In Apple TV’s Ted Lasso, the titular hero arrives in England with a difficult task before him: managing a Premier League soccer team, and a profoundly mediocre one at that. Despite having no experience whatsoever with the sport, Lasso—played by Jason Sudeikis—must not only produce results, but win over a team full of cocky rookies and gruff veterans, all of whom hate him, and a dour owner who has willfully set him up for failure.
Spoiler alert: he succeeds. Well, he doesn’t turn AFC Richmond into a powerhouse overnight, but what he does do is much more impressive. Through sheer force of earnestness and charisma, he transforms the downtrodden Greyhounds’ clubhouse into a place of positivity, unity, and most importantly, belief.
While Lasso’s methods are unorthodox—and, of course, fictional—there are many lessons to be learned from the show. I believe that these lessons could be applied just as successfully to other sports, including baseball. Which brings me to my central question:
If he was hired tomorrow, could Ted Lasso save the Colorado Rockies?
Controversial, I know, but think about it. While the Rockies aren’t the worst team in baseball this year, their vibes have been abysmal. They totally bungled the Nolan Arenado trade, then hung on to everyone else (most notably Trevor Story, who had “nothing good to say” about how the trade deadline was handled), claiming they still had a competitive roster despite the fact that the three best teams in the National League were staring down at them in their own division. The team’s terrible vibes have been evident in the performance of its remaining stars, like Story and Charlie Blackmon, who are having some of the worst years of their respective careers. Meanwhile, the production of pitchers like Germán Márquez and Jon Gray has been largely wasted, and they still have one of MLB’s worst farm systems. With all due respect to Bud Black, having a positive-minded presence like Lasso in the dugout could make a world of difference.
But how would a scripted football coach like Lasso fare managing a real-world baseball team? The way I see it, he would be faced with four major challenges in order to make an impact. Let’s go through them one by one, and hopefully, by the end, we’ll reach some clarity on this pressing issue.
Learning the Ropes
“I think I literally have a better understanding of who killed Kennedy than what is offside.”
The first challenge is the most obvious. Having only coached football (albeit both kinds), Ted Lasso would have to adapt his coaching strategy for the sport of baseball. The individualistic nature of the game could lessen the effectiveness of his usual methods, most of which seem to involve using charming anecdotes and off-color analogies to inspire teamwork on the field. For example: “You beating yourself up is like Woody Allen playing the clarinet. I don’t want to hear it.”
No doubt, managing a baseball team would be a different animal altogether. However, it can’t be much harder than figuring out British football, and he did that. I mean, he didn’t even figure out the offsides rule until near the end of season one.
I’m willing to bet Lasso would have a much better grasp of the American Pastime from day one, and the Colorado fans aren’t nearly as hostile as Richmond’s. Compared to his last job, learning the ropes of this one should be a piece of cake.
Winning the Clubhouse
“When it comes to locker rooms, I like ’em just like my mother’s bathing suits. I only wanna see ’em in one piece.”
With the game plan ready, the next challenge is winning over the hearts and minds of your players. This is Ted Lasso’s specialty, and I think he would have little trouble doing so with the Rockies. Sure, the players might have some objection to the hiring of a fictional character, and they may resent him at first for his lack of experience. But if he can win over an absolute prick like Jamie Tartt, how hard can Kyle Freeland be?
Perhaps the bigger challenge would be getting ownership on board. It’s no secret that Rockies owner Dick Monfort is not the most popular guy in Denver. I don’t know how the Rockies players feel about Monfort and new GM Bill Schmidt, but after the latest fiasco at the deadline, it’s hard to imagine their relationship is the strongest right now. And as long as they’re in charge, bridging that gap to build could be difficult.
But once again, I feel like we have to give Lasso some credit for what he did in England. It bears repeating that he was hired by an owner who was actively doing everything she could to make the team worse. She literally controlled the entire franchise, and did everything she could to make it flop so she could get back at her ex-husband who loved the team; by the end of the first season, Ted convinced her to abandon this strategy altogether. If he could charm his way out of a pickle like that, there’s no owner’s box on Earth he can’t win over.
“He’s the one, coach. If we’re gonna make an impact here, the first domino needs to fall right inside of that man’s heart.”
With the fans, players, and owners on board, the next challenge becomes building for success. One key to this that we saw in the first season of Ted Lasso was delegating responsibility. From day one, Ted singled out veteran midfielder Roy Kent as the most respected voice in the locker room, and he leaned on him to be a leader whether he liked it or not (he did not). In doing so, he stabilized the locker room and put an end to the culture of bullying that had developed. So the question is, who on the Rockies is going to be our Roy Kent?
Without knowing the intricacies of the Colorado locker room dynamics, I feel like the obvious answer has to be Blackmon. Chuck Nazty has been with the Rockies for 10 years now, longer than any other player, and Bud Black has talked this season about how he asked him to take on a larger leadership role this season with Arenado gone. I can only assume Lasso would come to the same conclusion.
What’s more, I think having Lasso around could greatly help Blackmon embrace his role as a clubhouse leader even as he ages his way down the lineup card. At the very least, he could teach him some lessons à la Joey Votto. But if I’m being honest, the main reason I want this is just to see him yell “IT’S CHARLIE BLACKMON!” every time he walks into the dugout.
Making the Hard Choices
“Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”
The fourth and hardest obstacle for newly-hired Manager Lasso in Colorado is doing what it takes to build a winning team. This is admittedly his greatest challenge as a coach, as he says repeatedly in the show that his priority is not wins and losses, but helping his players become better people. That’s all well and good, but this is a business. And while wins and losses might not be the Rockies’ biggest concern at the moment, building for future success is essential for fans to believe in the program — or “trust the process,” if you will.
In Ted Lasso the show, Ted Lasso the character learns that he must be able to make the hard choices to succeed at his job, like benching Jamie Tartt when his attitude becomes a problem, or benching Roy Kent when his performance becomes a problem. I guess benching people is pretty much the only thing you can do as a coach in soccer, but that’s beside the point.
The biggest “tough call” that the Rockies needed to make until recently was, of course, trading Trevor Story. But with the trade deadline in the rearview and little shot of re-signing him, it would appear that that ship has sailed. So if I were Lasso, I would focus on internal options. A nice speech never hurts.
More specifically, this means putting young players in a position to succeed. Obviously, guys like Brendan Rodgers, Raimel Tapia, and Ryan McMahon need to be playing every day. When someone like Ryan Vilade is ready, it should be as a starter, not on the bench. And if they’re not ready, don’t rush them! In the meantime, there’s always the Moneyball approach… what’s Scott Hatteberg doing these days, anyway?
With these things in mind, I can only conclude that yes, Ted Lasso could in fact fix the Rockies — or at the very least, fix their vibes. He was born for this task. If he’s given the opportunity to run the show at Coors Field, working his charismatic magic one day at a time, the team will simply have no choice but to start playing better. And if they don’t on day one, you can bet they’ll try again the next day, and the next, and all the days after that. That’s just what goldfish do.
Note: Season 2 of Ted Lasso is now streaming on Apple TV+. If you like happiness, you should watch it. And no, you can’t borrow my log-in.
Featured Image by Jacob Roy (@jmrgraphics3 on IG)