Coaching is a hard job. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. Whether it’s Little League or the Major Leagues, the job comes with its own unique set of challenges.
In the Rangers case, Jeff Banister has made it clear that he trusts his players to go out and do their jobs. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise at all to see him allow Shawn Tolleson try to work his way out of what has been a horrific early season slump. Tolleson delivered for him last year, and he wasn’t going to cut bait and run until there was incontrovertible proof.
Unfortunately, that proof game happened when he served up the Tuesday night grand slam to the A’s Khris Davis, a shot that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Yes, players were upset. Yes, fans were probably even more upset.
But this is the same manager who a year ago gave Neftali Feliz the chance to work through his issues, and when he couldn’t, the plug was pulled and it was on to the next man up, who turned out to be Tolleson.
This is the same manager who didn’t panic when Shin Soo Choo was hitting .094 in April last year. When he stayed the course, the Rangers got the production they thought they’d get when they signed Choo to his big free agent deal.
Players want to know their manager/coach will have their back, that they won’t panic at the first sight of things going sideways. After all it’s a long season. Players will run through walls for a manager like that, and just as they did for Ron Washington (who used a very similar approach in his eight years with the Rangers), they do the same for Banister. A year ago it resulted in a divisional title, and the closest of misses in the playoffs.
Here’s the thing: X’s and O’s matter plenty, and there are some managers who are just sensational in that area, and some who aren’t. But the most important quality a manager/coach can bring to a team is his sense of confidence in their ability to perform. Lose the player, you’re probably going to be losing games.
The idea was raised on Tuesday night that Banister should have had Sam Dyson warm and ready to go, especially after the first two hitters reached base. But the closer is a closer for a reason. Yank the closer before disaster hits (with no guarantee of a different result), and you’ve pretty much burned his confidence before he’s had a chance to show whether he’s up to the task.
No one feels worse than Shawn Tolleson about what went down Tuesday night (and for that matter what’s happened in the first seven weeks of the season) except, perhaps, for Jeff Banister, who desperately wanted his closer to succeed so he wouldn’t be forced to make a move he didn’t want to make.
So now it’s Dyson’s turn to take over the role. And one thing is certain (at least to me), Banister is going to give him the room he needs to succeed or fail. And he will have the support of his players because they know, at some point, they might be the ones in a similar spot. Most importantly, they’ve seen the approach succeed.