Saturday, July 16, 2011

Anger Management

Think back to last Sunday's Royals game, the last one before the All-Star Break. In the bottom of the ninth, with the Royals down by one run, Eric Hosmer tried to steal third. It was a close play, but I thought he was safe when it happened. Replays didn't prove it, but it certainly looked like there was a good chance Hosmer was safe. So instead of the tying run being on third with one out, there was no one on with two out. Hosmer argued (well, questioned might be a better word) briefly with the umpire as he got up. He insisted to the media after the game that he was safe.

I know lots of people didn't care for this gamble. Personally, I didn't have a problem with it. The Royals have obviously put an emphasis on stolen bases and baserunning as keys to their offense this year. While we can debate the merits of that strategy, I can't fault them for sticking to their guns in a game situation.

No, my problem with the play was that Ned Yost didn't even go out and argue the call. Now, it's true that manager-umpire arguments are mostly exercises in futility. But I think there is value in a manager sticking up for his players, particularly young players.

Tactics matter, but many times a manager has little or no effect on the outcome of a game. However, a manager can help his team every day by psychological means. I'm a stats kind of guy--I believe they can tell us a lot about who is actually a valuable player, who is overrated, where a guy is best suited to play in the field, and so on. But stats have never, and probably never will, tell us about the human aspect of the game.

Given that, I feel a manager can really help boost his team's confidence by standing up for them when they are on the wrong end of a bad call. It's just human nature to perform better when you know the boss has your back.

If I may switch sports...not to disappoint MU or K-State fans reading this, but I am a KU fan. And I'm one of those rare KU fans who cares as much about the football team as I do about the basketball team. And I believe with all my heart that Mark Mangino's comments after a horrible
offensive pass interference call cost the Jayhawks a game against Texas in 2004 helped make KU football competitive, at least for a few years. Starting the week after that game, KU went 39-21 until the end of Mangino's tenure. And many players pointed to that press conference as a turning point for the program.

Go watch the video I linked--fast-forward to the 3:40 mark for Mangino's postgame comments. It's commonly referred to as a rant, but watching it it's apparent that Mangino knows exactly what he's doing--sending a message to the league, the officials, and especially his own players that KU football would no longer be a pushover.

I'm not saying Yost needs to develop a Mangino-like attitude (insert eating joke here), especially given what we know now about Mangino's treatment of players and assistant coaches, which ended up being his downfall. But I do think it would help the Royals if Yost would stand up for his players a little more.

I think we all know that young players are not as likely as veterans to get the benefit of the doubt from umpires. It may not be fair, but it's been that way in baseball for decades. When a team is full of young players, the franchise has been irrelevant for almost 20 years now, and a joke for the better part of the last 15 years, it's going to be tough to get the umpires' respect. That's where a veteran manager, who has also played and coached in the majors, can help. I'm not saying Ned Yost should become Bobby Cox, but he has only been ejected once this year and once last year, as best as I can tell (if anybody knows where to find a comprehensive list of manager ejections, please let me know!). All these young players the Royals have? They have enough problems and pressure trying to figure out the game at its highest level. I think it would help them somewhat if Yost were a little more aggressive with the umpires.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

YES!!!! Where's the fire Ned? I expected Trey to sit on his butt but not Ned. Maybe we can coax Pinella or Cox out of retirement. :)