- The Washington Times
Sunday, March 2, 2014


VIERA, Fla. — There are all different kinds of quotes, and uses for them. The previous Washington Nationals manager, Davey Johnson, was quotable.

His successor, Matt Williams, likes quotes.

These are not the same thing.

The quotes you would get from Johnson were the kind that would wind up leading a story in the newspaper the next day, like this:

“I might slit my wrists or something, but I’m not quitting.”

The quotes from Williams are the kind of spam you find in your email box every morning, under the category, “Inspirational quote of the day.”

Such as, “Perfection is unattainable, but the pursuit of perfection is imperative.”

Williams would just as soon that you don’t find anything particularly quotable in his daily comments to the media — unless, of course, you want to go with, “Every pitch we make is with conviction.”

He sees the value in quotes — for him, though, not for us. Every day in spring training, in the Nationals clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium, Williams posts a quote of the day on the daily schedule, located on the cork board in the clubhouse near the entrance.

Here are a few of his offerings so far:

“There is a difference between control and command.”

“Expect the ball to be hit; Demand it be caught.”

“Humility is an athlete’s greatest attribute.” (The previous guy wasn’t a big fan of this one).

“If not you, then who?”

I particularly like that last one, a variation of The Three Stooges, “Who me?”

Coaches — particularly baseball managers — are quoted perhaps more than anybody in the media. Win or lose, before and after games, perhaps 200 times a year, a baseball manager will be quoted in the press.

Sometimes they are great quotes, sometimes forgettable, sometimes amusing.

Quotes can be valuable to a coach when they are used to get across a bigger message — using short, motivational phrases to crystallize the concepts of motivation and determination, sound bites about what it takes to win.

One of the legendary practitioners was Hall of Fame football coach Vince Lombardi, who gave us such quotes as, “If you are not fired with enthusiasm, you will be fired with enthusiasm,” or, “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.”

John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, is often quoted by coaches who try to capture the same magic, with phrases like, “Sports do not build character. They reveal it,” or this one, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

I don’t think Lombardi or Wooden ever uttered this Matt Williams quote: “He who holds the ball controls the game.”

Surely we can do better than that. So while in Viera for spring training, I gave Williams a copy of my book, “The Quotable Coach: Leadership and Motivation from History’s Greatest Coaches.” After all, come the third week of March, I think Williams is going to need a little help.

Manny Acta already had a copy of the book when he was hired to manage the Nationals. When I interviewed President George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2005 when baseball returned to Washington, I gave him a copy of “The Quotable Coach.”

I thought it might show up somewhere in the next State of the Union, but it didn’t. Anything in there would have been better than, “We have benefited from responsible criticism and counsel offered by members of Congress of both parties.”

Quotes don’t have to always be fire and brimstone. It wouldn’t hurt for Williams to mix in a little humor. It can go a long way. Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel recognized that more than anybody, with tidbits like, “The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided,” or, “If we’re going to win the pennant, we’ve got to start thinking we’re not as good as we think we are.”

One of my favorites is former Detroit Tigers manager Mayo Smith, who once declared, “Know what you’d see if you opened up a ballplayer’s head? A bunch of little broads and a jazz band.”

Here, though, is the greatest sports quote of all time. Williams can just post this one in the Nationals clubhouse and leave it there. Many have been credited for it, but I think it was former Flyers coach Fred Shero who may have come up with it:

“Commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken makes a contribution. The pig makes a commitment.”

Who can argue with that?

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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