White Sox need to differentiate between the big and small stuff
Accountability Post #2 – In a White Sox season filled with disappointments, not everyone has one. But those that do deserve consideration.
During the White Sox final game broadcast, Steve Stone asked a revealing question of fellow broadcaster Jason Benetti: “What was your biggest disappointment of the 2018 season?”
Benetti sat in stunned silence, appearing less stumped by the question but more seemingly afraid to answer. As a seasoned corporate type, I could smell the hypocrisy. The surest way to a CLM (“career limiting move”) is to speak truth to power. Better to drink the Kool-Aid, toe the line, and not be different.
After a long and awkward pause – which amounted to dead-air – Benetti sat in silence, completely stumped. Stoney stepped in and offered his own benign – yet painful – suggestion: Michael Kopech‘s UCL surgery. Yep, that was pretty disappointing (and safe to mention). But Benetti still couldn’t come up with anything. And, there were a few things he could have picked:
- Carson Fulmer’s implosion? Didn’t cross his mind.
- Jose Abreu’s injury-shortened season and falling short of his fourth consecutive 25 homer and 100 RBI season? Nope.
- Welington Castillo’s PED suspension?
- The prospect of the team losing 100 games for only the third time in their long history?
- A PLAYER NEARLY DYING?
In fairness, Benetti is a glass-is-always-completely-full kind of guy, and he likely didn’t want to focus on the negative. And lacking any meaningful positives, he could also have truly been stumped. But I don’t think so. Benetti continued to sit frozen until finally field commentator “Our Chuck” Garfien stepped in to kill the awkward silence.
This microcosm illustrates the broader scenario, which is an environment lacking accountability and truth, which is that the team has no demonstrable strategy. If there is one, what is it? I see “Rebuild” on the cover and skipping ahead 100 pages to “Contention” on the last page, but there is a huge middle section and therein lies the story.
At this point, Rebuild means throwing as much spaghetti on the wall and seeing what sticks.
Here’s my take on the biggest disappointment of the 2018 season: the manager. Rick Renteria incessantly focused on small things and not big things. The instances of benching over lack of hustle – whether real or perceived – seemed sophomoric and what one might expect an inexperienced Little League coach to do. Tim Anderson being benched for not running out a caught line drive, and Avisail Garcia being benched for not running out a ground ball while battling through a knee injury were absurd examples.
Renteria told Garcia he needed more from him. Should the oft-injured outfielder have risked injuring it further, potentially increasing the scope of surgery, treatment and rehab time? Should he have risked his career or jeopardized the team’s investment? C’mon, this is a big boy’s game. It’s this apparent inability to differentiate between big things and little things, every day stuff versus incidents that warrant concern. Should Garcia have not played due to injury and not contribute at all?
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Here’s a more extreme example: would Renteria have benched Kirk Gibson if he hit a double off Eck and not been able to run hard with his injured knees? The evidence suggests yes. Small thinking. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Tommy Lasorda exhibited bigger thinking and Gibson had the chance to beat the best team and closer in baseball even though he would not have been able to run out a ground ball – or any ball – which is how the Dodgers won the 1988 World Series title. Big thinking.
The Tim Anderson example he flat got wrong. This just shows the predisposition toward small things. Admitting he got it wrong would have been a big thing. He should have laughed, admitted his mistake, hugged his 20-20 guy, and reaffirmed his belief in him as a guy who busts it at every opportunity. Anderson after all is a guy who not only hustles but sometimes makes mistakes when he hurries too much.
How about this: instead of disciplining players in a visible display (benching) – coach them. I don’t mean gently, I mean in a discreet manner that engenders support and belief without showing them up. Rally them. Coach up, not down. It’s possible the Cubs knew something, maybe this, which caused them to so quickly snap up Joe Maddon and send Renteria packing. Old-school managing doesn’t work well with new-school players.
Teach the team to be killers and attack every potential opportunity, don’t look for cheap examples of rudimentary one-off behavior. Teach them to get on themselves and each other to establish a high-level accountability framework. This is what championship teams and winning cultures do. Teach them to trust you as a leader taking them into battle. They might not win, but they’ll die trying.
Growth is hard. Change is hard. Accountability is hard. It’s time this team made some hard choices.