There is a scene in the baseball movie “Bull Durham” when the manager is perplexed as to what to do with his struggling team, and asks Crash Davis for his thoughts.
Davis tells him “scare them, they’re kids”.
Granted, the movie was set in the minor leagues, but it doesn’t take much to apply it to the professional sports teams in Cleveland, because the Indians, Browns, and Cavaliers are all very young compared to most of the squads in their respective sports.
The Tribe just let go of Manny Acta, a younger manager who didn’t seem to be an “old school” disciplinarian, and now GM Chris Antonetti is in the market for a new skipper, with Sandy Alomar Jr. and former Red Sox manager Terry Francona regarding as the leading candidates.
Pat Shurmur is a first time head coach, and seems to fit the profile of a players’ coach, not a person who is going to be tough on young players, educating them in the ways of being a professional football player.
Only the Cavaliers seems to have the “my way or the highway” leader in veteran NBA coach Byron Scott. Scott has established early and often that he’s the coach, and things will be done the method he prefers. If you don’t like it, you will play elsewhere. Ask J.J. Hickson.
Those coaches usually don’t have a long shelf life, because players get tired of the constant harping, and start to tune them out. Again, Scott is the prime example as although he had success in both New Jersey and New Orleans, he lasted just four years with the Nets and five with the Hornets.
But they are needed to teach and guide young players in the ways of being a professional.
With the Browns, Shurmur seems like a good man, but do the young players wearing the brown and orange fear him? That’s doubtful. Take the case of Greg Little, yes he is disappointed that he drop passes with the frequency other people blink, but when does the coach sit on him on the bench? Sometimes, a player has to understand that he won’t play unless he produces.
With the Tribe, Francona isn’t a Billy Martin type, but he would command respect based on winning two World Series with the Red Sox. He would be the first Indians manager with a resume of success since who knows when.
In fact, since 1960, the only coach/manager hired with a world championship in his background was Lenny Wilkens, who won a title with the Sonics in 1978-79.
Francona has been regarded as a players’ manager with the Sox, but he didn’t put up with Manny Ramirez’ antics when his contract was coming up, so he will put his foot down when he had to. He also developed several young players such as Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Perhaps a skipper who was tougher on players would insist that Asdrubal Cabrera would pay more attention to his craft and stay in better shape in the off-season, and would have consequences for players who seem to be happy to play, but don’t expect to win.
Joe Torre worked with the Yankees, but that group was mostly made up of veteran players, so an easy-going guy works better with players who have been around. He did break in Derek Jeter, but Jeter was very respectful of his manager and the older players probably guided him as well.
When new coaches are hired in Cleveland, the type of team they will be inheriting should be kept in mind by the front office.
Maybe it’s not scaring players, but it’s difficult for the person being the boss for the first time to be able to guide young players on how to be a pro.