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Friday, September 21, 2012

Kovacevic: Pirates aim to be … Hells Angels?

SEAL Team Sucks?

Here’s the deal: Since I brought this topic to light in a column last Friday, many, many more people have come forward to express their disdain for Neal Huntington and his assistant, Kyle Stark, for adding three days of soldier-level training to their Instructional League regimen. And in every case, those people have contacted me, not the other way around….

Most of the people who called have used fierce language to denounce this, none more so than those within the Pirates who obviously can’t speak on the record for fear of their jobs.

That’s OK. I’ll say it for them: It’s a joke.

 

A Pirates IL baseball player’s “training”.

• Wake up at 5 a.m.
• Organize room/locker
• Pushups and sit-ups
• Serpentine on the grass
• Crab walk
• Running along the beach with a telephone-type pole, carried by five or six players
• Pushing a truck tire through the outfield for 90 feet, then flipping it
• Being sprayed by a hose
• Diving into a sand pile
All with a drill sergeant barking orders throughout.

Greg Franklin Posted: September 21, 2012 at 01:24 AM | 30 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: military, minor leagues, pirates

Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 06:21 AM (#4241814)
It's standard management behavior: do random things; then whenever something lucky happens you can point to whatever random thing you were doing and take credit for it.
   2. Tricky Dick Posted: September 21, 2012 at 07:42 AM (#4241829)
Just read the article---and that's some crazy stuff. So, they want to create a Pirates Brotherhood with Seals type training? If I was a high school prospect, would I want to sign up for that? Hell, no. (That's not to say that some gung ho prospects might be all over it.)
   3. Hit by Pitch Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:18 AM (#4241841)
I guess they want to become the baseball version of the John Madden run Oakland Raiders.
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:20 AM (#4241842)
Wow. That is all. This is almost as bad as when Hollywood tough guys start believing they are real tough guys.
   5. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:25 AM (#4241845)
I guess they want to become the baseball version of the John Madden run Oakland Raiders.

They're going to start smoking and drinking and hanging out all night at Ricky's in San Leandro? That is outside the box!
   6. Jose Canusee Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:41 AM (#4241857)
Likely something akin to Japanese league spring training without having pitchers throw 200 pitches a day.
   7. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:49 AM (#4241862)
Stark sounds a little nuts. When I first saw this I didn't get what the big deal was. I mean, getting guys in the best possible shape seems like a pretty good plan for a professional sports team. Yeah, there's some over the top stuff in there but...wait, sprayed with a hose? Diving into sand? And then Stark's e-mail is just...weird. He sounds like a Tim Johnson type, he wants people to think he's this tough guy even though he's not.
   8. ...and Toronto selects: Troy Tulowitzki Posted: September 21, 2012 at 09:49 AM (#4241909)
For all the jazzy press the Indians braintrust got in the last decade (Shapiro, Huntington, Antonetti) their results have never been too hotshit eh?
   9. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4241972)
So, they want to create a Pirates Brotherhood with Seals type training?


There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of other professional and college teams that use SEAL training for their players. It's something that can be made to sound stupid by someone with an axe to grind, like Dejan, but it's a legitimate training technique that provides actual benefits to the teams that use it, not some kind of ZOMG CRAZY CULTIST indoctrination program.

I'm totally open to the idea that Stark is doing a bad job on player development, but you know what I'd find a lot more persuasive than a bunch of frothy blather about Hell's Angels? Examples of players being taught poor techniques, or contradictory techniques, or not being taught at all. If he's a shitty DPD, then look at the development operation and explain what they're doing wrong, why it's wrong, and what they should be doing instead.

Of course, that would require some actual work on Dejan's part, and he hasn't seemed very interested in anything but chumming the water for six months to a year now. It's a shame, because he used to be the best beat reporter in the country, but I don't think there's a sportswriter in America who's dropped off worse over the last couple of years.
   10. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: September 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4241977)
There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of other professional and college teams that use SEAL training for their players. It's something that can be made to sound stupid by someone with an axe to grind, like Dejan, but it's a legitimate training technique that provides actual benefits to the teams that use it, not some kind of ZOMG CRAZY CULTIST indoctrination program.

