Monday, January 28, 2008

Clubhouse friction?

Last offseason, there was a lot of hand-wringing over comments by Jack Wilson about his preference for Freddy Sanchez at second base over Jose Castillo. Sanchez, of course, ended up at second, and Castillo spent the year as a little-used backup after losing the third base job to Jose Bautista. When I read Jason Bay's Friday comments about the franchise's direction, I started to wonder whether we're on the cusp of a similar situation this offseason.

Most of the discussion about his comments has focused on his (probably accurate) belief that the team isn't going to contend in 2008 without getting all kinds of breaks, and his criticism of the lack of significant moves this offseason, but I think that another portion was even more significant:
"You talk to people at these things and everyone is in the best shape of their life - all that's great, but it's your job to be in the best shape of your life," Bay said. "I really don't know if that carries a ton of weight. Ultimately, if a guy reports in the worst shape of his life and goes out and performs, nobody cares."

I don't think that Bay went off on a riff about conditioning because he was up late watching World's Strongest Man reruns on ESPN2. I think he was taking an implicit shot at one or more teammates who came to play in poor shape last year, turned in a lousy season, and then tried to turn things around by buffing up the chassis this winter.

I don't have any inside sources of information here, but a quick look at the newspaper archives suggests a couple of likely candidates. Ronny Ballgame received a lot of coverage for his offseason weight loss, and Chris Duffy has been claiming that he's "in the best shape since before [he] came into professional baseball". Maybe Bay wasn't so much upset about a general lack of moves as the lack of one specific move: a deal that would put the guy in question out of a job, if not on a flight to another city.


richiehebner said...

An excellent point, and that may well be exactly what he was talking about. I can't believe any of these guys can feel very good about the idea of Paulino getting his job back without any real effort to create a challenge to the notion that he should be the preordained starting catcher. It sort of makes a mockery of the idea of accountability.

WilliamJPellas said...

Well said, Hack, though of course the apparent lack of professional accountability which you mention is typical of losing teams and dysfunctional organizations. You know, it's like: did Ronnie Paulino turn into the Pillsbury Doughboy on his own, or did the Pirates' clubhouse make it easier for him to fail in his athletic conditioning? On a winning team, or at least on one that had shown signs of contending in recent years, would Paulino have been more likely to make more of an effort to stay in shape, or is he just another lazy jock?

However you answer such questions, it is clear that changing the culture of the entire Pirates organization is one of the more important tasks that must be completed before we can return to contender status.