Friday, June 18, 2010

There's No "I" In "Team"

  • Check your ego at the door:

With the nonsensical rumor that took flight after "someone" heard from "someone" who heard from another "someone" that the Phillies would "love" to bring Cliff Lee back, the absurdity didn't lie in the mere idea that: A) the Phillies have the prospects to bring Lee back; B) Lee would want to go back; or C) that Phillies GM Ruben Amaro would admit the error he made last December by bringing Lee back.


The most ridiculous aspect of the subsequent scoffing was the assertion that Amaro's resistance to admitting the mistake would be the main stumbling block to bringing in a pitcher of Lee's caliber were it feasible.

Because of the out front nature of the GM job in this era, the face-saving aspect and ego-trip of many GMs has become just as important as the execution of the job itself.

What difference would it make to Amaro if he was perceived as backtracking on his off-season overhaul if it meant another playoff spot and possible championship for the Phillies? In re-reading Craig Calcaterra's analysis of why Amaro wouldn't make a serious move on Lee if the opportunity presented itself, the following quote jumped out:

I mean, on what planet would Rubin Amaro -- or any other GM -- make a deal that screamed "I totally blew it last winter" like this one would? How would this even work? As a do-over trade?

The very idea that a GM would allow ancillary aspects such as admitting a mistake and the resulting public reaction influence his decisionmaking is more of a problem with the GM and his bloated self-image than anything else.

To latch onto Calcaterra's choice of metaphor, on what planet is it suddenly a death sentence to admit a mistake and take steps to correct it? If it were mid-season and Lee were available to the Phillies for a rental and they felt that he was the missing piece in another championship run, would anyone care about Ruben Amaro Jr's ego if they were hoisting another championship trophy in October?

Our current culture has become so inundated with voices seeking credit rather than being right that the "executive ego" is as much a part of how he conducts business as what would help the team.

Who cares what the masses say? What the media says? What other executives say? Which is more important? Doing what's right or doing what looks good?

As information is disseminated at the click of a button, GMs have become entities unto themselves. Whereas they were once men behind the scenes only seen and heard in the event of a trade or firing, their faces are plastered everywhere; people know their voices; hear their strategies; and either agree or disagree with them based on factions and being territorial. We see this with the prognosticators be they stat zombies with an agenda; old-school advocates who have neither the capacity nor the desire to comprehend stats; talk show hosts; or fans. Admitting being wrong is either done slyly in a self-justifying fashion or resisted outright at the expense of reality.

I'd have more respect for a GM if he came out and said he screwed up and took steps to rectify that mistake than one who clung to a decision out of rampant egomania. It's that courage that builds a winner; not the me-me-me aspect so common and self-destructive today.

Cliff Lee is not going back to the Phillies for a multitude of reasons----all viable; but one of those reasons shouldn't be because Amaro won't want to confess to the fact that he screwed up trading him in the first place. They're not the Philadelphia Ruben Amaros; they're the Philiadelphia Phillies and they should be run accordingly.

  • Rewards for a job well done?

My timing is impeccable of course, but it will never, ever reach the level of flawlessness of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

On the same day I eviscerated the organization for rampant idiocy----The Pirates Tree Of Ineptitude----they announce the contract extensions (which were agreed to last October but conveniently left unannounced after a 62-99 season) for GM Neal Huntington and manager John Russell----Pittsburgh Post Gazette Story.

It fits.


The Pirates are drifting further out to sea and they're going to maintain the crew that's led them there. This is not to blame Huntington and Russell completely for the disaster therein; as I've said repeatedly the boss of the organization, team president Frank Coonelly is the one to hold responsible for the calamity that is the Pirates.

Replacing Huntington and/or Russell wouldn't eliminate the larger problem of the direction they're heading----that direction being no direction. Because Coonelly is so hands-on and is involved in every aspect of the club, no one can know how much power Huntington really has. Coonelly has no qualifications to be running a big league franchise and he's especially unqualified to be rebuilding an organization as rickety as the Pirates with so many factors working against them.

