Thursday, February 10, 2011

How Important is the "Clubhouse Guy"?

You know who I'm talking about don't you? The guy on the roster who keeps everybody loose. He may be an All-Star or he may have the skill set of a 2010 Pedro Feliz but he's the go to person when it's time for a pie in the face, or Icy Hot on the jock, or just an off color joke that lightens the moment.

But how important is he really to making a team better?

This is a tough thing to know definitively since there isn't any statistic to measure the "clubhouse guy's" impact. For all its intricacies, WAR doesn't calculate how many runs drawing a picture of a giant phallus on the clubhouse chalkboard might result in. Furthermore, any analysis is going to be highly subjective. For example my co-contributors put hold a lot of stock in intangibles, so I question whether they would find the "clubhouse guy" relevant let alone vital. Let's just say then that the positive results of "clubhouse guy's" antics are unknowable. After all I'm not immune to logic, and I'm certainly not delusional enough to think that "clubhouse guy's" proclivities are going to improve a pitcher's FIP.

Having said all of this I believe that the role of "clubhouse guy" is extremely important. There are two examples I can site, one in baseball and one in my own life.

First, in baseball. As a Yankees fan I noticed that between 2004 and 2008 the team was more tightly wound than President Mubarak alone on the streets of Cairo. Whenever the team started losing (especially in the playoffs) I'd look at the bench and just see the tension building with each opposing run scored. And of course having Mr. Excitement Joe Torre as the manager didn't exactly help either. The guy could teach lessons on the words "somber" and "solemn" to the statues at Mt. Rushmore. Not taking anything away from the 2004 Red Sox, they beat the Yankees straight up, but I wonder if things might have been different if the Yankees had had someone on the roster to crack a damn joke. I hadn't seen panic like that since the Giants front office realized the contract they'd given Barry Zito. Bottom line was that during that time frame the Yankees often didn't look like they were having any fun even when they were winning. It was patently obvious and I truly believe not having a "clubhouse guy" on the team was a factor. (Notice I said "factor," not the most important factor, just simply a factor.)

And then wonder of wonders in 2009 Nick Swisher arrives in The Big Apple. I know many revile Swish, but I tell you that guy was like manna from heaven. Not only did he bring solid numbers to the ball club but he brought something to the Yankees they'd desperately been lacking. He wasn't a character guy, he was guy who was a character. In short, a "clubhouse guy." I don't remember once that year ever seeing Swisher on the bench without a smile on his face. Swisher kept those guys loose and upbeat even when they were losing. Gone was the tension and despair I'd become so accustomed to seeing. You'll never convince me that his attitude and actions on the field and in the clubhouse weren't a contributing factor to all the Yankee comeback wins that year and ultimately in winning the World Series.

The second example is from my own life. I work at a security company (that shall remain nameless) in the quality assurance department. 80% of my job involves listening and auditing I can hear the yawns already from here. However, even though my job can sometimes be boring I love the team I work with. All seven of them have excellent personalities but I am blessed to work with two "clubhouse guys" both of whom are named Chad. "The Chads" break up the monotony with jokes that aren't always HR friendly and provide other moments of levity that would otherwise result in prolonged tirades containing enough expletives to make Ozzie Guillen blush. When both of them aren't there believe me I NOTICE.

Look the "clubhouse guy" isn't vital but he is important. Nobody wants to be Bud Selig, a guy so serious that it's obvious his last morning constitution happened right around the time Nixon resigned. So I say if you have a "clubhouse guy" on your team or at work, count your blessings. Just check your seat for a whoopee cushion while you're doing it.

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