Thursday, July 9, 2015

Playing with Personality

Rick Porcello won his first game in, like, a year last night. Some wondered if that would be the game he finally came around because it would be the first one in a while with Ryan Hanigan behind the plate. There was speculation that the return of that comfort zone might be enough to snap Porcello out of it. Which it was.

If course, that ignited the long-standing debate over personal catchers, and whether pitchers should just be able to throw any catcher. Which, of course, they should be able to. In a perfect world, the pitcher should just be able to put the same level of comfort and trust into any catcher the Boston Red Sox deem worth of putting into the line-up.

Really, that should apply to any issue of player comfort. A batter should be able to hit in any part of the order. A reliever should just come in whenever his name is called. They’ve been telling them that since Little League. You do what you need to do.

But, that’s the big distinction. The Red Sox aren’t in Little League. They aren’t in the business of making better players. They’re in the business of winning games with the players they currently have. So, they owe it to themselves, and their fans, to put the team in the best position to win each and every night.

Sometimes that means putting players in spots or roles where they’re most comfortable.

So, sure, in Little League a coach might tell Clay Buchholz that he’ll be throwing to whichever catcher is back there. He needs to learn how to deal with the different circumstances. He’s young. He’ll be better served if he learns to adapt. Which might be the difference. As a high schooler, or even a college kid, it’s all about the player showing a team what they can do. You want to show that you can throw to any color chest protector. But that all reverses once he’s in the majors. Now it’s all about the team dealing with what it has.

So, would it be nice if everyone was Brock Holt? Of course. Imagine if every player could just wake up, see which position he’s playing that day, and just go hit. But, there’s a reason why Brock is such a great story. That doesn’t happen all the time. So, with the rest of the players, they have a choice. They can just tell everyone they’re going to change things up all the time and deal with the lack of production that results from it, or they can put players in their best position and get the benefits of increased production.

Other businesses do it. You don’t tell a layer who’s shy and quiet to go into the courtroom. Sure, any lawyer should do whatever you ask of them. But, that’s not putting your firm in the best position for success. It’s the same with baseball.

So, you can wish that Clay or Rick didn’t feel better with one catcher over another. You can hope that Pablo Sandoval can switch between first base and third base effortlessly. You can hope that Dustin Pedroia hits as well no matter where in the line-up you put him.

Or, you can accept that players are humans with their own set of preferences and quirks. You can accept that some players are better suited for different things. Then, you can assemble your team based on getting the most out of every player on the roster.

Wouldn’t that make the most sense?

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