MINNEAPOLIS – Adam Eaton has played for two managers, Kirk Gibson and Robin Ventura, who stand on the opposite side of the fire and brimstone spectrum.
Ventura is mellow and calm. Gibson played football in college and managed the Arizona Diamondbacks like the coach of a football team that plays 16 games a year.
Eaton has played like a football player at times, a high-energy guy who has crashed into fences and slid head first into first base. He’s been told to scale that back for his own good, to even choose his spots going 100 percent on ground balls for the sake of preserving his body over the course of a 162-game season, and you might think a player like him would prefer Gibson’s style.
“I’ve played for two managers with polar opposite styles and I really enjoy Robin’s because he’s laid back,’’ Eaton said.
Ventura “doesn’t give a ton of speeches,” Eaton said, but he gets the tough messages across when he needed.
“In a long season, it’s very hard on teams to lose two, three in a row and feel pressure from outside sources,’’ Eaton said. “Skip knows that we know that we’re struggling and need to play better and get back on track. He doesn’t need to have a rah-rah meeting every third day. We have good clubhouse camaraderie in here, good guys who police us and get us on the right track.’’
Eaton spoke before the Sox’ 6-1 loss to the Twins Wednesday, in which he “had a Sean Casey moment,’’ stopping momentarily on a liner hit to shortstop Eduardo Nunez. He then slowed up near first, where Kennys Vargas had been pulled off the bag with Nunez’ throw. Vargas stepped back in time to get Eaton, a replay review confirmed.
“Thought the shortstop caught it and thought Vargas caught it at first,’’ Eaton said. “That said, I need to run every ball out. I’ve done a good job running things out and playing hard. I have to run every ball out and there is no excuse.’’
The Sox’ bad start has plenty of fans and media calling for a managerial change. The perception is a hard-nosed manager such as Gibson wouldn’t allow mistakes like that to happen. While allowing that teams are a reflection of their managers, Eaton said more fire doesn’t necessarily equate with better player performance.
“We’d lose two three in a row and we’d have a meeting about things we needed to do and how to get it done. We felt like every day was Ohio State–Michigan, like the biggest game of your life and if you don’t win this game there is a week of mourning over it. You just can’t play baseball like that. The pressure is way too serious, especially for younger players and it builds and wears on you. With Robin’s style and strategies of letting guys play their game, knowing we’re professionals and taking every at-bat relaxed is good.’’
Eaton also took a bad angle on a base hit to his right in center field and let the ball scoot under his glove for an error. Ventura didn’t excuse Eaton’s lack of hustle. He said it wasn’t in Eaton’s character, but it’s been that kind of year.
“He knows he made a mistake,’’ he said.