Tears of a Clown
There are times, to be sure, when a grown man crying about sports is both expected and accepted. The aging veteran, finally hanging up the spikes in retirement, usually can't make it through the press conference without choking up. The college hoops star, walking off the court in his last game -- usually a loss in the tournament -- often hides his tears by burying his head in the coach's shoulder. Cory Gibbs, who just learned his knee won't let him play for the United States in the World Cup, understandably shed a few tears at the news. Even cynical old me bawled like a newborn while watching the video of J-Mac, the kid with autism who finally got in a high school basketball game and scored 20 points.
Having to take the mask from a fat guy who can't play catcher, doesn't really want to play catcher, and shouldn't be playing catcher, should not, I submit, make anyone cry. Well, maybe his over-protective mom who has always been quick to feel her son's failures a little too closely, or his grade school child after being teased by classmates. But the last person who needs to be crying about the decision to replace LeCroy with a less awful catcher in a close game is his manager, Frank Robinson.
Yet, that's exactly what Frank did today after the game yesterday. He said he "trusts his veterans," but that "he had to do something" when LeCroy kept throwing the ball to Damian Jackson in CF when trying to get runners out at second. Apparently, Frank considers being pulled by your manager mid-inning a tragically sad event, especially for a veteran ballplayer. I think every other person in the park, even LeCroy, thought it was welcome, necessary step towards the Nats winning the game, and that any bruise to LeCroy's ego would be salved by a few Krispy Kremes in the clubhouse and the $850,000 he'll make this year.
This should have been a total non-event. But Frank's antics prompted ESPN SportsCenter to treat it as newsworthy, even though by any measure it was ordinary. Did you know the last time a catcher had 7 guys steal bases on him in a game was 2002? For those readers who weren't alive in 2002, it was a crazy time when MLB actually had 2 teams in Canada, the All-Star game did not "count", and Benny Agbayani was still playing.
This little awkward moment does confirm, however, what we've all thought -- that Frank is first and foremost a player, not a manager, and has a hard time seeing the world from a perspective other than that of a Hall-of-Famer who hit nearly 600 home runs and is probably still a little bummed that the time when he could grab a bat and send one into the seats passed away over 30 years ago. If Frank was pulled mid-inning by Earl Weaver, he'd have considered it the greatest indignity, as he apparently still does. But a manager who worries how a guy like Wil Cordero will take being replaced deserves the under-.500 career record he has.