Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blame and responsibility

I fell asleep before the fifth inning last night and missed the key Doumit play. There seems to be a difference of opinion about how tough the play was and whether Doumit should have made it.
"That's some of the chance that you take when you're trying to influx your lineup with a little more offense," Tracy said. "The ball wasn't really hit all that hard. It's a makeable play. That's not one of Luis Gonzalez's better swings that he took. It's a makeable play. That's all I have to say about it." [influx as a verb? now I've seen everything. -ed]

Two of Doumit's infield mates viewed the play differently.

"It was a line-drive smoked right at Ryan, and he was holding a man on first. I mean, dude, that's a hard play to make," shortstop Jack Wilson said. "You just hope it doesn't discourage him because he's worked so hard to do well at first base because he knows we need him in the lineup. You feel for him."

"That was a hard hit," third baseman Freddy Sanchez said. "The ball got by him, but that's a tough play for anybody. The same thing could have happened to me if it was hit my way."
Part of a good manager's role is to provide cover for the people he leads. "The buck stops here" is a quote we all recognize for good reason: it encapsulates something we all believe about good leadership. Tracy puts a player in the lineup at a position he has never played before, then blasts him in the press for what he says is a poor defensive play but what everyone else on the field says was a hard-hit ball that would have been tough for any first baseman to field. That's not leadership, that's cowardice. No one is going to follow a guy up the hill who deflects blame from himself and transfers it onto the people he is supposed to be leading. If you were trying to discourage that player and ensure that the experiment at the new position wouldn't succeed, you couldn't choose a more effective tactic.

For the sake of discussion, I'm going to pull out something I wrote in a comments thread below.
Jim Leyland often used to say things like, "We all have to do better--the hitters, the pitchers, the coaches, and me."

Most people have forgotten Gene Lamont, and deservedly so, because he wasn't much of a "leader of men." But one thing I do remember about Lamont is what a forthright, no-bullshit guy he was. Near the end of his tenure, someone asked him a question about his future with the club, and he just answered it honestly. That's how the world found out that he was about to be fired. He almost never said anything that was self-serving, dishonest, or stupid.

There may be other qualities in a manager that are more important--that leader of men thing, maybe--but Lamont at least had integrity, which has to count for something. This clown who Littlefield brought in to preside over his own demise doesn't.
With the performance of Jim Tracy this season, this franchise has now, for me, reached the lowest and most hopeless point in its current string of losing seasons. If you need evidence for that, just go read this online chat transcript with Kovacevic, which everyone else is linking to.


Blogger az said...

(I meant this to go here, but I just posted in the "Soft bigotry..." thread.)

After the botched sac attempt by Jose H. the other night, Tracy said, "It was important to try and get the runner to third and force the Indians to make many decisions."

See, the idea wasn't to WIN (or perhaps even lose), it was to MANAGE. That's the process part. It's not the destination, it's the journey. Or like, when you buy a house or car, you're not really interested in obtaining the house or car, you just want to keep negotiating, right?

Tracy's interested in pushing buttons and moving pawns around with no real direction. But it's not important where you move a pawn, it's important just that you move them.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous KPatrick said...

I didn't see the play, but it seems like reasonable people can disagree about whether it was a hit or an error. The problem, as I see it, is when those people disagree about it in the paper. It's not the end of the world when players and managers see a play differently, and I think they should feel no compunction whatever about disagreeing vociferously, in print. However, history shows that for whatever silly protocol reasons, they DO feel such compunction. It's not the subject matter of the disagreement; it's the existence and the publication of it. This is how you start to lose a clubhouse.

Not that I'd be opposed to Tracy losing this clubhouse. The man is a danger to himself and others.

11:26 AM  
Blogger ezekiel2517 said...

Any respect I once had for Tracy has now completely vanished. Expect a longer post soon (if not today then definitely tomorrow) on this issue.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

My initial reaction to this latest tempest in a teapot was to think Tracy was dumb to dump on Doumit too. But the more I think about it, I'm not so sure. Here's why:

1. The official scorer, who presumably has no dog in the fight, ruled the play an error. The official scorer agreed with Tracy: It was a makeable play.

2. Jack Wilson, Freddy Sanchez et al are not particularly credible witnesses. As we know from another of these mild contretemps last week, Jack is a "code" guy. He went off on Arroyo for "unprofessional" remarks. So if Jack feels that way about criticism from a guy on another team, do you think he's going to rip one of his own teammates? Do you think he's going to say, "Oh, yeah, easy play, Ryan should have had that ball. We lost the game because of Ryan Doumit"? Same goes for Sanchez and the others.

