Coming into Spring Training, everybody has pointed out someone who has something to prove to the organization and to the fan base.
Luis Castillo has been the number one player mentioned followed closely by Ryan Church and Daniel Murphy. For awhile, even I had to agree. I wrote endless blogs about how Castillo had better get his act together or he should be shipped out. No questions asked!
Then I started to really think about what really wins games. Is it pitching? Maybe offense? How about defense? Most people would argue for just pitching. Those who want Manny Ramirez would say offense.
Reality check: It takes everyone from the manager to the last player of the bench to win ballgames. Everybody contributes.
Do you not remember the games Willie Randolph lost because he brought in the wrong reliever from the bullpen? I know you have not forgotten the lousy call by Luis Aguayo to send Endy Chavez to home plate during the 8-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies back in July last year.
The manager and coaches need to be aware of everything that is happening on the field. The manager needs to be conscientious of his relievers. Know who is available and who is not. Give roles and do not waver on them. Be aware of who is hurting and who is not. Know who can give you more than just one inning. Do not overwork the bullpen. Do not be afraid to pull out your starter.
Coaches on the field should not be afraid to move players along the basepaths. Watch all opposing defense members. Know their strengths and weaknesses. This will tell you when to send a player home or if it is wise to leave him at third base.
The offense needs to hit. Plain and simple! They need to learn to pick each other up if one member is not hitting. Be patient at the plate! No more swinging at whatever comes at them. Choose your pitches. Get on base by whatever means, a walk, a hit, getting hit by a pitch. Move players into scoring position. If the starting pitchers are having a hard time getting through innings, the offense needs to pick them up as well as the bullpen.
Speaking of the bullpen, it is their job to stop the bleeding if the starter of the game gets into trouble with the opposing offense. If four or more runs are scored and the bullpen is brought into play, they need to stop the opposing hitters altogether to give their offense a chance to come back.
It is the job of the defense to back up the starting pitcher at every opportunity. Fly balls need to be run down. Calls need to be made in the outfield as to who has a better chance at catching a ball. Infielders need to stop botching plays, like overthrowing a ball from third base to first base. Players need to get back to doing diving stops.
It has to be a situation where it is do or die out there. Omar Minaya has done a tremendous job in stock piling players who are already seasoned to play in the majors, if needed, within the minors at the Triple-A level.
While I want these players to play hard, let it not be done wrecklessly. Play hard, but also, and most importantly, play smart.
This is call for all hands on deck!