Monday, July 28, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect


When players practice and put in the time they become better ballplayers. A good example of that might be Nate McLouth of The Pittsburgh Pirates. When this centerfielder first was brought up to The Big Leagues, most every scout in the game, and even his very own team--thought McLouth would be just a 4th or 5th Outfielder.

In 2008, Nate was a National League All-Star. With a little more luck, he might have been The Game's MVP. Flipping around the channels on DirecTv's Extra Innings Broadcasts tonight--McLouth hammered OUT OF PNC PARK and into the Allegheny River--A Mammoth Shot off The Colorado Rockies' Luis Vizcaino. After rounding the bases, and while The Pirate Centerfielder was cooling off in the Pittsburgh Dugout--The FSN Pittsburgh Broadcasters went out of their way to discuss how, each and every day, no matter the circumstances, Nate McLouth is out on the field, in the batting cages, watching tape, asking questions--trying to improve himself.

Nate McLouth cares about the game and how it is suppose to be played--correctly.

Nate McLouth does not wait to be told what to do. Nate McLouth does not want to be a one dimensional ballplayer. Nate McLouth strives to be a COMPLETE BALLPLAYER. Unfortunately, many others don't feel that way.

The problem in The Great Game today is that too many players are groomed as specialists. Closer, Set Up Man, Slick Fielder, Designated Hitter--Slugger. From an early age, many youngsters are not taught the game properly. They don't learn how to bunt. No one teaches how to run the bases properly. The DH so prevalent, many young pitchers NEVER BAT.

That was not the case when I was growing up. Every single player, on every single team I EVER PLAYED FOR--was taught the fundamentals of the game--at every single level of development. No one was ever left out. Those Baseball Basics--which many times these days--seem to be a Lost Arm Form.

Find a Slugger that can crush the ball, or a Pitcher that can throw High 90's today. None of whom may know how to play the game properly, but that's what most teams seem to relish these days. And it's what gets these players on SportsCenter. Fewer players these days, wish to become complete players. That's a shame.

But remember, the responsibility to be the best you can be--is not just the sole duty of the player. The Talent certainly must have the drive, but this commitment must also come from The Manager, The Coaches, and the entire Organization. The Support System. This OBLIGATION BELONGS TO EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Baseball is a team game and each must work together. Yes, you need a willing student, and you also need a coaching staff--willing to provide. There is no way around that fact.

Nate McLouth has succeeded expectations because he cared while soaking up the instruction. Something every single person, both on and off the field for Our Washington Nationals should strive for, each and every day. Unfortunately, that's not been the case--at times. Our Players should not only be proud to wear Our Uniform, they should willingly accept tuteledge from Our Organization. They must take every opportunity to improve their game, at any age, from every single source of help. They are suppose to be Professsionals. They should act like ones.

Nothing else is acceptable.

Practice Makes Perfect, but you will never get there--if you don't put in the time--and try.

Honestly, if you have the talent to play Professional Baseball in the first place, these basics of the game should not be that hard to master.

No, not at all. Besides, they are suppose to be Athletes--playing a game.

PS--And talking from experience at Spring Training in Viera, Florida. Sohna and I have only attended Spring Training when Our Washington Nationals are practicing on the fields--not playing actual games. Over the past two February's, Our Manager Manny Acta is ACTIVELY participating in drills on the field. Whether fielding, hitting, bunting or pitching--Our Number 14 is pretty hands on. That experience alone--tells me that Manny is making the effort--more than some may realize. Manny's not sitting in the Golf Cart--just watching.

13 comments:

Chris Needham said...

And stay off my lawn!

Agreed to a point... but this same article was written every 5 years or so in baseball digest. Every previous generation thinks that the current generation didn't care about the small things, the fundamentals. I can imagine Joe Dimaggio saying the same things about Mickey Mantle.

There were players that stunk then. There are players that stink now. We just don't remember the times that Frank Howard tried to get a bunt down and failed. :) We prefer to remember the times he succeeded!

I didn't see too much (any!) of the Senators, but given how terrible they were for so long, I don't think their players/coaches were running the tightest of ships.

Jim H said...

Chris...

I think this was SBF's response to a question during the inside baseball "knowledge" measuring contest in the comments to this post.

But those kids still need to stay off the lawn.

JayB said...

A nice safe middle of the road, share the blame approach for sure.

Your protect everyone form accountability view does not change the facts that Manny has been ineffective in putting a team on the field that plays the game the right way and has sound fundamentals.

It really does not matter if he is on the field in Spring Training or not....he is responsible for the fundamentals and effort of the players he puts on the team....if he is actively coaching them, all the more evidence he is ineffective.

An Briosca Mor said...

It really does not matter if he is on the field in Spring Training or not....he is responsible for the fundamentals and effort of the players he puts on the team....if he is actively coaching them, all the more evidence he is ineffective.

JayB, you obviously don't like Manny Acta for whatever reason. You have been railing on him since last season over his supposed inability to impart good fundamental discipline to his team - as if all a manager has to do is flip the magic switch and poof! There it is.

Let me ask you this, since you have chosen to focus on bunting as the fundamental burr up your butt lately: Was the Nationals' bunting any better under Frank Robinson? True, they bunted more under Frank. Much more. So obviously there were more successful bunting attempts under Frank than under Manny. But overall, was their bunting all that much better under Frank? Was Frank out there teaching his players to bunt, or did he just wake up occasionally, give them the evil eye to put the fear of God in them, and then they went out and did it? Is this your idea of effective managing?

