Monday, May 15, 2006

Duffy speaks his mind

Parting shots from Chris Duffy on his way to Indianapolis:
Starting in January, Tracy urged Duffy to adopt more of a prototypical leadoff approach, to draw walks and hit the ball more the other way and into the ground. Although Duffy was a line-drive hitter all through the minors, he offered no resistance, even when his spring struggles carried over into the season.

Yesterday, he made clear -- to management and, later, to the media -- that the change was not to his liking.

"Before I even played for Tracy, he was already kind of saying what he wanted me to do. I think, sometimes, I'm a little too coachable," Duffy told reporters. "I'll just try to get my game right and back to where it usually is."

Of his talk with management, he said: "There was definitely some stuff I needed to get off my chest. I think it was a good talk ... long overdue."
Duffy was always miscast as a leadoff hitter. To be a useful leadoff hitter, a free swinger like Duffy would have to have kept up the offensive production he had at the end of 2005, but that was unlikely at best. Guys don't typically improve that much when they move from AAA to the majors.

Duffy's best role was always as a back-of-the-order defensive specialist who would occasionally help with the bat. You could argue that you don't want a player like that in your lineup every day. I've argued that, and the outcome of having McLouth win the center field job is the outcome I've hoped for all along. The whole Duffy affair, though, is another example of the Pirates making a classic management blunder: putting someone into a role for which he is ill suited and then trying to change him to fit the role you put him in. Good managers build on employees' strengths and don't spend a lot of time or energy trying to correct their weaknesses.

Someone will now invoke the apocryphal story of how Harry "The Hat" Walker worked with Matty Alou, taught him to beat everything into the ground, and made him into a great leadoff hitter and OBP machine. But the exception doesn't disprove the rule.


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