In any good relationship there is a lot of give and take, talking through problems and many compromises along the way. Solid partnerships are very much the same. You play off of one another’s strengths, back each other’s play, celebrate when you profit and makes plans to pick up the pieces and rebuild if you happen to fail. As I was listening to my co-host on Bucs in the Basement, Chris Lanuti, speak with former Bristol Pirates Pitching Coach, Eric Minshall, many of these thoughts and others like them began to fill my mind, when thinking about the rapport that is developed between a coach and a player; especially considering the experience, insight, ability, skills, tools and knowledge that each of them bring to the table.
The underlying element to any of these relationships, partnerships and friendships, whether work related or personal is trust. Trust in another person’s motivations, knowledge, abilities, assessments of certain situations and the information that is gathered through experience. Now what happens when an outside source takes away any of these positive attributes that you often utilize in an attempt to be successful? Or either person involved starts to doubt their own abilities? In any organization, especially one as large as the Pittsburgh Pirates, these and many other components can cause success to be much more difficult to achieve.
During the interview that I was a part of, I heard Eric speak about the technology that he attempted to institute during his time with the Bristol Pirates, the mental toughness that is needed to allow players with natural ability to reach their full potential, the confidence that can turn an above average pitcher into more than their natural abilities would otherwise allow and the effect that positive relationships and trust can have on one’s performance. This made me all the more impressed by the success that many of the pitchers under Eric and his fellow coaches tutelage were able to have, in spite of the constraints that they had to deal with; both organizationally and personally. Not to mention the unforeseen hurdles of injury, illness and any other setbacks that they had to overcome.
I understand that plans change and adaptations are necessary, but how can you bring a man into your organization because of his abilities to utilize technology in order to convey his message to the players he is working with and then take it away before the method is fully implemented? How can anyone judge or project the potential of a player without knowing the exact process that he and his coaches are using to bring about the best results? I am a self proclaimed prospect junkie that puts a lot of stock on projections and scouting reports. It was extremely eye opening to hear about the fact that a player like Tahnaj Thomas has a “lights out” change-up that makes players look “silly”, but could be underrated due to the fact that he only used it in the last three or so games of the year because that was the plan he and his coaches had come up with together. This is listed as a pitch that he is still “working on”, which could be seen as true because pitchers are technically still working on their craft at all times in order to develop, grow, improve and ultimately perfect. However, this somewhat ignores all of the work that was put in during countless bullpens involving the pitcher, his coaches and teammates to ensure that this pitch and others are “major league ready”.
Many things were put into perspective for me, while Eric and Chris talked and even when Eric answered a few of my questions; most of all my own perceptions. As much effort as I put into my “scouting”, analyzing, making projections and writing about players; I am not fully invested in the day to day workings that go into making a player who they will become, so my insight will always have its limitations. I may be correct in my assessment, like I believe I am concerning a player like Santiago Florez, but I don’t have nearly the amount of information that Eric has, from working directly with him day in and day out or know exactly what Florez is thinking when he is on the mound. No one does!
As it exists in every organization, the same can be said for the Pittsburgh Pirates; maybe more at times, that there needs to be a balance between technology and feel or the good old eye test in determining what is best for a player. I am a numbers guy/a stats nerd/an analytics junkie. I take in every bit of information possible about a player, but that is only a part of the overall equation. The other parts are relationships, partnerships, rapport, mental toughness, natural abilities, work ethic, preparation and so much more; and we can’t take any of the for granted. The success of the Pittsburgh Pirates now and in the future depends on all of it.
Link to the full interview with Eric Minshall, Former Pitching Coach for the Bristol Pirates/Current Pitching Coach for the Southern Illinois Miners below.