President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail views interim manager Juan Samuel as someone who "will not go lightly on those mistakes that we don't need to be making."
Sounds like he's looking for Samuel to rattle a few cages.
"The manager can only do so much. At some point the players have to be accountable, and believe me, those guys do not want to be playing the way they are playing," Samuel said.
"It's going to be that most of these guys cut down on the mistakes that we are making - running bases right, going back to the fundamentals of baseball. That's something I took pride in as a player, it's something we constantly work on at spring training in the four years I've been here now. But for some reason, guys still don't seem to be paying too much attention to the details of the game and we are going to be addressing the issues and these guys know that I will command that of them because they are a professional. Run hard at all times. We all expect those kind of things.
"We did not want to meet under these circumstances, but the front office feels that a change needed to be made, and hopefully I can inject a spark into these players. They all know me very well now, the kind of guy that I am. I relate to those guys very well, I consider myself one of those guys. It's an opportunity that I'm not taking lightly, and opportunity comes in all different ways. This is the way the opportunity has come to me and I have full intention to take advantage of this opportunity and see how far we can push these guys and turn the page. Let these guys know that, hey, the season starts today, the past is the past, what we do from now on is what we are going to be judged on. And I have full intention to push these guys as hard as I can. Push them to the limit."
I know you've heard that promise before, concentrating on fundamentals and eliminating the mistakes. It's a very familiar tune.
"Change comes in all kinds of different ways," Samuel said. "You hear probably the same kind of talk from three different guys. We are different. Sometimes, the players will relate better to one guy than the other, hopefully judge your personality and it can make a difference. Your message can be the same. It's how the guys approach you and how you deliver that message. That could be the difference."
MacPhail still believes strongly in his rebuilding plan despite the results so far.
"I have no doubt whatsoever that, not only are we on the right path, we're on the only path we can take if we are serious about ever being a contender in the American League East," he said. "I wish it was easier, but going about it the way we were going about it wasn't getting it done."
MacPhail mentioned the need to get younger and invest in "ways that are meaningful," such as amateur, professional and international scouting, new spring training facilities and new Dominican facilities.
"We've got to get a core of good, young players. I'm sorry that some of them are taking a step back now. I wish they would continue on a perfect linear path, but that's not our sport. We just have to deal with those things we have to deal with. And while we're doing things we need to do, it's not showing up in the wins and losses. We're going to do everything we can to make that happen and Juan is one of those things."
Asked how he'll handle a player not running out a ground ball, Samuel said, "Those are some of the things I'm going to address at the players meeting here, what I expect from those guys. And if it needs to be addressed right then, we will be addressing those. Those guys know me by now. They know what I'm all about, and I'm big on those little things.
"I think over the course of a game, how many times are you going to run down to first base? Four times? Five times at the most? Make sure you let those guys know you'll have an opportunity to do this four or five times. I think you can give us that. Those people in the stands are paying good money to come and see those guys. We have to be better. We have to feel more about those people who are in the stands."
A few other points:
* MacPhail won't provide a timetable on the possible hiring of another manager because the process couldn't begin until he removed Dave Trembley and there are too many variables.
* MacPhail indicated that more roster moves could be coming, and he's already discussed one of them with Samuel. I'm guessing it involves Jake Arrieta, but that's just my speculation. "We still have a few moves in us," MacPhail said. "We're not exhausted as it relates to player moves."
* MacPhail indicated that past managerial experience isn't a requirement if he makes another hire, citing Tom Kelly as an example and how energy and performance level increased in Minnesota. However, I still think they go in that direction. Again, just my opinion.
* Why no changes in the coaching staff to address the lack of hitting? "The coaching staff is in the domain of the field manager," MacPhail said. "I'm not one for imposing my will. I have ideas, I have suggestions. As a matter of fact, Gary Allenson is going to come here and be the third base coach, but before we talked to Gary, I wanted to talk to Juan. Maybe he had somebody else in mind. Maybe he wanted to go in a different direction."
* Could any changes be made in the staff while Samuel is in charge? "I think as an interim, it's more difficult than it would be if it was full-time, but I think it's something...I've already talked to him about it. We've already had this conversation," MacPhail said. "If you have ideas, if there are different things that you think you want to accomplish and you think you have somebody who could help, let's talk about it. So that is definitely in his domain to talk to us about it."