Respect is Earned, Not Given

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | , , | 14 comments »

Washington Nationals manager Jim Riggleman addressed his team today before the squad's first full-team workouts.  From accounts, it was the typical meet and greet, "let's go out there and have a good year" pep talk, with some introductions and logistics thrown in.

But the skipper had some words to his team about raising and exceeding expectations as well.

From MASN.com's Ben Goessling this morning
"A lot of people in the room got a chance to say a few words," Riggleman said. "My message to the ballclub was basically, 'It's a tremendous amount of talent in the room here. And with that talent, expectations get raised and so forth. So let's meet and exceed those expectations and play baseball.' We've got a lot of good baseball players, we've got a lot of good athletes in the room. It's a great group that Mike (Rizzo) and the Lerner family has put together. The job we have to do now is make this group a team. I feel real good about this large group becoming a good team."

Asked what he was most excited about, Riggleman said, "I think, just in general, the athleticism. I think it's a good base of talent there that is athletic and can run the bases, create a little pressure on the defense now and then. That talent and athleticism should show up defensively and cover some more ground in some areas, give our pitchers a better chance. That athleticism, where it translates to offensively, we'll have to wait and see. But I feel like there's a good possibility we're going to be a better offensive club as well."
Not to put too fine a point to this, but the ideas of "raising expectations" and "exceeding expectations" are fairly separate concepts, and already Riggleman is employing an "us against them" strategy with his players -- and the media.

By emphasising that he wants to "exceed expectations", he's acknowledging the idea that most "experts" see the Nats as a flawed team with meager aspirations of competing.  I suppose it's only natural that he'd use this as a motivating tool with his players -- it's the most common rallying cry in sports today: "Nobody respects us."

Well, as my retired Marine Corps drill sergeant father told me all the time growing up, respect is earned, not given.  If these Nats want to be respected, want to raise expectations and be looked at as contenders, they'll have to earn it on the field, not just talk about it in a spring training introduction.

14 comments

  1. Jenn Jenson // February 22, 2011 at 1:12 PM  

    My, my, aren't we grumpy this morning.

    Talking about where you want to go and doing it on the field aren't mutually exclusive. I'd argue they're usually mutually reinforcing.

  2. Dave Nichols // February 22, 2011 at 1:25 PM  

    Jenn, not grumpy at all. just referencing the "us v. them" motivation, that's all.

  3. Jenn Jenson // February 22, 2011 at 2:24 PM  

    Ah, I see.

    To some extent, my ears heard the comments slightly differently than your ears. I heard "us" and thought it was mostly about being a team and owning the goal/expectation of improvement. I didn't think the "vs. them" aspect was as important.

    But in a way, I don't care how Jim frames his charge. I want him and Mike and everyone else to use every motivational technique they can think of, as long as the pieces add up to a coherent and consistent whole. Beyond the fear of losing their job, some guys will be self-motivated and the team aspect will resonate, while others may relate more to a battle with "them."

  4. Anonymous // February 22, 2011 at 3:10 PM  

    Dave,
    We know your not much of a Riggs fan and wishing Manny was still running the team. Sorry I know you and your wife are still bitter about how the Lerners got rid of him, but time to move on. Riggs did much better than Manny did with at best a slightly better roster. He had better lineups in both 2008 and 09 and the team reversed hence why we have Jim. Jim unlike Manny maintained the status quo last year, something Manny fell behind in both 2008 and 09. I know your going to blame injuries but that's just part of the game, every manager has to deal with it. Did the Packers say we lost Ryan Grant in week 1, Aaron Rodgers for a few games, and Charles Woodson in the first half, among others and give up?

  5. Anonymous // February 22, 2011 at 3:28 PM  

    Ms. Jenson raises some good points. Outside of Zimm and Werth, none of them have long-term contracts, isn't that motivation? Sorry if I'm missing someone. (LaRoche has two years, I don't count that).

