Saturday, February 18, 2006

Skipper Speak

Yesterday saw the first real sit-down with the New York media for Willie Randolph. New York Newsday has the details. Sharp guy, Randolph. Here's some reasons why.
When I was at Florida State and worked as an extremely obscure student trainer, it was a priveledge to observe legendary college football coach, Bobby Bowden. Bowden consistently gave two rules to the players with respect to the media. First, to never give your opponent added incentive. This covers trash talk of course. Juicy quotes do indeed make their way onto bulletin boards. The second Bowden rule, which is appropriate here, was to never pay any attention to what he said the press.
But its now different. And especially so between college and professional sports.
To be sure, when I first heard the Bowden Rules, things were different in 1977. There was no talk radio, no message boards, no blogs, no online newspapers, and not even any ESPN. My, my. Times sure have changes in the last 30 years haven't they?
And you can be sure the majority of players carry laptops now on the road. Many players are extremely media savvy in their own right. Take for example Tom Glavine and David Wright using Matt Cerrone's Metsblog to push their own charity work. No fools, Glavine and Wright both know that Mets fans read blogs. And you can be sure players don't limit themselves in any way to what they will pay attention to.
So this brings us to Randolph and the way things have changed from the Bobby Bowden era of the late 70's. Managers will now motivate and communicate with players through the media. As one of the voices of the club along with Omar Minaya, his generalities are realities of the message they desire to get out. Managers don't have team meetings daily less the become ineffective. And individual conversations about player roles don't take place as often as you might think.
In his comments yesterday, Randolph sought to motivate, encourage and remove preconceived comfort levels.
With respect to the competition for second base, he let all the candidates know they had a chance as to insure their best efforts. The quiet line about what management had told him with respect to putting the best team on the field regardless of how much money they make, is an attempt to let Jeff Keppinger and Anderson Hernandez to know that Kaz Matsui's contract won't beat them out. Randolph kind words about knowing Matsui will do well were intended to soothe any bruised ego on Matsui's part. Bret Boone needs no motivation as he's just looking to show all clubs he's not lost it.
Much the same is true about starters. While keeping Victor Zambrano, Aaron Heilman, and Steve Trachsel on their toes, he's letting John Maine, Brain Bannister, Mike Pelfry and Alay Soler know they have their chance to make the rotation. And, yes. Jose Lima, too. Its hard to imagine without and injury or total meltodown that any of the Zambrano, Heilman, Trachsel group don't go north, but Randolph wants to keep the later group's hope's alive. Good showings in the spring against big league bats leave lasting memories in the minds of manager.
So times sure have changed. Managers know players are paying attention now to what is said to media. Its a subtle form of manipulation that serves more than one agenda.


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