Rick Renteria: In terms of disappointment – the guys we had went out and did the best they could. We had a lot of kids coming in from the lower levels at any number of times and we had some injuries.
It was kind of tough not going to the playoffs or at least being in a position where you are fighting for a spot. It wasn't for lack of wanting by the players that rolled through and it wasn't a lack of effort. We had a tough time being able to compete but they gave it everything they had. In that regard, I was really happy with the way they did what they needed to do. We weren't able to overcome a few things that were going on during the course of the season.
Was the experience in Triple-A what you imagined when you took the position and did it meet your expectations? It is kind of a different role with players coming down from the majors who may believe they should still be in the big leagues.
Rick Renteria: The game in itself doesn't change very much. You are still doing the best you can in terms of managing the ball game with the players you have.
In regards to their mental makeup, it isn't any different than I expected or anticipated. I remember myself playing through that type of situation. The one thing I always talked to them about when they came down was – obviously I empathized with them on where they wanted to be and where everyone wants to be, which is the big leagues. But the most important thing was – and I said this consistently and constantly – the reality is you get a little time to get over it emotionally but at some point in time you still have to come out and play the game. It is up to you to continue to show people that you can play this game – whether it is for the organization in which you exist or showing someone else what you are capable of doing. The reality is you still have to go out there and play the game.
The sympathy factor only goes so far and then you have to go out there and perform. You have to go out there and continue to be a professional.
It is kind of a catch-22. If you feel like the organization you are playing for is not doing what they should be doing – in terms of what you think they should be doing with you – you decide you are going to dog it a little bit and go through the motions. The catch-22 is everyone else out there seeing you play is seeing the same type of effort, or lack of effort that you are putting out on the field. You either want to play or you don't – and that takes care of itself. History shows that. People want guys that are capable of going through adversity and making adjustments and continue to be professionals.
If you continue to do that and have a skill to offer in the long run it will take care of itself. If you have gotten to the point where you are in Triple-A, unless it is just by circumstance, there is probably a reason you are in that place and there is a chance. You are as close as you can possibly get to the big leagues.
You got a chance to go up to the big leagues and help coach up there – what was that experience like on the other side of the fence for you since you had a big league career as a player?
Rick Renteria: I was a guest and happy to be there. My role was very limited. I helped them throw BP and hit my ground balls. I just had conversations with guys. I was more of an observer than anything else.
In terms of the game and watching it – it was everything I remembered it was. It was fun to watch them go about their business. They truly gave it their all having observed that. Their intent was to move on and they battled.
It was a good experience. I was glad to be there and observe. I am more on the back end taking it all in and enjoying watching those guys that have put in their time all season to complete the task they had.
Ray Chang seemed to fill a role for you guys and performed quite well.
Rick Renteria: Ray ended up holding his own. It was a circumstance that led to him having a position to play every day and we threw him out at shortstop every day.
Anybody we got we used. There is a fine line between - when you get guys you have to make sure at the best that you can help them in some way, even if it is just talking to hold their head above water. That is basically what we tried to do was help them survive being in a place where it was above them a little bit.
For Ray, he held his own. There were a lot of things he worked on and that he needs to continue to work on. He held his own, as did most of the kids that went there – some were out of their element – but they went out and competed. We tried to make sure as best we can that the confidence level they bring to the table isn't diminished through struggles. That is part of the continuing of teaching.
Drew Macias is a guy you are familiar with from your time in Lake Elsinore. How has he grown since you last coached him?
Rick Renteria: I only had him in Portland for a few weeks. He ended up getting sent back to San Antonio. He is a kid that is emotionally maturing. He has taken every experience – he doesn't try and do too much. He stays within himself. He has always tried to do that.
He offers the ability to play the outfield very well, all three positions. He continues to improve at the plate. He is a baseball player. He is a guy that brings a lot of calmness with him when he goes between the lines. There is a peace about Drew when he gets between the lines. It is nice to see him grow emotionally and physically.
We all know Yordany Ramirez has a great glove but the bat seemed to come alive in Portland. What was the key for him?
Rick Renteria: Yordany is a kid that quite frankly is 23 but in the six years he has put in his playing time has been limited, especially in the first three years. He is a young man that – everyone has high expectations of a kid who has the ability to run, throw, hit with power, catch the ball.
He can defend with the best of them – if not the top. He is still learning to play the game. He needs to tone it down a bit. He is learning to throw to the right base. He is learning any number of things. A lot of it comes with experience and time and playing. It comes with going out there and maybe some correction being made to have him understand and apply.
Just turned 23 but truly played a phenomenal centerfield. He ended up having almost 150 at bats and hit .320 with four or five homers. He ended up winning four or five games for us with some base hits. Defensively, he definitely won some games for us.
It was nice to have him and see him have some fun and perform. He is scratching the surface and it is one of those things where time will tell.
If you think about it, he has been playing professionally for six years and his first few he didn't play a lot because of injury. When you are getting kids out of college who are 22 or 23 – he could jump ahead of the game in a short time but those are expectations, aspects of potential. The reality is you have to look at actual performance.
Jack Cassel, who was just non-tendered, obviously made an impact in Portland before going to San Diego down the stretch. Would his numbers have been even better had the projected defense at the start of the year stayed the entire year?
Rick Renteria: I think that all things being equal most of the guys might have had a better outcome in terms of numbers. I think that is why, quite frankly, numbers are deceiving. You have to take in the totality of the surroundings and circumstance.
These guys did the best they could. They battled their rear ends off. Could it have been better? Sure. Could the numbers have been better? Probably.
They took the ball at every turn. If something didn't go right they would take the ball again and get ready to attack the next pitch and attack the next hitter. That is a positive. You start to see which pitchers are staying focused on what they have to do. Ultimately, that is all we can control. Everything else – I know people are concerned about numbers but there are a lot of variables in the total composite tally. Those guys did the best they could.