Friday, September 10, 2010

Quiet leadership?

The Tribune’s web site had a story posted on it from the Baltimore Sun written by Jeff Zrebiec. It was about the turnaround of Felix Pie in Baltimore.

The story was as much about Felix Pie as it was about his teammate Luke Scott. Scott is being credited to helping Pie change his attitude and work ethic.

Basically, in the middle of last season, Luke Scott confronted Pie…

He chastised his work ethic, assailed his character, questioned his discipline and labeled him a bad teammate. And before he was done berating Pie, Scott asked one final question.

"I said to him: 'Do you really even want to be here? Because if you don't, then leave and stop taking somebody else's spot who is willing to work hard,' " Scott recalled. "I told him, 'There are people here that really want to see you succeed, but you have to work, you have to make the effort.'

Pie’s failure in Chicago came as no surprise to me. I really hoped that things would go better for him than they did, but I just didn’t see the possibility of a kid of his type succeeding in Chicago with the manager and players that we have here.

After reading this story, I began to think, “My goodness, the Cubs suck, they have no superstar players, and they have absolutely no leaders.” Part of the problem while Pie was in Chicago was that there was no one that would stand up to him and talk to him as Luke Scott did in Baltimore. In fact, the Cubs might have just the opposite with Alfonso Soriano (who was rumored to have been teaching Pie some of his “bad habits” off the field). Baltimore is an even worse team than the Cubs are, with a much smaller payroll) but it at least has a player like Luke Scott to confront a slacking player.

Some people continue to wonder why I had been so vocal about trying to trade Derrek Lee. Lee was the leader of this team for the last 6 years, since Sosa left. While Lee had the tired title of “class act” during his time here, he appears to have very rarely approached a player who was out of line. People said that he showed “quiet leadership.” Well, quiet leadership doesn’t work when you have loud leadership from an inappropriate source like Soriano. Quiet leadership doesn’t work when you have a veteran basket case like Milton Bradley. Quiet leadership doesn’t work when you have a loud, out of touch, impatient manager.

I wasn’t happy when the Cubs brought Kevin Millar into camp this year, but now that I think about it, maybe it was a mistake for the Cubs to cut him. Millar was the type of player that the Cubs hadn’t had in quite a while. Maybe they needed him. At the same time, he would have been a bench player, and would hardly be called a leader of the team. But the Cubs could really use a player to stand up to someone else and say, “Hey Theriot, you have the speed of a turtle, so stop trying to steal bases!” or, “Fonzi, do us all a favor and run out a ground ball every once in a while.”

Having a manager that could relate to the players might be able to do this. On the other hand, I think having a player on the team to do this might be much more affective. Authority figures inherently cause players to rebel…at least a little bit. When a fellow teammate calls you on behavior, it tends to have a much bigger impact as it apparently did with Pie.

If a player like Luke Scott was on the Cubs, maybe Pie would have succeeded here in Chicago. Or Corey Patterson. Or Milton Bradley. Or any number of other players who failed here over the last decade.

I suppose it is just another nit-pick on this team. I suppose that’s easy to do as they approach their 90th loss.