Friday, August 5, 2011

EXCLUSIVE! Bruce Bochy Book Chapter on Managing Rookies

Bruce Bochy is known for his veteran love. He sticks with his guys and plays them through thick or thin. He doesn't trust rookies and looks for every reason to pull them out of the starting lineup.

He is such a believer in his system (Guaranteed to win you a World Series Title!) that he is coming out with a book that you can buy real soon. The tome is titled "It Gets Better with Age" and it will be sold at his website

The publisher was kind enough to send me an advanced copy and allow me to excerpt a chapter. There was a ton of good stuff in there ranging from lineup construction (lots of wine and match up stats), to bullpen management, to the running of a major league clubhouse.

For your pleasure I went with something a little more timely with Brandon Belt going down to the minor leagues, I am going to share with you his philosophy on developing rookies.

"Get Off My Lawn! How to Handle Kids Who Don't Have Gray Hair":

Welcome guys, pull up a chair grab a beer if you need one. A little birdy told me that you may have an issue with a young guy being placed on your team by the General Manager. Now don't be scared, because Uncle Bruce is here to help you manage the situation.

In my many years at the helm of Major League ball clubs I have distilled the managing of these young whippersnappers to an 8 Step program. If you follow this method closely you can make through the turbulent phase of every season when it seems like the General Manager is always pushing these young guys on you.

With this method you can develop the young guys while not hurting the production of your all important veteran players.

Step 1 for managing a rookie:

Bring up a rising young prospect from the farm and have him sit on the bench for the first couple of days to get used to the ebb and flow of Big League baseball. The last thing that you would want to do is throw a guy right into the fire. He needs to watch how the veterans prepare for the game.

This is the key make sure that as much of the grit rubs off on the young kid. He may have some AAA seasoning but he doesn't have the literal seasoning of rubbing elbows with the greats that came before him.

Continue to step 2.

Step 2 for managing a rookie:

Make sure his first start is against a tough pitcher in a hostile environment if possible.

This may sound cruel but baseball is a cruel sport. You can't hold the hand of these rookies forever. I mean you might was well put him in the toughest situation possible to see how he responds. If he fails to go all Will Clark in his first game you are going to need to keep a really close eye on him. If he is going to be a All-Star he will hit right away if he doesn't that's probably because he isn't ready.

Continue to step 3.

Step 3 for managing a rookie:

Let the kid play for a couple of weeks take very careful notice of how he does in those 30-50 plate appearances that will tell you just about everything you need to know about how the kid will play in the Major Leagues.

During this evaluation phase be sure to be as critical as possible with him. He needs to know his role. Just to keep him on his toes make him play a position that is foreign to him to see how he responds.

Continue to step 4.

Step 4 for managing a rookie:

Once you've had the opportunity to evaluate the kid the steps branch off in 2 different paths. For kids who show the slightest signs of struggle (about 95 percent of all rookies will fall in this category) proceed to step 4A. If the rookie is doing well (unlikely) go to 4B.

A) If the kid struggles or shows any signs of platoon splits in his first 2 weeks then my experience says that he isn't ready for the big show and he should promptly be benched. It's sad but true that rookies don't know how to work through slumps; they just don't have the proven track record like veterans and true gamers.

Continue to step 5A.

B) If the kid does ok we will keep an eye on him but still bench him for a few days to make sure he doesn't get a big head.

Continue to step 5B.

Step 5 for managing a rookie:

A) Give the struggling rookie spot starts every other week while pinch hitting him 2 times a week against the toughest relievers, if he doesn't start hitting .500 he is done and needs more seasoning and dues paying in the minors.

Send the rookie back to the minors or bench him for the foreseeable future and proceed to step 1 if he ever comes back.

B) Continue to give the rookie who is playing well only 3-4 starts per week to keep his young legs fresh, remember he doesn't have 15 years experience yet and his body hasn't built any tolerance for the major league grind.

Continue to step 6.

Step 6 for managing a rookie:

If the rookie shows any sign of struggle go directly to step 5A. The slightest delay in doing this could ruin a promising prospect so be vigilant.

You must look carefully for signs of fatigue or struggle, even wiping ones forehead on a hot muggy day in Cincinnati might be sign of breaking down. It is a fact that he will struggle, it is a certainty that has never been disproven in my long and illustrious career managing.. It is almost impossible for someone under the age of 30 has ever succeeded in baseball for extended periods of time.

If no signs of struggle continue to step 7.

Step 7 for managing a rookie:

Bench the kid anyway for a week as a preemptive measure against the coming failure. You've got to keep your veterans fresh also for when the rookie does eventually struggle.

If he struggles after the week off proceed to step 5A.

If he continues to play well continue to step 8.

Step 8 for managing a rookie:

Congratulations you may have found a big leaguer. The kid might be ready for the majors but it is still not guaranteed. Watch his every move and be quick to pull the plug at the first trip up.

He is slowly building a track record, but tread carefully rookies are known to have sophomore slumps which we will go over in the next chapter titled "Not a Rookie, but Still Not a Veteran: How to Handle the Tween Years"

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