I think I've got it figured out on Cris Carter. The reason he's so easy to dislike even when he's making sense and not actually trying to be condescending is because he's convinced that everything that comes out of his mouth is profound. Think about it. Have you ever heard Cris Carter waffle? Ever heard him indicate anything less than complete and absolute knowledge on whatever topic he's discussing? I mean, we all do it, we "say for pay" types, but once in a while, I've caught myself shrugging and I've seen other guys say they need more information. Cris Carter? Never. So I guess that explains why, every time he opens his mouth and waggles those pushbroom eyebrows, I want to blow holes in his contentions. This week, Carter was asked about not getting into the Hall of Fame. As Michael David Smith at PFT pointed out, only seven wideouts who began their careers after the 1970 merger have made it into Canton (Michael Irvin, Steve Largent, James Lofton, Art Monk, Jerry Rice, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann). On the outside looking in are guys like Tim Brown, Andre Reed and Carter. Carter chalked the lack of enshrined wideouts to the position being underloved. "I think the modern-day wide receiver, I would say that his skill level is not appreciated. Its not just about the numbers. Its the ability to catch the football and put your talent on display, Carter said in an interview with Michael Irvin. Here's the thing, Cris. Everybody loves watching wideouts play. Everybody marvels at their speed, athleticism and toughness. Nobody with an ounce of sense would contend that wide receiver, cornerback and, perhaps,running back are not the most athletic positions in football. But wide receiver is not an indispensable position. Quarterback is. Defensive end, linebacker, offensive line, quarterback. Critical. The closer you are to the ball at the snap, the more important you are to winning and losing on a weekly basis. Generally. For a wide receiver to be transcendent, he needs the coach to call the play, the line to block it, the quarterback to see it and then throw it. Then and only then does the receiver get his chance to put his "talent on display", as Carter says. Jerry Rice is probably the greatest football player of all time. But even he needed his Walsh, Montana and that Niners offensive line to let the talent shine. Randy Moss will be in the Hall of Fame before Cris Carter because Moss was transcendent, the greatest deep threat in NFL history. Cris Carter is Art Monk without the rings. I mean, Torry Holt has 100 fewer catches in five fewer seasons, 500 fewer yards and a Super Bowl ring. Both were Pro Bowl players and among the best in the league at their positions over six-year stretches. Everybody can tell wide receivers are talented. Everyone has an appreciation for them. But sorry Cris, you aren't the enlightened one here preaching to the unknowing rubes who don't get your subtle beauty.
BOSTON -- Just as a batter can subconsciously play to avoid losing, rather than to win, a manager can operate with a fear of failure. Such an unwitting approach may have contributed John Farrell’s downfall, and is an area where Alex Cora can set himself apart.
A lot has been written about the value of authenticity in leadership. It’s one thing to have the charisma and conviction needed to land a position of power. It’s another to take over a pressure-cooker job, like manager of the Red Sox, and carry the fortitude to stay true to yourself, continue to let those qualities shine.
Cora did not appear to pull any punches in his days with ESPN. The 42-year-old engaged in Twitter debates with media members and fans. And throughout his baseball life, he showed his colors.
Via Newsday’s Dave Lennon, here’s a scene from 2010 when Cora was with the Mets:
Cora not happy with clubhouse laughter after another #Mets loss. Yells out, "A little respect please. They stuck it up our ---!"— David Lennon (@DPLennon) July 21, 2010
Perhaps most interesting of all, when Chris Sale cut up White Sox jerseys, Cora was Dennis Eckersley-like in his assessment:
“What he did is not acceptable,” Cora said of Sale. “If I’m a veteran guy, I’m going to take exception. if I’m a young guy, I’m going to take exception. Because as a young guy on a team that is actually struggling right now, somebody has to show me the ropes of how to act as a big leaguer. And this is not the way you act as a big leaguer. Forget the trades, forget who you are.
“What you do in that clubhouse, you got to act like a professional. And that’s one thing my agent, Scott Boras, used to tell me when I got to the big leagues: act like a professional. Chris Sale didn’t do it. He’s not showing the veterans that you respect the game. He’s not showing the rookies how to be a big leaguer, and that’s what I take exception to.”
Take out Chris Sale’s name from the above quotation and insert David Price’s. Describes Price's incident with Eckersley perfectly, doesn't it?
Now, no manager can say what they’re really thinking all the time. Cora’s not in the media anymore. His new job description is different.
But when you consider the great success of Terry Francona -- and why he succeeded in this market beyond simply winning -- what stands out is how comfortable Francona appears in his own skin. How genuine he seems.
There is a way to acknowledge, as a manager, when something is off. A way to do so gently but genuinely. A way to say what you feel -- and a way to say what you feel must be said -- while operating without fear of the players you manage.
Ultimately, most every comment Francona makes is intended to shield his players. But Francona shows his personality as he goes (or if you want to be a bit cynical, he sells his personality marvelously). Those little self-deprecating jokes -- he charms the hell out of everyone. The media, the fans. The Cult of Tito has a real following, because he feels real. Because he is real.
Farrell was not fake. But he did have a hard time letting his personality come across consistently, to his detriment. He was reserved, in part because that just appeared to be his nature. But the job must have, with time, forced him to withdraw even further. As everything Farrell said (and did) was picked apart in the market, it likely became easiest just to play it safe in every facet -- speaking to the media, speaking to players.
The Sox’ biggest undertaking in 2017 seemed to be a nothing-to-see-here campaign. It was all fine. No David Ortiz, no home runs, no problem. Manny Machado was loved. The media was the problem, not any attitude or attitudes inside the clubhouse. Base running was a net positive -- you name it, none of it was ever tabbed as a problem publicly by the manager, or anyone else.
A perpetually defensive stance was the public image. Issues were never addressed or poorly defused, so questions always lingered.
Maybe Cora cannot admonish Sale as he did a year ago now that he’s managing Sale. Not publicly, anyway. But even as a quote-unquote player's manager, the job still requires authority, which should be doled out just as it was earned: through authentic comments and actions.
"My job as the manager is to set the culture, the expectations, the standards, the baseball," Cora’s present boss, Astros manager A.J. Hinch, said the night the Astros clinched the pennant. "It's the players' job to develop the chemistry.
“And obviously good teams always say that, we want chemistry, and what comes first, the chemistry or the winning. But when you have it, you want to hold on to it as much as possible . . . We've got a good thing going because we have one common goal, we have one common standard, and that's to be your best every day."
Cora has to remain true to his best, too -- not what he thinks, and hears, and reads, people want his best to be.
NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE
On this episode of The Ex-Pats Podcast...
0:10 - Mike Giardi and Dan Koppen give their takeaways from the Patriots win over the Falcons including the defense coming up strong against Atlanta but New England still taking too many penalties.
2:00 - Why it felt like this game meant more to the Patriots, their sense of excitement after the win, and building chemistry off a good victory.
6:20 - Falcons losing their identity without Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator and their bad play calling and decisions on 4th downs.
10:00 - A discussion about Matt Ryan not making the throws he needed against the Patriots and if he has falling off the MVP caliber-type player he was last season.
14:00 - How and why the Patriots secondary seems to be playing better without Stephon Gilmore and why Malcolm Butler has been able to turn up his play as of late.