Winners Take the Blame, Losers Point Fingers

finger-pointingDaniel Murphy is far from an excellent defender at first base, and he may never hit enough to make up for that deficiency as a full-time cornerman.

But he does have at least one trait that is commonly seen in players on winning teams: the willingness to take responsibility for his actions.

From David Lennon’s column on Newsday, in regard to last night’s ballgame:

“I’ve got to make that play,” Murphy said. “I make that play 100 times, but tonight I booted it and we lost the ballgame. It’s tough. I left a small village on the basepaths tonight, then booted the ball that lost the game. It was a pretty awful game on my part.”

The truth is, Murphy didn’t lose the ballgame. The METS lost the ballgame. They lose as a team and win as a team. Murphy can be identified as a scapegoat for the loss, but he had help. The fact that he’s willing to shoulder the blame, however, suggests that he thinks about his actions in a larger context beyond himself — he understands that what he does, good or bad, can affect the outcome for everyone.

In contrast, there is this quote from his “teammate” — and I use the term loosely — Francisco Rodriguez:

“It looked like a foul ball all the way,” K-Rod said. “But regardless, you’ve got to stop the ball, somehow, some way. After that the game fell apart.”

Some have explained away this comment as “frustration”, due to the hard loss and the even harder season — both for the closer and the Mets. However, rather than a result, I believe it is a central reason — a symptom, if you will — for the Mets’ inability to win this year.

Daniel Murphy made a physical error. He’s someone whose strength has never been defense, and has been placed in a position where has very little experience. He’s trying very hard, and working hard, to be adequate. This is not a case where you have a guy who was too lazy to bend over for a ball, or who takes his roster spot for granted. A Major League first baseman might have made the play on the grounder that went for a double. But Murphy is NOT a Major League first baseman (yet).

For Frankie Rodriguez to say what he said — to pin the blame of the loss on Murphy — may have come out because Frankie was frustrated. But it was also exposing his own character flaw of selfishness. It’s bad enough that K-Rod’s feelings were blurted out after a game, but the more alarming issue is that THE THOUGHT WAS IN HIS HEAD. Winning teams do not think in terms of placing blame; they don’t find ways to escape responsibility. Rather, they find ways to rise above adversity — to pick up their teammates who have faltered. Mistakes happen — as evidenced by K-Rod’s hitting the next hitter to put the winning run on base. Do you think Daniel Murphy was muttering to himself, “it’s Frankie’s fault now, he just put the winning run on base” ? Not likely … he was probably thinking, “OK, he made a mistake, let’s pick him up”.

As it turned out, Murphy did the opposite of “picking up” his teammate, but that’s not the point. The point is how one approaches the situation. It happened, it’s done, now let’s see how we, AS A TEAM, can overcome it.

K-Rod’s comment last night, coupled with Johan Santana’s similarly selfish finger-pointing back in April (ironically, also of Murphy), and several comments through the year by Carlos Beltran are hints of an ineffectual, potentially harmful ethos evolving in the Mets’ clubhouse — one which has been supported by Jerry Manuel (who has been blaming the Mets’ poor record on injuries since May), and is not the kind of attitude that leads to winning. Instead, it is the language and habit of losers.

Beltran, Santana, and Rodriguez are all exceptionally gifted athletes and outstanding players, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to conduct themselves as winners. All three have played on teams that went to the postseason, but unfortunately, none seem to really “get” the concepts that drove them there. This isn’t tennis — it’s baseball, which again, is a team sport. Absolutely nothing positive can be gained by pointing out the mistake of a teammate; he already knows when he’s screwed up. Negativity never breeds success.

There may be some people who feel that these “leaders” are expressing themselves as a means of telling the front office that they have made a grave mistake in forcing Daniel Murphy into the lineup and on the field. If that’s true, it’s something that needs to be discussed behind closed doors — not in this passive-aggressive style of using the media as a conduit. Still, it’s not how true leaders, or winners, conduct themselves. Winners find solutions, while losers look for excuses.

(BTW, I’ve written a similar post on LockerBlogger, a new social networking site for connecting fans, athletes, and coaches.)

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 September 17, 2009 at 2:28 pm
    This is a definite problem; but it speaks to the overall situation for the Mets.

    A handful of quesitonable “superstars”, who are being paid tremendously to produce under the spotlight of NYC.

    The rest of the squad?

    A bunch of severely (perhaps fatally, from a baseball perspective) flawed players, who have been relied upon to be something they’re not, at levels they’re unfamiliar with.

