PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 10: Chris Young #24 of the Arizona Diamondbacks high fives manager Kirk Gibson after scoring against the Oakland Athletics during the fifth inning of the interleague MLB game at Chase Field on June 10, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Perhaps you've been living under a rock, and for which sends my regards to the City of Ember, but I'm going to assume we're all familiar by now with the Kendricks/Drew dust-up. I really don't want to spend much processing power of my facilities to think about this, because it feels like it's a non-issue. Buzz shouldn't be equated with whether an item has validity.
But because it's been speculated upon, I'll offer a framework that might explain what has happened in the last week, that being Ken Kendricks, the lead partner for the Diamondbacks, dumped upon two of its most well-known players in Stephen Drew and Justin Upton. Immediately afterwards the D-backs go streaking, showing the kind of ability they flashed last year, but haven't been able to sustain this year. Causation is not correlation, certainly, and the framework I'm about to use would have only limited benefits, I would assume.
The biggest sticking point so far has been "why?" Why would Ken Kendricks attack his own players? Was it money? Is he just a weird, surly old guy? Did Drew insult him at a dinner party? I suppose it could be any of these reasons, but let me present an alternative: Kendricks comments were an attempt to bind the clubhouse together.
As strange as it might seem, it's not uncommon for teams to develop a kind of "us against the world" mentality, and although Kendricks might represent the ultimate boss of the team, he's not of the team. So by attacking one of their players, it's easy to see how a team might, without even vocalizing, come together to fight off the intrusion.
Key to this is who was attacked. Drew, by most accounts, has been the model baseball player and person. There's no reason to believe he'd purposely throw a season to get out of Arizona. Upton, on the other hand, is one of the best, if not the best player on the team and the one the average baseball fan around the country would know. By attacking these, the message is clear to the rest of the struggling team: if you think those untouchables had it bad, wait until I get to you dogs.
I don't think Kendricks comments was intended to scare anyone. I don't think he would have been successful if that was his goal. But by attacking the pillars of the team, the rest of the squad would come together. Like I said above, owners should always be cognizant that they are not of the team they own. This isn't just an excuse to maintain hierarchical structures, but an underlying truth that we're not talking about a cooperative. Management and workers should remain separated simply because often the two sides don't understand each other, and misunderstanding sows seeds of distrust.
Baseball team owners rarely understand what it's like to be a professional player, and even if they understood it intellectually, they don't have the real experience to match. There's something sad about a sports owner that wants to hang around the clubhouse all the time as if he's one of the guys.
So perhaps Kendricks manufactured this controversy to get the team to come together. I'm pretty sure this has been the storyline of nearly every sports movie, and most episodes of Glee, but if true then it worked. The only problem is that it won't be maintained.
When you need to play with a chip on your shoulder, then you're constantly creating new slights in your mind to perform. This feeling of persecution can work for awhile, but it's hard to keep going. We can only hope this, if true, will shock the D-backs long enough to just get into a groove without needing stunts.