that Gibbons or Logan couldn’t have helped the Patriots, or that the players preferred one location over the other. Ultimately, it came down to a difference in philosophies between the two organizations.

PLAYING IT SAFE VS. TAKING THE PLUNGE

Ever since the Ducks inception in 2001, they’ve gained a reputation as the preferred destination for the star player looking for a place to revitalize his career.

In some instances, players fitting that description have merely fallen out of favor with affiliated baseball for circumstances beyond their control.

Carlos Baerga, Bill Pulsipher, Henry Rodriguez, Danny Graves, Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Offerman are just a few of the high-profile, yet low-risk players who wore a Ducks uniform while trying to use the Atlantic League as a stepping stone back to the big leagues.

However, Juan Gonzalez, John Rocker, Armando Rios, Damian Moss and most recently Alex Sanchez are all examples of supposed high-risk players that Long Island has brought in recently, players with “baggage” that might otherwise scare away other teams in the league.

Gonzalez, Rios and Sanchez — a current Duck — all had various associations with steroids upon signing with Long Island, while Rocker merely had a penchant for putting his foot in his mouth.

The Patriots, meanwhile, have chosen to stay away from players they feel might create negative publicity for their organization.

Considered one of the premier organizations in the league, the team has turned down numerous opportunities to sign the so-called high-risk players, including memorably refusing to sign Rocker when he was available several years ago.

Perhaps the only notable exception is Josh Pressley, who had served a previous suspension for a violation of Major League Baseball’s steroids policy, but was signed prior to last season following numerous recommendations from teammates and friends, including long-time Somerset third baseman Jeff Nettles.

For an organization that once released a player solely because he refused to sign autographs before the game, it was a move that was considered somewhat risky, but ultimately paid off. Pressley has been a strong contributor on the field, and has emerged as the face of the franchise off of it, taking over for Nettles after he left for affiliated ball midway through last season.

So is the way the Ducks operate better than the Patriots?

Is the way the Patriots operate better Ducks?

Considering the success both franchises have had both on and off the field, there is no right or wrong answer to those questions.

But with the signings of both Gibbons and Logan as a perfect background, there’s no doubting that it’s the Ducks who’ve gone down the path less traveled and the Patriots who’ve played it safe.

LOGAN: I NEVER DID IT TO ENHANCE MY PERFORMANCE

Former Major League outfielder Nook Logan (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

For the past four seasons, Nook Logan has done a solid job of filling his role of a third or fourth outfielder at the Major League level for both the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals.

Counted on to get on base and provide some speed, the 28-year-old swiped 23 bases and hit .265 for the Nationals last season without the benefit of everyday playing time.

A productive player who covers an enormous amount of ground in the outfield, Logan was planning on making 2008 his fifth season in the big leagues until the December 13, 2007 release of the long-awaited Mitchell Report changed all that.

Logan was only able to sign a late contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a deal that didn’t include so much as an invite to spring training.

Predictably, he was released, and spent the next two months at home before ultimately agreeing to join the Ducks.

While he didn’t blame the Mitchell Report for being forced to play independent ball, he was quick to point out the impact it had on his fall from grace.

“Huge impact,” Logan said.

“People have misconceptions of you, and have views of you that are really not you.”

While he doesn’t deny the claims made in the Mitchell Report, he does contend that there was never any intent to enhance performance.

“What I got, or whatever, (I) got that and it was something for an injury to my elbow or whatnot,” Logan said.

“After that was healed, I never did it to enhance my performance or none of that, never. I never thought about it like that. I feel like with the type of game that I play, that’s not what I do, I don’t need it for that.”

Of the many names listed in the document, Logan’s was one of the more curious ones. He’s never hit more than four home runs in a season, and had just 11 professional home runs in over 3,000 at-bats entering this season.

It’s almost as though the statistics back up his claims.

“Everything I do on the field has been me,” Logan said.

“People get perceptions based on one little incident. I made my mistake, everybody makes mistakes. I’m ready to bounce back and move on.”

The statistics help Logan not only with the public’s perception of him, but perhaps more importantly, may ultimately help him earn another chance in affiliated baseball.

While some players under similar circumstances may feel pressure to put up big numbers to show they’re “legit,” Logan knows he’s never been one to put up big numbers in the first place and doesn’t feel the pressure to play over his head.

“Everybody knows what type of player I am, I’m not a big numbers guy,” he said.

“I get on base and steal a couple bases here and there, score a couple runs and get on base for the big fellas. Play good defense. That’s what I do.”

GIBBONS BELIEVES ORIOLES CLAIMS

Long-time Baltimore outfielder Jay Gibbons (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

The Mitchell Report also had an affect on the career of former Baltimore Orioles outfielder Jay Gibbons, who was named in the document along with Logan.

In the big leagues for the past seven seasons with Baltimore, many were surprised when he was released following a poor spring training, even after having been implicated in the report.

And few believed the Orioles assertion that Gibbons release had nothing to do with the Mitchell Report.

But does Gibbons himself believe Baltimore?

