Quade to Treat Players Like People

Last weekend Mike Quade said something that, while repulsive to some, was actually quite brilliant. Here’s the quote, courtesy of Paul Sullivan:

“Are you going to deal with ‘Sori’ the same way you deal with (Blake) DeWitt?” he said. “No.”

Steve Rosenbloom thinks that’s ridiculous.

Maybe he was intimidated by big-money players. Maybe he wanted them to say nice things to help him lose the interim tag. Whatever, the fact is he didn’t bench Ramirez when he gave up on some defensive plays and generally played dodgeball in the field. Nor did he bench Soriano for an utter and typical lack of hustle out of the batter’s box. What’s worse, Soriano’s stylin’ came in Quade’s first game. Soriano stayed in the game. Soriano was in the lineup the next day. Message to Cubs players: Become a big-money veteran.

There’s a reason Steve Rosenbloom works on his own. He and other like-minded (is it right to use the word mind about someone who refuses to think?) individuals opine that the only way to communicate to players is by benching them. Fredi Gonzalez is apparently one of those people. That’s how he handled Hanley Ramirez. It worked out well. I’m sure the righteous indignation made his final month of employment the very best ever.

Maybe in some phase of the Industrial Revolution, it made sense to treat every laborer exactly the same. Keep everyone at the factory in place. Forget individuality. The commoners can have their dignity when they go home, but at work you treat them like two year olds and put them in time out when they’re naughty.

But this isn’t 1832, and the Cubs aren’t children. Enlightened employers realize that impartiality doesn’t require blanket uniformity. Respecting the individuality of each team member calls for some amount of personalization in the way you relate to them. That holds true for any workplace. The need for specialization is even more pronounced in baseball.

Think it’s important to treat everyone exactly the same? Why on earth would Quade do that? The Cubs don’t pay everyone the same. Alfonso Soriano makes about 45 times as much money as Blake DeWitt. If Mike Quade wants to use playing time to send a message stronger than that, he’ll have to bench Soriano until the year 2078. If he wants to send a real message, however, he needs to communicate like an adult.

Some people viewed Starlin Castro‘s benching last year as a punitive act, but I think Quade’s decision was a bit more sophisticated than that. A player will respond to his own mistakes much differently when he’s 20 than when he’s 35. The time off gave Castro a chance to slow down his reaction and deal with it thoughtfully (or “reflect,” as Quade put it). I don’t know if it was the right move, but it was a thoughtful one, not the loud-mouthed, drill-sergeant approach Rosenbloom is calling for.

Benching Ramirez and Soriano would do nothing but disrespect them. Beat reporters, columnists, and bloggers have no obligation to show respect to players, but Mike Quade does. Treating multi-millionaires (or $400,000-aires, for that matter) like children isn’t macho, it’s mindless. I’m glad Mike Quade understands that.

7 Replies to “Quade to Treat Players Like People”

  1. Yeah, that's a good point, Frank. You're right, basketball is a much different
    scenario (and the coach can pretty much get away with yelling at anybody at any
    time). But still, Thibs understands his team and treats them according to what
    he thinks will work. The Boozer benching is an excellent example, though I do
    think there's an element of risk there. It probably worked out well, though I
    don't think it was just a matter of punishment. But still, it communicates to
    the whole team that he's trying to win with defense and is willing to bench
    high-powered offensive players if they become liabilities on the other end.

    Baseball is different. But it's not as though similar techniques can't be
    effective. I'm not a fan of the punitive benching, but that doesn't mean it
    wouldn't ever work. It's up to the manager's discretion, but I'd still expect a
    manager to handle each player according to what will best get them to respond.

    On the firefox commenting issue, I'll look into it. I use Chrome and haven't
    experienced the problem, but I'll see if I can recreate it. Thanks for letting
    me know (and for all the good thoughts).


  2. Do you follow the Bulls at all? The Bulls have a rookie head coach who has had no problem yanking players in the middle of the game. He's already sat Boozer once for not hustling on defense. And Boozer didn't seem to have a problem with it.

    Of course, basketball is a little different as players go in and out of the game all the time. But Boozer is the Bulls' second best player and their main off-season acquisition.. I'm also reminded that he basically sat his starting five for the entire 4th quarter of a game to prove a point to them about defense and hustle. And it was a very winnable game.

    Of course, it remains to be seen if Coach Thibs can keep the Bulls playing at the current high level or if he will lose control.of the team.

    On a site related matter, I'm using Firefox as my browser. When I reply to an entry, once the text entry box starts to scroll, I can only see the top half of the letters I am typing. It's kind of disconcerting. Is this happening for everyone or is it an issue with certain browsers?

  3. I'd still prefer to keep the next steps behind closed doors, even if it was limited to just in front of the team. I just know that even worse than a guy who isn't hustling is a guy who completely shuts down on the team. The gamble of playing the benching game is that you lose a superstar completely. Now, if he's not otherwise contributing, you bench him anyway because he isn't helping the team. That's a whole different story (although not beyond the realm of imagination for Soriano).

  4. What's the next step if talking doesn't do the trick? I made the mistake when I wrote my reply that I didn't specifically state that speaking with the player would be the first step. But if the first step isn't productive in creating a change in behavior, what is the next step that you suggest? Because after having a chat or two, a manager doesn't have many options besides changing the batting order or putting a guy on the bench. Well, there is the time tested method of attacking the guy through the media. And that pretty much never works, but you still see managers giving it a try now and again.

  5. I just figure, Alfonso Soriano knows English. A manager who can put two words together can get a message through to Soriano by talking. He's not just a multi-millionaire, he's an adult. Benching or batting-order shifts are just passive-aggressive BS to me.

  6. Yeah, it's kind of like you can't treat your kids identically. Each person has his own personality and each will need different motivational techniques. But you do have to set certain standards and the players have to meet them. If certain players aren't hustling or giving a consistent effort, then a manager has to change techniques. There isn't much that a manager can do other than changing spots in the batting order or taking away playing time. He can't offer more allowance or an extra bit of dessert. He can appeal to a player's pride, but that can often be a batting order slot or playing time. Or he could give the old pep talk to the player about being a leader and setting a good example. But I doubt if anything gets Sori to hustle to first on what he thinks is a homerun.

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