Delino DeShields, Sr. and Robert Stephenson have progressed up the Reds affiliate system together. DeShields as a manager, Stephenson as a top-rated pitching prospect. DeShields was the manager for A-Dayton in 2012 when Stephenson was there. They overlapped a short time in AA-Pensacola in 2013. DeShields has been the manager for AAA-Louisville since 2014, so he’s worked with Stephenson last summer and all this season.
Last night, Stephenson had one of his worst starts pitching for Louisville. He made it through just 2 innings, giving up 6 earned runs, with 4 walks and 2 strikeouts. With major league call-up decisions pending, it was a real hang-your-head performance.
Seeing this quote from his manager in the Louisville Courier Journal surely made the 23-year-old’s evening go from bad to horrible.
“This is what we’ve been going through with this kid for the last three or four years,” DeShields said, referring to Stephenson’s control issues. “Until he makes an adjustment, it’s going to continue. It’s not going to get better. It’s on him. He’s been told what he needs to do and what he needs to work on by numerous coaches and staff members. It’s up to him to make those adjustments. If I was him, I’d be embarrassed.”
In referring to “three or four years,” DeShields called into question almost all of Stephenson’s time in the Reds organization. In saying Stephenson should be embarrassed, DeShields went beyond simple criticism to shaming. If Stephenson wasn’t embarrassed before, he sure was after he realized his family and close friends would read DeShields’ statement.
The substance of what DeShields said last night isn’t the issue. At least not here. We have no way of knowing whether Stephenson’s inconsistency is a function of his youth, his obstinance, erratic instruction over the years or a combination of those factors. DeShields is a no-nonsense, old-school guy who rubs some people the wrong way. (He’s also the guy who batted Jesse Winker 7th in the order more than once.) But Stephenson has a reputation for stubbornness.
Strong, fair criticism by DeShields could help if done right.
Where I part ways with DeShields is involving all the world. If you think Stephenson needs to hear that message, deliver it one-on-one. That’s what a thousand coaches have successfully done with a thousand headstrong players spanning every competitive endeavor. If you think a little peer pressure will help, make the criticism in front of a couple carefully chosen teammates. But not in earshot of the general public. Not where Stephenson’s family will read about it.
I’ve never coached Robert Stephenson and Delino DeShields has. He may have given his statement consideration and thought it would work. My experience says otherwise. I’ve spent 25 years as a teacher, employer, program director and coach. Public shaming of people under you doesn’t work. Rather, it causes entrenchment, breaks down trust and impedes progress.