View Full Version : Motivating Players Who are Struggling

05-11-2007, 04:07 PM
OK: First off, this thead has nothing to do whatsoever with the current EE situation. If you'd like to continue discussing EE please do so in one of the many other current threads.

What motivates players who are struggling?

What different tactics have managers tried over the years to help a player who's slumping?

I have to believe some players need motivated by being kicked in the butt, while others need to be assured, while others just need more playing time, while others are completely self motivated.

Examples of players who were motivated in different ways? (ie. A Paul O'Neal vs. a Griffey Jr for example).

Players who are pressing? How do you get them to calm down?

When do you pull the plug and bench/send a player down? (Again, NOT ABOUT EE).

Just currious what people thoughts are regarding the general idea of "how do you motivate a ball player who is struggling"?

05-11-2007, 04:26 PM
It seems like some coaches will pick a player who they know can take it and ride them mercilessly when things are going bad...

other players, who might go into a shell or disappear even more, the good coaches build those players up with encouragement.

05-11-2007, 04:29 PM
Like a KGJ, for instance, he doesn't seem like the type of player, even when he was younger, that you could ride very hard without a) irreparably damaging your relationship with him and b) hurting his performance even more. Very high strung athlete (not that that's a horrible thing, mind you, just seems to be his personality)

05-11-2007, 06:38 PM
It seems like some coaches will pick a player who they know can take it and ride them mercilessly when things are going bad...

other players, who might go into a shell or disappear even more, the good coaches build those players up with encouragement.

I don't know if any of you are Xavier basketball fans, but this is what Sean Miller did to Brandon Cole last year, and he responded with a career year. Not saying thsi always works, but merely pointing out an example.

05-11-2007, 07:06 PM
When Aaron Boone was struggling, his dad kept Aaron in the lineup every single day for two months, so Aaron could "work his way out of it."

When Jason LaRue was struggling, Bob Boone would bench him for two or three days so Jason could "sit and watch how easy this game is."

From the outside looking in, it all seems so subjective. Ride a guy? Bench him? Send him down? Trade him/change of scenery? Kick in the pants? New role? Drop lower in the order/less pressure? Move up/better protection? Without knowing the personalities of the players involved, a manager's decision can look quite arbitrary.

Maybe in one case it makes sense to send one player to the minors so he can dominate for a while, and in another case it makes sense to keep a player in the majors, but use him differently. But without knowing the whos and the whys, fans like us are left guessing as to the reasons.

05-11-2007, 07:10 PM
Baseball is the best sport in the world because there are still so many grey areas.

Gives us a ton of things to debate. I have no freaking clue if this will hurt or help Edwin. Nobody does.

05-11-2007, 08:02 PM
Even if this might sound insensitive, I'm afraid I'm going to have to opine that once you're a professional athlete at the very highest level, you'd better fricking be motivating yourself.

Hell, I'd go so far as to say that's a rule that should apply universally: it shouldn't take a million dollar contract or a high-profile job to motivate one to have some pride in one's work. If you're a ball-player, you should want to win and to be a postitive contributor to those wins. If you're a regional sales manager, you should want to keep your office in the black, no matter how hard you have to work. If you're a loser living in your mom's basement, you should still have the pride to shower daily, not be completely offensive to those around you on rare occassions when you leave the house, and be the best damned loser you can be! It's called Personal Accountability, and I'm a big fan of it.

But for as much as I see absolutely no reason for a manager or a front office to be responsible for "motivating" a player to be his best, or to employ a "sports psychologist" to try to convince some delicate little self-involved drama queen to work a little harder, there is a flip side to this coin: I don't think you really can "motivate" a reasonably-mentally-healthy athlete at this level, but I DEFINITELY agree that you can "UNmotivate" him by mishandling him.

The effort and motivation should be built in on anybody who really belongs at the top level of his/her field... but if there are things happening around you that don't make sense or upset you, it's just human nature to let that adversely affect your performance. I know this is a fine (and poorly-defined) line I'm drawing, here, but I hope you see what I'm trying to say: Motivation needs to come from within, but Unmotivation can be applied from the outside.

