Money or Winning

Major League Baseball free agency is under way, and many high profile talent is on the market.  Greinke, Zimmerman, Price, and Cespedes are just a few of the names that will net MILLIONS in multi-year deals.  One of the things that always makes me laugh about free agency is the line that I hear many players say.  And it goes something like this, “I want to win.”  Well, if you want to win, wouldn’t you want to sign with a winning team?

There always ends up being at least one guy that talks about wanting to win, yet he signs with a team that has no chance of winning.  Yes, the player signs a contract that yields an unthinkable amount of cash; but the team that just paid him will be nowhere near the playoff race.  Think Robinson Cano.  A few years back, Cano signed one of the richest deals ever with the Seattle Mariners.  What attracted him to Seattle still has me baffled.  And now there are rumors that he wants out.  Anyone close to the game could have seen that the Mariners were not in a position to compete for a World Championship.

Think about Mike Staunton.  Is there any money left for Miami to sign any other players that can legitimately get them to the playoffs?  In a year or two, he will also be clamoring for a new team.  Why, because the Marlins will be consistently eliminated from the playoffs by September 1st.

I just don’t understand why anyone would want to sign with a team they KNOW won’t be a playoff contender; or sign with a team for so much money that you handicap them from signing any other talent that can get the team to the next level.  Playing meaningless games as early as Spetmeber 1st has to wear on someone.  Having your team’s local media continually publish neagtive stories about the team has to get you down.  Hearing fans boo every loss has to hurt.  Watching players you know you are better than win Chanpionships has to hurt.  So why…why sign with a team that you know has no shot of winning a Championship.

Yes, this may mean taking less money.  But do you really need 20 million a year? Won’t 10 million be enough?  Can you not figure out a way to live off that money for several years beyond retirement?  Can you not develop a plan for retirement? I would love the opportunity to have an honest discussion with one of these guys  as they go through free agency and weigh their options.

I’m sure I’ll be scratching my head on a few signings this winter.

Don’t Be a Spectator

Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” is something that I strongly recommend to everyone that reads this post.  Its filled with tremendous life lessons and it’s hard not to correlate his messages to anything you do in life.

During his lecture, Dr Pausch makes reference to a former youth football coach he played for when he was young.  Dr. Pausch loved the game, even though he was undersized, but he had dreams of one day being in the NFL.  He told a story about this coach and an unusual method of coaching he brought to the team.  The story (in abbreviated form) went something like this: One day the coach showed up to practice and had no footballs with him.  A few of the kids asked the coach how they were supposed to practice without footballs.  The coach asked the kids how many players play at one time on offense and defense.  The kids answered 11 for each team; so a total of 22.  The coach then went on to say that of the 22 players on a field, only one of those players has the ball.  His lesson to the kids for that practice was to learn what you’re supposed to do when you do not have the ball, because for most of them, they would not be touching the ball during the game.

Shortly after hearing “The Last Lecture” I watched Game 5 of the MLB World Series between the Mets and the Royals.  Most people who watched the game will remember the play that resulted in Eric Hosmer racing home after Mets 3B David Wright threw the ball to first; and scoring on the errant throw from the first baseman.  The play truly sums up how the Royals play the game on the bases, aggressive and hard-nosed.  A good throw from first would have gotten the third out, but the throw was off and the rest is history.

I’ve watched that play a number of times on highlight shows, and not one of them mentioned one aspect of the play that I thought was key for allowing Hosmer to score.  The ground ball found it’s way into the five hole between shortstop and third base, but was softly hit and was easily handled by Wright.  The SS on the play, Wilmer Flores, came up from his position but peeled off to third after he saw Wright field the ball.  Here is where I believe a mistake was made.  Flores’ movement to third was not aggressive.  In my opinion, he trotted to third.  What I believe he should have done was to make an aggressive approach to third.  An aggressive move to third could have possibly caught the attention of Hosmer, and likely draw him a step back to third in fear of Wright throwing behind him.  This would have caused Hosmer’s balance and momemtum to go to third, rendering him off-balance for any sprint to home.  However, Flores’ approach to third was not aggressive and didn’t catch the attention of Hosmer, allowing him to continue his momentum to home.  Any movement by Hosmer back to third could have caused him to think twice about breaking for the plate.

After watching the play a few times I couldn’t help but think about the story Dr. Pausch told during his lecture about his football coach; and how this play correlated to that lesson so well.  As a coach, I see it all the time with kids that are not involved in the play.  They simply do not move where they should if the ball is not hit to them.  And, if they do move, its not an aggressive move.  Too many times, kids become spectators and lose focus on what thier role is for the play.

Don’t let “spectating” become a habit for your players.  You never know when it will come back to burn the team.  Get your players into the habit of knowing what to do during each play; and more importantly, get them doing it with a purpose!