Lance Parrish will be missed

In business, they say you need to hire good people to have a successful business. People who are trustworthy. People who are honest. People who have good character and who have integrity. You succeed with those types of people. And that was Lance Parrish.

    Parrish was a great fit for this community and for the Great Lakes Loons. He was approachable. He was likeable and gracious (heck, he even agreed to talk to the media after he got fired). He's a Detroit Tigers' legend, and a very popular one at that. Remember opening day last April? He received the loudest ovation from the fans in pre-game introductions.

    Even though he didn't play, Parrish was still one of the many reasons why fans liked to attend games at Dow Diamond. He signed autographs and chatted with fans. Typically, he had a smile on his face. He had a charisma that was attractive to Loons' fans who felt a connection to him.

    No doubt about it, Parrish was a public relations coup for a first-year team. In many ways, he was the face of the Loons and helped give the infant franchise instant credibility.

    Now, with the speed of one phone call from the Los Angeles Dodgers' front office, it's over. Just like that. As a fan, you've experienced minor league baseball in the stands. Now you're experiencing the business side of baseball — produce or else.

    Parrish experienced the "or else" on Wednesday. He was fired by the Dodgers after leading the Loons to a record of 57-82, the third worst in the Midwest League. The Loons were 23-46 in the second half of the season.

    The Dodgers indicated to Parrish that he didn't do a good enough job of developing his players, which is at the heart of minor league baseball at the Class A level. And, the win-loss record probably didn't help him either.

    So, exactly how do you define "player development?" Well, that's the question of the day. The Dodgers didn't make themselves available to explain their decision. That was left to Parrish and Loons' president Paul Barbeau.

    Development is a very subjective word, but the Loons did rank last in pitching earned-run average and team defense (268 errors). The were forth in hitting at .268.

    Some players, like Clayton Kershaw, Josh Bell and Cody White, to name a few, did move up to a higher level of play. Others were demoted or stayed with the team.

    "It was never stressed to me one way or the other that it was dire important to win," Parrish told MDN sportswriter Chris Marchand Wednesday afternoon. "It was always my understanding that developing players was more important than wins or losses. We knew coming in that we had a young crew and there was work to be done.

    "If it was about winning or losing, I thought they would have tried to stack this team more."

    With a young squad, the Loons struggled mightily at times. Even the staunchest Parrish supporter has to admit that the Loons were awful at times this season — sloppy on defense, failing to execute on offense, very unpredictable with their pitching.

    All that ultimately must stop at Parrish's desk. He's the manager, responsible for play on the field.

    Did he have enough bullets in his gun to have a good season? That's debatable. He lost his best pitcher, Kershaw, in early August. Then his best power-hitter, Bell, got promoted. All told, seven ex-Loons were promoted to the Inland Empire 66ers, the Dodgers' High A team. Two others, Kershaw and Tommy Giles, made it to Double A ball.

    Should that success be credited to Parrish? If he gets the blame, he also should get the credit.

    In a few days, all the dust will settle. Parrish probably will be signed by another franchise. The Loons will outlast any temporary P.R. hits and still sell a boatload of tickets for next season.

    This too shall pass. It's the business side of baseball.

    Still, Parrish will be missed. You know why? He was and is a quality person, and people like him make a business successful.

    Make no mistake, the Dodgers fired one good human being.

    Best wishes, Lance. You'll be missed by Loons' fans.