The dictionary defines accountability as “the fact or condition of being accountable.” That probably doesn’t help us much. For baseball purposes, I define it as a player taking blame/responsibility and pointing the finger at himself when he messes up.
In the Orioles clubhouse in 2018, we saw many examples of players who were accountable. Trey Mancini led the league, probably. Alex Cobb always fell on the sword if he didn’t pitch well. There were plenty of examples of others doing so. Over the years, three bullpen pitchers who were traded - Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach - practically begged reporters to question them when they blew a game, which, granted, was not often. But if it did happen, they were always front and center.
That means something. It means something to the fans and the rest of the clubhouse. During this Statcast age, I can’t put a number on it, advanced or otherwise, but I know it means something.
Let’s take a look at what happened during Game 2 of the Boston-New York American League Division Series. Former Oriole pitching farmhand Eduardo Rodriguez was late covering first base and told reporters it was because he slipped. Except he didn’t slip. Later, his manager called him out for that in a very professional and respectful way.
Rodriguez said: “I just slipped on the mound, and when I realized he was beating me already, I just let him get to the base.”
Saying “I just let him get to the base” is never a good look for any player.
Boston manager Alex Cora said: “I just talked to him and told him, ‘Just be accountable.’ That’s it. I guess he told you guys he slipped or something like that. I’m like, ‘Man, if you don’t break right away, just be accountable. That’s all we ask.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, my fault. I just didn’t break. That’s it.’ Hey, I get it. Next time just bust your ass to first base. That’s all you’ve got to do.”
As this relates to the Orioles, we could have seen more of this during the 2018 season. I feel like I’m just piling on with this at this point, but first baseman Chris Davis stood out to me as a player who should have been more accountable.
At a time when he gets deserved and constant criticism from fans, something that goes with earning the most and producing the least, he would reference his struggles but seldom threw himself under the bus. In fact, he may have never done this.
I think Davis would have done himself a whole lot of good with fans if he just, at some point late this year, had taken blame for his poor season, admit he failed the team and its fans and pledge to do everything in his power to get better.
It doesn’t play well when you say you will bunt more, but then don’t. Or talk about how hard you worked over the winter and then it turns out maybe that talk was not completely truthful. Better to just do a 180 and say, “I’m terrible and killing this team. I need to own that and get better.”
Two sentences. Two we never heard. Two that would have helped him in the PR department with fans who can see with their own eyes when a player is terrible and then they just want him to own it.
Players seldom ask about me about how they should handle interviews, but some have through the years. I always make that point with them. When you mess up, fall on the sword. It takes two minutes and the media is gone. The fans will read those quotes and appreciate it. The next day we all will forget it.
I would guess that plays well with teammates also, as they know who performed poorly, just like the rest of us. I liked how Cora handled the situation with Rodriguez. When you mess up, own it and move on.
The players in the Orioles clubhouse did that often this year. But not in every case.