3. I read the story twice and I didn't get a clear sense of the order in which Dejan talked with the people he quoted. One presumes he spoke with Wilson and Sanchez first, because it seems unlikely to me that if he'd first spoken with Tracy and then apprised Wilson and Sanchez of what Tracy said that they'd go out of their way to contradict their manager in print. Possible, but unlikely. So I'm going to go on the assumption that Dejan, who seemed to make a mission of this play for some reason, spoke to the players first, then went to Tracy and said something like, "Jack and Sanchez and some guys on the D'backs say that was a really tough play for Ryan. But he was given an error. What did you think?" Now Tracy's in kind of a bind. He can say he has no opinion, even if he thinks Doumit should have made the play. But he knows what's going to appear in print the next day is, "Gee, that was a really tough play for Ryan." And maybe he doesn't think Doumit shouldn't get off that easily. In other words, that to skate on the question would not be honest. On the other hand, if he says, "I thought it was a makeable play, and that's all I'm going to say about it" -- pretty mild criticism, really -- well, we're going to jump all over his sh*t for dumping on Doumit in just his second game at first base. So Tracy opts for honesty, because a) he really doesn't care what we think about it, and even if he does b) maybe he thinks those people who so badly want him to tell the truth about the team will enjoy hearing some for a change.

I'm not saying this is likely, either, but that it's possible.

Plus, there's other stuff we don't know. For instance, what's the best way to motivate Doumit? Is he a pat on the back in private or a kick in the ass in public kind of guy? We don't know that they didn't just spend a half hour in pregame working with him on taking that kind of ball, and then he misses it in a game.

Look, I'm perfectly willing to jump all over Tracy's case when he does stupid in-game stuff like bat J. Hernandez for C. Wilson and then ask him to bunt when he has much better bunters on the bench. He seems determined to give us plenty of opportunities to do that. So with all due respect to the rest of you guys, I don't think we need to go making mountains out of molehills like this, particularly when we don't know all the facts.

7:38 PM  
Blogger az said...

I doubt DK told Wilson, Sanchez, nor Tracy what the others said, regardless of order of questioning. I have a like/dislike thing with DK, but I get the sense he's a pro, and he wouldn't set up a he said/he said situation just to make news. And I kinda doubt he needed to.

>I'm perfectly willing to jump all over Tracy's case when he does stupid in-game stuff like bat J. Hernandez for C. Wilson and then ask him to bunt when he has much better bunters on the bench

But this is the same type of situation. He's got a much better first baseman, and a healthy one, yet he played the gimpy *unreasonably* inexperienced one. That's shit-jump worthy. And that's why Dejan, "seemed to make a mission of this play."

10:49 PM  
Blogger az said...

Jesus, I just had to type in supercaLiFragilisticeXPalidocious.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...


LOL on supercaletc.

Agree with you re: Should Doumit have been there in the first place?

I, too, think Dejan's a real pro. Mevertheless, I can't tell from the story who said what when, or who knew who said what when he said what he said, and I think that's a bit of an oversight. A "Tracy disagreed with Wilson's assessment" or something like that -- if in fact that's what happened -- would have cleared it up.

I still wouldn't expect a fellow player to tell the truth. What was the compliment from "Ball Four"? "He's a great guy. Wouldn't say sh*t if he had a mouthful."

12:02 AM  
Blogger Billy said...

I think we have to consider the topic of Tracy's criticism of Doumit in the context of the consistent non-criticism of Hernandez and Burnitz. Joe Starkey had a column about this on Tuesday.

It's the selectivity of the criticism, and the fact that it is almost always directed at a young player rather than at a veteran, that is the point here.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

Read Starkey's piece on the Hernandez bunt, and here's something I'd heretofore overlooked: Why didn't Tracy pinch run for Burnitz? Geez, even a decent bunt might have wound up in a force at third with Jumpin' Jeromy the lead runner.

Starkey and Billy raise good points. I'll make a real streeeeeetch here: Maybe Tracy sees no point in bothering to criticize over-the-hill players who will be gone by Aug. 1, or spring 2007 at the latest. Maybe he reserves criticism for players who actually have a future with the team.

Yeah, yeah, like I said, I was really stretching.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous bucdaddy said...

BTW, I'm still waiting for Chuck Tanner to admit he made a mistake allowing a drug supermarket to flourish in his clubhouse.

And I'm still waiting for Jim Leyland to admit he made a mistake sending Drabek out to pitch the ninth. (You know who he blames for that loss? Cecil Espy, of all people! Want to talk about accountability there?)

And I'm still waiting for McClatchy and Nutting to say something about this season. Anybody seen them lately? If Lay and Skilling can go to prison, we can hold the guys at the top of this organization accountable too.

11:11 AM  

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