Notes: Tracy voices his concerns
Skipper wants to diffuse mentality of losing on club
By Ed Eagle / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- This much is certain 70 games through Jim Tracy's first season as manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates: He's determined to do whatever he possibly can to change an atmosphere of losing that has engulfed the team for close to 14 seasons.
Monday morning, in his pregame meeting with reporters, Tracy was as animated as he has been at any point during his time with the Pirates as he explained his intolerance for anything short of 100 percent commitment to winning at all times.
"There's a mentality that you develop when you become a winner. That's something that day-in and day-out I work on with this group of players," said Tracy.
"I don't know what it's been like here. Quite frankly, it's none of my business. But I know how I do things as a Major League manager and this is not my first rodeo, OK? And I have managed a few clubs that have won a lot more than they've lost. And I've managed a club that's won a division championship and played in a division series."
Although Tracy has said time and again that he does not believe in publicly pointing fingers at his players, he's not the least bit shy about dropping the hammer on the group as a whole. As Tracy sees it, pointing out that certain plays could have or should have been made during the course of games does not constitute throwing his players under the bus. He's merely pointing out the difference between plays that winning teams make and those that losing teams do not.
"All I'm trying to do is make sure that we understand as a group that in order to take another step over yet another hurdle, that you have to be able to understand how to respond in each and every one of those [close] games," said Tracy. "No finger pointing. No names being mentioned. None of that. But reality is, I'm not interested in managing a fourth or fifth-place club. Or sixth. As we go along here, there will be that understanding."
Tracy pounded his point home by recalling a quote he attributed to Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver.
"'There are two places in baseball. First place and no place,'" Tracy said, reciting the Seaver quote. "When I read that thing, it was like somebody hit me right across the bridge of the nose.
"I want to know that I have a clubhouse full of people that get that. You can't do that overnight. But eventually we are going to get that done."
Tracy managed the Los Angeles Dodgers to the National League West Division crown in 2004. He said he won't be satisfied until he experiences the same kind success in Pittsburgh.
"I'm on a mission," said Tracy. "[Winning] is the greatest feeling the world. Once you get a little taste it, you don't want to feel like you've got the car in reverse and you're on the accelerator."
Players react: Tracy's players had mixed reactions to the manager's methods of teaching and leading, which certainly contrast to former Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon's nearly unwavering reluctance to be publicly critical.
Shortstop Jack Wilson admits that he was upset that Tracy singled out a play in the eighth inning on Sunday as a turning point in a Pirates' loss. On that play, Wilson was unable to throw out speedy Twins second baseman Luis Castillo on an infield single.
"It does bother me. If I make an error and it costs us the game, I'll take responsibility for that," said Wilson. "I have no problem with taking responsibility for screwing up."
Wilson stopped short of criticizing the manager's methods.
"It doesn't matter to me why he does it. He does what he does," said Wilson. "He's the manager. It's my job to go out there and play shortstop and try to do my best to help the team win.
"If that's his style of managing, that's his style of managing. You can't let it bother you."
Veteran right-hander Roberto Hernandez favors Tracy's style of running the team.
"[Tracy] is a player's manager," said Hernandez. "He cares about you personally. But all he wants you to do is do things right.
"These guys should be happy that we have these coaches here. Their main intent is trying to change the stigma [of losing] with the Pirates."
The opinions of other Pirates players fell somewhere in between those of Wilson and Hernadez.
"There are different ways to manage and get points across," said Jason Bay. "To each his own. [White Sox manager] Ozzie Guillen does it very well. It's different but it's not unconventional."
"Maybe he's trying to get a rise out of the players," added Craig Wilson. "Everyone has their own style. I guess that's his."
Not a home run hitter?: Bay hit his 20th home run of the season on Sunday, and he is on pace to his 46 long balls this season. Still, Bay refuses to see himself as legitimate home run hitter.
"Look at me," said Bay, downplaying his 6-foot-2, 203-pound frame. "When you think of home run hitter, you think of Adam Dunn and big guys. I guess I've just never looked at myself that way."
Bay admits that he still has a hard time shaking the scouting reports early in his career that he was more of a 20-home run, 20-stolen base guy than a true slugger.
"It's kind of tough to change the image that you have of yourself," said Bay. "It's tough to see yourself outside of your mold."