What’s in your clubhouse?
The topic of the baseball summer is, “What’s wrong with the Yankees and who needs to be fired?”
The owner says the general manager is fine; the general manger says the manager is doing all he can. The result? It must be the player’s fault. But you can’t fire a whole team. So where’s the problem?
The usual answer is “lack of chemistry.” But that just begs the question with a pre-formulated answer. The real problem is that the team is lacking those players who make the baseball machine purr rather than go “thunk, thunk, oouph.”
Baseball is a game of threes; so it makes sense that a good clubhouse needs three different types of players to make it run.
First, it needs a captain, a respected player who acts like a foreman; or a boss man; or, in the best example I can think of, a Big Daddy. That was what David Ortiz, known as Big Papi, was to the Boston Red Sox for the entire time he was there.
So what was his job? Can you imagine being a rookie and making one of the million possible rookie mistakes and having Big Papi put his arm around you and say, “Every rookie is allowed one rookie mistake. Don’t make it two.” That youngster’s knees would be going like castanets on a marimba dance floor. The odds on mistake number two just went down toward zero.
After the marathon disaster, Ortiz performed something like that service to the whole city of Boston. Now that’s a captain, even without the C on his chest.
Derek Jeter did wear that letter, and if he were still in the locker room, the Yankees might not be playing the way they are.
The second thing a team needs is a high priest, someone who initiates the rituals and ceremonies that mark success. He is the guy who organizes the high five routines, awards gold chains or laundry cart rides for home runs, or is in charge of dumping the Gatorade over the head of the walk-off game winner. The high priest has to be a solid player, a leader, and an inventor. He is the high priest of FUN.
The last guy may not be absolutely necessary, but he can help through the hard times: the clown.
Clowns were treasured in medieval courts for the same reason they help a clubhouse: They can speak the truth without getting anyone mad at them and can lighten things up when they get dark. The Yankees are definitely in the dark, but there is no clown to be seen in the dugout.
Pablo Sandoval, now playing for the Atlanta Braves, dons a panda head every time someone hits a home run and gives them a “Panda hug.” Now that’s a high priest of a clown.
It doesn’t look to me that the Yankees have any of these guys in the dugout, and that makes for a grumpy team that is lacking emotion and FUN. Chemistry is an elementary science, but trying to concoct team chemistry is an advanced class that the Yankees organization seems to be failing miserably.
Millerton resident Theodore Kneeland is a retired teacher and coach — and athlete.