The Baseline: The blessings and banes of baseball’s benches


Story by Emily Gresbrink

Sometimes the most entertaining part of watching a baseball game in person is the dugout.

If you’re close enough, or the big screen flicks over to the bench, you’ll either see a bunch of happy guys chattering, some serious gum-chewing, stern stares or a very angry team manager and staff.

But did you ever stop to think that this dugout and clubhouse atmosphere is what makes the team?

I have a theory that this is true. Let’s examine a few questions about behind-the-scenes action and see if this theory is correct.  We will look at two major questions:

Do crazy managers help or harm the team? 
I think it really depends on the team and if they are in the major or minor leagues. Take, for example, the former Orioles manager, Earl Weaver. To be completely polite and just … he was a crazy-ass man.  Ejected from more than 90 major league games during his tenure with the Orioles, he was an insult-machine toward official and umpires. Yet the Orioles soared during his time there: They won six Eastern Division titles, four American League pennants and a World Series championship. During that span Weaver had only one losing season, so something there was right, if you ask me.

Then, on the other hand, there’s current Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. This man turns purple when he is angry but is so hilarious. My sides ache after watching him freak out over a crystal-clear out. But as I’ve made very clear (and what was refuted in the past weekend against the Orioles), the Twins aren’t doing so hot right now. Sure, Gardy has had very successful teams, but in recent years they’ve been doing poor. He has a naughty habit of throwing third baseman Danny Valencia under the bus — and that kid is good. He always pulls him out of games or hisses at him for messing up, and Valencia is one of the best third basemen in the division. He’s also allowed some of the best players to go to other teams without even a nod goodbye. That’s not OK at all.

So crazy managers: Are they a help or a hardship? Both — we need forcefulness like Weaver’s but not force against the players like Gardy. Find a balance and run with it, especially with teams that are suffering.

Does the team’s involvement off the field assist or resist winning?
This is another yes-but-no answer. Teams that have more money (cough YANKEES cough) often times find themselves with nicer clubhouses, nicer stadiums, nicer everything. That can create confidence and perhaps, in turn, better playing. Sometimes it does take a little spending to gain some winning.

But then there are the teams that are humanitarians — not the richest of teams, by any means. The Phillies teamed up on the Phillies Harmony Club, a workout program for people of all ages and abilities to get in shape. The Twins raised enough money through a program with Pepsi to open a ballpark for adapted baseball (for handicapped or blind players).

Oh, and I guess even the greedy ol’ Yanks gave half a million dollars to help with tornado relief in Texas not that long ago …
I guess I’d actually say that a team who sticks together off the field sticks together on the field. Money within the clubhouse (and going out) has an effect on the team’s image as well as how they play, but it’s the humanitarian and community efforts that count.

Overall, I am going to stick with my theory that the attitudes, behaviors and habits within a clubhouse and on the benches does affect how a team will perform.  It can be a swing factor, based on the positivity or negativity, but nonetheless, watching a manager flip out or seeing your favorite team give back to the community will certainly bring a smile to my face any day of the week.