By Bob Elliott
How important is advance scouting?
Well, 15 years after Bill Byckowski and Gordon Lakey gave the Toronto Blue Jays their advance report on the Chicago White Sox heading into the American League Championship Series, pitching coach Galen Cisco spotted Byckowski in 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.
“Now, there’s a good scout,” said Cisco pitching coach of the 1992-93 World Series champion Blue Jays. “He and Lakey told us Frank Thomas would not expand his strike zone and would take a walk.
“The White Sox didn’t have much hitting behind him, so that was our approach.”
Thomas hit .353 (6-for-17) against the Jays with one homer and three RBIs, drawing 10 walks.
Robin Ventura, Ellis Burks, Dan Pasqua, Bo Jackson and Warren Newsom were a combined 12-for-63 (.190) in the 4-5-6 spots with a total of nine RBIs.
Thomas reached base 16 times against Jays pitching, scoring only twice as Dave Stewart and Juan Guzman won twice each as well as the Jays eliminated the White Sox in six games. Stewart also handed out turkeys on Thanksgiving on the off day on his way to winning ALCS MVP honors.
A week later in 1993 when the Jays played the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, Toronto won the opener 8-5 with Al Leiter getting the win in relief at the SkyDome.
With the Jays trailing 6-4 in the eighth inning of Game 2, Robbie Alomar walked and stole second. On the next pitch reliever Mitch Williams stepped off, as Alomar broke for third. Williams fired to heady third baseman Dave Hollins erasing Alomar and ending the inning.
Asked why he it looked as if he was expecting Alomar to take off for third, Williams said advance scouts Jimmy Stewart and Ray (Snacks) Shore had put in their report, “Alomar often stole second and third on successive pitches.”
Before you think reading about how much scouts help teams in the post-season is like announcing the parade route before the Jays have won anything, you should know Toronto scouts were dispatched on fact-finding missions by pro scouting director Perry Minasian earlier this month.
The Jays certainly aren’t deploying scouts if and when they clinch, so they can watch triple-A players play the night after other teams have been soaked in champagne.
The travelling roster of the Jays scouts looking for nuggets to pass on to head office, like Byckowski, Lakey, Shore and Stewart did in 1993:
_ Danny Evans, former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager and Midland’s Jon Lalonde, former scouting director, are in Oakland following the Texas Rangers.
_ Etobicoke’s Kevin Briand, a pro crosschecker, and pro scout Nick Manno have been following the Yankees and are at the Rogers Centre for this series.
_ Chuck LaMarr, former Tampa Bay Rays GM, and Ross Bove, both special assignment scouts, are at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City following the Royals.
_ Dean Decillis, pro crosschecker and major-league scout Jim Skaalen are in Houston watching the Astros.
_ Ed Lynch, former Chicago Cubs GM, and Steve Springer, a minor league hitting coach, are in Houston scouting the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
_ Former Montreal Expos GM Jim Beattie and pro scout David May, Jr. are in Minneapolis watching the Twins.
_ And in the National League, pro scouts Matt Anderson and Brad Matthews are at Busch Stadium scouting the St. Louis Cardinals.
_ Pro scouts Bryan Lambe and Steve Connelly are at Citi Field evaluating the New York Mets.
_ Pro scouts Ted Lekas and Kevin Fox are at Dodger Stadium taking notes on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
_ Pro scout Jon Bunnell is flying solo scouting the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
_ And finally, pro scout Kimball Crossley is in Denver watching the Colorado Rockies.
While Jays scouts are watching contenders, other evaluators are watching Toronto.
There are enough scouts at the Rogers Centre to fill one lobby of Nashville’s Opryland Hotel, usual site of the winter meetings.
Tim Conroy of the Royals saw the Jays Friday for a 23rd straight game, along with KC scouts Mike Pazik and Mike Toomey.
Paul Ricciarini, former Jays scout, and Mike Wickham made it 15 straight games Astros scouts have seen the Jays.
The other well-trained eyes on hand looking for a edge to pass on in case their respective team meets either the Jays or the Yankees:
Scott Littlefield and Scott Engler of the Rangers; Matt Daly and Tom Wilson of the Yankees, Jax Robertson of the Pirates, Larry Corrigan of the Twins and Steve Pope of the Dodgers.
They do a lot of work and hope that some day their manager will get to use it before a playoff game.