This just makes organized sports in general sound cultish and crazy, not just the Pirates. So that's good. The important thing is, and let's not lose sight of this, is 82 wins. 82 wins!
   11. Lassus Posted: September 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM (#4241981)
Motorcycle gangs are not known for their workout regimen.
   12. rfloh Posted: September 21, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4242015)
"There are literally dozens, maybe hundreds, of other professional and college teams that use SEAL training for their players. It's something that can be made to sound stupid by someone with an axe to grind, like Dejan, but it's a legitimate training technique that provides actual benefits to the teams that use it, not some kind of ZOMG CRAZY CULTIST indoctrination program."

It MIGHT provide psychological benefits, but that will depend on the individual athletes involved, and their personalities, which means that you can't use a one size fits all approach. Physiologically, no. It is gimmickry. Early in the morning, after you have just hauled yourself out of bed, is NOT the best time to train hard, both physiologically and biomechanically, despite some popular misconceptions,
   13. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 11:25 AM (#4242038)
It MIGHT provide psychological benefits, but that will depend on the individual athletes involved, and their personalities, which means that you can't use a one size fits all approach.

Armies have been using drill and physical training to bond units together for thousands of years. It works with the vast majority of people.

Now, you can question whether greater cohesion actually benefits a baseball team, I don't know. But, the logic of how to produce that cohesion is very well tested, and it works.
   14. Greg Schuler Posted: September 21, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4242042)
Yeah, but when Alen Hanson looks next to him and sees the pile of goo that used to be Gregory Polanco he'll know how to react and carry on the fight.

SEAL training is all mental, actually. The ability to block out distractions and carry on the mission is what the initial BUDs training is meant to measure. The physical aspects, while demanding, are relevant only in finding out who shuts down physically before mentally. The adaptation of military style is becoming more popular for team-building reasons, because no one is a team more than the military. But, PT is not designed for ahtletic competitions or athletes - it's designed for soldiers who walk long distances with heavy packs on their backs and then have to kill (for the infantry). How that translates to sports is beyond me.
   15. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 11:27 AM (#4242043)
Physiologically, no. It is gimmickry.


They may not be huge benefits, but I certainly don't think a few days spent doing push-ups and flipping a tire are going to be BAD for your overall strength and conditioning. Particularly when a lot of these guys, if left to their own devices, would probably be pursuing a training regimen that involves KFC and a couple hours of Call of Duty.
   16. JoeHova Posted: September 21, 2012 at 01:10 PM (#4242147)
I found Stark's twist on Jason Giambi's mantra pretty funny. Stark's version is: "Dream like a hippie, prepare like a Boy Scout, trust like a Hell’s Angel." I'm not sure many people are very enthused by any of those 3 groups lately. Stark seems like he must be a dumbass but it's hard to judge someone based only on one bizarre email. But could somebody who wrote something like that not be a dumbass? It seems kind of unlikely.
   17. Rennie's Tenet Posted: September 21, 2012 at 01:34 PM (#4242179)
Howie Haak was quoted in Dollar Sign on the Muscle: "The Pirates don't care about black or Latin style." Exercises like this seem geared toward creating a false sense of toughness in the children of suburbia. I'm not really sure if they play as intended to a more diverse group.
   18. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 02:05 PM (#4242216)
Howie Haak was quoted in Dollar Sign on the Muscle: "The Pirates don't care about black or Latin style." Exercises like this seem geared toward creating a false sense of toughness in the children of suburbia. I'm not really sure if they play as intended to a more diverse group.

The military seems to have no problem using this kind of training with a very diverse population. I don't see why baseball players would be much different.
   19. Swedish Chef Posted: September 21, 2012 at 02:29 PM (#4242256)
I don't know about SEAL training, but I know several soccer teams that have done a survival camp who think highly of that as a way of getting the team together.