  6. Dave Nichols // February 22, 2011 at 4:04 PM  

    Anon at 3:10 pm: thanks for your comment. i don't think my personal preference for managerial styles has anything to do with today's post. i was simply making the statement that the Nationals have to earn respect. Wanting it and earning it is two different things. essentially, if they are going to "exceed expectations", as Riggleman put it, it's going to be in the wins and losses column. how he gets them there is his own business.

    i may not prefer his style of managing, and 140 years of statistics may prove that agressive baserunning and hit-and-runs don't work, but that'll never stop "old school" baseball guys from doing it because that's how they grew up and they played the game the "right way".

    but again, today's column had nothing to do with any of that :-)

  7. Princess Jazzy // February 22, 2011 at 4:39 PM  

    Well, Dave there may 140 years of statistics stating that hit and runs and agressive baserunning don't work, but I wonder how Whitey Herzog and his championship Cardinal teams would feel about that. It must have been somewhat effective as it got Whitey into the Baseball Hall of Fame. ;)

  8. Anonymous // February 22, 2011 at 5:08 PM  

    Dave,
    Let me just say, I respect your baseball opinions, but I don't think you will have anything positive to say about Riggs. I think you nitpik little things he says. Yes, respect is earned, not given but I feel like your sometimes writing a thesis on why Riggs is a bad manager. And going from a phrase in a ST meeting is pretty a low indictment of him IMO.

    My comparison with Manny is this, despite his generally worse track record including with the Indians last year, you refused to criticize him and said he would make a good manager one day under the right circumstances, couldn't you make that argument with anyone? Before going to the Yanks, where was Torre? He had a very similar record to Riggs.

  9. Dave Nichols // February 22, 2011 at 5:11 PM  

    PJ: that of course is the extreme example, the Herzog Cardinals and the 80's Royals teams that were built to take advantage of the hard carpets in both stadiums.

    essentially, every time a baseball team makes an out, it lowers the chance of scoring a run, which reduces the chances of winning the game. it's just math. and you have to be hyper-efficient in baserunning to make it worth the effort, which very few teams as a whole are.

    Earl Weaver had it right: play for one run, and that's all you'll get.

  10. Dave Nichols // February 22, 2011 at 5:19 PM  

    Anon: you keep bringing this up, but I haven't written anything about Manny Acta since he was fired. and I did criticize Acta when he was the manager, you can go back in my archives and look it up. I just think he's got the right idea about what constitutes "winning baseball".

    but you're absolutely correct about needing the right players to perform. Rizzo and Riggs have their hand-picked players now, so we'll finally see if they have the right ideas.

    yes, I nit-pick on Riggleman. yes, I disagree with his style of managing. his numbers as a manager speak for themselves.

    I took a comment he made in public and interpreted it and interjected my opinion. isn't that what writing a blog is all about? you want me to just lay out what he said verbatim and not offer my opinion? where's the fun in that?

  11. Princess Jazzy // February 22, 2011 at 5:19 PM  

    Dave: Though I may not like Math (LOL - scary scary numbers) I do know this. Speed on the basepaths can kill. It can kill when abused by Nyjer Morgan or it can score you runs when you use your brains. Also, if you believe that hitting and running in baseball is "old school" than what does a "new school" manager do?

    I'm not asking this to be a smart ass, I was just curious.

  12. Princess Jazzy // February 22, 2011 at 5:22 PM  

    FWIW: I think Manny Acta's numbers speak for themselves also. Manny may have the right "idea" about winning baseball but he certainly hasn't put it into practice on the field. Just saying.

  13. Dave Nichols // February 22, 2011 at 6:33 PM  

    PJ: patience and power is the most effective offense. if you're really interested, go on Amazon and buy a copy of "The Book", by Tom Tango, which goes into great detail explaining and de-mything how baseball managers play by "the book". it's eye-opening.

    here's a link to "The Book"

    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Playing-Percentages-Baseball/dp/1597971294/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1298417497&sr=8-5

  14. Princess Jazzy // February 22, 2011 at 6:36 PM  

    Thanks, Dave, I will check it out.