On Rowand and Leadership
A few days ago, Joel Sherman wrote that pursuing free agents David Eckstein and Aaron Rowand — mainly for their personalities — would be a good idea for the New York Mets.
Back in mid-season, when asked about his potential free-agent status by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Todd Zolecki, first-time all-star Aaron Rowand was more eloquent than most, saying, “My decision could be made for me. . . . I don’t care how much money you offer me. I don’t want to play for somebody who’s going to finish fourth or fifth. That’s not why I come to the field every day. I want to win.”
That’s the kind of thing we like to hear. And now that he has reached free agency, he has the opportunity to pick the team he believes has the best chance to win.
A few days ago, Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News had a column headlined, Phils Would Miss Rowand’s Talents, but really meant his presence in the clubhouse.
In the article — which is an interesting read — Phillies manager Charlie Manuel was asked how many wins could be directly attributed to Rowand’s intangibles. His response was
“I have no idea,” he said. “But he’s a huge part of our team. He plays a part in everything you think about. Clubhouse. Standing up. Defense. Offense. He’s always talking about ‘we’ and ‘us,’ always talking about winning every day.
“And I believe in that. I believe you see how people react to it. It’s easy with the salaries and the schedule for players to get complacent, or down at times. But he takes care of that for you.”
Now I know that Rowand’s numbers were inflated by Citizens Bank Park, and that his 2007 career year likely won’t be duplicated. But it wouldn’t hurt the Mets to have this guy in right field (sorry Aaron, centerfield is Beltran’s) strictly for his defense and his intangibles. And while the statheads can’t measure “intangibles” and therefore dismiss it as poppycock, I believe — like Manuel — that personalities can have a significant effect on a team’s success. For example I’m not surprised the Mets won less than 90 games in ’07 after hearing from Carlos Delgado that the team was occasionally “bored”. And I believe sincerely that, for example, the fiery Thurman Munson’s leadership played a part in the Yankees’ success of the late 1970s, as Keith Hernandez’s did for the Mets in the mid 1980s.
You can say all you want about the Mets’ pitching blowing their season, but the team that leaped ahead of them had even more atrocious moundsmen. And it wasn’t necessarily the pitching that put the Mets into a tight September race — there were plenty of games that could have been won in June and July, had the offense shown a slight interest in hammering the baseball. All the Mets needed were two extra wins; maybe a respected, big-mouthed leader in the clubhouse could have been the difference.
Of course, Rowand could come to the Latino-dominated Mets and have zero effect, due to the language and culture barriers. That’s one point that Sherman is missing in his article — you can’t just shoehorn a strong personality into a clubhouse and expect him to change the attitude of the team (see Dodgers: Jeff Kent). But I like the things said about Rowand, and believe that the Mets could use one or two more vocal leader-types in their clubhouse. If Rowand’s not the right fit, perhaps someone else.
Any thoughts on this angle? Ideas for other leader-types to pursue? Think there’s someone already on the team to fill the role? Post your comments, please.