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It’s All About Communimacating

May 26, 2011

Joe Stiglich had an article in the Contra Costa Times today where he says that despite the recent criticisms of A’s skipper Bob Geren he has faith in him and still wants to move the A’s to San Jose (the last part is an assumption). Here is what he had to say about Geren:

“I think Bob’s fantastic. He’s got two sons who are about the same age, not quite as old as our (players), but close. I like the way he deals with everybody…

…I’ve only been doing this for six years, but of all the (managers) I’ve been exposed to, which has been pretty narrow, I think Bob’s fine, terrific.”

John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle in an article in this morning’s paper had this additional quote from Lew Wolff,

“I personally love the way he deals with everybody. It’s a long season. I love the guy. He’s a good teacher. I love everything about him.”

This reminds me of the praise you see lopped onto terrible movies in their commercials, “Fantastic!”, “Fine!”, “Terrific!”, “Love!” and then you see that the praise is not being heaped on by the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times or even Entertainment Weekly but comes from papers in Bozeman, Montana or Salina, Kansas. Having Lew Wolff comment on the quality of managers, especially when he admits his exposure has been narrow is meaningless. The concern however is that as the man who signs the paychecks, his opinion no matter how off-base matters. For once a Wolff saves the lamb from slaughter?

More on the Geren-Brian Fuentes fued came from also from the aforementioned Shea article in which he wrote of Geren’s lack of communication interestingly writing,

“In the meantime, is Geren suddenly communicating more?

Those media reports that Geren never told Grant Balfour he was the new closer? Not exactly accurate. As Balfour tells it, the reliever told a reporter on Tuesday no one told him anything, then was told minutes later by Geren he was replacing Brian Fuentes as closer.

But it was posted on the Internet as another example of Geren’s supposed communication flaws.

‘He does communicate,’ Balfour said with a smile. ‘There you go.'”

More on this point is an article from yesterday that I missed at CBSSports.com where Scott Miller gets more comments from A’s relievers including Michael Wuertz who says the following,

“I think anybody can construe it any way they want but, in the end, whether it’s the bullpen or the [position] players, I think we all want to know what situation you’re going to be used in. Bullpen roles, going into a series saying, ‘Here, this is what it’s going to be.’ Position players probably feel the same way.

It’s hard to communicate with a 25-man roster. But in the end, what makes good teams good is that everybody knows what they’re doing, everybody knows to be ready for certain situations. A player will pinch-hit here. Players who know they’re going to be playing a couple of days in advance.”

Also in that fascinating must-read article Grant Balfour (before he found out he was to be closer) had this to say which is a bit more revealing,

“I kind of know when I’m going to pitch. I haven’t been told if I’m the closer. Right now, I’m thinking I’ll probably pitch the eighth inning tonight, you know? Nobody’s told me any differently.

You like to know your role, you know? If it’s a closer-by-committee, let us know. It’s nice to know. But I can’t say I have any problem. So far, I’ve consistently pitched in the eighth.

If that changes, maybe he’ll tell us. Maybe he won’t. That’s his personality. He doesn’t really communicate with the players. Everyone’s different. Maybe you’ve got to approach him.”

Then finally to heap even more on, it isn’t just the relievers who have the problem, with this report and anonymous quote Miller sheds some light on the mystifying lineup constructs writing,

“Sources inside the Athletics clubhouse say the lack of communication is endemic, with few players understanding moves or their roles. Outfielders Josh Willingham and David DeJesus were supposed to comprise a consistent middle of the order, yet two people pointed to Willingham and DeJesus each sitting for two games in a three-game stretch since May 20. Another person noted that Willingham sat Monday in Anaheim after homering Sunday in San Francisco.

‘Guys start to hit, and it’s almost like, we’ll put him into a slump,’ one player said.”

