Shane Victorino and Charlie Manuel aren’t seeing eye-to-eye

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There’s a story in today’s Philadelphia Daily News about Shane Victorino and how he might bounce back from a relatively down 2010.  Charlie Manuel thinks its a matter of focus:

“First of all, I think he got a little bit more home-run happy. That might have had something to do with it. But also, I think it might have been the fact that we’ve been successful. We’ve won games and went to a couple World Series. It might be a relaxation thing or something like that.

“He just didn’t stay focused as much as he usually does. We talk about consistency. Every time we have a meeting, [we say] the game is about staying focused. They say, ‘Oh, there’s nothing wrong with us and we’ll win tomorrow. We’ll get ’em a couple days from now or next week or whatever.’ I think, sometimes, when you get secure, you get relaxed. It’s not like you mean to do that. It’s just kind of human nature. And all of a sudden you’ve got to be woken up to how you’re supposed to play.

It’s hard. You’ve heard me say we’re getting too complacent or we’re getting relaxed, this and that. But you go tell somebody that and he acts like he don’t see that. Being around as long as I have, in a way, I kind of understand that. But, at the same time, you have to back up and take inventory of yourself and be honest with yourself.”

Except Victorino doesn’t seem to want to buy into it:

“People try to use that as an answer. Why did guys struggle? Oh, because they’re comfortable. Charlie used that word complacent. I don’t know. My definition of complacent may be different than Charlie’s. Our team, I don’t think, ever gets complacent. It’s not us. It’s not our nature. It’s not the way we are,” he said.

“I absolutely understand why people would say that. But you look in our clubhouse. There’s no way our demeanor has changed. Our hunger is just the same. We ended up with 97 wins, the best record in baseball. In our defense, there’s no way you can say our team let up because of multiyear deals or because of big contracts. There are a lot of expectations and a lot of hunger. There are a lot of guys who want to turn things around and show people they’re still on the map from the offensive side.”

Interesting. Victorino goes on to talk about his down year being a matter of mechanics. Manuel, the former hitting coach, thinks it’s focus.  One would think that Manuel would go with mechanics too rather than imply that Victorino wasn’t mentally prepared.  But he didn’t. Why might he not?

Is the bad mechanics explanation simply not plausible? Maybe, and given that Manuel is not one who engages in b.s., perhaps he’s not willing to give a nod to an excuse. But if Victorino’s problem truly was one of focus, was it something Manuel missed as it was happening or something that was pointed out yet went unheeded by Victorino at the time?

Just a strange situation all around. While Phillies fans may have a better recollection on this than me, I can’t recall Manuel ever calling out a player, even mildly like this. Which leads me to believe that, in this case, he considers it a serious matter.

What’s goin’ on?

Ramón Laureano made an absolutely ridiculous play yesterday

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I talked about it in the recaps, but dear lord does Oakland A’s outfielder Ramón Laureano’s play in yesterday’s game against the Blue Jays deserve it’s own post.

Jays first baseman Justin Smoak led off the second with a single Then Teoscar Hernández then came up and hit a long drive to center. In what, in and of itself, would’ve lead the highlight reels yesterday, Laureano ranged back to the wall and reached over to rob Hernández of a homer.

Laureano is known best for his arm, though, and that’s when he unleashed that hose, attempting to double off Smoak at first base all the way from the warning track. The throw was not on target — indeed, it sailed way past first base — but that was itself impressive as all get-out. As A’s pitcher Brett Anderson said after the game, he’s pretty sure the throw went farther than Hernández hit the ball in the first place. The arm strength on display there was simply phenomenal. But it was also lucky.

Lucky because the throw went so far into foul territory that it gave Smoak the courage to break for second base. Laureano was not the only one playing great defense on the play, though: A’s catcher Nick Hundley backed up the play, got Laureano’s errant throw and fired it down to second, nailing Smoak. And heck, Hundley’s throw was nothing to sneeze at either:

That did not go as an outfield assist for Lauerano, obviously, as his bad throw — which would’ve been an error had Smoak managed to advance, we must admit — broke that up. So, in the books it goes as an F7 and then a separate 2-4 putout. Still, it just shows Laueano’s incredible defensive abilities, both with the leather and with that cannon he has for an arm.

An arm that, this play not withstanding, gets him plenty of assists. Indeed, he has has five assists this season already and has 14 assists in just 70 games, which is a lot. To put it in perspective, it usually takes somewhere between 12-18 to lead the league in a full season with 20 being an outlier of sorts, only seen once every five years or so.

So, if you’re gonna hit it to center against the A’s, make sure you hit it all the way out. And if Laureano gets to it, for god’s sake, don’t run on him.