Tag Archives: MLB

Control Freaks in Sports

Just thought I’d chime in on something that was brought up by Colin Cowherd today: being a control freak isn’t such a bad thing – at least when referring to sports. Some names that come to mind are Belichick, Saban, the late George Steinbrenner, and George Karl. When management lets one guy rule with an iron fist, it tends to work out better than when everyone gets to help shape a team philosophy. Don’t get me wrong, I hate communism as much as the next guy, but when we’re talking about building a team, you need clear direction and having a group of people calling the shots instead of one definite leader can complicate things.

Back when (a younger and less senile) George Steinbrenner was running the Yankees, everyone was kept on a short leash. Sure, this lack of freedom wasn’t the most fun way to do things, but obviously it worked. Same goes for Bill Belichick’s Pats; if a player doesn’t fit into his system perfectly, he doesn’t compromise his beliefs to make them fit – think Ochocinco. It seems harsh and perhaps illogical at the time (like when they cut Randy Moss), but it’s hard to argue with the results of his no-nonsense approach.

When an organization trusts one man’s vision of how he wants to build a team and they don’t interrupt the process, they allow him to do what he was hired to do without having to look over his shoulder. For example, Gregg Popovich – the longest tenured coach in the NBA – has been in control of the Spurs since 1996 and hasn’t had to worry about his job security too much. Ask the Spurs how this approach has treated them.

It may take time for an appointed leader to implement his system, but growing pains in the early stages are to be expected – regardless of how good he is. Belichick’s first few years in New England were not pretty, but Robert Kraft trusted that he was leading the team in the right direction and again, look how well the Patriots have been doing under his reign. However, many times management becomes impatient and decides to blow everything up before the previous rebuilding process had a chance to finish.

This is where Jerry Jones of the Cowboys fits in.

Jones isn’t quite a control freak, because he is never completely in control – at least not anymore. Yes he does have the final say about who stays and who goes in Dallas, but he isn’t calling all the shots. He brings in guys like Parcells, Phillips, and Garrett and lets them believe that they are allowed to develop a squad the way they want for a time – then he pulls out the carpet from under them, voicing his dissatisfaction with the team and calling for change. Back to square one. It pains me as a Yankees fan to say it, but I’d be lying if I said that George Steinbrenner didn’t do something similar in his later years. Al Davis was the same way, too. These are all guys who were great control freaks when they were mentally intact, but refused to let somebody else call the shots when they should have – becoming more of a freak than a controller, if you will.

So for the most part, I’d say that when an organization picks a coach and lets him mold the team to his style of play with limited interruption, the results will be much better than they would if the team was run as a democracy.


Cano, Yankees hanging in there

You don’t have to bleed pinstripes to notice the Ed-uar-do Nun-ez chant doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as the Der-ek Jeet-er. And if a fellow fan came up to you on the street and asked: “Who’s playing 3rd base for us right now?” you couldn’t be mad at them (because that’s a tough question). It’s a difficult time for us fans, and we’re looking for a reason to believe we can ride out and survive this injury bug.

Although the team is only a couple games out of first, these goddamn injuries have us watching games through our fingers, knowing the next player could go down this inning. The bullpen that once was a strongpoint of our team is now made up of guys like Shawn Kelley and Preston Claiborne, with Boone Logan as our setup man. Tell me that doesn’t make your stomach a little uneasy.

Another part of what makes this period in time so difficult for Yankees fans is watching the remains of the old foundation continue to wither away, especially when it doesn’t seem like there is anyone capable of picking up the slack. Vernon Wells is no Curtis Granderson, and Eduardo Nunez is no Derek Jeter. Everyone knows this, and it would be unreasonable to expect more of these backups, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with.

You’d think that these injuries would crush New York’s chances of winning the division – and it still may turn out that way – but somehow they keep plugging away and find themselves in the middle of it all.

But how is this possible?

Its Robbie Cano, don’t cha know?

The man leads his team in every offensive category – which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when comparing him to anyone else on the active roster. We all expect Cano to play like the best position player on the team, because he is. That fact is becoming more apparent now that the infield surrounding him has been reduced to practically nothing. His supporting cast of Jeter, Youkilis, and Teixeira is now Nunez, Nix, and Overbay – of course he is going to shine brighter by comparison.

Here’s a stat I stumbled upon today: Cano has played more games as a Yankee than the other 12 position players on the active roster combined. This bit of information says it all: he is no longer defined as the young, swing-happy second baseman caught in the shadow of Jeter and A-Rod. He is a superstar that has slowly but surely come into his own, and now, by no choice of his own, Robbie Cano has inherited this team — at least for the time being.

It will be interesting to see how Cano handles himself once help starts to arrive around midseason, but until then, he is a leader by default. I think he is finally ready for this role, he has done a great deal of maturing since the Melky Cabrera days when he seemed to lose focus at times. We need him to finally develop into the team leader everyone expects him to be.


Baseball a Clean Slate for Hamilton

Josh Hamilton is knocking the hell out of the ball again.  That’s not news to anybody though – every educated baseball fan knows that he is among the elite hitters in the league right now.  Over this past offseason, a story broke that Hamilton “relapsed” when he went out for a drink at a bar with a family member in February.

This isn’t news either – or at least it shouldn’t be.

The big sources that people go to for sports news (ESPN, Fox Sports) tend to ride the same story as long as they can squeeze something juicy out of it.  The examples are plentiful: Tiger Woods and his infidelity, Tim Tebow and his faith, Alex Rodriguez and his steroid use.  There is nothing wrong with milking a story for all its worth, but sometimes the media goes too far.  It’s not hard to see how some reporters twist and bend stories to their liking, usually because they try to either glorify or demonize someone.  What other explanation is there for a man as genuine as Tim Tebow receiving so much hate, or Ozzie Guillen’s press conferences being laughed at like dirty jokes from a stand-up comic?

I should have known that the media would take a similar approach with Hamilton.  Two years ago, he was the feel-good story of the MLB.  He had managed to control his addiction to alcohol and numerous drugs through his faith.  He even published an autobiography, titled “Beyond Belief” which goes into detail about his struggle with addiction and how he has learned to overcome it.  He was the classic darling who overcame a troubled past, and went on to have great success.  The thing is, his story is incredible enough without knowing the terrible details of his darker days.

As soon as he was able to play in the MLB in 2007, he had immediate success.  He batted .292 in his rookie year as a Cincinnati Red, then went on to Texas where he made the All Star Game four times in four years.  In 2010, he hit .359 with 32 home runs, which was enough to earn him the AL MVP.

Through 21 games this year, Hamilton already has 9 home runs and is hitting .388.  Of course the season is in diapers, but those numbers show that he is still among the elite sluggers of the MLB and this most recent “relapse” is really nothing to worry about.  I understand that Josh Hamilton went through some really dark times and they are nothing to joke about, but if he chooses to go out for a drink with some family and it doesn’t escalate any further than that, I don’t see what the big deal is.

I think now we should start viewing him as a great baseball player first, and a recovering addict second.  In my eyes, the “incident” this February was not an incident at all, and has nothing to do with his career as a professional baseball player.  People need to give credit where credit is due and recognize him as a great baseball player instead of a tortured soul.  He has already gotten himself out of that hole and to me, he has proven that we should all stop expecting that he’ll fall back in it.