Jeff Schultz wrote something about the Braves’ recent change at hitting instructor that is worth pondering in the context of Georgia football. No, really.
There was a week remaining in the last Braves’ season when hitting coach Greg Walker, worn down by too many strikeouts and hard-headed players, phoned team executive John Hart to announce his exit.
“He called me and said, ‘Uncle,’” Hart said. “He had done a good job here. I wanted him back, and I ended up bringing him back later as an adviser. But he said, ‘John, I’m done.’”
We’ll never know if Hart, now the Braves’ president of baseball operations, really intended to keep Walker as hitting coach, given that the club ranked 26th in the majors in batting average, 24th in on-base percentage, 29th in runs scored and fourth in strikeouts.
But Walker’s exit reaffirmed his former job can crush a man’s will, fry his brains and lead them to run screaming into the night, like the health inspector at a nuclear-waste repository.
Now, we’re talking about professional baseball players, men who earn a salary from their job performance. Skip playing winning baseball as a team goal. You’d think that listening to people whose jobs are to make you better in your line of work would be natural, given that bettering yourself will eventually lead to a bigger paycheck. But apparently last year’s Braves team had its share of stubborn knuckleheads who reacted to that kind of support like a stone does to running water.
And yet somehow, there’s a chunk of us who expect college players, who are (presumably) younger, dumber and motivated by things other than money, to absorb their coaches’ direction and play at their peak, emotionally, mentally and physically, week after week. Because if they don’t, you can’t blame an inexplicable failure to be prepared at, say, a game against a mediocre Florida team on them. It can only be the fault of lousy coaching.
That isn’t to say that coaching sometimes isn’t the right place to point the finger, or that some players do have the internal stamina to show up every week regardless. But while Mark Richt, durr, may be a satisfying explanation for the knee-jerk crowd, sometimes you have to take into account that kids will be kids. Learning to listen is part of growing up. At least for some.