On some level, the Pirates are a no-lose job for a younger executive with the impressive resume that Huntington had coming from the Indians. Much like the Orioles under Peter Angelos (pre-Andy MacPhail, who's been allowed to run things), there's always an aspect of "what could I do in that situation?" for any baseball guy trying to repair the mess. There's no blame and only credit if they happen to get something right.

Firing Russell wouldn't have done much other than get a better managerial prospect in his place. I've long recommended bench coach Gary Varsho for interviews and jobs; he's a longtime minor league manager and big league coach who was respected for his maturity as a player; he deserves a chance and given Russell's odd strategic decisions, they'd be better in the long run with Varsho.

You can't rebuild a foundation until bringing in a qualified architect. Can the Pirates truly say that Coonelly is that architect? After 2 1/2 years on the job with no discernible improvement in the club?

I ask the same question I did before the season started and MLB stepped in with the Marlins and forced them to spend more money on payroll, why pick on the Marlins and leave the Pirates to their own devices as they make a bad organization worse? The Marlins----the best run and most economical organization in baseball----reacted in a manner akin to a plea of "no contest" in court and agreed to spend more money; the Pirates are, well, the Pirates.

How long is MLB going to sit by and watch this before intervening in a competent manner with someone who knows what he's doing or at least has a track record? I'm not a fan of him personally, but Sandy Alderson as club president would be 20 steps up from Coonelly; anyone with a resume would be better at this point. And I do mean anyone.

  • Speaking of the Marlins:

Given that the word out of Baltimore is that the Bobby Valentine interview didn't go all that well; and that the Marlins openly flirted with Valentine last year; and that the Marlins are stumbling badly, is it far-fetched that the Marlins are going to act swiftly and fire Fredi Gonzalez, replacing him with Valentine?

If any club can handle Valentine (complete with the "Bobby V Package") and has the fearlessness to make a rapid decision to make a change, it's the Marlins. I like Gonzalez; he'll get another job quickly (the Braves are going to need a manager in 2011); but his strategic gaffe against the Mets in allowing the go-ahead run to score by playing the infield back in the bottom of the eighth inning during their series at Citi Field was egregious and begged the question of what other mistakes Gonzalez has made that have been missed by those who don't watch the Marlins pitch-by-pitch.

Gonzalez is signed through 2011, but that wouldn't preclude them from making a change. The Marlins front office doesn't seem thrilled with Gonzalez to begin with; they strike without warning or remorse and I wouldn't be stunned to see Valentine managing the Marlins before long if things continue to spiral.

My podcast appearance from last Saturday with Jeff and his crew at Red State Blue State is up and now, so it yesterday's appearance with Sal at SportsFan Buzz. Click on the site link or click here.

Your weekend could be all Prince all the time!!! If that sort of thing interests you.

My book is still available on Amazon, I-Universe and Barnes and It's available for download as an E-book here. You can also now get it for less that five bucks on BN via download here.

Can you handle the truth?


She-Fan said...

I know you're determined to find Valentine a job, so make sure you get a commission once he gets hired somewhere.

Brooklyn Trolley Blogger said...

Viewer Mail as/of June 14th

The Brooklyn Trolley Blogger writes RE the Orioles:

Please Orioles...sign Valentine! Because a Marlins team with Valentine managing it in the same division with the Mets really really scares the hell out of me.

I'm gradually losing my belief that the "all-powerful manager" has that much of an impact on a team that we have to be scared of the mere possibility that he might be hired by a division rival.

If he was replacing someone who's openly costing his team games as Bud Black occasionally does; as Trey Hillman did; as A.J. Hinch has, okay; but would the Marlins be that much better under Valentine than they've been in recent years overachieving the sum of their parts for Fredi Gonzalez? I don't see how.


Did that much change in 4 days?