SAN DIEGO MINOR LEAGUE NOTEBOOK : Jacas’ Numbers Quickly Adding Up
Spending the off-season in the business of preparing tax returns, it is reasonably safe to assume accountant Dave Jacas has a knack with numbers.
But even he, a 1986 graduate of the University of San Diego, is left scratching his head trying to figure out the success of the El Paso Diablos this season.
Jacas, 26, an outfielder acquired in a spring-training trade with the Minnesota Twins organization, bats leadoff for the Diablos, who are averaging 7.6 runs per game and have a 26-5 record in their new home, Cohen Stadium.
On the road, El Paso, a double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers, is 17-16, but its overall record (43-21) is the second best in baseball. The Diablos have clinched the first-half title in the Western Division of the Texas League.
Shortstop Jim Tatum, the 1984 San Diego Section player of the year from Santana High, is batting .339 with 11 home runs and 66 RBIs in 61 games for the Diablos. He also has scored 54 runs and is leading the league in triples with seven.
Tatum is on pace to finish with 140 RBIs, which would break the club record of 132. Tom Dodd of Calgary (Seattle) led all minor leaguers last year with 114.
Tatum, however, is not even leading his team. John Jaha has 68 RBIs.
Jaha and Tatum are Nos. 1 and 2 in baseball, but eight Diablos have 30 or more.
Jacas, who holds the USD single-season record for stolen bases with 40 and is second on the all-time list to his brother Andre, has 30 RBIs and is hitting .274 with 55 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. His 21-game hitting streak earlier in the year is the longest in the league this year, but his batting average is seventh on the team.
Initial reaction by those unfamiliar with the Diablos is that they must play in a hitter’s ball park.
That used to be the case, Tatum said, but El Paso is no longer playing at minuscule Dudley Field. The outfield wall at Cohen Stadium is 20 feet high, 340 feet away from home plate down the lines and 410 in center.
“I don’t know where people get the idea this is a hitter’s park,” Tatum said. “This is a huge park. The Dudley Dome was paradise. You could get jammed and hit one out there. You can’t do that here.”
Indeed. El Paso has hit more home runs on the road than at home and its pitchers are allowing fewer than five runs per game.
“It isn’t so much that they’re doing so well at home,” said John Teicher, El Paso’s longtime director of broadcasting, “but they’re demolishing teams.”
Asked if he had ever seen anything like it, Teicher replied: “No. Absolutely not. Uh-uh. They’ve been phenomenal, especially at home. It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t seen the team play day in and day out, but there is something very special about this team.”
Said Jacas, “It’s a real dynamic bunch. But I can’t explain it.”
Teicher says one reason for the excellent home record is the fan support.
“Every player in El Paso has a nickname, and the fans all know them,” he said. “When ‘Jungle’ Jim Tatum comes to bat, they play a Tarzan yell over the public address system, and the fans really get into that. Everybody yells and pounds their chest. It’s wild.”
Jacas’ nickname is “Dynamite” . . .
Perish the thought.
Jacas and his brother Andre, also an accountant from USD, have a tax business in Rockland County, N.Y., just north of New York City.
It’s a nice setup, Dave said, but there is one glitch: Spring training begins in March and the filing date for taxes, of course, is April 15.
“I had to leave him high and dry this season,” Dave said.
Tatum’s brother John, who led Grossmont High to the 1990 San Diego Section 2-A baseball championship and was drafted in the 15th round by the Brewers, was released this spring.
“That was real tough on him,” said Jim, who added that he still hasn’t heard an explanation. “I think that really got me focused this year. You just never know. I mean, how can you release an 18-year-old kid that you just drafted?”
Thirty-three San Diego-area players were among the record 1,600 selected in the free agent amateur draft earlier this month. The old record was 1,488 in 1988.
There were 96 rounds, which fell short of the record 101 set last year. The Houston Astros selected 101 players, including five from San Diego, the most by any team.
California supplied 21.5% of the players--345--or 47 more than the next two states, Florida and Texas, combined.