I leave for the weekend – it was great, thanks for asking – and, of course, a player gets in a fight with the manager in full view of the TV cameras. Figures. As the guy in charge of the big Mariner blog, I feel like I’m supposed to write about this. I just don’t know what to say about the situation that you should really care about.
The baseball media (and yes, I include blogs like this one in that genre) does a good job of offering insight into certain areas of the game. We also are basically useless when it comes to amateur psychology. Regardless of the level of access or the ferociousness of opinion, very little of what is speculated about offers any real knowledge about what may happen. Really, let’s just look at the facts of this situation.
Chone Figgins, lauded clubhouse leader and great team chemistry guy, got into a public fight with Don Wakamatsu, calm and rational manager known for how much his players like him. Or maybe liked him. They seemed to last year, though not so much this one. Clubhouse relations have appeared to deteriorate after Ken Griffey Jr, lauded clubhouse leader and great team chemistry guy, sulked about playing time and retired mid-season after being relegated to the bench role he’s deserved for half a decade. Meanwhile, Milton Bradley, notable hothead and clubhouse cancer, has been a boy scout for the last few months, even as the season went down the drain and his personal performance went in the toilet.
The labels that these guys were affixed with run counter to how they’ve acted in almost every single case. The guys whose value in the clubhouse was so highly talked about have been the ones causing problems, and now, we’re being told that a clubhouse full of veteran team leaders lacks leadership.
Blogger, reporter, radio host, in the end, we’re all pretty much equally awful at predicting anything that has to do with how baseball players will interact with each other in the future. The usual approach is to take a guy’s reputation from where he’s been and assume it will dictate his actions no matter where he goes or how time changes, but that assumption falls on its face all the time. This team was supposed to have great chemistry, in large part due to guys like Figgins and Griffey. From most accounts, that just hasn’t materialized.
Rather than trying to expand on this point, I’ll just let Jim Leyland take it away, from when he was asked about the Washington Nationals last month:
“It’s not what Pudge brings into the clubhouse,” Leyland said. “It’s what Pudge brings on to the field. He’s hitting .336! That’s the kind of production you want. [Shucks], I can find a nice bunch of guys you want in the clubhouse. I can find that. He’s producing. That’s what’s good. That’s how I look at.”
“They didn’t bring Strasburg up because he’s a nice guy,” Leyland said. “They brought him up because he’s a big talent. He has a chance to be an unbelievable pitcher and he’s won two games already.
“Take all that clubhouse [stuff] and all that, throw it out the window. Every writer in the country has been writing about that [nonsense] for years. Chemistry don’t mean [anything]. He’s up here because he’s good. That don’t mean [a hill of beans]. They got good chemistry because their team is improved, they got a real good team, they got guys knocking in runs, they got a catcher hitting .336, they got a phenom pitcher they just brought up. That’s why they’re happy.”
Jim Leyland isn’t interested in playing amateur psychologist. He’s just going to assume that winning teams are happy teams. I am too.
When the M’s start winning regularly again, I’m sure Chone Figgins and Don Wakamatsu will get along just fine. You can speculate about what it means if you want, but in the end, none of us really have any idea.