How the Rangers mentor Matt Bush’s journey from prison to the majors
Week 16 of the MLB season is in the books, and Chris Sale did something borderline insane, but in another sense, I get it. The thought was reasonable, the reaction however, was not.
Let’s go Whip …
I had the Rangers on FS1 this past Saturday in Kansas City and had a chance to spend some time with manager Jeff Banister, which is always a treat.
I was asking about Matt Bush, both on and off the field, and Banister revealed something I thought was pretty special. Bush and his manager meet every three days to “do life,” as Jeff described it.
Bush’s history is well known, and his rise to impact major-league reliever is incredible. Big-league life, especially success, brings big-league temptations. Banister knows how important it is to keep tabs on Bush, so he checks in with him frequently.
"It’s rarely about baseball," Banister told me. And perhaps the most fascinating part of this was when Banister said he "sometimes gets more out of it than Matt.” The conversation can go in any direction for both of these men: life, prison, parenthood, faith, etc. It’s all on the table and all about checking in with each other, spending time simply talking.
There’s no map on how to handle Matt Bush, on the field or off — the Rangers are in unchartered territory. Banister and Bush are figuring it out together. Much credit is given to Banister and the Rangers for what they have done, and continue to do, with Bush.
The Astros Mike Fiers had some choice words and a terse reaction toward his manager A.J. Hinch recently after being removed from a game on July 18. It was the fourth inning, Fiers wasn’t pitching well, and after two quick outs, five straight Oakland A’s reached base and Fiers was removed from his second consecutive start in which he couldn’t get through four innings.
Fiers was upset, he wanted to stay in. He reacted on the mound and then got into it with Hinch and later teammates in the dugout. Television cameras caught it all.
The first reaction is to say that Fiers was out of line, that he acted selfishly and should have shown more maturity. That’s easy to say from a distance. I’ve always said that failure and losing will bring out the worst in players. I’m almost always willing to give players a pass knowing the pressure and competitiveness big-leaguers deal with every day. In the moment, regrettable things happen.
I had a chance to talk with Hinch about it, and his response showed me what a great manager of men he really is and how much he understands the modern-day player.
"The place in which the behavior comes from tells me the most," Hinch said. Fiers was in competition mode, and he let his team down. His manager taking him out confirmed that. He wanted to stay in and compete.
"There’s a strong teammate component to Mike Fiers," Hinch added. "He’s a good teammate, he wants to do his part to help a team win."
Because of that, it is easy for Hinch and his teammates to look past the incident. If you’re a known selfish player, it doesn’t work that way. The Astros and Fiers moved on. He responded with seven strong innings in his next start, a 13-3 win over the Angels on Sunday.
With rumors swirling that the Dodgers are willing to listen on Yasiel Puig, I had an interesting conversation with one of his former teammates on who Puig might be outside of Los Angeles.
Jimmy Rollins, who played with Puig in 2015, believes that Puig could flourish in a smaller market without all the distractions, as long as the freedom to be himself in the clubhouse existed.
Puig is a big personality and has had a lot of voices in his ear telling him how to act, how to play and who he needs to be as a big leaguer during his four seasons as a Dodger. Compound that with the attention you get playing in a city like Los Angeles and maybe you can understand some of the behavior we have seen from him.
My initial thoughts are that Puig might get bored going from Los Angeles to say, Cleveland, and that his performance might suffer. Rollins sees it differently. He says with an influence like Juan Uribe and a manager like Terry Francona, a former teammate and manager of his, we might just see the best version of Puig.
Less distractions, less pressure and perhaps that same player that lit the baseball world on fire in 2013 could reemerge. If the Dodgers move Puig, they will have to sell low — his value based on what he has been in the past just is not there right now.
Much in the way the role of the major-league manager has evolved, so has the role of the major-league coach. Ned Yost told me on Saturday things have changed dramatically since he was first called up to the big leagues in 1980.
"My coaches were never coaching players in those days," Yost said. "They rarely talked to you. That can’t happen anymore."
Why? It’s about trends.
Teams are obsessed with getting young, talented players to the big leagues as quickly as possibly these days. The reason is that organizations are trying to capture what should be the most productive seasons of a player, while they are in their 20s. That often means that these called-up players aren’t fully matured and ready when they get to the show. They’re still learning, and if they are still learning, then they’ll need somebody to teach them.
“That used to fall on veteran players,” Yost told me. But there are fewer experienced players in the major leagues these days, and the coach’s role becomes more critical.
There was a time when coaching staffs were filled with a manager’s friends, guys he liked, which didn’t always mean they were the best coaches available. The best communicators and the best teachers are sought after now more than ever by teams.
I asked Yost if an increase in coaches’ salaries has followed. "I know they have here in KC. Our organization understands the value of good coaching, and we take care of our guys."
MLB Whip Around — The Show, airs weeknights on FS1.