Pirates President Frank Coonelly spoke to Cory Giger yesterday about the team’s failed second half and the criticism it has received over the reports of unorthodox training (i.e. Navy SEALS-type drills) for its minor leaguers. He says it’s overblown:
Team president Frank Coonelly believes much of the criticism was “overblown” and also gave a vote of confidence to assistant general manager Kyle Stark, who has come under heavy scrutiny for his handling of the minor league system.
Coonelly says it’s not a fair criticism to say that Pirates players are fundamentally unsound because they aren’t given enough baseball training in the minors. Rather, it’s a matter of mental conditioning:
“It’s performing the fundamentals of the game in the highest pressure situation, and so we continue to work with our players throughout our system … teaching them how to perform well under pressure situations, how to control their emotions, how to be mentally and physically tough so that when they face the adversity, whether it be in the minor leagues or when they come up to Pittsburgh, they’re prepared.”
If anything that sounds like an endorsement of the military-style training. Which, people who about that sort of thing will tell you, is not about learning to carry logs and all of that. It’s about mental toughness and discipline.
The question I’d have is whether you can truly compare the mental discipline required for combat — which I’d say is considerable, to put it insanely lightly — and that required for turning double plays. Which strikes me as more a matter of good habits and muscle memory as much as it’s about discipline.
The Red Sox have some tough decisions to make in advance of the World Series next week; namely, what to do with some of their hottest-hitting players once the series shifts to a National League park — and National League rules. During a press conference on Saturday, manager Alex Cora said he’d be open to the idea of starting All-Star right fielder Mookie Betts at second base when the club’s regular DH, J.D. Martinez, is forced to play the outfield during away games.
The Red Sox carry home field advantage through the Fall Classic, so Games 1 and 2 will be played at Fenway Park — as well as Games 6 and 7, should those become necessary. Depending on the outcome of NLCS Game 7 later tonight, World Series Games 3 through 5 will be played at Dodger Stadium or Miller Park. That’s when Betts might take over the keystone from Ian Kinsler and Brock Holt, both of whom have shared second base duties over the course of the 2018 postseason.
The idea isn’t without merit. Betts and Martinez comprise two of the team’s top talents at the plate and, should the Red Sox need to stave off elimination in Games 4 and 5, sitting either of them doesn’t make sense. The 26-year-old Betts led the team with a staggering .346/.438/.640 batting line, 32 home runs, 30 stolen bases, and career-best 10.4 fWAR over 614 PA, while Martinez posted some career totals of his own, slashing .330/.402/.629 with 43 home runs, a 1.031 OPS, and 5.9 fWAR in 649 PA. This wouldn’t be the first time Betts has taken reps at second, either, as he’s logged 15 games at the position over the course of his five-year career, most recently during a 4-1 win over the Yankees in August.
Whether or not Betts is considered a lock for all three games is another question, one to which Cora didn’t give a definite answer. “I don’t know, man,” the skipper told reporters Saturday. “[Betts] already played second during the regular season, so there’s always a chance, I guess.” He later added that while Betts would be taking ground balls at second, it’s part of the routine he’s maintained all year — so nothing should be read into it until a clear decision has been announced.