Thursday, November 3, 2016

Baseball and schooling still both a players' game

Cubs Jason Heyward went 0-5 but may have been the MVP
The amazing Cubs could never have won 103 regular season games or even gotten to the playoffs and World Series without a manager like Joe Maddon, who encouraged his players to do what they do best. He kept his young team loose and confident all year. His starting pitchers knew when they were scheduled to pitch and what was expected of them and his closer, the great Alroldis Chapman, brought over from the Yankees, was mentally ready to come in to demolish three opposing hitters with his 100+mph fastball, in the 9th inning of any close game.

Then, for some some reason, which shall remain a mystery, all that changed during the last three games of the Series. Suddenly, under pressure of his team being down 3-1, Maddon morphed into an uber-manager, over-thinking and taking the game away from his players. It was as if he panicked and lost confidence in the very players who helped get the team to where it was.

I won't rehash all the details here. But I watched Chapman leave the dugout in tears last night after giving up a game-tying home run when his overworked arm just couldn't deliver any more. I heard ace starter Jon Lester say, no mas to any more relief pitching after he was misused and wild-pitched home 2 Cleveland runs in the 5th.

Maddon's pitching changes and over-managing over the last three games were both puzzling and disheartening, even to his own players. I'm not saying anything here that every sports writer, TV commentator and fan hasn't said a hundred times over the past three days. Of course this all makes for great between-pitch chatter and after all, isn't that what's wonderful about the pace and cerebral quality of a baseball game.

Then, after the In***ns tied the game in the 8th and had all the momentum working for them, a miracle happened. The Cleveland sky opened up and the rains came down so hard that the game was stopped while the ground crew rolled out the tarp and TV viewers (including lots of teachers who had to wake up early and teach this morning) all groaned.

Thankfully, the rain delay only lasted 17 minutes. But it was enough time for the Cubs players, led by right-fielder Jason Heyward, to hold a "players only" meeting without Maddon and his coaches. With little time for complaining or criticizing, the players picked each other up and pulled the team together. They realized that the game was on their shoulders now, regardless of what their managers/coaches/execs did or didn't do.

This from USA Today:
There were no coaches, no front-office types. Just the players, all 25 of them crammed into a tiny room with bright, white walls, low ceilings and row upon row of gleaming weights... With his teammates surrounding him, Heyward began to speak. He’s a quiet man, Heyward, preferring to let the other veterans be the vocal leaders in the clubhouse. So when he does speak, his words have a gravity that commands full attention.
Looking around the room, Heyward said that every single one of them had played a part in bringing the Cubs to this point. Whether it was soon-to-be NL MVP Kris Bryant, rookie Albert Almora or veteran backup catcher Miguel Montero, Heyward reminded them, the Cubs had gotten this far as a team.
They had everything they needed to win, Heyward said, so long as they believed in each other and played for one another.
“He spoke up and said this is about your teammates,” David Ross said. “He just said, `We’re the best team in baseball for a reason. Continue to play our game, support one another. These are your brothers here, fight for your brothers, lift them up, continue to stay positive. We’ve been doing this all year so continue to be us.’
The rest, as they say -- well, you know the rest -- with the Cubs winning the game with 9th-inning heroics. The team's first World Series victory in 108 years. There's nothing like a victory to paper over the mistakes of management. Unlike players' errors, they're never recorded in the box score. Heyward, who went hitless last night, could have well been the team's MVP.

Lessons for educators...Good schools are about teaching and learning. Principals, department heads, corporate boards (for charter schools) may have their roles to play but it's teachers and students that are the heart and soul of any school.

And unlike professional sports, education when done right, isn't about winners and losers based on somebody else's metrics. No race to the top.

Baseball and schooling are still both the players' game.


  1. One of your best posts, Mike. In fact, could be your MVP (Most Valuable Post).The rain delay story is amazing.*
    Perfect ending to a great season/series (& just what we needed in terms of some greatly needed relief from elections, 2016).

    *Nice to hear about people actually behaving with civility, respect & courage.


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