Warriors

How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

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How rookie hazing in baseball has changed

From Comcast SportsNet Monday, August 15, 2011
CINCINNATI (AP) -- Reds outfielder Chris Heisey wasn't surprised to see the schoolgirl outfit hanging in his locker, his humbling attire for the start of a late-season road trip. Welcome to the majors, rookie. "I felt it would happen," Heisey said. "As the season went on last year, I kind of heard talk that it would happen. All the rookies were talking about what we would be dressing up as." Making the rookies wear outlandish outfits for a road trip or fix a ham sandwich for a veteran is as much baseball tradition as batting practice and curtain calls, a time-honored way of reminding the newcomers where they rank in the clubhouse pecking order. While other sports struggle with the question of when rookie hazing crosses the line, it remains part of baseball's fabric -- though not nearly as outlandish as some of the stunts in other sports. "I think it's worse in football," said Colorado's Todd Helton, who played quarterback as a two-sport star at Tennessee. "When I was in college football, they shaved me bald -- the whole incoming freshman class. A bunch of big guys grabbed you and shaved your head." The Jacksonville Jaguars banned rookie hazing this year, saying it had gone too far. In recent years, rookies had been taped to goal posts, covered in baby powder, tossed in a cold tub and forced to accept ugly haircuts. The Jaguars can still hold their annual rookie talent competition and veterans are allowed to make the newcomers carry their equipment. But that's the limit. Last year, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant created a stir when he refused to carry a veteran's pads, challenging the rookie hazing tradition. In professional baseball, rookies get a much milder treatment -- no shaving, no forced haircuts, no taping to stationary objects. "I don't even know if hazing would be the proper term to use as far as baseball is concerned," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, whose rookie indoctrination involved wearing a gaudy suit. Whatever it's called in baseball, it's changing, too. With young players taking on more prominent roles, they're getting treated more like equals in the clubhouse these days. Veterans say the latest rookie classes have been singled out far less than in the past. "Because the game seems to be getting younger and younger, a lot of that stuff has totally changed," said Reds pitcher Bronson Arroyo, who was forced to fetch drinks for veterans during the middle of the night at team hotels when he was a Pirates rookie. "There's a lot less going on." And most welcome it. "It's changed," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "In fact, I'm kind of glad it changed. I've never been a big fan of the whole thing." Marlins infielder Wes Helms had to carry veterans' luggage onto team flights and serve them on the plane when he was a rookie. "There's definitely less than when I came up," Helms said. "Now, you don't really have anything as far as making them do anything stupid throughout the year to embarrass themselves. "It definitely has calmed down over the years. Rookies are a little different nowadays. When I came up, you didn't say a word until you had two or three years in the big leagues. Now guys come up and it's like they're already comfortable." How rookies are treated depends upon the veterans in charge. Most teams force rookies to dress in embarrassing costumes for a road trip late in the season. They might be ordered to sing or dance at the front of the team bus. "The closest thing we have is the guy with the least service time in the bullpen has to carry the backpack of candy or drinks and find out what the bullpen guys want," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We do some things at spring training just as bonding with guys, not really hazing. You give them projects or you ask them to do a report on something." Each clubhouse is different. "I think it all comes down to the people that have the power," Arroyo said. "If the older guys are reasonable and want the team to flourish, you're only going to be able to push that so far without damaging (the chances) to be a winning team. So I think it depends on who's king of the hill and whether those people are reasonable." Some if it depends upon how the rookies accept their special treatment. "If you take it the right way, it doesn't happen twice," Helton said. "Usually when a guy fights back is when the problems arise. My rookie year, I was the only rookie. When they told me to, I'd make them ham sandwiches that year. I just kept my mouth shut and did what they said." Paul Konerko of the White Sox thinks rookie hazing shouldn't make a newcomer feel uncomfortable. "I remember when I was a rookie, people made me feel uncomfortable, maybe crossed the line," said Konerko, who broke in with the Dodgers in 1997. "When that happens, when that player gets older, he says, 'I'm not going to do that because I know how it felt.' Or, 'I can't wait to do it to someone.' It's one of the two, and I think I'm the first one." A lot of players see baseball's rookie treatment as something to be appreciated. "There's a deeper history in the game of baseball and things like that," Twins reliever Matt Capps said. "You try to carry that history over. "It's a fine line. As long as you have fun and the guys that do get hazed know that it's all in fun and in the right manner, I think it's great." As soon as the rookies are done wearing those dresses, they think about sticking around long enough to see the next generation do the same. "Hopefully that continues," said Heisey, in his second season in Cincinnati. "Hopefully I can play long enough to do those fun things with the rookies at some point in time."

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

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AP

With lofty win total unlikely this year, here's a number the Warriors can chase

OAKLAND -- Getting to 73 wins is impossible for the Warriors, and the pursuit of it never entered their minds.

Reaching 69 wins, their average in three seasons under coach Steve Kerr, is highly improbable.

Even winning 67 games, the lowest total under Kerr, is extremely unlikely.

There is, however, a number the Warriors are aiming for that also happens to be within their grasp -- but only if they can fight through the regular-season malaise and break an unhealthy tendency.

They can get to 35 victories at Oracle Arena. Currently 16-6 at home, the Warriors would have to go 19-0 to reach 35, and it’s possible insofar as they are less than two years removed from posting an NBA-record 54 consecutive wins at home.

Can a team that once went 14 months without losing at Oracle summon a three-month stretch of perfection at home?

