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February 11, 2011

Wezen-Ball

BP Odds & Ends

by Larry Granillo

I'm going to try something a little different today that, if it goes well, might just be a regular feature as the season progresses. Looking back at some of the fine content here at Baseball Prospectus this week, a few things caught my eye that I wanted to comment on. But, alas, no one single piece seemed long enough to merit a post. So I've corralled those comments into this piece I'm calling "BP Odds and Ends".

Frank Robinson Traded

In Steve Goldman's piece on the trade value of Albert Pujols on Thursday, he mentioned the most famous superstar trade of all-time: Cincinnati trading a 30-year-old Frank Robinson to the Orioles for Milt Pappas, on the eve of Robinson's Triple Crown campaign of 1966. The trade is (very legitimately) well-known for many reasons, but the emotional impact of dealing one of the greatest players of all-time for so little is chief among them.

On the face of it, the Robinson trade was about Cincinnati's desire to sacrifice some offense for a better rotation. It wasn't long, though, before word was bandied about that management just didn't like Robinson, calling him "hard to handle".

On January 22, 1966, Robinson told his side of the story to the Baltimore Afro-American:

"I've read numerous stories to the effect that I am hard to handle, moody, lazy and countless other things.

I'm not the one to say whether they were accurate or inaccurate. And certainly, I don't intend to try to defend charges. Actually, it doesn't seem to me that I should have to offer any defense."

He goes on to detail a story about how, after waiting alone in Cincinnati for a month after the season just to speak to the new GM, he finally met with the GM, only to have him immediately say "I understand you're lazy, Robinson; that you don't put out all the time. In order that we should understand each other, it might be well for you to remember that."

The whole interview with the 1966 Frank is worth a read. He's one of my favorite players of all-time, and it's fascinating to read what he had to say (45 years ago) about one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.

Mattingly & Management

Christina Kahrl had a great segment this week talking about the new managers around the league. On Thursday, she highlighted one of the bigger names joining the managers' corps this year: Don Mattingly.

If I were a Dodgers' fan, I'm not sure how happy I'd be with the mostly inexperienced Mattingly taking the helm, no matter how strong of a pedigree his mentors have had. But, as a baseball fan, I'm happy to have him in the game and see what will happen.

One interesting thing to remember: Mattingly didn't exactly have the best relationship with management as a player. The classic Simpsons episode, for example, played off this image by having him spar with owner/manager Monty Burns.

I don't know when exactly his issues with management began, but having to play under the 1980s-version of George Steinbrenner as owner and his revolving door of managers including Billy Martin, Yogi Berra, Lou Piniella, and Bucky Dent could not have been good for the soul.

In an incident in August 1988, Mattingly went off:

"I think there are a lot of unhappy players. There's no respect. They give you money and that's it. That's as far as it goes. They think money is respect. Call us babies, call us whatever you want. If you don't treat me with respect, I don't want to work for you.
...
They give you money and it doesn't matter. They can do whatever they want to beat you. Then they send you out and expect you to play hard. And you're supposed to go out and have fun?"

Steinbrenner, of course, wasn't happy about that, issuing his own statement ripping Mattingly and the players the next night. In the end, the two co-existed for the entirety of Mattingly's career. They must have worked something out.

Mattingly's history, though, raises the question: how will his strained relationship with management as a player affect his role as a manager? Will he be more of a players' manager because of it, or will he be even more sensitive to rumblings and criticism? It should be an interesting dynamic to watch as the season begins.

Related Content:  Don Mattingly

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