Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Failed Pronk Experiment

The combination of science and baseball is nothing new, but it has recently taken a strange and controversial path. An LFL investigative report as learned some startling information regarding how far baseball executives will go to produce a winning baseball team.

Our story begins in the spring of 2000 in Arlington, TX. Desperate for a team that could not only continue to compete in the AL west, but also one that could make it beyond the first round of the playoffs and win its first World Series title in team history, Texas Rangers GM Doug Melvin got creative, real creative.

Melvin contacted the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is famous for its controversial cloning of a sheep named "Dolly".
Melvin spoke with Dr. Ian Wilmut, who spearheaded the Dolly project, to discuss any ideas he had for creating the ultimate baseball player. Dr. Wilmut informed Melvin that he and Prof. Keith Campbell had actually started on research along those same lines. Dr. Wilmut explained that their research discovered the best combination would be that of donkey DNA and human DNA. The choice of donkey DNA was due to its strength and ability to handle adverse environmental conditions.

Melvin liked what he was hearing, the two parties came to an agreement that would require the Roslin Institute to supply the donkey and Melvin would be responsible for the human subject. Melvin had the perfect person in mind, Travis Hafner, a mostly unknown prospect in the Ranger farm system. Hafner came from a small town in North Dakota, so small his high school graduating class had only eight people. Melvin figured that his use would go unnoticed.

By the beginning of 2001, the project was complete and thus, Pronk was born. Melvin kept the project mostly to himself, but unfortunately, never stayed in Texas long enough to see his experiment through to the end. He did, however, inform incoming GM John Hart of the “Pronk Project”. Hart, being a baseball traditionalist, felt this was perverse and wanted no part of it and on December 6, 2002 transfered the “Pronk Project” to the Mark Shapiro, GM of the Cleveland Indians. Shapiro was open to the project because he was looking for a cheap replacement for Jim Thome, who was likely to depart via free agency at the end of the season.

Through the first five seasons, the gamble paid off as Pronk was one of the most feared DHs in the league, hitting monstrous homers and consistently driving in runs. This would begin to change in 2007 and it was clear heading into the all-star break that year, the experiment had taken a turn for the worst. Pronk had begun a downward spiral that included a lost in power and helplessness at the plate to recognize pitches out of the zone or off-speed pitches.

This change of events put Shapiro in a though situation, it was obvious he needed to rid himself of the “Pronk Project”. Pronk, however, had a different plan; he wanted to stay in Cleveland and knew Shapiro was hinting that he indented to transfer the project to another team before the trade deadline. He went to Shapiro and threatened to go public about the experiment and thus forced Shapiro's hand to offer Pronk a contract extension.

It has now been over a year since the beginning of Pronk’s demise and the Indians and their fans will continue to suffer until the “Pronk Project” is concluded. Unfortunately only Pronk can determine when that will be.

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