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Tracy trying to balance development with winning

July 22, 2012 - Mitch Rupert

Life in minor league baseball is different. Winning is nice, but it’s not the ultimate goal.

It’s a world of development, especially for a team like the Williamsport Crosscutters. But it’s not that Andy Tracy isn’t interested in winning. Everybody wants to win.

In fact, learning how to win in professional baseball is a part of the process the first-year skipper has talked about all season. But it comes with learning how to play the game the right way.

The Cutters’ recent stretch of just four wins in 20 July games has brought about the question of just how important is winning in the New York-Penn League? Williamsport’s 11 wins are tied for the second fewest in the league with Aberdeen. Only Lowell (9-24) has fewer.

“Obviously, you want to win. We want to teach guys to win,” Tracy said following Saturday’s loss to State College. “I don’t think it’s a lack of effort. I just think sometimes our focus is elsewhere at times when it should be on something else.”

Williamsport’s record has been a bit befuddling because of all the high-round draft selections on the roster. But Tracy has said throughout the year things are different in the development of a team as young as this Crosscutters team.

The learning curve is different. Where Tracy wants the players to be more even keel emotionally, the peaks in emotion are higher after wins and the valleys after losses are lower. Part of the process of the team learning how to win learning how to level out.

“And the valleys are going to be a little lower because nobody has really struggled before,” said Tracy of the New York-Penn League’s youngest team. “They’re all high picks and they’ve got something where they hit .500 in high school and have never looked at their name with a .200 next to it. If they just believe in what they’re doing, things will work out and we’ll win some games.”

Thirty-two games into the season, Tracy likes the progress of such a young team. The Cutters were just six games in front of the half-way point of the season prior to Sunday’s doubleheader with State College and Tracy said he’s been able to see improvement from his entire team.

A pitching staff which struggled to find the plate over the first 20 games of the season has suddenly turned a corner. The Cutters have walked just 26 in the last 10 games (2.6 per game). Over the first 22 games, the staff was allowing 4.55 walks per game.

“Obviously guys are struggling right now, and some are hot. But that’s the normal progression of the game and not the progression of the player,” Tracy said. “They’re going to have to learn right now when they struggle to slow it down and get it back in the hot streak. We talked about the peaks and valleys, but we want to keep them as small and level as we can. That’s the process of baseball no matter what level you’re at.”

Many of the problems of the team arise from the fact that they are so young and they’re still learning how to play the game as a professional. The little things in pro ball are magnified because of the better talent pool. Such as Saturday night when miscommunication between Roman Quinn, Larry Greene Jr. and Mitch Walding allowed a fly ball to drop in between them for a double. In a one-run game it allowed the Spikes to tack on to their lead.

“It’s going to come back and get you,” Tracy said. “That’s just how it works. Hopefully, the players see eventually it’s going to click, and when it does click, it’s going to be special.”

UNWRITTEN RULES: Following the momentous umpire decision on a foul ball that completely changed the dynamic of Saturday night’s game at State College, there was some clear jawing going on from Tracy and people on the Crosscutters’ bench with two State College players in the on-deck circle across the way.

Once the umpires made the decision that the ball off Jodaneli Carvajal’s leg was foul and the Cutters had to come back on to the field to continue the inning, pitcher Delvin Perez was given a number of warm-up pitches. As he threw his warm-up pitches, Tracy said Carvajal and Tyler Gaffney stood on the grass behind home plate timing Perez’s warm-up pitches.

Gaffney was the most vocal from the Spikes, yelling toward the Cutters’ dugout.

“At any level you do not stand behind the pitch while he’s warming up and time him,” Tracy said of the verbal confrontation in which people from both benches were yelling back and forth. “So we just said can you move out of there and their coach started yelling at us. That was our problem. I guarantee them our guys wouldn’t do that because I wouldn’t let them do that. It’s unprofessional.”

State College manager Dave Turgeon walked from the third-base coach’s box down toward the Spikes’ on-deck circle and spoke with Carvajal. As he walked past the Cutters’ dugout he held out his hand to Tracy as if to say he’d handle the situation.


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