The evil genius of the MLBlogosphere got the World Series just about exactly right in his prediction of every aspect the World Series from Joe Maddon’s potential to screw up; to Jamie Moyer’s effectiveness against the Rays; to the importance of using David Price; to the number of games it would take for the Phillies to end this fairy tale. Here’s the link so you can bask in my wonderfulness: World Series Prediction Blog 10/21.
- Phillies 4-Rays 3:
I do not want to see or hear one more word about how smart Joe Maddon is.
I do not want to see or hear one more word about how quirky Joe Maddon is.
I do not want to see or hear one more word about how he was recruited to attend the Ivy League schools Penn and Princeton; about how he’s a fitness fanatic who carries a dismantled bicycle on the road and puts it together to ride to and from the ballpark; how he’s a wine collector; how he’s different from most managers who cuss a blue streak and have tobacco juice running down their chins.
I don’t want to hear any of that stuff because any manager who screws up as royally as Maddon did throughout an entire post-season not only shouldn’t be receiving accolades for “turning” a hapless, annual 100-game loser into a 97-win World Series runner up, there’s a reasonable case to fire him because it’s clear that he doesn’t know what he’s doing strategically.
First, how do you leave Grant Balfour in the game to start Game 5 2/3 in the bottom of the sixth inning to pitch to Geoff Jenkins when you have not one, not two, but three lefties in the bullpen? When Jenkins has become completely inept against lefties and the Phillies only had the unimposing Chris Coste, who looked terrible in his game one start, as a right-handed bat to hit for Jenkins? When David Price, the devastating rookie number one draft pick who’s handled everything put in front of him was available and ready to go? How?!? Not only was Maddon lucky that Jenkins’s shot didn’t go out of the park, but he compounded the screw up even more after the sixth inning.
The Rays received a stunning and heartwarming homer from Rocco Baldelli in the top of the seventh to tie the game. Jason Bartlett singled with one out and Maddon left J.P. Howell in so he could bunt. This is with Eric Hinske on the bench; with Ben Zobrist (a switch-hitter on the bench); with Willy Aybar (another switch hitter) on the bench; with Fernando Perez (another switch hitter on the bench). After Howell’s successful bunt for the second out, Bartlett made a heinous baserunning gaffe by getting thrown out at home after Chase Utley fielded Akinori Iwamura’s infield hit. Then came the bottom of the seventh when, if you didn’t think Maddon could make things worse, you found that you’d be wrong.
Maddon—-with a bullpen containing both Dan Wheeler and the siderarming Chad Bradford—-left J.P. Howell in to pitch to Pat Burrell. Never mind that Burrell slugs .73 points higher and has an OPS .131 points higher against lefties; never mind that Howell has been far, far, far worse against right-handed hitters in his career (he was good against them this year, but how many righties did he face like Burrell over the course of the season, I wonder) than he has against lefties; Maddon had two righties in the bullpen. Burrell is 0 for 3 career against Bradford and is 2 for 11 career against Wheeler and Maddon waited until after Burrell doubled to deep center field (and without the wind, the ball would’ve gone into space) and then brought Bradford in to pitch to Shane Victorino. Naturally, after Victorino’s grounder advanced the runner to third, Pedro Feliz singled to center to give the Phillies the lead again and the Phillies happily took the lead, won the game and the World Series.
I’ve gone on about Maddon’s other mistakes throughout the post-season and I’m not going to get into everything again, but this was the fifth game of the World Series and his team was down three games to one; did he realize that if the Rays lost, they were going to go, you know, home? That the season was going to be over? Why wasn’t Price in the game in the sixth? Why did he leave Howell in the game to hit? Why did he let Howell pitch to Burrell? What was he doing? This wasn’t a situation where the game happened too fast for him to be able to keep up with everything; that would at least be an excuse (a notoriously weak one, but an excuse nonetheless); he had two days to think about this; to think about the bad things that could happen had he left Balfour in to pitch to any of the Phillies three lefty power bats on their bench in Jenkins, Matt Stairs and Greg Dobbs; to think about how good Price has been throughout this entire post-season; how doing what he did made no sense whatsoever. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver speculated that perhaps Maddon didn’t want Price to have to bat fourth in the top of the seventh inning, but my reaction to that is: Yeah? So? So what if he had to hit? And Maddon left a pitcher in to hit instead of one of the numerous bats he had available on the bench anyway.
As affable as Maddon is along with all the other attributes he has, I’d rather have Billy Martin at his drunkest, most contentious, pugnacious and irritable because Martin, with his street fighter mentality and contempt for overthinking college players, coaches and managers, wouldn’t make such egregious (borderline embarrassing) errors in using his personnel. It was like there was a monkey spinning a wheel of fortune telling Maddon what to do like in the spoof reality show, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss; and if I were a higher up with the Rays, Maddon would hear the catchwords of the fictional “obnoxious boss”, N. Paul Todd, when I called him in, thanked him for his hard work and sa
id, “get the hell out of my office,” as I hired a manager who strategically, knows what he’s doing.
