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Modes of Loyalty

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Ah, the Patriots:

So close to the Super Bowl, yet so far.

Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood has been cut by the Patriots less than 24 hours before the big game — bad news for him, of course, but a move that increases the likelihood Chad Ochocinco will be active against the Giants on Sunday.

Which makes me think of this:

Stengel [didn’t make an emotional commitment to his players.] With Stengel, you were only as good as your last start. And that was a large part of why he was able to stay on top, year after year, in a way few other managers ever have. It’s not that he wasn’t “loyal” to his players, but his idea of loyalty wasn’t “Joe helped me win the pennant last year, so I owe it to him to let him work through his problems.” It was “these boys are trying to win. I owe it to them to do everything possible to help them win.”

–Bill James, The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers (170)

I suspect the conclusion many people will draw from the first story is “yikes, is Bellichick ever an asshole.” Which isn’t exactly wrong. But on this, I’m on the Bellichick/Stengel side. A coach’s job is to be loyal to the team and the team’s fans by doing what they feel is necessary to win, not to express loyalty to individual players per se. It’s not an accident that a coach willing to cut a guy the week before a Super Bowl already has five rings.

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