Coaching Philosophy And Matt Kemp

That’s right, again.

It’s your daily Matt Kemp situation/controversy/failboat post, because talking about the team being eleventy billion games back is even more boring.

Anyway, after yesterday’s news, it came out today that Dave Stewart talked with Bob Schaefer and Larry Bowa about their differences, and ostensibly, Matt Kemp.

“Both Schaefer, the Dodgers’ bench coach who also works with outfielders, and Bowa, the team’s third-base coach who also works with infielders, said their conversations with Stewart were positive and productive. But both also took exception to Stewart’s comments.”

“Bowa said he hadn’t actually read the Times story, but that he had been told about Stewart’s comments therein, which is why he called Stewart and talked to him for what Bowa said was about 90 minutes in the middle of the night on Friday morning.”

Nothing really unexpected there, but I suppose it could have blown up worse if that hadn’t happened.

So what do the Dodgers coaches do now? What does Matt Kemp do?

Rob Neyer wondered the same thing.

“I don’t have any idea, really. But you can understand the coaches’ frustration with Kemp just a little, can’t you? Larry Bowa and Bob Schaefer have been around the game forever, and they haven’t seen many players with Matt Kemp’s raw talents. And it must be killing them to think he’s wasting it.

Which doesn’t mean they’re helping. Maybe Kemp would benefit from an attitude adjustment, but maybe that process would be facilitated by a coaching adjustment.

Which brings to mind a question that nobody seems to have asked … What’s Joe Torre been up to? In the spring, the general manager ripped Kemp. In the summer, the coaches ripped Kemp. Is Torre waiting for the fall?

The fall doesn’t begin until the 23rd of September.

Of course, that’s probably too late for the Dodgers, who have already fallen too far. Maybe the solution here is to keep Kemp and find a new coaching staff. Because the old staff doesn’t seem to have accomplished much this summer.”

I understand the frustration. I think everybody has the frustration. I suppose the difference is how it manifests itself within each individual.

The most interesting line though, for me personally, was the suggestion that a coaching attitude adjustment could facilitate the development of a player.

In my opinion, coaches exists not for themselves, but for the players. You take the blame when the team loses, you give the glory to the players when the team wins. They exist in baseball, at least regarding things that do not relate to game management, to do whatever it takes to optimize the performance of their players.

Yet, I know a lot of people have a problem with this type of approach. The overwhelming amount of coaches I encounter use some form of the “my way or the highway” approach to the job, and I would suspect that a good amount of fans find that not only correct, but even admirable.

Personal Tangent Time

I’m obviously not a major league coach, nor am I anything close. Chances are extremely high that I will never be anything close. However, from tee ball to college, it has never ceased to amaze me how stubborn coaches can be, especially hitting and pitching coaches.

There are an extremely high percentage in those arenas that believe you must hit or pitch one way. It’s absolutely pathetic to see them waste a potentially useful player with talent just because the player in question doesn’t crouch exactly the way the hitting coach wants, or kick his leg as high as the pitching coach wants, or whatever other micromanaging idiocy they may use.

The same goes for personalities and player management. It’s a fact of life that some kids are resilient and some kids are not. People, in general, but especially in athletics, tend to dismiss the kids who don’t respond well to yelling and screaming like a maniac. After all, they are labeled soft, or some variation of such.

Me? I don’t see the point. In an ideal world, everybody wouldn’t need motivation at all. They would all be self-motivated, and the coach could then just concentrate on game decisions, but that’s not the way life goes, is it? No.

You’re dealing with individuals. Certain kids will be tough, cocky, and/or stubborn. Maybe you need to get in the face of those kids occasionally, as that’s either the only way they’ll listen, or that’s what will help motivate them. Certain kids will be self critical, will lack self confidence, and will be receptive to full explanations in a calm manner. Their response to your yelling is likely to be negative, which is obviously not what you want.

People can say the players in the latter group are being coddled if they want. They can use other adjectives to indirectly challenge the masculinity of the player as well, but the fact of the matter is that it makes a lot of sense to adjust your methods to fit what will help each player become the best they can possibly be. I don’t know, but effectively cutting down the potential talent pool that can stand to play for you, just because you’re too much of a egotistical prick to look at somebody else’s needs besides yourself, doesn’t seem like the best way to coach a squad. Maybe it’s just me.

After all, no amount of yelling at a kid is going to transform him from a quiet, shy kid to a loud, hard partying, frat boy asshole.

Honestly, which is easier? Adjusting your approach to individuals, which takes a split second shift in thinking, or attempting to rework a players entire personality that has been developed and reinforced all their life?

I’m not sure how this relates to the Dodgers situation, but take it however you want. Besides, I don’t know a damn thing about Matt Kemp as a person. Of course, I also don’t pretend to be able to read his mind like so many others apparently can.

I totally understand the romanticization of the macho, no frills, won’t bend for nobody type of authority figure. I do, because I used to worship at that altar too.

Now, however, i’ve come to believe that the real macho person would set aside his ego and do anything it takes to get the best out of his players. As in, he should adjust to his players, not make them adjust to him.

When you only have one way, and you make everybody adjust to do things your way, I think you lose valuable assets as a coach. You lose decision making flexibility and the ability to reach certain players.

After all, you want the most talented players playing at their best, because that results in the best production, which results in wins. Why limit the type of players that you are able to get optimal performance from just out of sheer stubbornness and/or ignorance? Not only does that handcuff your production, but also strategy, and the potential moves a front office can make.

How does this relate to the Dodgers? None of us can be totally sure, but I will say that based on what we’ve heard about this staff, and based on their histories, I worry that they are more the stubborn old guard than the progressive new one.

I stumbled across another interesting quote from Larry Bowa today as well.

“Anyone who has seen Matt Kemp crash into a wall, dive onto the warning track or run from first to third on a single knows that Kemp exerts himself every day.

But between those plays will be an occasional at-bat where it appears Kemp didn’t have much of a plan, or a night when, perhaps because of injury or fatigue, he will mope around for a few innings as if he didn’t really want to be out there.

‘I don’t think in the 2,200 games I played I could count on two hands the number of nights I felt great,’ said Dodger third base coach Larry Bowa, a former Philadelphia Phillie shortstop. ‘But that’s what separates the good players from the superstars; they’re able to grind it out.’

‘Matty has the chance to be a superstar with the way he hits and plays defense. But there are games when it looks like he’s not mentally where he should be. Sometimes because of his mannerisms–he’ll drop his head or something–you get the perception that maybe he doesn’t feel like playing.’”

What’s wrong with this quote? Well, it wasn’t actually about Matt Kemp, and it wasn’t in 2010. It was about Jim Edmonds, and it was back in 1998.

After a disappointing 1999 (0.8 WAR), Edmonds was traded from Angels to the Cardinals for Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield, where he immediately started a streak of six seasons of 6.4 WAR or higher, including a 8.4 WAR season in 2004.

Take it how you want.

About Chad Moriyama