“Yes, I 100 percent do,” Gibbons said.

“I was banged up all last year and ended up having surgery and had a miserable year. Coming into spring training, they pretty much told me they were moving in a different direction from day one and I respected that. I really don’t think the Mitchell Report had anything to do with it.”

Gibbons, a career .260 hitter at the big league level, could most likely be helping out a team in Triple-A at the very least right now. But according to Gibbons, who spent two months trying to land a big league job and then a minor league job before ultimately settling on the Atlantic League, the phone hasn’t exactly been ringing off the hook.

“My goal now is to help this team win, and if the phone rings, the phone rings,” he said.

But is Gibbons surprised that the phone hasn’t rung since his release at the end of March?

“I don’t know, maybe a little bit,” he said.

“But there’s a lot of circumstances, I guess. The bottom line is I’m playing baseball now and I’ve just got to play well and hope that things work out.”

WHY LONG ISLAND? WHY NOT?

While it seems that more often than not, players with pasts such as Jay Gibbons and Nook Logan end up on the Ducks, it didn’t seem to be as pre-determined for either player as you might think.

Each player certainly had options, and Gibbons specifically was being courted by at least one other team in the league before deciding on Long Island. How he made his decision is really no different than many other players in this league — he called an ex-teammate.

“I had a former teammate, Todd Williams, on this team and I gave him a call,” Gibbons said.

“He said a lot of good things about it. I just really need to get out of the Baltimore area and move on, and Long Island was the place to do it.”

For Logan, it was location, location, location.

Just not his location.

“My agent called me and said they had openings here,” Logan said.

“He’s from Brooklyn, and he’s in Brooklyn, so it’s close to him. I just know a lot of people in this league, and this league is scouted every day, so it looked like the best league for me to come to and play.”

LAPOINT’S BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD BEFORE

While general manager Mike Pfaff and team owner Frank Boulton ultimately have the final say on whether a player does or doesn’t put on a Ducks uniform, manager Dave LaPoint does most, if not all of the legwork to get them to that point.

LaPoint has been responsible for bringing in many of the star players you’ve seen in Central Islip, and has been down this particular road many times. Even with the circumstances surrounding their availability, the former big league pitcher turned manager was still somewhat surprised that Jay Gibbons and Nook Logan found themselves in his clubhouse.

“I understand the situation of probably why they weren’t taken,” LaPoint said.

“But after getting them both here and seeing what types of ballplayers they are, it’s surprising.”

LaPoint was particularly complimentary of Gibbons, who was hitting .286 in his first eight games with the Ducks, entering last night’s games.

“With Jay Gibbons, there’s no big league-itis at all,” LaPoint said.

“He comes in and works hard and he just goes about his business. It’s funny that no one has grabbed on to him. It looks like he’s getting ready and adjusting pretty quick.”

While most of the gambles the Ducks have made have paid off, one very notable exception did not. Loudmouthed fireballer John Rocker signed with Long Island during the 2005 season, and earned the club all sorts of negative press after several incidents in which he engaged in profanity-laced exchanges with fans.

Although not every high-risk signing will turn out that way, LaPoint knows the potential for disaster exists when he makes such a move.

“I guess going from the history of some of the guys we’ve brought in before, we’ve handled the negative publicity,” he said.

“As Frank will say, this is a league about second chances. Where are they going to go to get ready? If they’re downright bad people…maybe the Rocker situation didn’t work out well, and he dug his own grave, but these are pretty good citizens right here, so I don’t think there’s going to be that much of a negative impact.”

MCVERRY: PATRIOTS NEEDS DIDN’T INCLUDE GIBBONS, LOGAN

There wasn’t a team in the Atlantic League that didn’t know that Jay Gibbons and Nook Logan were available. Some made offers, some decided against it, and some knew that they weren’t the type of organization that would take on the public relations risk of such a move.

On the field, Somerset Patriots General Manager Patrick McVerry pointed to the talent already in his outfield when asked about the possibility of the two players coming to Somerset.

“I think a lot of it comes down to needs,” McVerry said.

“When both players became available, I think we were pretty set in the outfield. If you look at our past, we aren’t a team that makes a lot of releases during the season, we like to give guys chances. When those names do come up, if you get one of them, you have to release somebody. We want give everybody a fair shake, and a fair shot at it. That’s part of the reason.”

The other part of the reason, perhaps, is negative publicity, and that’s a subject that McVerry would not offer comment on.

What he did go into detail about, however, is part of the philosophy that the team uses when choosing who to add and who not to add to the roster.

“We like guys that are referred to us by other guys on the team, and we like to have guys that our players are comfortable with being there,” McVerry said.

“When we talk to a player, it’s ‘Hey, Pressley…hey, Travis…have you played with this guy? Yeah, he’s a great guy, we should get that guy.’ Sparky’s motto has always been, you start with the clubhouse first. Build a good clubhouse, and the rest will fall into place hopefully. But if you have guys who enjoy each other, root for each other, and you have that team concept it will hopefully show on the field. For the most part, it’s happened over the course of our eleven seasons. I think that’s part of the philosophy that we’ve had. I don’t want to say that our philosophy is better than another one, but that’s how we operate.”

