Don Cooper rubbed Sox wrong way — Jake Peavy in particular
By Joe Cowley firstname.lastname@example.org December 13, 2011 9:38PM
The relationship between Jake Peavy and pitching coach Don Cooper (above) disintegrated last season when the right-hander believed Cooper threw him under the bus in several interviews. | Nam Y. Huh~AP
Updated: January 15, 2012 8:16AM
Amid rumors and hot-stove trade chatter, pitcher John Danks was the only one who knew where he was going to end up Monday night: At the Home Depot, looking for wood screws.
After all, that pile of lumber sitting in his backyard needed some help to become a shed by the weekend.
As for the baseball talk?
The laid-back White Sox lefty just laughs about it. That’s for all of us to dissect and stress about.
“I’m not losing an ounce of sleep over it,” Danks said in a telephone interview.
His first choice is to return to the South Side, even though he’s one year away from free agency.
But his hope is that a return also comes with more harmony. Not so much for himself, but for a handful of Sox pitchers who felt betrayed by the way pitching coach Don Cooper conducted business last season.
“He was in survival mode for the first five months, and then all of a sudden when he got his contract [extension], he was back to ‘good ol’ Coop,’ ’’ one pitcher said recently. “They preach to us to act a certain way in a contract year, and you have a coach who couldn’t even lead by example. That rubbed a lot of us the wrong way.
“He treated a lot of us differently before that.’’
Then there was the disintegrating relationship between Cooper and starter Jake Peavy when the veteran right-hander believed Cooper threw him under the bus in several interviews.
Peavy believed that Cooper downplayed his inability to bounce back from starts like he should have in late August. At one point, Cooper told MLB.com, “It’s a non-factor for me. The bottom line is Jake is on and off. . . . So there’s been nothing there that I see of any real substance.”
That wasn’t the first time Cooper and Peavy weren’t on the same page, let alone in the same book.
Even when Peavy arrived in 2009 and began pitching more in 2010, there was some miscommunication about his mechanics until Peavy spoke to his old pitching coaches for advice.
Danks is good friends with Peavy, and he’s the first pitcher to acknowledge on the record that bridges need to be rebuilt.
“That’s exactly right,’’ Danks said. “Things need to be fixed. I’m easygoing, I didn’t have anything with anyone, but I know Jake and Coop need to both sit down and get on the same page.
“There are a bunch of grown men in there. It’s a clubhouse where guys will go to the person they have a problem with and talk it out. This isn’t a girl’s high school volleyball team. The easiest way to nip all this in the bud is to sit and talk. It’s not always comfortable, but it has to happen with a few guys. It has to get squared away. It can definitely be a distraction if it’s not.’’
Spring training just got real interesting.
The good news in all of this is that first-year manager Robin Ventura has experience with players feeling a disconnect with a coach or manager. After all, Ventura survived the Terry Bevington era.
It also shows how dysfunctional things were allowed to get last season. It was hard to win games on the field when there was so much friction off it.
Danks still doesn’t know if he’ll even be around to see if the peace talks work.
The Sox haven’t spoken recently to Danks about a contract extension, and they have been actively shopping him from New York City to South Beach. A trade hasn’t happened yet because general manager Ken Williams is asking for the moon in return, plus prospects.
“More than anything, this is the business of baseball,’’ Danks said. “I don’t blame Kenny for trying to get as much as he can. I took that as him being early in the process. I took it as him throwing feelers out there.’’
That said, Danks is somewhat frustrated that the Sox didn’t protect his younger brother, Jordan, on the 40-man roster, nor did they seem serious about an extension for John, at least what Danks and agent Jeff Berry deemed serious.
“Maybe just in the baseball world I’m not thought of as a [Mark] Buehrle or a Jon Lester,’’ Danks said. “I know the wins weren’t there, but there is more that goes into getting a win than people think. For whatever reason, I’m not considered upper-echelon, but I’m not going to get caught up with what other people think about me.’’
Danks hopes all is well by April and the Sox can get past the distractions and back winning.
Then again, there are some things even wood screws can’t repair.