Ron Costello

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Mackanin Has Lost the Team

The closest example I can think of to a major league manager is a classroom teacher.

If you've never been a classroom teacher, no problem, I'll help you out. I have about six years experience, mostly high school (and I coached high school baseball). My wife Denise, however, has 22 or more years experience and was once named teacher of the year. She's my chief adviser on this post.

There are many similarities between teachers and major league baseball managers. Teachers manage 25 or more students in a classroom; there are 25 players on a major league roster.

A teacher manages a classroom of personalities — everything from egotists to crybabies to trouble makers. A baseball manager in the dugout has the same personalities.

Teachers have a subset of personalities called parents. Teachers reading this know that parents have to be dealt with, too, and they can cause problems.

Same thing in the dugout, only they're called agents. Players talk to their agents constantly, here's an example. Player on the phone: "He's not playing me he's playing that other stiff and I'm making twice as much." Agent: "We'll see about that, I'll call the VP of Baseball Operations tonight."

Parent: "Jimmy has too much homework, how do you expect him to watch his shows at night and be on the computer? Can't you just do what you get paid for and teach him in school? Forget it, I'm going to see the principal."

The goal of a major league manager is to win games while managing 25 superstars who watch every move and will pout faster than a fat kid chasing an ice cream truck. Casey Stengle once said, "Managing is getting paid for home runs someone else hits."

Teachers get paid — or hang on to their jobs — for test scores someone else makes.

Teachers have disruptive kids to manage every day, which brings me around to the Phillies Maikel Franco.

Franco is currently in a 'super pout,' which, on a baseball team, is disruptive. All teachers know about super pouts. They're as common as runny noses in the classroom.

Franco's been miserable at the plate so the Phillies manager, Pete Mackanin, benched him. Now teachers can't bench kids but they can send them to the office or have them sit in a corner. But good teachers rarely do either. Why? Because a good classroom teacher manages kids, they don't "unmanage" them."

Here's the thing. The Phillies need Franco like a flower needs rain. He's the one player who can move the Phillies UP in the standings, a guy they are counting on. A team leader. The kind of player a club builds a winning program around.

Only, Franco is not hitting or driving in runs, and that's really, really not good for the Phillies. Plus, his pouting continues right in the dugout and on the field, in front of the other players. Now Franco's buddies start pouting, and it slowly begins to unravel.

Lookit, sure as an ant in a greenhouse, losing usually follows.

So, here's how the Inquirer reported Phillies manager Pete Mackanin on the Franco situation. The newspaper stated: "Mackanin may not play Franco again Thursday. He said (Mackanin) he was waiting for Franco, 24, to step into his office for a chat about why he was out of the lineup."

Excuse me?

The adult (Mackanin) is waiting for the child (Franco) to come to his office to discuss the problem? Right now, any classroom teacher reading this will say Mackanin just flunked Methods, which is a college course teachers take to learn to manage students.

Which brings me around to the point of all this: Who, exactly, is managing the dugout for the Phillies? Mackanin is waiting until Franco comes to see him?

And you laughed when you read my last post about how badly the Phillies need Larry Bowa? Within any space of common knowledge you have or know about Mr. Bowa, do you think for one instance he would wait until the pouting Franco came to see him?

That is 'unmanage', not manage. That is no communication, not communication. You don't do that in a fifth grade classroom and you don't do it in any dugout, American Legion or the major leagues.

The Phillies are unraveling. Mackanin may have lost touch with the team. You can see it during batting practice, how the players stand around in the outfield in little cliches, talking. When they hold their gloves in front of their faces, you know they're not talking about baseball fundamentals. When a baseball manager has lost it with the team — exactly the same as a classroom teacher has lost touch with the students — they need to be replaced. It's not doing anyone any good.

The Phillies have a man in the dugout who can make it all go away, like a shot of penicillin. But it won't happen because of the inexperience — and questions about who's doing what — in the front office.

Like a good principal would, the front office needs to make a move and it's as plain as the apple on a good teacher's desk.

Too bad the Phillies don't have a good principal.

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