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How to Win

Patience and Coaches

Brad Lidge threw the last pitch of yesterday’s game between Philadelphia and Colorado, propelling his Phillies to the next round and sending the Rockies home.

Lidge had pitched so poorly over parts of the summer that he lost his job, yet he recovered in time to be a factor for the Phillies, who are trying to win their second straight World Championship.

Lidge’s up-and-down season illustrates some hard questions that coaches and athletes face: When is it just a slump, and when does the player no longer have it? Exactly how much confidence should a coach have in a player who isn’t performing? How patient should a coach be?

One longtime baseball manager said something to the effect that patient managers get fired.

It’s definitely a fine line that coaches must walk. They must show confidence in their players, because confidence is such a big part of performing at any level. And yet it’s difficult to show confidence in a player who continually is falling short.

David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox hit so poorly in the first two months of this season that people thought his career was over. Yet Boston manager Terry Francona stuc k with him. Instead of benching him permanently, Francona gave him some days off, and sure enough, Ortiz rebounded to become one of the game’s top hitters over the last four months.

Hall of Fame player Lou Gehrig knew that something was seriously wrong one day when he made a routine play, and one of his teammates attempted to compliment him by saying, “Nice play.” Shortly thereafter, Gehrig was diagnosed with the disease that would end his career and claim his life.

Not all end-of-career stories will be as dramatic, but there does come a time when a player’s skills will erode. Or when a younger player will come along and make a push for a job.

There are no answers. Just difficult questions, questions that are part of why coaching is so difficult.


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