    Murphy has struggled all year, whether it be in LF, 1B, or at the plate — it’s been just one consistent “grind” for him. Uncoincidentally, we’ve seen him cost the Mets a number of times….and his teammates throwing him under a bus at least a couple of times that we can remember.

    Ditto, Pagan. For all the production at the plate, we’ve seen that he’s a dope in terms of Baseball IQ — and this quote from Beltran, not only spoke to me that he tried his best to call Pagan off in the outfield…….but that Pagan just doesn’t have the common sense that most others on the field otherwise possess.

    Forget injuries: No team will win when everyone is on different pages; with their own agenda.

    And I personally feel that we’ve seen this for far too long w/the Mets — even as the roster starts to turn-over. They need to find a “mix” with the players they bring in, from here on in.

    It’s apparent to me that the wheels from the “LOS METS” movement from years ago are on their last possible patch. And it has nothing to do with prejudices, or anything — I just see alot of selfish ballplayers on this team; mixed with others who might have no business in being anointed “role-players” on a team with aspirations of contending for a World Championship.

    Chemistry is huuuuuuuge…..and the Mets haven’t had it for some time now.

  2. Wendy September 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm
    I agree, K Rod did show his true colors with his statements last night, same with Beltran and Santana, i understand management wants them to be part of the leadership core with Wright but he is nothing like Beltran and Santana.

    Jerry Manuel and David Wright talked to Murphy about his baserunning blunder on Sunday night but neither threw him under the bus or demoralized him the way that K – Rod did, intentionally or not, this was a bad example to teach a young teammate how to handle a loss with class.

  3. Walnutz15 September 17, 2009 at 2:50 pm
    OOPS….Typ-o up there from me — “questionable”*

    (And to clarify, I am aware that this Beltran quote was from months ago — but you saw it even way back then…..and it’s been confirmed with every Pagan screw-up since.)

  4. 86mets September 17, 2009 at 5:25 pm
    To be somewhat fair to K-Rod you must remember this isn’t the 1st time this season he has seen a routine play botched that never, never, never should have happened (see-Castillo, Luis vs. Yankees). K-Rod is emotional and doesn’t always think before he speaks, but I can understand the frustration. Maybe what these Mets need is to watch 4 hours of video of 4-5 year old kids playing t-ball so they can understand what “fundamentals” are! :);)
  5. joejanish September 17, 2009 at 6:56 pm
    K-Rod is emotional, and he doesn’t think before he speaks, it’s true. And when he speaks, the truth comes out. THAT’s the crux of the matter — he is THINKING that the game was Murphy’s fault, rather than taking some of the responsibility.

    Santana is the same. Beltran as well. The three of them think they are so perfect that they can blame others when games are lost, because “I did my job”.

    That’s BS. Great players find a way to pick up their teammates, not fault them.

    And how many times this year has K-Rod put the winning runs on base, only to be saved by his teammates making plays behind him? Plenty more than the few times they failed him.

    If he crawled into my foxhole I’d kick him out.

  6. mic September 17, 2009 at 8:57 pm
    Interesting discussion. I might contend that THIS is the reason why the Mets must and will make a managerial change if for no other reason to change communication and discipline in the clubhouse.
  7. Andy September 17, 2009 at 9:28 pm
    I wonder what the Mets would be able to get in trade for Rodriguez and Beltran this off-season. There is no way they are competing in 2010 no matter what they do. If they can get a squad of talented young prospects in return I think it would be worth it, and I’m sure Beltran and Rodriguez would waive their no-trade clauses if the move were to a team in contention. The improved clubhouse atmosphere would be a bonus.
  8. mic September 18, 2009 at 8:41 am

    On Andy’s note: The mets will be back to form next yr. stock up on prozac and watch them go down to the wire.

    The next two to three weeks will say alot. I expect JM to be relieved and the front office to reorganize (to appease the public/media).

    I expect one major trade and a big FA signing.

  9. Jack September 18, 2009 at 9:45 am
    Excellent article,that speaks directly to some things I’ve been saying this
    year.First off,I’m a Yankee fan,so I don’t follow the Met’s as closely as my
    own team,but I have noticed this behavior before.
    This is I believe central to the list of Met problems,and I have to believe
    that it is time to see what some of these players can bring through
    trades.Inexcusable to throw a teammate under the bus in the press.It’s the
    wrong behavior even if it were to happen away from the glare of the
    media,and as you said speaks to the character,or lack of,in this case of
    some Met players.
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