|Eddie Bane signed slugger Kendrys Morales as an international free agent in 2005. (US Presswire)|
Mike Trout is the most exciting thing to happen to baseball since the concession-stand hot dog. He's arguably the very best player in the game, even after he spotted everybody else a month this summer. At 21, he is the youngest to ever -- as in, ever -- produce a 25-homer/40-theft season.
He also pilots the Angels charter flights, personally cleans the halo above the Big A in the parking lot and feeds the Rally Monkey before he goes home each night.
Well ... some of those last items might not be true, technically. But this is: A total of 23 players were chosen by 21 different clubs in the 2009 draft before the Angels picked outfielder Randal Grichuk 24th and Trout 25th.
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3 to Watch: The 'Heading for a wild September' edition
For this, you would think the genius who drafted Trout for the Angels would have been rewarded with, what? A lifetime contract? A Lamborghini? A personal masseuse?
Instead, Eddie Bane got fired.
Then-general manager Tony Reagins summoned Bane, Angels' scouting director from 2004-2010, into his office two years ago and told him to get lost.
"Real short conversation," says Bane, who now scouts for the Detroit Tigers. "He said, 'We're not going to renew your contract.' I said, 'You've gotta be kidding me.' He said, 'I don't like your last couple of drafts.' "
Stuff happens in baseball every day, some things more unexpected than others. Even lifers like Bane know you're hired to be fired. In Houston this week, first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow's reorganization of the Astros included dumping a handful of veteran scouts, including Scipio Spinks and Jack Lind.
"Scouts hate this time of year, the end of August, early September," Bane says. "Because after the draft, that's when guys get let go.
"It drives a stake through your heart because you see guys on the road all the time, and then all of a sudden you don't see them anymore."
But ... you find a Trout and you're still a short-timer?
The Angels, with Bane drafting, also acquired All-Stars Jered Weaver and Mark Trumbo (2004). Trumbo smashed his career-high 30th home run the other day, becoming the first Angel to club 30 or more homers in a season since Kendrys Morales in 2009.
Morales? Signed by Bane as an international free agent in 2005.
Also from the '09 draft came pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Patrick Corbin, whom Reagins wound up trading to Arizona as part of the four-player package for pitcher Dan Haren on July 25, 2010 -- about a month before the GM dismissed Bane.
Skaggs (supplemental first-round pick) and Corbin (second round) followed Trout in '09. So did Angels pitcher Garrett Richards (3-3, 4.84 ERA in 14 games, nine starts), who also was another supplemental first-round pick in '09.
"Saying he didn't like that draft was like a slap in my face, because those were really good drafts," Bane says. "You look at Dan Haren, who is a really good pitcher, but I never understood that trade because you knew how good Skaggs was going to be, and Corbin had potential.
"Skaggs has got a chance to be a No. 1 starter, and Corbin is almost a lock to be a No. 3. That was the one that bothered me the most."
There are many reasons why the Rangers have replaced the Angels as the elite team in the AL West. Chief among them is that, while the Angels' baseball operations department became dysfunctional during the Reagins era (2008-2011) under owner Arte Moreno, the Rangers' brain trust emerged state-of-the-art under club president Nolan Ryan and GM Jon Daniels. First-year Angels GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff, almost entirely new, are playing from behind in attempting to close that gap.
The Angels, through a club spokesperson, declined to speak on the subject of Bane's firing this week.
"Everyone knows we didn't get along," Bane says of Reagins.
Nevertheless, scouts become so invested in the players they bring into an organization that they often view them as family. And so it is that, from afar, Bane continues rooting for his guys (when they're not playing the Tigers, of course).
"Without a doubt," Bane says. "I get texts from those guys, and I text 'em back."
"He texts my parents quite a bit, and he still keeps in touch with me," Trout says. "He's a great dude. I thought he was a great guy.
"I guess the Angels wanted to go their separate way."
When the Angels were in final deliberations leading up to the '09 draft, Bane flew East for what since has become a storied dinner with the Trout family. They went to a place just outside of Trout's home town of Millville, N.J., to become better acquainted.
"You could tell they were really good people," Bane says. "His parents bragged on his brother and daughter, too. Not just on Mike. Everybody got cut down, and then everybody got boosted up.
"You could tell nobody was phony. Mike acted how he wanted."
Trumbo, too, continues to keep in touch with Bane.
"He was the main reason I got a chance," says Trumbo, the Angels' 18th-round pick in '04. "He believed in me when a lot of people had doubts.
"That's really special to me. You never forget."
Trumbo, in fact, vividly remembers the first time he met Bane: During a Fall Ball game before his senior year of high school, when Trumbo was warming up in the bullpen before pitching at Cal State Fullerton.
"Phil Hughes threw the first inning," Trumbo says of his old teammate, who now pitches for the Yankees. "I threw the second inning. Every week."
From those early days, relationships -- and careers -- are shaped.
"We're all big boys," says Bane, 60, who also is responsible for drafting fleet outfielder Peter Bourjos (2005) on the current Angels' roster (and Paul Konerko when he was with the Dodgers in the 1980s). "Everybody understands things happen."
He pitched for the Twins from 1973-76, coached in the minors and then started as a scout with the Indians in the mid-1980s, learning under executives Joe Klein and Birdie Tebbetts.
"Those guys were like my grandfathers," Bane says. "When I thought I knew everything, they let me know I didn't. Joe Klein used to say there are good people in every organization. Sometimes I think we can forget that."
So the game delivers reminders.
"I'm really lucky I ended up where I did," Bane says. "Dave Dombrowski [Tigers' GM] and Scott Reid [special assistant to the GM] have been great.
"Jim Leyland, Gene Lamont ... they're all baseball people, and they're tremendous. Dave is just a genius in making everybody feel like they're involved."
Crazy, how this game can produce bad bounces and true hops, sometimes both at the same time. While Bane's pulse is with the Tigers, his fingerprints remain evident all over the Angels.
"I didn't know he had that kind of power," Bane says of Trout. "Maybe when he'd be 26, 27 years old. But he's hitting balls a real long way now. He's driving in runs, playing the outfield, running the bases ... and he does it all with so much enthusiasm.
"That's what's infectious. And I think he'll be doing that his whole life."