Longtime St.Louis Cardinals fan Bill Parcells – yes, sales cure the football legend – said something about leadership that might come into play when baseball managers are evaluated at the end of the season. As quoted the other day in the NY Times, buy Parcells told Phil Simms, the quarterback who led his Giants to the 1987 Super Bowl title, that Phil had become too friendly with his teammates. Leadership is about “respect,” not comradeship, Simms said Parcells told him.
Managers who may not be asked back for 2013, along with newly fired Manny Acta of Cleveland: Colorado’s Jim Tracy, Kansas City’s Ned Yost, Seattle’s Eric Wedge are among those who seem vulnerable (Bobby Valentine, we know, is vulnerable). Why? because, among other things, they may well have lost the respect of their players. Mike Scioscia’s superiors apparently thought he was too friendly with Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher. They fired Hatcher when the team wasn’t hitting, and Scioscia’s job looked to be in jeopardy until the Angels’ late-season surge.
Managerial overfriendliness is one cause of loss of respect. When a leader delegates in a way that distances him from problems, as Scioscia may have done with regard to team offense, it can undermine his command. Two recent stories about Skipper Obama – one in the Times, the other in Vanity Fair – suggest that he tends to tune out less-than-pressing problems, leaving them for loyal coaches to handle. Coach Tom Donilon, for example, has the mission (per the Times) “to manage problems and keep them from blowing up so Mr. Obama can focus on Mitt Romney, rather than Benjamin Netanyahu.” Michael Lewis, in VF, quotes the skipper as saying “I’m trying to pare down decisions…You have to filter stuff.” All of which suggests why much of Bush-era foreign policy continues as repetitiously as “‘round the horn” after an infield out.
Lewis also notes the skipper’s competitiveness in everything from basketball to shuffleboard. He neither likes to lose, nor does he take kindly to players or teams who get in his way. Thus, lefthanders who pitch support for Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, Venezuela, Bolivia, Arab insurgents, leaving Afghanistan, etc., do so in vain. While “filtering” and delegating on most of those matters, Obama’s apparent reflex is to be tough and unyielding.
Barack has earned, if not respect, a marginal safe call from the left as Election Day approaches. Despite what they see as flawed leadership, he is their strong default choice to return as the nation’s skipper. And that’s not just speculation.
From NYU/Stanford Report on Impact of Drone Attacks in Pakistan: “The people in the areas targeted by Obama’s drone campaign are being systematically terrorized… It is a campaign of… highly effective terror – regardless of what noble progressive sentiments one wishes to believe reside in the heart of the leader ordering it.” – (Glenn Greenwald, UK Guardian, summarizing core of report)
On State of U.S. Foreign Policy: “After 9/11, under George W. Bush, the U.S. adopted policies of preemptive war and disregard for national sovereignties, which continue today under President Obama, in its programmed assassinations…and assassination teams, its kidnappings, renditions and torture, all in defiance of international law and with indifference towards the national sovereignties of the countries involved, including allies.” – William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune
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The State of Homestretch Baseball: We know from this time last season that anything can happen, but a sensible betting man would lay money on the Braves and Cardinals joining the Nationals, Reds and Giants in the NL playoffs, and the Yankees joining the Tigers and Rangers either as division or wild card qualifiers. Beyond that, nothing is sure (nor, come to think of it, is the Tigers’ potential AL Central title).
The Hustlers: Joe Maddon’s Rays are hitless wonders and last in AL fielding, but Tampa Bay has the pitching and is now just two games out in the wild card race. Oh, yes, and Maddon has his players hustling. He quoted legendary pool-shark Minnesota Fats the other night about the need to “run the table” to the end of the season. In so doing, he cited an old Hollywood movie that many of his young players had likely never heard of: “You’ve seen ‘The Hustler’, Jackie Gleason, Paul Newman and the boys,” he said. “We’ve got to go with the Fat Man right now.” The Rays have run eight straight on the “table” so far.
So It Goes: The White Sox failed to capitalize on back-to-back none-out bases-loaded situations against the Rays last night. Robin Ventura’s hope of winning the division from the Tigers is slipping away – the Sox trail by two games after an untimely letdown over the past 10 days. But Ventura has kept his characteristic cool. His typically quiet response, after tough losses, like last night’s: “We didn’t do the little things. You know, that’s the way it goes.”
Remembrance: Mets fans remember former GM Omar Minaya for the big-ticket signings that never quite worked out – Pedro Martinez, Johan Santana, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner, Ollie Perez, Jason Bay, etc. – while the farm system languished. But in January 2010, in one of his last deals, Minaya signed a 35-year-year-old journeyman knuckleballer to a minor league contract. He was R.A. Dickey, the Mets first 20-game winner in more than two decades. Take a belated bow, Omar.
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