If a player's hitting sub-.220 and commiting game-changing errors with any sort of frequency, I don't know that you can motivate him to do any better if he can't motivate himself to do so. But I'm more than happy to grant that, depending on the precise nature of the situation or personalities involved, you CAN unmotivate him to continue stinking up the joint in AAA and to essentially flush his MLB career down the toilet.

I'm not saying that's what's happening here (in fact, I think AAA is the best place for Edwin right now), but I'm saying it's a more realistic possibility than saying that there's some magic voodoo that Narron and/or Kirvsky could or should apply to get a player to nut up and start playing better.

Bringing up Xavier and college athletics in general adds another twist to this discussion, too. College athletes are, at least in theory, students first and athletes second, and their coaches should be teachers moreso than bosses; in that case, with somebody that young who is EXPECTING to learn from you and to continue maturing, maybe "motivational tactics" are part of the job... baseball is now the last of the "big three" sports to allow the drafting/hiring of high school graduates, which blurs the line between when you stop calling these players "kids" and start calling them "professionals."

With that in mind, does it seem like baseball's low minors should have more emphasis on maturing, learning, and growing than on just mastering your footwork? Or should you go 180 degrees the other way and use Tough Love on these young, malleable players to teach them a work ethic and the sort of mental focus that will benefit them at higher levels of play? On one hand: they're college age kids. On the other: you're paying them. It's an interesting little conundrum... doubly so when we're now (at least tangentially) framing this discussion around a man who is 24, but who some continue to refer to as "a kid."

Where to draw that line? And depending on where you draw it, you get into WILDLY different discussions/debates on who should have been "motivating" a player, and when...

05-12-2007, 02:42 AM
When a player is struggling it is rarely due to a lack of motivation. These guys are very proud, competitive athletes. They want to do well every plate appearance and every inning in the field. They are out there trying hard and doing the best they can. They are perfectly aware there is someone else waiting to take their job.

MLB isn't Little League, where many players are just there to have fun and hang out with their friends. The rah-rah, go-get-'em stuff you see in the movies has no effect here.

Slumps happen to all players. Good players come out of it faster. Look around the league and you will see lots of superstars whose stats aren't much, if any, better than EE's right now. Albert Pujols, Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Howard, David Wright, Mark Teixiera, and Manny Ramirez have sucked all season so far. Granted, EE is not a star player. But the point is not to get too down on EE because he has been bad for a month. It happens. It is amazing how quickly people turn on one of our own players. Shameful really.

EE has proven he can hit well in the major leagues. He is young and will continue to improve. We don't need to insult him by calling him lazy, stubborn, lackadaisical or nonchalant. His teammates know those labels are false. EE takes extra fielding practice almost every day. He takes extra hitting practice regularly. The guy is in a slump. He will get out of it. He was plenty motivated before the demotion I am sure.

Falls City Beer
05-12-2007, 09:26 AM
Throw lit matches at them.

05-12-2007, 09:38 AM
The idea of "motivating" seems incomplete to me.

If they weren't "motivated", they wouldn't have made it to the big leagues. Some want it more than others, some ride their talent, some work harder. But in the end, talent is the common denominator.

Aside from the physical skills that make up "talent", the mental game separates the men from the boys. It's every bit as much a skill as any motor function in baseball. As such, players have different degrees of "talent" in this regard.

Some come by it naturally, others don't have a clue. You have to teach them how to think and focus in pressure situations.

If you aren't in control of your thoughts and emotions, your slumps last longer and your ability to focus when it counts is diminished.

That's more of the reason that "veteran presence" is so valuable. You have to learn how to think and prepare yourself, to make adjustments when things go wrong.

It's emotional maturity, and the first step in achieving it is having an awareness of "where you are" in that regard.

You're not a bad person when you make an error. Your self worth doesn't go down when you slump. All the wild thoughts that go through your head can destroy you as an athlete if you don't understand them and learn to deal with them.

A manager needs to be part leader, part shrink. He has to effectively assess the mental capabilities of his players, and treat them accordingly to bring out their full potential.

The mental game is far more important than most people think.