IN THE END, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE FANS

Ultimately, any move that a manager or general manager makes will affect his team’s fan base, hopefully in a positive way.

Both the Ducks and Patriots are consistently among the best drawing teams in the league, and in all likelihood, would not be significantly affected one way or the other by signing or not signing Jay Gibbons and Nook Logan.

But it’s the Ducks fans that get to see the duo in white and cheer for them, and both players had nothing but positive things to say not only about those fans, but fans all around the league.

“It’s been great, everybody’s been supportive of me,” Gibbons said.

“Even when I got released, I got letters and stuff. The fans have been nice.”

Anyone expecting syringes to be thrown at players, a la Barry Bonds, or even negative signs would certainly be disappointed.

“Even when I was in spring training with the Dodgers, there was none of that,” Logan said.

“I guess people understand that people are in different situations, and I was put in a bad situation and made a bad decision. It’s time to move on.”

And for Gibbons and Logan, they hope to use the Atlantic League as a stepping stone to move on, and move back to the big leagues in the very near future. – Mike Ashmore

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Comments»

1. playballnyy - June 27, 2008

nice piece mike

2. jevans - June 27, 2008

nice piece, mike, but i have to call you out on suggesting that logan’s stats back his claim of not trying to “enhance peformance” (certainly he’s not the first — see Andy Petitte). Don’t get me wrong, I TOTALLY understand why players do ANYTHING to sustain a career (most of us are lying if we said we wouldn’t consider it); however, isn’t knowingly ingesting a banned substance to quicken the natural healing process simply another form of “enhancing” on-field performance? so the guy doesn’t hit home runs…neither does roger clemens.

3. M - June 27, 2008

great job on the write up. As a Ducks fan; however, I was sad to see one of the casualties of bringing these guys in, Kevin Haverbush go. He was an incredible player and a local. Kevin was definetely one of the fan favorites here. I hope he is able to get the call back once these guys are moved back up to the minors.

4. Anonymous - June 27, 2008

Wow-terrific job on the article!

Why was Damian Moss mentioned along with Rocker, Sanchez, et al? Moss is back in triple A with the Braves.

5. Anonymous - June 27, 2008

everyone talks about the ducks and the pats but doesnt camden now have 6 guys that have been picked up. that has to be a first half record

6. Anonymous - June 27, 2008

m,
I was under the impression that Haverbusch wsa out nursing an injury and would be back when he is better.

7. Anonymous - June 27, 2008

Excellent article, Mike.

8. M - June 27, 2008

I didn’t hear that about Haverbusch. I heard he was basically odd man out to make room for the 2 x major leauers but understood that they may get a call back up. I hope your right and he’s back.

9. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

Good article Mike.

I agree with the comment that is always Pats & Ducks. Doesn’t we have 8 teams in the league that have excellent statistics and not being a Shark Fan I think they are doing a terrific job. I think we are tired of the rich teams getting the promotions. I know you are a fair with everyone and you are a Pats fan, but we all know that Long Island runs the league with their bosses.

10. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

It’s not Long Island and Somerset’s fault that they are always mentioned. They lead the league in attendance every year so obviously they are doing something right. It’s a tribute to their respective marketing and promotions departments, the involvement of the local business’ in the area for all their support, their front office and their ownership and their loyal fan base. Also, if it weren’t for Frank Boulton there would be no Atlantic League and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

I agree that most of the other teams have good stats. You can see that from looking at the diversity of players from most of the teams in the top 5 of the league leaders in all the categories. However, if you were a name player that was looking to get back to the show, would you rather go to Long Island and Somerset that averages 5000+ fans per game and has a reputation of sending players back to the big leagues or would you want to go to Bridgeport who averages 2000 (where the actual gate is 1500 or less per game) with no community support/advertising and a front office/ownership that puts forth a substandard product/total experience for their fans.

-Fish/Ducks fan

11. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

Great points by Fish/Ducks fan. About time someone realized the obvious.

12. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

do the l.i ducks sign auto’s at their home park, who doesn’t ?

13. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

good article mike
good point fish ducks fan

14. Mike - June 28, 2008

I’m not a Patriots fan, I cover the team.

HUGE difference.

15. Anonymous - June 28, 2008

Before every Sunday home game the Ducks allow fans on the field to get autographs from the team. The entire team is supposed to be there for the session (with the exception of the starting pitcher and catcher who are warming up in the bullpen). Most of the team shows up but there is a group of former MLB players and big names that refuse to come out (Everett, Gibbons, Logan, Williams, Rose, Nageotte, Darensbourg and Sanchez). It has been rumored that the players are fined if they do not come out to sign for the fans but that doesn’t seem to matter to these former millionaires.

16. playballnyy - June 29, 2008

“Fish/Ducks fan” that’s like sayin’ your a mets/yankees fan or a boston/yankees fan…

make up your mind


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