Troy Tulowitzki admits defensive struggles are ‘in my head’

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While discussing his defense during spring training of 2011, this is what Troy Tulowitzki had to say:

“I definitely take pride in playing great defense. Now that I’ve won by my first Gold Glove and my second Fielding Bible award, people who have questioned that I was too big to play shortstop, I think I’ve kinda put those people to sleep. Now they realize I can play the position.

It certainly isn’t easy being this big of a guy, 200-plus pounds, playing shortstop. I think guys like Cal (Ripken), A-Rod and Derek (Jeter) obviously, the bigger shortstops kind of changed things. They’re letting guys actually try out there now, if they’re athletic enough.”

Tulowitzki pays attention to UZR ratings (though he doesn’t necessarily trust them) as well as Gold Gloves and Fielding Bible Awards, and covets defensive honors as much as Silver Sluggers and All-Star appearances. So you know that his struggles in the field so far this season are bothering him.

The All-Star shortstop has made six errors already this season, including a pair of two-error games within a span of four nights. He made just six errors in all of 2011, and insists that he is healthy. Nonetheless, Tulo sat out Wednesday night’s victory over the Padres.

Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy said the day off was pre-planned, but it seems likely that the move was made to give Tulo a chance to relax and get a handle on his scuffling. In fact, Tulowitzki admitted to Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post that his defensive miscues were getting into his head:

“I think about it … Yeah, it’s in my head,” he said. “I’m taking the field and thinking about it. I never thought about defense. I just go out there and play, and if I make an error, I made an error. But I wasn’t worried about it. So, yeah, I think about it. It’s in my head. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t in my head. I think about it because I care.”

It’s a pretty open assessment from Tulowitzki, who is also hitting just .244 so far this season. You would hope that the rest helps him clear his head. The last thing you want to see is one of the game’s great defensive players suddenly turn into Chuck Knoblauch.
Rockies veteran Jason Giambi has done his part to help his friend, showing Tulowitzki a highlight reel of some of his top plays.

“People, fans, media, teammates, we all have to realize the Tulo is human,” Giambi said.

That may be true, but the superhero version (see below) is much more enjoyable to watch. Here’s hoping he hurries back.

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Athletics hire third base coach Matt Williams

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The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.

Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.

Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.

While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.

“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”