A lot of synergy behind those shades. (Rick Scuteri | USA Today Sports)
After much hype, a dream pitching duel between Shohei Ohtani and compatriot Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday won’t happen.
In a way, I really believe Billy Eppler – because everything that Angels’ general manager said Thursday is true.
"Workload management," is what Eppler said.
It’s corporate jargon, like "synergy" – used usually in business for some form of maneuvering – and is used quite unfortunately too often in offices large and small across the world. Instead of good old, straightforward English.
On Thursday, Eppler, Angels fearless GM, used the "workload management" phrase to announce the team’s reasoning to retract their earlier statement that Shohei Ohtani would start Sunday’s game in the Bronx against the thumping New York Yankees, against his Japanese countryman Masahiro Tanaka.
"I have the utmost respect for what pitchers endure," said Eppler, who was a pitcher at the University of Connecticut. So he knows. "They are the most tired people when the game is over. When you make 90, 95, 100, 105, 110, 115, 120 explosions, that is a lot in my opinion.
"Then you add on cage work and BP work and games and so on and so forth, there is a lot on this particular individual’s plate. We’re just trying to be mindful of that. We understand where we are in the calendar. Simple as that."
There is a lot on this particular individual’s plate. We’re just trying to be mindful of that. ~ Billy Eppler, Angels GM
Mindfulness. Forgot about that one.
Anyhoo, the Angels' brass were quick to assure fans that an injury concern wasn't a factor in the decision to scratch this Shohei Sunday.
And certainly, it wasn’t as Ohtani went out as the DH and doubled twice, and scored twice, as the pumped-up Angels pounded an 8-1 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Angels are a very smart ball club. As an organization (that I once worked for), the Angels also have a reputation for making explanations that are right, and sound right – without ever once having to say anything that’s patently untrue, nor giving their opponents any ammunition.
Eppler said what he said, and he’s got very good reasons for every word.
But what Eppler could have said was the bold-faced truth:
"You know, we really think this would be a high-pressure start for Shohei in a craphole bandbox of a stadium and we don’t want to shatter his confidence by having him give up five bombs to the Yankees. Their fans are obnoxious enough without needing any encouragement without having Aaron Judge hit a bomb off him."
"And in fact, considering that it’s a craphole bandbox with a short right-field porch, we also thought Shohei could hit a couple of bombs against those very same Yankees."
"With as craptastic as our offense has been lately (before Thursday’s explosion on Facebook), we can really use his left-handed stick in the lineup."
"It’s supposed to be cold in New York. I don’t want to risk his arm in that kind of weather."
The Evil Empire, my former employers, taught me how to do this stuff. Look at Shohei’s OPS against righties. ~ Bizarro Angels GM Billy Eppler
And the people of the Angels would have rejoiced!
Eppler would still have been right, exercised excellent workload management. But he just would have been transparently transparent.
Most importantly, what Eppler could have said, was: "We didn’t want the Yankees to get a look at Shohei Ohtani’s stuff until we’re damn good and ready. … A wild-card game might be at stake. The Yankees can wait until hell freezes over, or a playoff game, and then the Bronx Bombers can get mowed down like damfools on that Shohei splitter."
Eppler didn’t mention it, but bad weather is indeed in the forecast for New York City. Why risk Ohtani’s precious right-arm pitching in frigid conditions against a murderous lineup?
Let someone else take that beating. Damfools.
A lot of business leaders will tell you that business is a game.
Baseball leaders will tell you that baseball is a game, but also a business.
So … Stu, what are the Angels up to?
Let me present you with a TV boardroom scenario (with the executives' Angels' counterparts in parentheses).
Let’s say, in this scenario, you’re The Chief Executive of a big company (Eppler) and you have an important negotiation this weekend with a rival company you know well (the Yankees) that will hopefully lead to a successful takeover (a playoff win over the Yankees) at the end of the summer.
You have an excellent but young and energetic staff of sales professionals. We know "Todd" (Andrew Heaney) is pitching on Friday.
You could send your lead executive "Amy" (Ohtani) – who gives you the best chance of closing any deal -- to the first meeting to "set the tone" for the rival company you aim to take over.
But a smart executive doesn’t give any his or her best tactic or weapon early in the negotiations. Not when negotiations don’t close until September at earliest. That’s when you bring in Amy.
So this weekend, The CEO will send lesser names to the bargaining table against the Yankees.
Off you go, Todd, Joe, Amanda and Julian! Set up that completely ninth-inning takeover! ~ Synergistic CEO
Off you go, Todd, Joe, Amanda and Julian! Set up that "completely ninth-inning takeover!"
And you know, I’m totally fine with it, really, although the Ohtani-Tanaka matchup would have made superb theater.
I’m fine with the fact that Ohtani had to miss his first match-up with Tanaka (as hitter vs. pitcher) at the end of an incandescent April, when he tweaked his ankle trying to beat out an infield single. Yankee first baseman Neil Walker blocked the bag, and Ohtani was day-to-day.
I’m fine too, that Ohtani and boyhood hero Ichiro Suzuki had to miss their hyped matchup. A week later, when Ichiro the player suddenly got promoted to the Mariners’ "front office." Although that one did smell funny from Seattle, and it still does.
This one isn't smelly at all. It's baseball poker.
Don’t show (or Sho) your hand early.
Don’t give away your secrets. Against a possible playoff opponent.
The Angels used a similar strategy in spring training, hiding Ohtani on back fields and letting him take a few public poundings, before unleashing the real deal against unsuspecting major leaguers.
Didn’t want anyone to know what was going to hit them.
And then Ohtani's remarkable rookie-of-the-month April. (Which leads to one of my favorite pieces on the satire site, The Onion. "Annoyed Shohei Ohtani Had Hoped U.S. Baseball Players Wouldn't Be This Bad.")
The low-pressure environment of Detroit, against far inferior batters, will be better overall for Ohtani, who is always capable of being No-No-tani when he takes the hill. It’s a good thing Ohtani just listens to his manager, who rarely corporate speaks.
Good thing I never worked for a big corporation. Unless you count the Angels themselves, when they were owned by Disney.
And ESPN too, but they were not great to work for. (Oh yeah, same company, kinda). With that, I’ll test my "core competency" and be "actionable" and end this article. With synergy.