Clark Implements Braves' Philosophy Perfectly

In the first of many articles previewing his new book "Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team", BravesCenter.com Editor Bill Shanks talks about how Braves Scouting Director Roy Clark has continued the Braves organizational success through traditional scouting. This is a free preview of BravesCenter's exclusive premium content.

Michael Lewis's book Moneyball in 2003 set off a firestorm debate in the baseball world. It portrayed the Oakland A's as knowing something most teams in the game don't really know. Statistics are the major factor used in the A's scouting and development of its players, and any evidence suggested by old time scouts with cigars and funny hats is just outdated and useless theories.

But the Atlanta Braves do things a little differently. They believe the best philosophy is to paint a full picture of a ballplayer, to look at his on the field performance and his off the field behavior. The Braves aren't interested in simply developing major league ballplayers; they want to develop major league winners.

"We're looking for players that will help us continue winning championships," says Atlanta Scouting Director Roy Clark. "So they have to separate their ability or makeup-wise. Talent can get you to the big leagues, but it's the makeup that sets them apart."

Clark found out the hard way players can separate themselves in the minor leagues. He was a minor leaguer himself back in the early 80's, struggling to make his mark in the Seattle Mariners' system as an infielder. He realized that sometimes players had to have more than just talent to make it to the major leagues. After his career stalled in Triple-A, he decided to retire and become a coach. Then a few years later, he started scouting the Carolinas for the Mariners.

"We had an exceptional area of talented scouts at that time," Clark explains. "We had the veterans like Rip Tudor and Carl Green. So I would just sit around with them and just listen. There was a big crew of veteran guys from all different organizations. That's the way you learn."

After scouting for the Mariners and then for Cleveland for two years, Clark joined the Braves as the scout in the Carolinas. He would soon work for several people that would have a tremendous influence on his career: Chuck Lamar and Paul Snyder.

"Chuck was an excellent motivator," Clark says. "The key as an area scout is you want your players. It's only natural. You want that guy. Paul was just a workaholic. No one was going to outwork Paul. He showed us all what we had to do to become great scouts."

In the summer of 1999, when Snyder was getting ready to retire from full-time work, Clark was chosen by Atlanta General Manager John Schuerholz to take over for the Atlanta legend. By then, the Braves had already established themselves as a franchise that knew how to find and develop players, and Clark wasn't about to change the course.

"It's basically the same thing…emphasize the makeup," Clark says. "I've always stressed that as an area scout, as a crosschecker, and now as a Scouting Director. Our entire organization has always done that since I've been here. Radar guns get you drafted, but you've got to be able to pitch to get to the big leagues. So we're looking for guys who not only have the tools and the good fastball, but the makeup that separates minor leaguers from the big leaguers."

Now entering his sixth year as Scouting Director, Clark is in complete control of the amateur draft. He works very closely with Dayton Moore, the Braves' Director of Player Personnel, and keeps General Manager John Schuerholz completely aware of what's happening. But unlike some current Scouting Directors that are only foot soldiers for their GM's, Clark is the one who makes the final calls on draft day.

"John knows everything that we go through," Clark explains. "He understands and supports everything we go through. He's a Hall of Famer. He's done it everywhere he's been. He allows us to do our job and supports us. John likes to come down to the draft room. He likes to hear our scouts talk. He's a scout guy."

Clark has seen the philosophy that has been in place for years with Snyder and Schuerholz. He knows what they have built over time works, and for the last five years he's continued that tradition with excellent drafts. Clark stresses high school players, which allows the Braves farm system to develop the talent in a timely fashion. This organization is built for the long-term, and the big picture is never lost.

"We want to continue this (winning) another dozen years," Clark proclaims. "We set high standards for ourselves, as does the player development department. Dayton Moore and I talk all the time. He's like a brother to me. The communication between the scouting department and the farm department has to be there. We have that and we have total confidence in our farm department."

The synergy that exists in the Braves' front office is tremendously crucial in keeping this well-oiled machine running. The philosophy, the system, has been in place for many years, and the results have been historic. Even though Moneyball has forced many organizations to re-evaluate their ways of doing business, don't expect the Braves to make many drastic changes in the future.

"Maybe there's a better way of doing things and we're always looking," Clark admits. "I know Dayton and I talk about this every year. We're always looking every year to be better than we were last year. We're looking for ways to improve. We're looking for ways to do everything better. When you stop improving as an organization, that's when you're going to have more people catching up to you. So I tell our scouts and players, if you are prepared as everybody else and if you work as hard as everybody else, that makes us average. We don't want to be a .500 team. That's average. We're looking to continually challenge ourselves as an organization to be better this year that we were last year. We're continually challenging ourselves."

That's the Braves way, and it certainly works well.

Bill Shanks' new book Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team will be out around Opening Day. He can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com

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