Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Picture the back fields at Port St. Lucie. For a moment, pretend that new Mets manager Mickey Callaway was running a drill at Spring Training. Imagine that drill included each player practicing a walk off home run celebration.
Apparently, the Washington Nationals think so. According to The Associated Press, first year skipper Dave Martinez, who took over a team that won 97 games under Dusty Baker last season, had all his players practice their walk off dinger celebrations during the team's base running drills on Saturday.
"Every player went to a back field and mimicked a home run, then trotted around the bases while doing their best to enjoy the moment. All of this just in case they end up sending D.C. fans home happy with some game-ending heroics this summer.
"I tell them, just like everything else, we work really hard, I also want them to have fun," Martinez said. "(I told them that) it's going to happen. One of you guys are going to hit a walk-off home run."
Look, I see both sides. On one hand, Spring Training is dull and monotonous, so anything to keep the players happy and loose is fine. Butwe're talking about the Nationals, a franchise that has won three of the last four NL East crowns, but failed to advance past the NLDS. A team that is on their fifth manager this decade. A team that is still the prohibitive favorite in the division, which means that with those lofty expectations, is just as possible they fail to meet expectations (in Bryce Harper's walk season no less) than exceed them.
To me, this just seems like a byproduct of Martinez's inexperience. Part of being an MLB manager is understand the optics of your team's actions. I'm sure Martinez thought this was a great visualization technique that would keep camp light, but the risk of looking like overconfident ass clowns totally likely outweighs whatever benefit could come of this.
Maybe that's not fair, because if Hall of Famers like Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox would have done this while they were managing, they would have been able to get away with it. If Mike Scioscia or Joe Maddon wanted to try this out, I doubt anyone would bat an eyelash. But all those aforementioned managers who have won world championships. Martinez is a guy who hasn't won a single game as an MLB manager yet.
Of course, if the Nationals win the East again, then go on to take home their first pennant in franchise history, Martinez will look like a genius who earned the love of his players with a fun camp. But if the Nats pull a 2015, he's going to look like an idiot. That's quite a calculated (and unnecessary) gamble, one I'm glad Mickey Callaway hasn't decided to take.
In stark contrast, on Sunday in his postgame presser, Callaway called out his players for not executing the fundamentals. Callaway preached preparation; a readiness to execute the little things that win baseball games, rather than making sure they look cool after they've already won one.
Which philosophy is correct? I guess we'll see. In the meantime, get your jokes ready, because this could get really, really fun.
Our first nighttime weekend game of the season! Let's go big for this one. Swing by to see some friends, maybe meet some new ones, and responsibly wash down a couple cold ones.