It broke the damn thing. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a technician to come to your house on the Friday before a long weekend?
Anderson and Hall's damage control has revived a few local baseball nuts' worst fears about the Zipperheads, Hall and Rick Anderson. The guardians of pro baseball in this "fickle" sports town (Hall's word) have to know the media and optics inside and out.
There is patience over the club's 20-44 overall record, but not for the Zipperheads' series of stumbles. First there was the clumsily handled name change and the firing of a long-time Lynx employee right before the season. Axing a popular manager for bogus reasons adds to the uneasiness over whether we'll have pro baseball in Ottawa beyond 2009.
Firing Nottle wasn't about wins and losses. It's about a couple control freaks who have shown they don't get it with a running a baseball team. Of course, they would probably say we don't get it.
Hall claimed the owners had "already decided before Nottle took his leave that he didn't figure in next season's plans and they wouldn't wait to replace him," claiming that "it's strictly wins and losses at this point." Baloney. Oh, only now have Anderson/Hall got in touch with into their inner Jerry Jones, when the Rapidz were roughly one-third of the way through the second half of the schedule where they must finish first to make the playoffs?
Talking to fellow fans over the past 48 hours, who in turn have been talking with their acquaintances all boils down to one prevailing sentiment. People not only disagree with firing Nottle, but they feel it's dishonest, opportunistic -- the kind of stuff you can get away with in business, in politics, but not in sports. People are funny that way. Thing is, if they don't buy tickets, there's no team.
Anderson/Hall's "wins and losses" justification doesn't hold water. Most fans at an indie-league game are there to eat, soak up the ballpark atmosphere and see a well-played game. No one gets too bent out of shape over the home team losing.
Do it when everyone's tied for first ...
An ownership which is so worried about winning should have made the change at the end of the first half, when each team's record was reset to 0-0.
The way it works in the Can-Am League is that the winner of each half makes the playoffs. Two more teams get in by virtue of their overall record. The Rapidz gave up so much ground in the first half (they were eight games behind the seventh-place team in an eight-team league), they would have to win the second. If they needed to get Nottle out of the dugout so badly -- even though the owners admit the players had no beefs with him -- they should have done it then.
Nottle, the team's best ambassador (jealous much?), could have stayed on in an advisory capacity. That would have afforded him a dignified exit at the end of the season. The Singing Manager was owed that much, considering that by force of Nottle's personality, the Rapidz got coverage from major media outlets that wouldn't have cared about the team otherwise. Instead, he was discarded like an old newspaper, because he was hired by Miles Wolff and might happen to have prior knowledge about how a baseball team should operate.
Nottle could have stayed on, worked the phones to try to recruit players, visited with fans in the stands during the games, sat in for a couple innings on the Internet broadcast, promoted the team around town -- point being, you do anything to keep a true baseball character like him around. (This is a man who, even though he's been fired, still plans on coming back on Sept. 7 for a benefit at Liam Maguire's, bar-restaurant near the ballpark, he's helped organize on behalf of a terminally ill child. Could you believe his ex-bosses don't want him to come back? Talk about no good deed going unpunished.)
You don't develop a man-crush on the interim manager on the basis of a five-game win streak.
The point is that in any city, any town, people buy tickets somewhat out of sentiment and do so with the expectation that team is committed to the city and the paying public (leaving aside whether the city is committed to it).
Firing Nottle is completely lacking in sentiment. It gives the appearance of a fly-by-night operation, which is something you can't have in a market that's been scorched by so many sports teams that have come (and gone) before.
It looks really bad. Anderson and Hall, with their backgrounds in business and politics, ought to know appearances can often be more damaging than how things actually are.
On Sept. 2, when the season ends, the bottom line will show:
- They didn't produce a playoff team;
- They gave the outward appearance of treating the team like a toy;
- They fired the Rapidz' best "ambassador";
- They alienated their base;
- They needlessly pissed-off potential customers;
- They demonstrated, very publicly, that they have little sound judgment.
(Incidentally, if you want to take this up with Rapidz, the contact on their website is email@example.com.)
'No good time' to dump Nottle; Owner defends firing manager while he's out of town, caring for ailing wife (Shane Ross, Sun Media)
High praise follows Nottle low note; Timing sours Rapidz managerial move (Chris Yzerman, Ottawa Citizen)
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.