Exercises like this seem geared toward creating a false sense of toughness in the children of suburbia. I'm not really sure if they play as intended to a more diverse group.

One thing most athletes, black or white, have in common is that they're not cynical. Give them a challenge and they will compete.
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4242275)

One thing most athletes, black or white, have in common is that they're not cynical. Give them a challenge and they will compete.


Also, overcoming a shared challenge can go a long way to bring together guys from massively different backgrounds.
   21. Tricky Dick Posted: September 21, 2012 at 03:37 PM (#4242376)
I have a high degree of skepticism that having a military drill instructor constantly yell at you is going to make you a better hitter or pitcher. My reaction would be to view it more as punishment than competition. Maybe that's just me. But if I had a choice and a young prospect, I would prefer to sign with a team that doesn't do this.
   22. Greg Schuler Posted: September 21, 2012 at 03:53 PM (#4242408)
I would add that the Israelis have never yelled at their recruits and they tend to have a very good military force. Whereas you won't find a more brutally tough military than the Russians in terms of how they haze and treat their soldiers and their performance the last several conflicts has been abysmal. And yes, the old saw of sweat more in peace, bleed less in war may be accurate, sweat is action, not abuse.

Trust can be earned in other ways. In fact, DIs in the US armed services are limited as to what they can do and say to recruits. If you watch documentaries on SF training, you do notice a different approach - they yell to be heard, but rarely do you see an instructor get in the face of a trainee. In fact, they do the exact opposite - yelling motivates some individuals, while calmly and serenely chastising someone to quit works on the psyche. Again, SF-style training is designed to eliminate those not mentally prepared to complete the mission. Part of that is finding out who is fit, but also seeing who can push past the physical limitations.

Shared challenges can be done any number of ways, but I don't know that a military approach is necessary outside the military. Then again, have the player low crawl under the batting cages while Blood And Guts Stark fires fastball after fastball from the pitching machine seems reasonable. ######## and elbows...
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 03:58 PM (#4242418)
I would add that the Israelis have never yelled at their recruits and they tend to have a very good military force. Whereas you won't find a more brutally tough military than the Russians in terms of how they haze and treat their soldiers and their performance the last several conflicts has been abysmal. And yes, the old saw of sweat more in peace, bleed less in war may be accurate, sweat is action, not abuse.

Where's the evidence this training the Pirates are doing involve "abuse" or "hazing"?

If they using U.S. military DIs, that's pretty much been taken out of their repertoire for the last 20 years.
   24. Gamingboy Posted: September 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM (#4242424)
BastshitcrazyBall
   25. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: September 21, 2012 at 06:24 PM (#4242601)
I have a high degree of skepticism that having a military drill instructor constantly yell at you is going to make you a better hitter or pitcher.

I don't know about the yelling, but when I'm doing lots of pushups it really does seem to improve my throwing strength.
   26. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 21, 2012 at 08:32 PM (#4242667)
Rum Bunter has some photos of the players doing the training</a>.

I'm still not seeing why any of this is a big deal.

A conversation about the effectiveness of the Pirates' player development staff would be a good thing, but the signal-to-noise ratio here is just way too low for my taste.
   27. The Yankee Clapper Posted: September 21, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4242687)
I doubt the training will do any harm, but if it really worked, wouldn't it be done at the Major League level, too.
   28. Bruce Markusen Posted: September 21, 2012 at 11:00 PM (#4242728)
Kyle Stark lost me when he started talking about "swagger" in that e-mail.
   29. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: September 22, 2012 at 12:14 AM (#4242757)
I remember a quote about college football that went something like: "if discipline won football games, Army would play Navy for the National Championship every year."

I don't have a problem with the training per se, but Stark's e-mail really sounds bad. Some of the great teams of all-time featured guys who loathed one another. "Brotherhood" being all that stands between the Pirates and championships is a bunch of nonsense.
   30. Hecubot Posted: September 22, 2012 at 12:22 AM (#4242760)
The Pirates are basically running their team with a Mall Ninja philosophy. Armchair Soldier-of-Fortune ########.

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