In The Drumbeat Shea writes that the A’s will not penalize or suspend Brian Fuentes for utilizing his first amendment rights, the entire article is a good read with some additional comments from Dennis Eckersley that I largely disagree with because I feel Fuentes was right to comment even if the forum was poor (though I think ultimately this may have a good outcome for fans desiring Geren’s removal) so it is worth a read but he also included quotes from Brian Fuentes which are interesting:

“I’ve always said if there’s somebody to do the job better than me, I have no problem pitching in any situation, wheter it’s the fifth or the ninth. It’s not about that. It’s about a line of communication, and there’s a lack of that often here. It got to the point it was very frustrating, and I decided to talk about it. We cleared it up. We’re both on the same page, and we’re moving on…

…People automatically assumed the reason I said it was because of the way I pitched. That’s not why I said it. I stand behind my performance. Always. I take full responsibility. I felt like I needed to get it off my chest, and I did it. What else can you do? I meant what I said, but it was just the wrong outlet, I guess…

…Any communication is good communication. Even yelling. We didn’t yell at each other, but sometimes any communication is good communication.”

From those comments it seems that Geren completely leaves people out of the loop – realize that Fuentes is encouraging yelling as an improvement even. Fascinating comments… Fuentes should have a Twitter account!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 26, 2011 3:11 pm

    I have never been a big league player, so I am sure I don’t quite understand what it takes to mentally prepare for a game, but I find it a little absurd that they need to be told what inning they are playing in days in advance. Players need to put their little fragile egos aside and be willing to adapt and play when they are told to play. Strict bullpen roles (ie. only bringing in the closer in a save situation, strict set-up man regardless of match-ups) can be very detrimental to a team’s success and more flexibility would be great. I am not a Bochy fan and think he gets way too much credit for the Giant’s World Series (he did not become a top 5 all-time manager with that Championship sorry), but his willingness to use Brian Wilson when tied is absolutely the right call in most cases. And Wilson’s willingness to come in a pitch when ever called upon should be the norm, but since it apparently isn’t he should be commended. You don’t see him whining like Fuentes. All that being said that fact that players need to be flexible and that strict roles are going to be ignored does not to be front and center. Everyone needs to understand that. Geren needs to go for his out of game managerial skills, but even more so for on the field managerial (lack of) skills.

    I am ready to chalk it up to one more wasted season and it not even June yet. Depressing.

  2. May 26, 2011 3:12 pm

    *All that being said that fact that players need to be flexible and that strict roles are going to be ignored does NEED to be front and center.

    • May 26, 2011 4:01 pm

      JK –

      Aside from the countless times as a kid I stood before the mirror and hit a game winning home run playing both the role of pitcher watching it go over my right shoulder and hitter pulling it deep to left… I too have not played pro ball. But I think that like any career, there is a lot to be said for having an expected routine, which makes it easier to deal with the inevitable times when one must make a rapid on the spot adjustment. I don’t know what it takes to get loosened up, or get into a zone where you are prepared to perform before tens of thousands of fans but I assume having a routine, and knowing your role are important aspects of it. Then in the times when you must make a spot start or come into a blowout early etc, it is the exception rather than the norm. That Geren appears to have this sort of free for all I think makes it difficult for players to establish routines, and that in part could explain why this entire team (this explains the hitting more so than the pitching which instigated this ‘revolt’) is slumping simultaneously and never seem to ever string even a weeks worth of good games at a time – something that I don’t think is asking too much.

      My big problem with this whole episode, is that Geren clearly has overworked Fuentes and used him in bizarre scenarios where his not expecting the call may have made him less ready than he should’ve been. While that isn’t an excuse and I agree with you there, I think had Geren described the roles the players would be in better perhaps there wouldn’t be this feeling – which I think is easily read between the lines – that he is setting them up to fail. Particularly in the case of Fuentes when he was brought in in the 7th to me it seemed a spiteful, “I will pitch you whenever I want to pitch you” move in retaliation for Fuentes’ (by comparison innocuous) remarks from Sunday afternoon in San Francisco.

      Fuentes should be ready at all times but I think if he were given the opportunity to better predict his use he likely could be more effective.

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