The two anecdotes that follow may not seem exemplary of much, but think about it:
How the White Sox handle a player not running out a groundball:
How serious was White Sox general manager Ken Williams about a seemingly meaningless four-inning intra-squad game Monday?
After Nick Swisher led off with a single, Williams yelled down to his new player, "We run hard to first base in Chicago!"
Williams then paused, turned to the coaching staff and said, "Make sure he (expletive) hears what I said."
How the Royals handle it:Immediately after Ryan Shealy had won the game with a home run in the ninth inning, Hillman gathered his entire squad around home plate and talked to the players for several minutes.
It was an unusual scene for Spring Training, to be sure.
"Just talking about running the bases," Hillman said of the meeting. "We made a couple of mistakes today."
Consider the respective team's responses. From the White Sox:
Specifically from Swisher, nothing. Swisher, by the way, was regarded as one of the hardest-working players on the A's; how do you think he feels having to put up with this crap? A loud, foul-mouthed general manager who has no business near the dugout in the first place implying -- oppressively and smugly -- that he never played hard in Oakland, that somehow, even though this was a four-inning intrasquad game, even though he led off with a single, that things were done differently in Chicago, that we run hard to first base in Chicago, not like you dirty homeless hippies in the Bay Area. Williams' response, folks, is what observers might call trash.
From the Royals:
Quoting Dick Kaegel, the writer of the article: "The players listened to the new skipper quietly and had no arguments afterward."
Mark Grudzielanek: "It was just one of those things where we've got to get better. It's those little things like that that are going to help us. We're not a team that can afford to give runs away and not score when we're supposed to. We need to do all the little things because we need all the help we can get."
Ryan Shealy: "He said he didn't think, as a team, we were running the bases as hard as he'd like so he just wanted to address it before it became an issue, I guess. I think it was more [about] an effort thing than stupid base-running."
David DeJesus, most tellingly (emphasis mine): "We just had a couple mistakes where we didn't run the ball out. So he wants to keep harping on us that fans want to see the effort and all you've got to do is run hard down to first base. It's not that hard of a thing so we'll take that and we'll start doing it. It's not like we're in trouble but he wants to tell us right now, early in camp, the way it should be. And, hey, that's the way it is."
Nary can a more logical explanation be found for running hard to first than this: Fans want to see the effort, and all you have to do is run hard to first base. That's it. An easy concept that the players can remember: there are people paying to watch you play baseball, so the least you could do is make it seem like you want to be there.
The White Sox Way? Abuse, invective, bullying. What does Swisher, a professional who's about to get richer soon enough by the degree of many millions of dollars, have to prove to Ken Williams? In fact, who the hell is Ken Williams? By whose ordaining has Williams been bestowed such monocratic authority?
You see, the difference between the Royals and the White Sox, on a literal level on this day in question, is how they handle a common malady in spring training: lax baserunning. But more vitally, the difference between how they deal with this points to a fundamental rift in worldviews, in perceptions of how human beings interact, of what inspires them, moves them, repulses them, attracts them towards a common will and further from his own. What we have, bright as white chalk on grass, is a dividing line, where on one side you have graceless totalitarian incendiary despotism while on the other there's poised, evenhanded, intelligent guidance.
Which side would you prefer?