The schedule invites the possibility, but it’s still up to the Warriors and how they cope with tug of three long seasons and that tendency to float a bit in front of their home fans, two factors that have had more effect at home than on the road.

“In general, the appropriate fear we always talk about, it’s there on the road for most games and it’s not there as much at home,” Kerr conceded Monday.

Kevin Durant used different phrasing but echoed the comments of the coach.

“You tend to relax a bit when you’re at home because you’ve got your home crowd,” he acknowledged. “You’re just comfortable in that situation. You can go home and go to sleep in your own bed after the game. So you relax a bit.

“On the road, it just feels like this is the last game of your career. It just feels that way, especially when you’re playing a tough opponent and somewhere with a crowd that’s going to be really, really into it.”

Having gone 39-2, 39-2 and 36-5 over the last three seasons, the Warriors are assured of having their worst home record under Kerr. Still, 35 is not impossible.

The drop is not unanticipated, as Kerr experienced something similar as a member of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, when they won three straight championships as their regular-season wins steadily dropped, from 72 to 69 to 62.

“Where it has truly been the most tangible and palpable is home games against lesser opponents,” Kerr said. “We’ve lost six. Maybe two of those are playoff teams.

“We didn’t lose those games the last the last three years. We dominated the home floor. That’s where it really shows.”

The Warriors have lost at home to the Rockets, Pistons, Kings, Nuggets, Hornets and Clippers. Only Houston is a playoff lock. Detroit, Denver and the Clippers are on the fringe of the postseason race. Charlotte is a longshot, Sacramento a no-shot.

The Warriors, in every home loss, have started drowsily or played too carelessly or were self-destructive enough to give back a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter.

“This is the first year in my four years where we’ve lost a lot of home games that we shouldn’t,” Kerr said. “That just points to emotional fatigue. Trying to get up for 82 games is a difficult thing, especially in Year 4 of a quest to get back to The Finals.”

Coming off a successful road trip during which they won four of five games, the Warriors this week face the Knicks, Timberwolves and Celtics -- the latter two being playoff locks.

A home sweep is difficult, of course, but hardly inconceivable. And if the Warriors can pull that off, they’d have only four remaining home games against teams fighting for a top-four playoff slot: the Thunder and Spurs twice each.

Oklahoma City appears to be getting their act together. The Spurs, while still formidable, are starting to look like a team in decline.

They’re also the two teams most likely to get the full attention of the Warriors, who began the week by sitting through video of their last three games, during which they committed numerous hideous errors.

The message: Their unforced mistakes are the surest route to defeat.

“There are key points of the year where we have to hit the reset button in terms of our priorities,” Kerr said. “Right now is one of those times. This is an important week for us. We need to take care of the ball. We need to be smart and make good decisions. If we do that, we’re really, really hard to beat.”

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

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AP

Carr excited to work with Gruden: 'I want him to be tough on me'

Jon Gruden has been interviewed several times since becoming Raiders head coach. Quarterback Derek Carr hasn’t listened to most of those sessions, and certainly doesn’t seek them out.

One landed in Carr’s inbox recently, and something Gruden said really resonated.

Gruden’s message, paraphrased: If Derek Carr is not successful, then I’ve failed as a coach.

There are two comments in that one. Gruden considers Carr extremely talented, and he’s taking responsibility for unlocking the quarterback's vast potential.

Gruden will be hands on in Carr’s development, with all the coaching intensity and fire and eyebrow raises that have become Gruden’s signature.

“He’s going to demand of me. He’s going to push me,” Carr said on this week’s episode of the Raiders Insider Podcast, which will drop Tuesday morning (Subcribe right here). “He’s going to make me be the best version of myself.”

Carr had a direct answer to skeptics wondering aloud whether he can thrive under Gruden’s particular coaching style.

“I want him to be tough on me,” Carr said. “For anyone who thinks I want him to be a different way has no clue about me or how I play football or how I prepare to play this game. I don’t need to tell stories about how I prepare or manage myself.

“(Jon) and I are going to get along great. I hope that he demands of me. I hope he’s hard on me. I don’t need to know he loves me. He has already told me that about 20 times. I appreciate that and we’ll be friends forever, but I know he’ll be demanding and tell me what I need to do. Let’s go fix problems that I have and let’s do what I need to do to win championships. Hopefully that will give people some insight and hopefully that’s the story that gets out, because that’s the truth.”

Carr met his new head coach briefly before his introductory press conference, but has known Gruden since filming the Gruden QB Camp segment back in 2014. They got along great then, and in each interaction since.

“We have so much more in common that people realize,” Carr said. “I think it would blow some people’s minds. Him and I are very similar in the way we go about our business and how we carry ourselves. It’s an exciting time.”

Carr’s excited to have some stability in his football life. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback will start his fifth NFL season with his fourth head coach, fourth go-round with an offensive coordinator and third offensive scheme. Gruden signed a 10-year contract. OC Greg Olson signed a four-year pact. They’ll be here a while, and Carr’s excited about that.

“It’s going to be really nice,” Carr said. “To know Jon signed on for a 10 years and (Olson) signed on for a long time shows me a couple of things. No. 1: that they believe in me. I don’t think Coach Gruden would’ve quit his day job, which I’m thankful he did. To get (Olson) out of a good spot in L.A (with the Rams), shows that they believe in me and that’s awesome. And, No. 2: I’m going to have two people I can talk to in a different language for years to come. We can grow within the relationship, and hopefully we’ll all ride off together. It’s set up that way right now, and we have a lot of work to do to reach that point.”