Monday, July 13, 2009

What Is Coaching?

The Baltimore Orioles' manager Dave Trembley is serving a two-game suspension and paying a fine for coaching after being ejected from a game. In a game against the Seattle Mariners, the umps blew a call and the usually mild-manner skipper was thrown out of the game for arguing with the home plate ump. He went back to the clubhouse and during the next inning, the team's big slugger and designated hitter walked back to commiserate with his coach whom he thought was right all along. Trembley looked up and replied, "Get me a couple." For that comment, he was removed for two days.

Was it coaching? If the manager's job is to plan strategy and make moves, then surely it was completely innocuous to tell the team's biggest hitter to do the job he knows he is on the team to do. If he told Scott that because of the shift they were playing, he should surprise them with a bunt, thgen, yes, that would be clearly a case of coaching. But here, he was seemingly just trying to verbally accept the care that was being shown for him by one of his players and his comment in no way contained any information that would lead Scott to play any differently than he would have before.

One could argue that a coach's job is not only strategic and operational, but also motivational. A manager needs to get his players mentally in the game. Getting thrown out for a bad call is often seen as a way to demonstrate real fire in the belly and get the players charged up in the face of adversity. In this way, this comment could be a part of the manager's job and therefore something unacceptable.

In terms of the letter of the law, the line is drawn at contact to make sure that ejected managers don't take advantage. This is like tennis in which the no coaching rule frowns on a player on the court and his coach even having extended eye contact or a head nod. But it does raise the more interesting question here, what is coaching and would "Get me a couple" be counted under the best explication?