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MOBSTERS BUILD SUCCESS THROUGH ARMS RACE

For Immediate Release
January 20, 2001

CHICAGO, IL – John (STRAY) Corrado sits behind his desk in his Port Huron office and smiles. Not as the owner of the Chicago organization or his 9-plus years as a general manager of the Mobsters, but as Chicago’s scouting director. The suggestion that another Mid-West Baseball League team could have a deeper group of pitching prospects than the Mobsters has Corrado naming names more aggressively than Democrats searching for dimpled ballots.
“Name any MWBL organization and I’ll go mano a mano with their pitching prospects,” says Corrado.  “Look at our guys. Ryan Anderson, Bud Smith, Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, Nick Neugebauer, Bobby Bradley, Joe Torres, Matt Wheatland, & Danys Baez. There’s 9 guys I just reeled off that we consider to be pure starting pitching prospects.
“I didn’t even mention guys on our big league club like Matt Clement, Scott Elarton, Jeff Weaver & John Garland, who have some experience in the big leagues.  I can’t imagine another team having that much depth.
“It’s no secret the Mobsters have become synonymous with pitching over the past decade. While the likes of Brian Anderson, Kerry Wood, Jaret Wright & Jeff D’Amico have become fixtures in Chicago’s rotation, other positions have become interchangeable, with general manager John (STRAY) Corrado making major decisions with the unsentimental attitude of a lion scanning his options for dinner.
First baseman Mo Vaughn noticed the trend during his season with Midland. Upon his trade departure back to Chicago in 2001, Vaughn said, “This organization sure does care about the future of this club, especially when it comes to pitching.”
The Mobsters are the first to admit the organization is based around pitching. Comerica Park, after all, was designed to favor those who climb the mound. Add in that Corrado is a true believer in the cliché “You can never have too much pitching,” and the result is the greatest arms buildup the Mid-West baseball League has ever seen.
“It is by design,” says Corrado, who marked his 9th anniversary with the Chicago organization in October. “I was fortunate that when I began my career in APBA baseball with the Mobsters back in 1992, it became clear to me by seeing how the Iowa Baseball Confederacy clubs were constructed that the emphasis was on pitching. I developed the Mobsters with the overall philosophy of the club was to build around pitching as well as player development. We became very successful very fast with that philosophy and enjoyed a lot of success for a long time.
Many teams have philosophies, yet few succeed in execution. The Mobsters are the exception thanks to a dedication to pitching that makes Jane Goodall’s work with the chimps appear to be little more than a hobby.
Executing Corrados’ philosophy is Chicago pitching coach J.R. Richard. After getting the go-ahead from Corrado in the mid-1990s, Richard combined the knowledge–both good and bad–he received from other pitching coaches with the beliefs of his mentor, former major leaguer Nolan Ryan. He conducted massive amounts of research and developed a program that includes requiring starters to throw on the side twice between outings.
“It came from the arguments between a four-man and a five-man rotation,” Richard says. “You stay sharper in a four and healthier in a five, so you try to combine the two. That’s why we believe in our pitchers throwing a lot, including more often with less exertion.”
“Richard’s program is built around more throwing,” Corrado says. “I don’t want people to misunderstand this. It’s not full-effort throwing, but measured throwing more often. It’s based on keeping the arm resilient and in shape. I think that’s the single greatest difference in what we do compared to other teams.”
Coaches can pass along their knowledge, but their efforts will be fruitless unless the students have talent. Since Corrado’s arrival, the Mobsters have drafted an un-carded pitcher six times with their first selection. The last four years–Bud Smith, Ryan Anderson, Jeff Weaver, Scott Elarton and Matt Clement–could turn out to be three of the team’s best picks of the decade.
Yet a more defining aspect of the Mobsters’ recent drafts is a willingness to select high round pitcher somewhere in the third round. Examples abound. Danny Baez, Jon Garland, and Josh Beckett, watched their stock fall to the later rounds. But the Mobsters felt comfortable drafting them, and are now prize possessions in their minor league system.
while critics say the Mobsters are crazy and young pitchers are just arm injuries waiting to happen, the Mobsters say it’s their way to compensate and obtain top talent even though they rarely own one of the top 15 selections. Corrado is also quick to point out that the team feels the health risks are no greater than with other draft choices because the Mobsters’ scouting bureau do such a thorough job of determining a pitcher’s background.
“I like to think of them as high-ceiling types of pitchers,” Corrado says. “It’s a philosophy that we have, a willingness to draft players who may have been bypassed for one reason or another in the first round. But we do so much background work and we’re such believers in makeup. Every player you draft is a risk, but we don’t feel these special guys are high-risk if we know them and feel very comfortable with their makeup and work ethic and their arm history. Guys who have a history of events off the field and arm problems are what we consider to be high-risk, and we don’t take chances on them.”
The Mobsters have developed several big league pitchers in recent years, among them Weaver, Clement, Elarton, and Wood. Corrado also has traded many pitching prospects. Armando Benitez, & Ramon Ortiz were dealt to fill holes in Chicago, and it has not hurt the organization at all.
“People have criticized us for not developing as many position players, but in many cases we have obtained position players in exchange for some of the pitchers we draft and develop,” Corrado says. “If we need to acquire a player for our major league club, it’s not uncommon for our conversations with other clubs to gravitate quickly to their focus on our young pitchers. With our continued ability to scout, draft, and develop those young pitchers, we have enough available to help our club and trade some for other needs on our major league club.”
The Mobsters, however, are not counting on 200 plus wins caliber of pitching in the MWBL to emerge from the minors in the next few years, quality depth is one thing, but a 200-game winner is a different subject.
“It would be presumptuous and not smart for any organization to make the assumption they have talent in their organization that could become Nolan Ryan or Sandy Koufax,” Corrado says. “Those are two special pitchers. They are Hall of Fame guys. What we feel, though, is we have the pitching talent in our organization to provide our major league team with high-caliber pitching that will allow us to continue battling for championships. Whether we have a pitcher or two with the talent of a Ryan or Koufax remains to be seen.”
It’s a certainty the Mobsters will add more arms next January. With the automatic removal of C.C. Sabathia from the 10-man minor league roster, Chicago should have at least 2 minor league pitching selections in the first two rounds. That opportunity also makes Corrado’s competitive juices flow, giving him and the Mobsters more ammunition in their never-ending arms race.
The past decade has been great for us, but we want the next decade to be even better,” Corrado says. “To do that, we’re going to continue to scout, draft and develop the best prospects, especially pitching prospects, we possibly can.

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