There’s a long-running history in Major League Baseball in particular of websites spotlighting silly quotes from managers and then never returning to them as circumstances change for those managers. It’s of course quite notable when active managers say ridiculous things, but it’s also worth noting that that isn’t the sum total of the comments from active managers. One recent example there comes from Texas Rangers’ manager Chris Woodward, who had previously been known for criticisms of violations of “unwritten rules.” On Thursday, the Athletic’s Levi Weaver asked Woodward about his take on the various Giants-Padres unwritten rules scenarios, and Woodward had some really interesting comments in response:
Today, I asked him: "So I know that the Padres have traditionally been an arbiter of the unspoken rules…"
He had a lot to say: pic.twitter.com/2V2Irhx0O9
— Levi Weaver (@ThreeTwoEephus) April 14, 2022
Part of what’s notable here is that it would seemingly have been much easier for Woodward to pretend he hadn’t seen these particular comments, or even just to not weigh in on them even after seeing them. There really isn’t an obvious PR win here for Woodward (seen above in a preseason portrait) with any of this; those who prefer hardass “the way things were” managers can’t get any victory out of this particular situation from a third party, and those who don’t like “the way things were” approaches aren’t going to be happy with most responses here. But Woodward’s reaction to this moment illustrates that he understands why people violate “unwritten rules” when the result of an at-bat matters to their career, and that’s a level of insight that so many people “covering” this don’t have.
There’s also maybe something worth noting here on how managers (and other sports figures) can in fact learn and grow in important roles. A lot of the discussion around head coaches/managers or general managers presumes they’re perfectly formed by the time they get that role, but there’s significant evidence suggesting that isn’t always the case. And just because someone makes it to the level of manager or head coach doesn’t mean that they’re impeccable.
Woodward’s comments here are an interesting example of that; they illustrate that he’s changed his opinions since rising to that managerial role. And that’s maybe worth wider consideration. Not every coach or manager will prove this flexible, of course. But it’s worth remembering that the figures in these roles are human, and that some of them do change their mind from time to time. And that should be kept in consideration around any discussion of past figures’ condemnations of current players.
[Levi Weaver on Twitter; photo from USA Today Sports]