Since Stu Sternberg hired Gerry Hunsicker a few years ago, I always had the goal of eventually getting the opportunity of asking him questions. Well that day has finally come and I feel that I asked him more informative questions than I've asked of our front office guys.
-More to come after the jump-
Jake Larsen: For those few baseball fans who don't know who you are, who is Gerry Hunsicker?
Gerry Hunsicker: Not sure what you are looking for here. I figure you can look up my bio for details. I have been involved with baseball for about 30 years, mostly in professional baseball, the others as a coach and asst. athletic director. I have done about everything there is to do on the baseball side, i.e. coach, scout, various front office positions, eventually becoming a general manager in 1995 in Houston.
JL: On many baseball teams, there is GMs and Assistant GMs, but with the Rays we've got the titles of Senior VP and Executive VP. Is there any difference in jobs to go along with the difference in job titles?
GH: Titles in baseball have really changed over the years. Unless you know the organization, you really can't understand the job description by a title. Even the same title can mean different things from organization to organization nowadays, some clubs even have multiple asst. gm's. In our situation, with the new ownership/management team, we wanted to have titles that in our mind better described the position. So Exec. VP and Sr. VP reflect the two top executive positions in the department. The Exec. VP is the highest ranking official and has the overall responsibility for the dept. the sr. up is second in command and touches all areas as well. So while the Exec. VP would correlate to a GM in other org. the Sr. VP is nothing like what most asst. gm's do. My position is more of an advisor/management role vs. an admin/operations role that an asst. would do. We have several other positions in our dept. that handle most of those duties.
JL On a given day, what do you do? Is it all "work work work?" or do you have a lot of freedom?
GH: I have great freedom and flexibility in my role. I am here primarily because I have experience in all areas of the business in a fairly inexperienced dept. As such, my role centers around helping, advising, and offering points of view gained from experience in the game. I have helped with things like shaping the structure of our dept. including minor lg. and scouting depts., helping to identify talented people to bring into the dept., helping to establish an international program, and in general providing a resource for everyone to utilize. I spend time with our major lg. team, go out and see our minor lg. teams and see a few amateur players as well.
JL: In the last 2 years, we've traded with Houston twice and just recently signed catching prospect Hector Gimenez. Did you play a major part in the choosing of Talbot, Wheeler, Zobrist and Gimenez or was it a collaborative effort?
GH: While it is true I had some familiarity with the Houston acquisitions, all of our decisions are collaborative efforts and Andrew Friedman always has the final say. But safe to say, because of the years I have spent in the game, my network has been an asset for us to utilize.
JL: During your days in Houston, it seemed like you always kept them well-stocked in the farm-system and the major league team with great talents who may not immediately be big name players but had high ceilings in the long run. In drafting and scouting players, do you prefer well-rounded "smart" players who use their all-around package or do you look for "toolsy" players? In the same respect, "finesse" versus "stuff"?
GH: This business is not an exact science and the failure rate in player evaluations is high. I think you need players that first have the physical tools to play the game, but just as important possess the emotional control and competitiveness to meet the challenges of making it to and being successful in the major leagues. I have tended to like the more rounded players that might be less of a risk when making major financial investments and taking a "flyer" down in the draft, although in a given year depending on certain circumstances, you might take a bigger risk with a high pick, especially if it is a year where you might have multiple high picks due to losing free agents from the prior year.
JL: It's 2 years since you came on board with the Rays, can you explain the many positive changes in the organization that fans may not see that better the franchise in the long-run and set us up for contention in the next few years?
GH: In the last two years we have all worked hard to set up the baseball dept. for success. We have brought in some very talented people both in the office and on the field. We have revamped our scouting efforts and established a very aggressive international program with several of the latin countries and well as looking closer at Asia. We also are in a much better position to evaluate some of our young players and which ones we can build around for the future. WE all believe this team is ready to take a huge step forward in the coming year.
JL: Is there a "changing of the guard" in terms of front offices these days? More and more, these days, there's young "Ivy League" graduates taking the reigns of teams and the number of former players/scouts/managers turned front office guys is declining year-by-year.
GH: There certainly has been a trend toward the younger, well educated, statistically minded executives. As the game has changed, new owners from the corporate world arrived, and the money spent dramatically increased, I believe the overall skills required for the position have changed. In the end, as with any successful executive in any business, It requires a person with good management skills, solid people skills and a good overall feel for the industry. I also believe, that there is still no substitute for experience in one's overall quest for continued success.
JL: During a mlb.com chat with Neal Huntington, the new Pirates GM, a reader asked if OBP was a stat that the newly-refurbished Pirates front office would use to scout players. My question to use is, do you guys scout players on players using the normal splits(avg/obp/slg, HR, RBI, Runs, etc.) or do you use more sabermetric-inclined stats(IsoP, Runs Created, Component ERA, GB/FB %ages, wOBA)?
GH: WE are definitely a progressive org. from that standpoint. We have several very talented people who are skilled in the latest translated stat areas. We are always looking for new ways to evaluate players. Having said that, we also have respect for the traditional scouting methods and use a combined effort in making our final decisions.
JL: With contracts getting larger and more comical these days, is it harder for a small pay-rolled team, like ourselves, to compete for "name" free agents with teams who are willing to outbid and overbid (to some extent) for those players? In the same breath, do small pay-rolled/youngster-filled teams have to worry about over-relying on the farm system too much?
GH: There is no question that most teams can't really compete for the higher quality free agents. The minor lg. and scouting depts. become critical for our success. We can't expect to be self sufficient, but with a fertile farm system, we can skillfully use it not only to create a solid core group of players, but to make trades to fill our weaknesses. WE also must continue to look for opportunities others may overlook, like Carlos Pena and Al Reyes.
JL: Is there any advice or anything of note that you'd like to pass along to Rays fans?
GH: Only that their loyalty and patience will be rewarded and I truly believe we are entering an exciting period for this franchise that will be exciting for everyone who chooses to "hop on board"!