Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Psychological Warfare of Buck Showalter

I didn't write about this when I originally saw it just because it seemed to be such a non-story. But Buck Showalter's comments in the April issue of Men's Journal seem to have caused shockwaves through the Evil Empires.

"I'd like to see how smart Theo Epstein is with the Tampa Bay payroll," he said. "You got Carl Crawford 'cause you paid more than anyone else, and that's what makes you smarter? That's why I like whipping their butt. It's great, knowing those guys with the $205 million payroll are saying, 'How the hell are they beating us?'?"...
"The first time we went to Yankee Stadium, I screamed at Derek Jeter from the dugout," Showalter told the magazine. "Our guys are thinking, 'Wow, he's screaming at Derek Jeter.' Well, he's always jumping back from balls just off the plate. I know how many calls that team gets -- and yes, he [ticks] me off."
Showalter has taken a lot of psychological tactics since coming to the team. He has let the team know last season that nobody is assured a job in Baltimore for 2011. Even in Spring Training, he will not commit to Jake Fox as the backup catcher, even in the face of 8 homers. Similarly, Zach Britton is almost assuredly going to Norfolk but Buck seems like he wants to keep him in camp as long as possible...perhaps to send a message to the other three young starters that nothing is decided yet.
Beyond that, his gamesmanship has been showing as well. The comments above poking the division Goliaths. His practice of not throwing Jeremy Guthrie and Chris Tillman against division rivals in Spring Training. 
Who knows if any of these tactics will have the desired effect? But he's trying to change the mindset in Baltimore. And that can't be bad in the long run.
"Let's face it," Showalter told the Bergen Record, "I know where we sit [in the East]. I just want my players to know it's not hopeless. That's the main thing I'm trying to do here. How is it going to pan out? We'll just have to see."
If it ruffles some Yankee and Red Sox feathers in the process, all the better.

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