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A more sensible approach to the problem of expansion would have been from the vantage point of the Pacific Coast. That's the fastest-growing part of the country and, using some cities out there as a nucleus, you could have reached into Texas and maybe into the Rocky Mountain area. You might have had to start from scratch, or near scratch, but in some instances, where a Pacific Coast League city was involved, at least a foundation of a club would have existed. Although I hope I'm wrong, it seems to me that expansion may have distressing results. You can't build a club out of rejects, any more than you can out of the unrestricted draft. The prospect of two tail-enders playing each other at the end of the season, when each has won 35 or 40 games, is shuddering to contemplate. The fact that the other eight teams, some natural rivals, will now play four fewer games with each other won't help attendance, and the 162-game schedule may well affect longstanding records.
The backbone of any baseball organization—and it's been the main reason for the Yankees' great success for decades—is the scouting staff. Scouts are hired on a yearly basis. If the league had known in October that it was going to expand, it might have been possible for the new teams to hire a few good scouts and bird dogs away from the other clubs. But by mid-December it was already too late. The same goes for coaches and instructors.
A scout has to have that special something that enables him to deal in very particular ways with parents as well as boys. Joe Devine, one of the best, was virtually a father confessor in the old days, and he and Bill Essick and Paul Krichell and some of the others practically used to live with the families of boys they were after. When I was farm director I kept a chart in my office of just where each of our scouts was, and I guess part of my reputation as a stern taskmaster stemmed from my habit of calling up a scout who was far out in the sticks late at night to make sure he had visited some farmer boy and his family that day. The present high caliber of Yankee players is a continuing tribute to the standard of Yankee scouts.
A grab-bag affair
Major league talent today is at a premium, and there just aren't the number of 154-game players around that there used to be. For one thing, baseball gets a lot of competition from industry for a young man's abilities, and when a kid is offered a business job at a good starting salary he thinks twice about gambling on taking three or four years to develop himself for a major league baseball career that is apt to be over at 35 anyway. All of this makes it harder for a ball club to line up good young players. If, in the process of trying to build up new clubs under the expansion program, the existing teams are going to have to continue turning over their so-called surplus talent, and if we then get into a position, as some clubs are advocating, of instituting an unrestricted draft or non-withdrawable waivers, then no organization with a grain of sense is going to continue to expend huge sums on scouting, instruction, minor league operations, etc. The quest for playing material will just degenerate into one huge grab-bag affair. Withdraw all this planned activity and expenditure and you'll soon see the effect in reduced signings and the consequent lowering of major league playing standards.
The best way to build up the new clubs is to encourage them to create their own farm systems after their initial nucleus has been allotted and at the same time do what we can, collectively, to maintain and improve the minor leagues. I believe we must reinstitute a strict bonus rule and enforce it. The more that players are signed at reasonable cost, under a regulated bonus system, the more big league clubs will be interested in the minors and will own players and franchises.
In 1956 and 1957, when the bonus rule was still in effect, the Yankees spent about $150,000 signing players at the old maximum figure of $4,000 per man. Over the next two years, when there were no bonus limitations, we spent about $750,000, and we were by no means tops in baseball. We've got some half dozen bonus men on our rosters today, but we haven't come anywhere near getting our money's worth, and there are teams who have spent considerably more for even less return. Over the last few years, scouting has become a raw contest to write checks, but the competition and confusion are becoming so great that no club even knows how to advise its scouts any longer, and there probably will be fewer signings than ever, surely a bad situation in view of the greater need for players.
I refuse to believe that you cannot enforce a good bonus rule. I would favor lifting the maximum bonus figure to $10,000 and then policing it, as Judge Landis would have done. The club, rather than an individual manager, scout or coach, ought to be made responsible for a violation, such as an under-the-table payment.
There was one case a couple of years ago where a prominent manager was apparently guilty of a serious infringement, but for various reasons Commissioner Frick was loth to subject him to the extreme punishment of banishment from baseball, which the rules called for. It would be more feasible if a club were punished by being prohibited, say, from new signings for a period of time.
I would also reinstitute the restriction that a bonus player has to be kept on the 25-man major league roster. This may still be unfair to other, more finished, players who have come up the hard way, but it is less so than the present rule, which has forced most clubs to add a considerable number of first-year bonus players to major league lists for protection from the unrestricted draft, thereby eliminating an equal number of more deserving men. Also some harsh lessons have been learned, and rash chances would not be so apt to be taken.