I didn’t watch the game live last night, but instead watched Fresno State, the Underdoggest Underdog of all time win its first ever championship in any mens’ sport. This is a team who started its year 8-12 and only even entered the NCAA tournament because they had exactly 4 teams in its division, and they were, without question, the worst team.
Somehow, they won their division. Then, on May 15, they left Fresno, played ALL away games, and somehow, time after time, facing elimination against such outstanding home teams as Long Beach State and†Arizona State, they managed to pull together and defy all odds.
Unlike Georgia, there were no famous guys, no first rounders like Beckham and Davis – their best player went in the 5th round. They had a guy with dislocated fingers playing third and a guy with no thumb ligament playing the OF. They had no famous pitchers, they had some freshman playing short.
There were no el-cheapo victories, there were no games won because of bad ump calls, there was no thrill of the home town crowd. Somehow, their manager managed to not merely “pull the right strings” as in game strategies, but he managed to help, motivate and encourage his players. You don’t hear about “team leaders”, you don’t hear about the manager calling out players to the media, even when they made errors, even when their closer blew games, even when their ace pitcher gave up a homer to the worst hitter on the other team. You never heard “this is unacceptable.”
I’m talking about a bunch of young guys, age 18-21 led by a guy who had never played pro ball. And I would guess that none of those college guys were exactly mega-stars as HS players, or they would have been at Long Beach or Cal State Fullerton or Stanford or Southern Cal.
Contrast this to our Astros.
I just got around to watching last night’s game. Roy actually pitched an ace game – 4 singles, a double, a “triple” and a homer and 5 Ks. He gave up a leadoff “triple” on a ball that Clank Lee misplayed (jogged after) and a sac-fly, and a single, then a homer to a rookie on a FB he unfortunately left in the middle of the plate. He got ALL of his run support from Michael Freaking Bourn – you know, the guy that fans now want off the team in favor of Proven Veteran Darin Erstad who hasn’t played center full time in 5 years. The Astros left men on base in every single inning except one – and Tejada weakly grounded out to end the 9th with bases loaded. And I won’t even get near Reggie Abercrombie getting doubled off second in the 8th – BAD baserunning. I got ONE word – sorry.
Everyone who reads this blog knows that I wasn’t a huge Phil Garner fan. But I give him full marks for his people skills – even last year, when the Organization wouldn’t allow him to play Luke Scott full time – informing that Scott would platoon with Jason Lane, wouldn’t allow him to either bat Biggio lower in the order, ESPECIALLY after he got #3000 or to allow Burke to play second in away games, he managed to keep the team together, even though they were not exactly a good team.
Cooper seems to lack Garner’s ability as a team leader – not to speak of his actual in-game strategies. I personally think that things started going seriously downhill at the Arizona game in which he pulled Wesley Wright and sent in Borkowski to face pinch hitter Micah Owings and then, um, dissed Borkowski to the media. Borkowski is a mediocre at best reliever, but he was a very well liked guy (which matters) and it didn’t go over well.
There is obviously a lot of unhappiness with both Cooper as a manager and Dewey Robinson as a pitching coach – when Ace Roy Oswalt goes to Lance Berkman for pitching advice, there is a VERY serious problem. Lance has been doing pretty much all the talking to the media for the past few months, which is a good thing, as Lance is an EXTREMELY intelligent and thoughtful man (I never fell for that – gee, I’m just a dumb hick who majored at Rice University in sleeping) who knows how to talk without having to resort to Bull Durham cliches. Yet somehow, the Astros have been pushing the idea that Tejada is the real “leader” and that Pence is “the face of the Astros.”
I don’t know what has happened in players’ private interactions with either Cooper or Wade. And of course there is not any recording of any conversations that took place between Chacon, Cooper, Wade and Chacon’s agent. I Do have ears and eyes, and even I can tell that there was OBVIOUSLY very very hard feelings, bad blood – and this is in a clubhouse already in turmoil and disarray LONG before Chacon was relegated to the bullpen.
I want to make clear that I think it best that people, ALL people do their very best to use good manners at all times. I think that Cooper should not have sought to embarrass Chacon in front of his teammates, and Cooper most definitely did not need to come to see Chacon and request the pleasure of his private company at that particular time and in that particular place. Bad judgement. I think that Wade displayed extremely poor judgement screaming at and cursing Chacon in front of his teammates. Actually, I think Wade, as a senior executive, has no business screaming at and cursing ANY of his employees, whether in private or public. AND I think Chacon displayed extremely poor judgement responding with violence to Wade’s provocation. I do, however, understand WHY he lost his temper – but understanding is not the same as excusing.
And, to quote Derrek Jensen,
“Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.”
HOW many people have said that when Cooper and Wade behaved as they did, that Chacon should have immediately and unquestioningly said yassuh and submitted to whatever. How many people have said that Chacon had NO right to basically anything.
There must be instant and unquestioned obedience in the military, true. However, baseball is a business, NOT the military. Therefore, the rules are different. I know that there are many people who honestly believe that baseball players should obediently and meekly tolerate any indignity perpetrated upon them by anyone in management because they play baseball, which is, they say, a “privilege.” No, it is NOT a privilege. It is NOT an honor. Major League baseball players play ML baseball because they have EARNED a position. It is a job EARNED by MERIT. It is not equivalent to the multiple numbers of talentless bimbettes who “sing” on videos who are there because they have large boobs, skinny bodies and makeup crews. Ballplayers are not paid money – ANY amount of money to be humiliated or abused, any more than any other human is.
And, need I remind you, that Chacon, unlike any of us, does not have the option of quitting and seeking employment elsewhere.
I don’t know what the fallout of this hideous episode will be, and there will be more far ranging consequences than Chacon possibly banned from baseball forever. I know that Ed Wade has been looking into trades for all players not named Hunter Pence. I wonder if – and worry that the Chacon episode will cause any decent FA to cross Houston off their lists. Anyone who thinks that other ballplayers will have no sympathy with Chacon and will not ask him what happened are sadly mistaken. I wonder if Roy and Lance have privately demanded trades.
I know that a lot of people are demanding that the Astros get rid of basically every guy on the team except for Pence and “rebuild.” I wonder how many people understand that a team full of minor leaguers and rookies is not going to perform well, especially with someone like Cecil Cooper as manager.
I would be surprised if either Cooper or Wade is fired/reprimanded over this – after all, Chacon is a convenient scapegoat. But they had better come up with some reason why there is a poisonous atmosphere in the clubhouse AFTER Chacon is long gone.
Like that old song goes, he didn’t start the fire…
By the way, click here and here to read what Philly fans are saying. I can’t get any of the old Phillyburbs.com articles to come up, sorry…
My favorite comment:
“we need ed alive and stable, he already gave us our closer, here’s to him being convinced to give us roy oswalt too”