So, SBF has reported seeing with his own eyes Manny teaching fundamentals to the team. Obviously he doesn't do it 24/7, because he's the manager and has gazillions of other responsibilities in that job. But he does do it. If the players aren't picking it up, you can't just blame it on Manny.

As I said, it's obvious you have some deep, irrational dislike for Manny Acta. Do you feel lonely and isolated in that position? Is that why you keep harping on it over and over and over again?

Andrew said...

Unless you are up to the calibre of Micah Owings where you are batting a solid .288, Pitchers need to be effective in bunting!

When the Twins were getting ready to play Colorado in May, here was a great quote from former Nat's pitcher Livan Hernandez when asked about his fellow pitchers, "Our pitchers have to make sure they can get a bunt down and concentrate on making contact. After that, it's left up to fate."

This is baseball fundamentals and outside of Tim Redding our pitchers aren't good at bunting!!!!!

I can't wait to see Bonifacio bunt as he is supposed to be very good at it, and maybe we will get to see Zim bunt a few singles.


Here is a bigger point for discussion from Chico Harlan:
Acta is not a bunt guy -- especially early in games. Years of baseball experience, years of reading and years of discussion with others in the game have led him to believe that you shouldn't trade an out just to advance a runner to second or third. His opinion differs on this only when a pitcher is up or a game is close and late. The main reasoning? He believes that bunting diminishes the chances for a big inning, and I tend to agree. You don't play for one run when you have a chance to get three or four. There's a trade-off. Sometimes, the refusal to bunt actually makes the inning end lightning-fast -- as you saw Sunday with all those double plays. But if Acta gets a few big innings for every time his strategy backfires, he'll still come out ahead.

JayB said...

ABM,

Why set the bar so low for Manny.
Is the bar for really just to be equal to a very old and tired Frank at the very end of his spotty career as a as manager (as Player, loved him)?

My beef with Acta is he is regressing on his promises on the type of team he wants to build. He seems to me to have given up on the Nats organization and just collecting a pay check. It sure looks to me like he wants out and he is managing to reach that goal.

Others are seeing it, no less of a homer than SBF is seeing it although he is having a hard time admitting it. I am often the first to offer my opinion based on what I see. I was one of the first to call out Logan. I was first to warn that losing as a plan is very dangerous. I was one of the first to call out Jimbo’s flaws, in his relationships and talent evaluations. Unless Acta rededicates himself soon to the promises he was hired on, I will be right about Acta as well.

An Briosca Mor said...

Others are seeing it, no less of a homer than SBF is seeing it although he is having a hard time admitting it.

Oh, I see, JayB. Like George W. Bush gazing into the eyes of Vladimir Putin, you have the ability to see into the souls of men and ascertain their true identities. I will bow to your superior power, then, and mark my calendar with today being the day you first revealed the true inner workings of SBF for the rest of us who read him.

Myself, other than more losses this year I see no difference in Manny Acta's approach or demeanor from last year. I guess the fact that he hasn't offed himself or exploded at any of his players (other than Dukes) or strangled his GM in the face of all the terrible play this year is evidence for sure that he no longer cares. Funny, though - last year when things were going better we saw no jumping for joy at his press conferences, no mad embracing of every player who got the most minor hit, no public attaboy for any good fielding play or anything of the like. He must not have cared then either. Why didn't you report that at the time?

Oh, and kudos to you for deciphering the rocket science to determine that prolonged losing is not a good thing. Who woulda thunk it?

SenatorNat said...

Bergmann quoted today as saying "short of hitting a three run homer, I did everything I could do..."

I like "Rutgers" as I dub him a lot, but no, Jason: you could have dropped a bunt down. Start working on it please.

As to Manny being Manny - Acta, that is: who do you guys think his role model is? I invite both JayB; SBF; and ABM and all others to opine. I have no idea at this point. Thanks - I look forward to your responses, seriously.

Trust in the observations of your fellow fan-pundits. All Speculative.

SenatorNat said...

Edits: "whom" and drop modifier "both." Spell and grammar check, Please.

Andrew said...

Can't we all just get along?

Agree to disagree and get on to the next subject....

I propose the next subject to be whether or not Jim Bowden should continue on as our General Manager or should Mike Rizzo be promoted!

An Briosca Mor said...

I honestly have no idea who Manny's managerial role models might be. I'm sure he has several, though, out of which he's molded himself into his own man. Has no one ever asked him this question? I would think someone must have. SBF? Svrluga?

Anonymous said...

As a high school coach, observing various leagues to see what other coaches do, here is a conclusion to think about.

Just about every coach teaches fundamentals, in their own way. Other coaches then don't agree with the way a kid was taught, or disagree on what exactly is an element of fundamental baseball. At the high school level, we expect our kids to know the game, simple as that.

Todays athlete requires 100% of your attention as a coach. If they are unhappy, they will quit. If they don't want to do something, and you try to teach it to them over and over again and get fed up with it, they will quit. A lot of coaches choose to teach "specialty" positions so that these kids will continue to play the game. If a kid knows he is a closer, but won't see a second of time at any other position, and is happy with that, great. It is better than having that kid selling drugs or robbing a store.

My point is, yes, kids today lack fundamentals, due to a variety of coaches, new ways, etc. But there is some positive in the teaching the kids a specialty.

Anonymous said...

However, I am glad to see you found something interesting to write about seeing as our beloved nats seem to be struggling in their ways...