Braves' coachGlenn Hubbard
Glenn Hubbard was one of the best second baseman in the history of the Atlanta Braves. But his greatest contribution to the organization may have been the great work he did with Marcus Giles in the minor leagues. In today’s preview of his new book "Scout’s Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, Bill Shanks talks with Hubbard about teaching Giles how to play second base.
SHANKS: Can you talk about the work you put into Marcus? Was Macon the first time you worked with him?
HUBBARD: No actually I saw him in the Instructional League the year before (1997). He hurt his hand and he had to go home. So I saw him maybe for a week. Then I had him in Macon the next year.
SHANKS: For someone who is moved from the outfield like he was, what are some of the things you do off he bat with him?
HUBBARD: To be honest with you, I didn’t know he had been moved from the outfield until later. He came up to me in the Instructional League and said, “So you’re the guy that’s going to make me a Gold Glove (fielder).” That was his first comment to me. I said, “No I can’t do it, but you can.” And he’s worked hard to get where he’s at.
SHANKS: Al Kubski (the scout that found Giles) told me he talked about you when they signed him. Was Marcus willing to learn how to play second base?
HUBBARD: Oh yea. Oh yea. He was at the ballpark before I was sometimes. Everybody says, “Marcus is my son.” But you know what? In the minor leagues, that kind of work was available to everybody.
SHANKS: He knew it was going to take that didn’t he?
HUBBARD: He made twenty errors in the first half (of 1998). I think he made five errors in the second half. So he quartered them. Then the next year I think he made seven all season.
SHANKS: Was it repetition that helped him?
HUBBARD: No I don’t think that. I can catch a ground ball with my eyes closed. But he had things he had to work on. Just like extra hitting, if you’re just going out there to bang the ball, it’s a waste of my time. But if you’re going out there to work on something, it’s different.
SHANKS: How common is it to find someone with Marcus’s work ethic?
HUBBARD: Other guys showed up for early work on offense and hit extra, but he just felt like that was a chink in his armor. He got to hit too. I always did defense first and then we’d hit.
SHANKS: Did you know in that second half that he was getting better?
HUBBARD: The mistake we make as coaches in the minors as player development people is we should have taken pictures of him. We should have video taped him when we first started working with him. So you can take that and take it into a home and say, “Hey you know what your son’s not really good on defense, but look at Marcus Giles back then and Marcus Giles now in the big leagues.” Whenever you have a project like that, you probably should videotape him while you’re working with him. Then two years later you have a point to go back to and say, “You know what? You think he’s pretty good now? You should have seen him then.” Then you go back and look at the video and say, “Ugh. He was ugly.” But that’s fun. I love what I’m doing up here. But if they sent me back…I loved what I was doing down there.
SHANKS: You had to feel that you really accomplished things with players like Marcus?
HUBBARD: Well you do. You see a kid at the beginning of the year and then you see him at the end and then the next year they progress and you send them on. I would never be a rover in the minors because you can’t see. You’re in for a week and then you’re out. This way you stay with the kids the whole year.
SHANKS: Offensively he’s got a little bit on you.
HUBBARD: I don’t think there are any comparisons. The only thing comparisons are that he was drafted late and I was drafted late. A bunch of people didn’t think I’d make it and a bunch of people didn’t think he’d make it. He’s nowhere close to the defensive guy I was, and I’m nowhere close to the offensive player he is. We’re small in stature. There’s your comparison. Other than that, we’re different.
SHANKS: How good is he now?
HUBBARD: I would have like to have seen the stats and see why he didn’t win a Gold Glove in 2003. But that’s voted on by the coaches. Five years ago they voted Rafael Palmiero the Gold Glove and he was the DH that year and he played five games at first.
SHANKS: Let me ask you about Dale Murphy. I’m talking about Komminsk and then Francoeur. Komminsk had a lot of pressure on him didn’t he?
HUBBARD: Yea because of all the comparisons. Just let him be what he is. Let him be Brad Komminsk instead of Dale Murphy. And Francoeur…they are just different players. When you see Dale Murphy with the smile on his face, it’s contagious. When you see Jeff Francoeur it’s contagious. He always seems to be smiling. It rubs off. Francoeur just plays so hard that it rubs off on the other guys. When you’ve got your best player playing that hard, son of a gun, as a coach or a manager, that’s all you need. If you’ve got your best player doggin’ it, you’ve got to stay on him constantly because the other players are going to see you let him slide. When you yell at them….”Well Francoeur didn’t run it out.” But Francoeur plays so hard that it makes everything easy as a coach.
SHANKS: Murphy was just more graceful?
HUBBARD: Yeah. He played hard. I think Francoeur’s got a chance to steal more bases. Komminsk won a Triple Crown in the minor leagues. When he got up here, he had so many hitting coaches up here. He was such a good guy that he listened to everybody. Before too long you’re up there thinking about too many things. This is a tough level.
SHANKS: Didn’t they try to make him like Murphy and try to go to the other way like Murphy?
HUBBARD: Yea. Komminsk needed to be left at what he was. If he’s a pull hitter, let him be a pull hitter. I think drills help guys. We throw curve balls around here. I think curve balls put you in position to stay on the ball more. Everybody hits a fastball. In BP, all we throw is straight. What’s the pitch that gets you out? Off speed. If that gets you out, you’re not going to get to this level.
SHANKS: Komminsk was working so hard to do the mechanical things that he became too mechanical, right?
HUBBARD: He became robotic. He never was loose and fluid. He was a great talent. He had an arm and he could throw. He was a good outfielder.
SHANKS: Was he so laid back that the over coaching may have hurt him a little bit?
HUBBARD: Yea. I’ll give you another example. Brett Butler. He comes up to me in spring training and said, “I don’t know what to do. They want me to use this 36-inch, 36 ounce bat and just slap it.” I said, “You hit .300 in the minor leagues with what bat?” He said, “34-32.” I said, “Use it. It got you here and it will keep you hear. Don’t change.” It’s called over coaching. We do it in the minor leagues too. We see a guy come out of high school and hit .500-something and then a week into him swinging he’s told he’s got to change. No you don’t. In high school you might face a good pitcher one in a year. The rest of the pitchers are gravy. Now you’ve signed to play minor league ball, every team has got four or five of those pitchers. So we way over coach. Blasé Sparma was a minor league pitcher. He was herky-jerky. He came out of Ohio State or something like that. He was funky. You couldn’t pick him up. Well they made him where he stood up tall and he just got crushed. He didn’t have that sneaky motion. He was straight over the top. He didn’t have great overpowering stuff but he was tough to pick up. When we changed him to straight up, it just killed him.
SHANKS: Some kids can never recover from that?
HUBBARD: No. You can never get back to where you were. Like a hitter, Komminsk was a pull hitter. They tried to get him to go the other way and he could never go back the way he was. It’s called over coaching. We do it all the time.
SHANKS: The replacement value is tremendous here.
HUBBARD: I don’t know how many years ago it was but a lot of teams cut back on the scouting system. The Braves didn’t and it’s paid off. Our scouts get out there and beat the bushes and give us good players.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. The book is available online at amazon.com and at Barnes and Noble. Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.