Updated: Apr 9, 2018
As promised, the proposed season opener speeches from the Skipper, in their entirety. Thanks to everyone for playing along!
"Men, I've just handed in my resignation."
All right, now that we've gotten the obvious joke out of the way, I'm not one on writing out speeches, but I'd probably have McGee, Oquendo, Ozzie, Chris Carpenter, and any other legends that are down in Jupiter come to the front of the room. Then something along the lines of:
"These guys have been where you are and they have set the standard for Cardinal baseball. As long as you wear the birds on the bat, you need to have these guys in your mind, in your focus. Don't let them down."
Kevin Reynolds, Stl Cards n' Stuff | (@deckacards)
I think the following quote from Lou Brown of Major League fame sums up my thoughts nicely...
"It's not your job to make excuses. That's all you guys do good! It's either a leg thing, or a spiritual thing, or a psychological thing. Or a heart attack..."
Or, to put it another way, "Cut the crap and play the game."
I am so tired of hearing about all the quirky ways this team tries to get through a season. Chess. Ping pong. Clubhouse chemistry. Escape rooms. Or all the Matheny'isms that you hear him talk about constantly, themes like respecting a guy's wishes and thinking about a guy's contract or personal time.
Those are the kinds of things you EARN time for when you're winning. When you're losing, you shut up, play the game, and look for any opportunity to squeeze one more hit, strike, or win out of the stat sheet in an effort to help your team.
I'm so sick of hearing about ways to help this team relax so they can tough it out for six to eight months of baseball. Boo hoo. When guys like Scott Rolen and Chris Carpenter were playing here, a team bonded over the insane, over-the-top, and aggressive pursuit of winning. That surge - that grinding push - to scratch and claw and pummel out a win pressed men together and forged bonds that beget more wins. Then, once the well-bonded winning machine was in full motion, steaming along with ever-increasing momentum...THEN things like chess and ping pong came out of it. Not the other way around. Those things became a way to release pent up pressure while not distracting from the direction the train was moving in.
It's been the opposite, by intention, lately.
This team has tried so many different ways to "mix things up" or relax that they've lost their edge. They've demanded fun and family while accepting losing. They've put the cart before the horse. And most of it has been the child of criticism and ridicule of things like the Cardinal Way and the intense way St. Louis used to go about their business.
So, here's my speech.
"Cut the crap and play the game.
"Starting right now, if I see another (bleeping) chess board, ping pong table, or video game - or anything else that isn't expressly invited into this clubhouse for the purpose of winning! - I will personally make sure that every hand that touches it is fined $50,000. Those are instruments of play. And, men...we're here to work.
"You wanna play? The job got you down? You miss your family or feel like limpin' around the clubhouse cause the aches and pains of the season are gettin' to you?
"THEN GO HOME AND DROWN YOUR SORROWS IN A BUCKET OF TEARS, BECAUSE WE DON'T NEED THAT (BLEEP) HERE!"
"Those toys...those games you're all so fond of? Those are playthings. And we're not here to play. We're here to win, and to achieve that, we will work. And then we'll work some more. And when we're done with that, we'll work some more!
"And then...when you're so sick and tired of work, and the winning has gotten so deep in here that your throat seizes up and you honestly believe for just a moment that you might choke on it...when you can't even remember what it was like to lose...THEN...maybe...you can EARN the right to relax.
"The last several years, I've seen this organization cringe when confronted with its identity. We've softened and blubbered excuses when The Cardinal Way is mentioned. We've turned away from what made us a winning ball club. And it's made us sloppy!
"No more. The bull(bleep) that I've seen over the last few seasons is over. Starting right now...
"RIGHT (BLEEPING) NOW! WE WILL PLAY LIKE A CARDINAL! WE WILL PUSH TO WIN EVERY AT-BAT, EVERY GAME, AND EVERY (BLEEP) SERIES UNTIL WE ARE STANDING OVER OUR OPPONENTS WHILE THEY BLEED IN THE DIRT WITH OUR CLEATS ON THEIR THROATS!
"And, men....look at me...men? When those so-called pundits and fans of other teams ridicule the very idea of The Cardinal Way...you know what we're gonna' do?
"WE'RE GONNA TELL THEM TO GO (BLEEP) THEMSELVES! AND THEN WE'RE GONNA SHOVE GEORGE KISSELL'S LITTLE SPIRAL BOUND NOTEBOOK RIGHT UP THEIR......."
-------- A door opens loudly and Mike Matheny walks in -------------
Mike: "Uh...Jose? What's goin' on here? What's all the yelling?"
Jose Oquendo: "Oh...uh...hi, Mike. I was just, uh....I was just givin' the guys a pep talk." *looks at Matheny's hands* "Whadda' ya got there, Mike?"
Mike (looking stunned and uncomfortable): "Oh...uh...just some flowers. I thought it might spruce some things up in here. You know...help the guys relax a little bit."
Tommy Pham *gathering his equipment and walking past Mike brusquely on his way to the back fields*: "Go (bleep) yourself, Mike."
"If you ain't first, you're last."
Daniel Shoptaw... pt. 2
"Good morning. In less than an hour, players in this clubhouse will join with players in the training room. And you will be launching the greatest seasonal battle in the history of Cardinalkind. 'Cardinalkind.' That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can't be consumed with our petty batting order differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it's fate that today we are in New York, the first capital of this great country, and you again will be fighting for our freedom. Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution....but for the annihilation of Chicago hopes. We're fighting for our right to live in October. To exist on the biggest stage. And should we win the day, St. Louis will be no longer a quiet city, but as the place we declared in one voice: we will not go quietly into the winter! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to play on! We're going to survive! Today, we celebrate our Opening Day!"
My life is a weird one. I'm a foreman of a construction crew in real life and I've also been a little league baseball coach for the last eight years. Both groups are strikingly similar in more ways than I think my subordinates would want to admit or acknowledge. I feel like I can answer this one pretty well.
It's simple; you don't give a speech. No one buys into that stuff anymore. Kids these days, they're smarter than we were. Major Leaguers understand the business better than they ever have. Construction workers are as cynical of a group as you'll ever be around. The "Ra-Ra" doesn't work. You have to get to know each of your players individually. You build that relationship. You let them do their thing, especially the diva's of major league baseball. Then, when they need the kick you do it individually and you engineer that kick to the individual. This is 2018 not 1980. Bill Pulman's "Independence Day" speech isn't going to work.
Oh man, this is a tough one for me. I'm probably worse at public speaking than anything else in life, and I'm bad at many, many things. I sort of think the most important thing, and one that Matheny might actually be good at, is making sure that the players know that you have their back. That you believe in them and will stand up for them at a moments notice. If your players don't believe that's the case, any type of speech you give will fall on deaf ears.
I guess beyond that I would probably put together some sort of chill inducing championship highlight video. I'm always a sucker for those type of things. Use that as a way to explain that championships aren't won by individual contractors.
That's probably the best they'd get from me