With the World Series coming to an end, so too will the almost nightly wince of pain from Mariners fans as Chris Taylor does something of good consequence for the Dodgers. For general manager Jerry Dipoto, the heroics have brought up mixed emotions.
“I wish we would have had our eyes open to the fact that Chris Taylor had those skills in there. We didn’t know that,” Dipoto said in a sit-down interview earlier this week. “I watch the game, I’m rooting for him, I think it’s great. He’s a great guy, I know he plays hard, I will never wish a player ill will. I’m the one who screwed up, not Chris. I traded him, not vice versa.”
Getting beyond the angst of the one who got away, the question that pops into my mind is, are there others who can do the same as Taylor? Somebody who hit more home runs on the first pitch he saw in the World Series than he did in 86 games for the Mariners? Who never hit more than eight home runs in a complete minor league season yet hit 21 along with a .288/.354/.496 slash line for the Dodgers in 2017? Dipoto believes there are, and he and his staff have their eyes open for them.
“It’s a number of players who have gone out and they have learned a new swing, a new skill,” he said. “How to elevate the baseball, how to generate more velocity off the barrel. We have become more alert to the fact that there are a variety of players in our system, if they do something well, before we determine that they don’t have a complete enough skill set to be a full-time Major Leaguer, we want to explore the possibilities if they do go through one of these more dynamic changes. We are hopeful the next time Chris Taylor happens, he happens as a Mariner instead of some guy that the Mariners traded.”
Most Chris Taylors do not happen without outside help, and Dipoto seems to be embracing much of what is available outside the organization. With more and more professional athlete training centers utilizing cutting edge technology, and hitting and pitching consultants accumulating impressive track records, these outside influences are becoming a very real part of player development.
“Sometimes changes may come through non-traditional routes,” he said. “It could come from incorporating consultants around the league which are working now. Third parties like Kyle Boddy down at Driveline Baseball. Like the Sparta Science people and the swing doctors in Menlo Park. We’ve watched what they have done with Mitch Haniger.
“It’s the same word, different tone. It’s the same game, a different way of going about it, and we want to be open minded to the ability of a non-traditional coaching adaptation making a difference in a player’s career before we watch him go and succeed on his own and then take those skills somewhere else. Because I am fairly confident in saying Chris Taylor is not the same player that the Mariners had, and he did it. It wasn’t anything that the Mariners did, it wasn’t anything that the Dodgers did, it was probably something that Justin Turner slapped him on the back and said, ‘Guess what happened to me after I signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers,’ and did ‘X.’ And then he ended up working with a hitting coach that the Dodgers were wise enough to keep on staff as a consultant and the results speak for themselves.”
The results have been impressive, and moving forward Taylor’s story will perhaps serve as a model rather than be dismissed as the out-of-the-ordinary baseball Cinderella transformation.
“He’s turned himself into really what is the catalyst of a World Series team that seemingly scores runs at the drop of a hat, and he is in the middle of all of it,” said Dipoto. “I don’t begrudge him, I think it’s fantastic. I root for him. I wish it was happening at the top of our lineup instead of theirs, but that is a lesson learned and hopefully we won’t make that mistake twice.”