Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Let's Try Playing the Quiet Game

There is a great scene in The West Wing where the press secretary, C.J. Cregg (Alison Janney) is being debriefed by the White House Counsel, Oliver Babish (Oliver Platt) about what she knew about the President not disclosing that he had Multiple Sclerosis during his first campaign run.  The back and forth between the characters is fantastic and Platt and Cregg are just awesome in just about everything they do, so I love the scene.  Oliver is trying to explain to C.J. how adversarial the prosecution is going to be and how her words are extremely important in her testimony.  It ends with this exchange:

OLIVER: Do you know what time it is?

C.J.: It’s five past noon.

OLIVER: I’d like you to get out of the habit of doing that.

C.J.: Doing what?

OLIVER: Answering more than was asked. Do you know what time it is?

C.J.: Yes.
This is definitely a scene that should be watched by Mike Quade for his own good.  He likes to talk and explain his reasonings behind his methods, and it is making his life with the reporters a little easier right now. But there is going to come a time (and it will probably be sooner rather than later) where his explanations aren't going to just get scrawled down on a notepad, or recorded for later transcription.  What is simply being reported now is going to be gone over by any number of people in the media, in the blogosphere, and by fans on social media sites. He needs to stop answering more than was asked.

Right now, Quade is only getting hit by a few bloggers who wonder about why he would insist on treating his future star shortstop like a child, but as the losses pile up the scrutiny is going to increase.  People are going to wonder why the batting order is the way it is.  Why is so-and-so in the rotation?  Do you think you should have pulled the starter when you did?  Why did you leave the starter in so long?  How come you didn't use Marmol for the fourth day in a row?  Have you lost control of this team that has just lost five straight games?

The questions are endless.  Ask Lou Piniella.  He'll tell you what happens when the manager makes moves and the team loses games.  People want answers when there really aren't any answers besides the team just isn't all that good.  Or if you want to be charitable, because the team isn't playing well right at this very moment.

Lou had his absent-minded old grandpa routine he could fall into to deflect some of the criticism, and it worked as long as the team won more than it lost.  But even Lou couldn't control the beast when the losses piled up faster than the wins.

Quade wants to give a thoughtful answer to just about every question he is asked.  God bless him for trying, but there is going to come a time when some beat writer in this town is going to have a narrative that he thinks is good copy and he will work very hard to fit whatever quotes into that narrative.  Quade is giving these guys way too much to work with.

He told a story about working with Soriano's defense in the outfield:

"He's cut, he's in great shape, he's ready to go from Day One," manager Mike Quade said. "We had to push him to really get into working out (in left). I ran him into the wall and hurt him once. That was not good."

That happened in the spring of 2008, and Soriano missed a few Cactus League games.

Quade said playing the wall is "one of the difficult things for outfielders — and Wrigley's walls are close, so you spend a lot of time near them — and I just decided we're going to do some wall work. I ran him into the darn thing, and he hurt his wrist. When you're an outfield coach for Lou (Piniella), you're going 'Oh, man, I'm looking for work. (Soriano) might miss a week, and I'm missing the end of the year."

That's a funny story and shows that Quade can get through to his veteran big-salaried players.  It also just told a media that looks for any reason to dislike Soriano that he didn't like to practice defense when he sucks at it.  I'd argue that two years ago Soriano was probably more concerned about trying to get his MVP-level offensive game back from 2006 than marginally improving his defense.  Who knows?  I wasn't there and Quade didn't give any context.  So when Soriano messes up in the outfield (which he WILL do), there will be someone dredging up that quote to smear Soriano as someone who doesn't give a shit.

Now imagine that sort of thing happening repeatedly this year and on a larger scale.  The media has any number of targets.  Zambrano gets mentioned in just about every story about the Carlos Silva/Aramis Ramirez scuffle and he wasn't even in the damn ballpark when it happened.  Aramis is basically in a contract year, so you know he can't win - if he plays well, then he is only making a push for a big contract and if he doesn't than to hell with him for being lazy and selfish.  Castro will have to walk on water to meet the expectations set for him between what he did as a rookie and seeing how Derrick Rose has become a legitimate MVP player for the Bulls at such a young age.  Byrd has ties to Victor Conte, which the media just now seems to be finding out about - I knew last year - how did I know before everyone else?  Garza has been touted by the organization as an ace-level starter when nothing in his peripherals suggests that he actually is.

Every single one of these angles, plus a hundred more that we can't even conceive of yet are going to be thrown at Quade, and he is going to talk and talk and talk in an effort to satisfy the beast.  Good luck with that, buddy.

Don't say it doesn't happen because we're seeing what happens when a coach says too much from the story about him stating there were members of the Miami Heat crying in the locker room.  You don't think that coach wishes he could turn back time and delete that phrase from his post-game comments?

Quade seems to be a good guy, but he is going to learn one way or the other that the media is not his friend, nor will they treat him like a friend when things go bad this year.  It's going to be interesting.  The media hasn't had this much fodder since Tom Trebelhorn had his meet-and-greet at the firehouse on Waveland.

"Let me tell you a story about a man named Shh!"


Ryan said...

Interesting. This relates directly to what I wrote recently about whether Quade is too much of a good thing at:

I was talking about perhaps he is giving the players too much information about what to expect re: posting lineups days ahead of time, etc and whether or not that type of communication is a good idea or not in setting a tone for the season early. Your take on it with the way he communicates with the press is very interesting. I loved the West Wing and you're right, that was a great scene. I like the way Quade runs things and how open he is, but I also agree with you. Quade better learn to simply answer the question he's been asked or else it could come back to haunt him sometime in the future. Great post.

Prose and Ivy

Aisle 424 said...

Being transparent with the players is great, but he doesn't seem to draw a line. We know far too much about why Castro got a day off. There was no need to explain that it was because he made some defensive mistakes to the media. Some stuff needs to stay in the clubhouse or it is bound to be taken the wrong way and you are going to have guys all pissed off that their manager can't keep from throwing them under the bus every time Sullivan shows up with a recorder. There is no way to control it in a media market like Chicago, so the best way to deal with it is to not give them so much material to work with.

mb21 said...

That West Wing scene is exactly the kind of answers Quade needs to be giving.

Eddie said...

It doesn't even matter if Quade gives them quotes to work with. They'll just make shit up. You think Steve Rosenbloom needs quotes to rip anyone he doesn't like?

mb21 said...

That's a great point, Eddie. It's unfortunately all too true.

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