Thursday, August 27, 2009

Samuel Unprofessional in Attacking his Players

So Dave Trembley and Juan Samuel know exactly who is to blame for the baserunning errors that have cost the Orioles countless runs and wins this season. The players. That’s fine, and it has seemingly been known throughout the fan base that Trembley, who does put an emphasis on the fundamentals, cannot be culpable for the boneheaded decisions that have troubled both veterans and rookies alike. We talked about this a bit in Exhibit B of Trembley on Trial last week, and I couldn’t really find Trembley all that responsible. The coaches are doing the best they can, and it can’t really be their fault that his players don’t know to run on a 3-2 count with 2 outs when they should have been doing that since little league. However, Juan Samuel’s recent comments about their players were beyond the pale and irresponsible on a team struggling to stay unified as it endures another painful late-season collapse. This team need to stay together, and ripping your team to the media is just childish and is an unusual move for a coaching staff so accustomed to speaking responsibly about their players.

A few comments of Samuel’s in particular rubbed me the wrong way. When discussing the baserunning errors, the Orioles 3rd base coach stated, “They are major league players, or at least we think some of them are. To me, some of them are not. Some of them to me have to be thankful that expansion came because some of them wouldn't be here.” Is that really the message you want to send your players? That they don’t deserve to be here and are only up in the majors because the team needs bodies? On a young losing team they need something positive from their coaches, an expression of confidence of some kind- barring that, they need their coaches to just shut up and deal with things behind closed doors. I think that those players like Felix Pie who are struggling with their confidence and their instincts would be much better served talking with the coaches than being sliced and diced in front of the media. How can Samuel expect this team to be taken seriously- to even be watched- when he admits they may not even deserve to be at this level? NFL coaches deal with it with the line “we are very happy with who we have.” Apparently Samuel didn’t want to look across the parking lot to see how Harbaugh handled it when he didn’t have Derrick Mason. Yes you want better players, but you don’t tell your players they don’t deserve to be at this level. He should know better than that.

But Samuel just kept burying his team. “That's why you see teams that are up here [in the standings] and teams that are down here, because they don't want to be accountable. It's always somebody else's [fault], and that's a problem.” He must not have been referring to Felix Pie, who took complete responsibility for two losses on this recent road trip. Pie, if nothing else, seems racked with guilt over his mistakes, which only hinders his ability to play loose later. Since the beginning of the season he has played like a man with a gun to his head, nervous, awkward and unable to relax enough to make smart decisions. He has no problem with accountability. Nor have I heard any player come out to the media and blame the coached for anything, at least not publicly. And even if they blame the coaches behind the scenes (which I strongly doubt), at least they aren’t trashing anyone publicly and dragging their character through the mud.

Trembley had a better rationale, discussing player development and the de-emphasis on baserunning in the minors in favor of flashy hitting. He still put the blame ultimately on the players, and who wouldn’t? They are on the field. But he and Samuel still drew a line in the sand between the coaches and the players, and targeted the same men they rely on to keep their job. If a player smears his coach to the media he is disrespectful and deserving of a fine or suspension. Coaches should be given more leeway, but this staff shouldn’t be going to the press to express their dislike for their players’ mistakes. These players have shown Trembley, Samuel, and the entire staff too much respect, patience, and understanding in the face of so much losing that perhaps they deserve a bit of the same from their coaches. They are on the same team… right?

[Quotes from Baltimore Sun]

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