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Revisiting Purple Row's interview with Marc Gustafson

About a month ago, RockiesMagicNumber and I worked on a plan, and that led to RMN's three-part interview with Marc Gustafson, the Director of Player Development for the Rockies. This wasn't the first time Purple Row became involved with the Colorado Rockies organization. Earlier in the year, Bill Geivett stopped by and answered a few questions from the community. A few weeks ago, Geivett re-emerged in response to a comment by biondino in this FanShot. Come back when you can, Bill!

Back to Marc Gustafson. I'll look at some key points from the interview after the jump, but there are several general points to be made.

  • This was a step forward for both the Colorado Rockies and Purple Row. While we were politely told "no" back in February, that was likely due to shooting too high to begin with. But after a few months, an ever-improving Rockies team, and a return call, both sides came together.
  • The Rockies acted in a way to connect with the fans in a new medium. The future is now, but MLB is still creeping forward, unsure of how to embrace blogs.
  • This has not (yet, anyway) opened up Pandora's Box. Giving one blog (I prefer to call Purple Row a community these days) access to the organization doesn't necessarily mean having to give access to every blog that comes calling. That isn't to say that in the Rockies blog world, Purple Row should have the only access to the organization; rather, Purple Row has been covering the Rockies for five seasons to a high degree no other Rockies blog (that I know of) has. And Purple Row is part of SB Nation, a company that over the last year has gained prominence on the sports scene. One needs only to look at the archives of Blog Huddle to see the credibility of SB Nation and its individual communities throughout the sports world. Blogging is not a zero-sum venture.
  • This is more of a general point for anyone seeking to gain some sort of access to an organization: Work with the team on the degree of access they are willing to give. Don't shoot for the very top in the beginning; look for someone who is involved with the day-to-day running of the organization, but not necessarily well-known. In our case, we knew who Marc Gustafson was beforehand, but that's because we run a site about the Rockies that has had an update almost every day since the start of the 2006 season. But the regular fan probably hasn't heard of Marc before or once heard his name during a broadcast before and then forgotten. This is a way to help fans understand what goes on behind the scenes.
  • This interview brought about a very positive response from the Purple Row community. I hope this leads to the Rockies providing Purple Row greater access in the future.

Comments on Marc Gustafson's responses after the jump.

Part I

The first part of this interview dealt more with the overall picture of the internal workings of the Rockies and how the club approaches their philosophies. What follows are some highlights and commentary.

In response to organizational philosophy:

Marc Gustafson: I would say it's a long-term plan that focuses primarily on scouting and player development, which also includes a component in Latin American operations. We're all on the same page; we're committed to our players in the minor league system. We're going to do everything we can to give the players in the system a chance to reach the major league level, and once they get there, we hope they have a chance to solidify and stabilize their career a little bit with the Rockies. The primary goal is to develop the players within the system.

I look at this in two ways. The first is that the Rockies believe they have system set up that will send their homegrown players to the majors. This has certainly worked over the last decade as this team has a decidedly home-built feel to it. Look at the roster now. Eighteen players on the active roster were either drafted or signed on the international free agent market by the Rockies. That number increases to 22 if we add those on the 60-day DL.

On the other hand, this also means that the Rockies need to continually keep this process going because the team won't necessarily be able to retain these players once they hit the free agent market. Case in point being Matt Holliday. However, as we all should know by now, one player does not make a team or win a championship.

On seeing and statistics:

Marc Gustafson: Well, we have guys in the office; they do a hell of a job in terms of getting the information that we need. We don't overdo any specific area; we try to look at all areas. We try to be really good in a lot of different areas. Our scouts out there are doing their thing, the guys in the office and the statistics and the analysis they do, they do a fantastic job. We've got player development people who have a heck of a good idea on how to teach guys to play the game. So for me, and for the organization, it's a balanced approach. We have to stay in tune with everything going on, but we have to evaluate and we have to teach. That would be the best answer I can give you on that question.

You can't overlook one and completely go with only the other. While we don't really get an explanation for how this balanced approach takes place, I figure it's one of those things that you really need to take part in and witness.

Part II

The second part shifted gears by moving to a discussion on the Rockies' minor league talent.

We found out where Gustafson sees the strengths of the organization:

Marc Gustafson: Hector Gomez is a very talented SS, and he'll be in the AFL as well. I would probably look to the middle infield as being a strength in the organization. I would also look at the pitching depth in the bullpen, some big-time arm strength guys. Shane Lindsay, Edgar Escalona with the Tulsa Club, Alberto Alburquerque with the Tulsa Club, Andrew Johnston, Craig Baker with Modesto. We've got some really good arms and bullpen depth in the minor league system.

We also received an update on Casey Weathers (who failed to update his blog after Mother's Day):

Marc Gustafson: He's doing well. He had a couple of setbacks here and there throughout the rehab process. In terms of his strength and range of motion and how he's feeling right now, he's feeling as good as he's ever felt since the surgery. He's throwing in a long-toss program; he'll be off the mound before too long as we get into Tucson. To have a guy like that back and contributing in the bullpen, that gives us the depth we're looking for.

[...] He's going to rehab and get back and be ready for Spring Training next year. That's his primary focus. Sometimes to go through some adversity - it might sound crazy, but it's not the end of the world. It's getting the arm fixed at a young age and come back and have a successful major league career. We're very confident he's going to be in that category.

The thought of having a healthy, fully-recovered Casey Weathers in the bullpen for those late innings of the game have me salivating.

Part III

Watch out for Chris Balcom-Miller:

[...] He'll be a hot topic of conversation because of the great start he's having. He's a little bit like Brandon Hynick - Brandon pitched in Casper when he first came out, and did a very great job. Balcom-Miller has a little more arm strength, but definitely pounds the strike zone. Very aggressive, they're not scared. So that's a good situation when you're looking at Balcom-Miller coming out, whether it be Asheville or Modesto.

Thoughts on Tyler Matzek:

We're just building up his arm strength and taking it slow. He will not pitch in a game this year for Casper, but he will be ready to pitch in the Instructional League in Tucson. Once he gets settled in, and we get to know him a little bit, he gets to know us, obviously the sky's the limit for him; he's a premium talent. We'll be patient. He's probably looking at an Asheville situation next year to start out, see where it takes him. Right now we're just getting him settled in to the Rockies' system.

Who can't wait to see Matzek dominating opposing Sally batters?

On the Coors Field Myth:

RMN: Now, a lot of the mainstream media doesn't seem to understand that Coors Field doesn't play as it did in the 90s. Do the pitchers in the minors still look at Coors Field as being the Terrordome?

Marc Gustafson: Absolutely not. I always laugh, too, because I still hear it. You turn on ESPN or whatever the show is, and everybody says that you can't pitch at Coors Field. I just don't get it. It doesn't work out that way. If you look at the numbers, and I'm sure you have, Coors Field - you'd rather pitch at Coors Field rather than Citizen's Bank Park, I would think.

RMN: Or Chase, for that matter.

Marc Gustafson: Or Chase, or a lot of different places. No, we don't talk about it internally. We don't even think about it, to be quite honest with you. We're going to teach guys how to pitch down in the strike zone. We're going to make sure they can command the fastball, we're going to make sure they have feel for a changeup. We want guys that are tough, we want guys that have heart, we want guys that compete. That's kind of the philosophy when we look at pitching.

The question left for us to answer is, how does that perception of Coors ever change? Or is it able to?

Thanks again to Marc Gustafson for taking the time to be interviewed, to Jay Alves for setting this up, and to Purple Row for building a strong community!