Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Frank Senior Moments

I've tried to give him the benefit of the doubt lately. And truth, be told, he's been excellent lately. Ever since Barry Svrluga rapped him on the knuckles, Frank has been on top of his game, and the number of inexplicable bunts has plummeted.

And besides, with the winning streak, no one really wants to hear a nitpicker. No one wants to watch someone poke a carcass with a sharp stick either. But, poking is fun. And besides, what the hell else am I going to write about?

Last night, down two runs, and with Esteban Loaiza clearly struggling, Cristian Guzman came up with a runner on first.

Frank has him bunt.

Nevermind that you're down one. Nevermind that Guzman's actually been swinging the bat halfway competently lately. Nevermind that your starter is struggling and that even three runs wouldn't be enough to win.

To compund the error, Guzman quickly got two strikes on him. Frank still has him bunt.

He strikes out, predictably.

Oh well.

It's certainly not the end of the world, and it's not the reason we lost the game.

But, if as Yuda pointed out in the chat, if you have so little confidence in Guzman there, why isn't Rick Short playing in his place?

But, Frank does do some things well. And TJ Simers' column in the LA Times shows what; he knows how to handle Jose Guillen and to keep the media from bothering him. In this case, he got Simers to focus on Frank's curmudgeonly ways instead of Guillen's anger problems.
"I'm not riled up," [Robinson] replies. "You're the one who is riling me up."

I laugh, because that makes no sense, and now he's glaring at me. I start laughing some more because I realize he's looking at me through sunglasses with only one eye. I learn later he had laser surgery earlier in the day, which explains the pirate look.

Robinson grabs the media credential hanging around my neck, and I'm thinking what a great Plaschke story this will make: "Poor sportswriter choked by his own media credential, and the gutty guy fights back with all his heart."

It also crosses my mind listening to Robinson's rant, that people think Guillen has an anger-management problem.

The Cyclops takes a closer look at the nametag with his one good eye and says, "Your reputation precedes you."

"So does yours," I reply.

Back in spring training, I figured that Frank and Guillen would get a long well. Frank was a similar kind of player; he had a reputation as a hothead in his younger days. I hoped they'd find some sort of common bond. It seems they have.

Before leaving for the road trip, Barry Svrluga looked at their relationship in a profile on Guillen.
When spring training started, Robinson knew he had a potentially combustible force on his hands, but he pledged not to judge Guillen. Rather, he wanted to sit back, to figure him out. He has discovered that Guillen craves communication. Robinson isn't one to talk too much to many of his players. He feels Guillen, though, needs to be heard in order to be happy.

"Mostly, I listen," Robinson said. "I listen to him talk about situations. I listen to him talk about events. It's usually baseball. He doesn't kid around a lot. When he comes to talk to me, I know he's serious, or he's upset about something. So I listen to him. I don't reason with him. I listen to him."

Which, in turn, has brought two commodities that can be hard for Guillen to give up: trust and respect.

"Frank always has been telling me the truth," Guillen said. "He always communicates well with me. You know what? I don't like to take a day off. But if Frank told me right now to take a day off, I'd laugh. I'd say: 'Okay, Frank. Whatever you want.' Because he showed me that he cares about his players.

"I know a lot of players don't like Frank. I love Frank."

Even though I nitpick some of his in-game decisions. And, like some others, I question some of his off-the-field maneuvers. But, I'm not blind to the things Frank does do right.

He's not a perfect manager. But who is? As long as his strengths outweigh his weaknesses the team will be fine.

Is he the long-term answer? Probably not.

But, it's really hard to quibble with the present results.

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