There are the endless stories and apologies and hand wringing and questioning and wondering and criticism of the way Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball handled the whole rain out/cancellation/suspension and it’s enough. They did the right thing and Selig’s acting like someone who’s about to have a Pete Rozelle-Al Davis-style blood feud with someone (the media, the fans, the owners); what’s the problem? So they’ll finish the game tonight, as they should. They got a faulty weather forecast on Monday, tried to get the game in and made the smart decision to suspend it. No matter how the decision was reached and whether or not there was confusion here and there is irrelevant; the bottom line is that they did the right thing and there won’t be any righteous indignation as to what baseball did wrong for once. Give the guy a break.
- Rays 2-Phillies 2 (Suspended Mid-6):
Commissioner Bud Selig was absolutely, positively, completely, 1,000,000% right to say that he wouldn’t allow a World Series to end on a game shortened by the weather. I doubt that even the most misanthropic, ignorant, abusive, desperate, stupid, mustard-throwing, neanderthal Phillies fan would want a championship that way for no other reason than it would be easy to dismiss it as having been handed to them rather than won on the field. I was screaming at Joe Buck as to what an idiot he is when he and Tim McCarver were talking about how the game and series would’ve ended with a Phillies win had the game been called before the Rays tied the score, but according to the rulebook, they were right. Even with the right call that was made, did the fact that the game wasn’t going to be called in favor of the Phillies under any circumstances without a completed game get to the umpiring crew?
The rain didn’t appear to be falling with anymore intensity in the sixth inning than it had in the prior three innings, so why did they wait to halt the game until the Rays tied the score? If the stories that say Selig told the umpiring crew that the game wasn’t going to be called to either team no matter what happened are true, why didn’t they just put the tarp on the field earlier?
I can tell you from experience in having worked outside in that type of rain that it’s in many ways worse than a driving rainstorm in which it seems like there are buckets of water being dumped onto one’s head; the type of rain last night was of the steady, ice-cold variety that not only gets you soaked before you know it, but it’s that type of weather that gets people sick. The field was clearly unplayable before the Rays tied the score and there wasn’t much difference in the circumstances from when it was 2-1 Phillies, until it was 2-2; so why didn’t they suspend it earlier if the commissioner of baseball said they weren’t going to just award the game to either team? They can deny it all they want, but it looked like the umpires were waiting for the Rays to tie the score and then suspend it so there wouldn’t be any implication of bended rules; but that’s the commissioner’s prerogative; and no one would’ve argued that he was changing the rules to favor anyone because no one wants to win that way. The game should’ve been suspended earlier, no matter the score.
- Now come the strategic decisions:
The game is now going to come down to a three inning affair to see if the Phillies are going to be the world champions or there’s going to be a game six in Tampa, and this is where we’ll see if which manager makes the smart decision and which manager makes the stupid decision.
Before Joe Maddon came into the interview room, I thought it was clear that James Shields should be sent out to the mound to start the bottom of the sixth inning on Tuesday night(?); predictably, Maddon said he wasn’t going to do that and that Grant Balfour was still technically in the game as the pitcher. With most managers, I’d say there was absolutely no chance that Balfour would essentially be sent out there as a starting pitcher for Game 5 2/3; with Maddon, I don’t know. The Rays have three options: they can use the bullpen as if it’s a continuation of the game from the sixth inning onward; they can use Shields; or they can send David Price out there and have him treat the game as a start. Of the three, the best option is to use Price.
Using the lefty Price not only makes sense since he’s a starting pitcher, but because he’s better suited to deal with the Phillies lineup and bench. Carlos Ruiz made the last out of the fifth inning for the Phillies and pitcher Cole Hamels is scheduled to lead off the bottom of the sixth; if Maddon uses one of his righties, the Phillies have Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs to hit for Hamels; if he uses Price, they don’t have much of a selection other than Chris Coste, who looked awful in his game one start as DH. After that, the Phillies are two batters away from Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. I would not want to use my bullpen righties against those guys when one run might end the game and series. Price is the only option.
Charlie Manuel has a similar decision to make. He could use Brett Myers to start the seventh inning, which wouldn’t be unfamiliar territory for Myers no matter how he reconciles the situation mentally. He’s been a starter all year and he could look at the game as as start; or since he closed last year, he could look at it as a relief appearance. Manuel could also play for one run in the bottom of the sixth and go with Ryan Madson to pitch the seventh and eighth and then to Brad Lidge in the ninth. (That’s my preference.) He could also have both Myers and Madson warming up and if the game’s tied use Myers and if they get a lead, go with Madson.
I’m not even going to speculate what either side is going to do because if I crawl too deeply into their cavernous heads, rife with trapdoors and creepy goings-on and bottomless pits, I might disappear, never to be heard from again other than as a replacement for that strange voice that tells Maddon or Manuel to do things that don’t make sense. Actually, both might be better off if that were the case, although I probably wouldn’t.
- Phillies 10-Rays 2:
Of all the storylines surrounding Joe Blanton’s homer—-he was only 2 for 26 in his entire career; no pitcher had homered in the World Series since 1974; etc.—-the most fascinating had to be the extended tour he took running around the bases. Whereas a guy like Casey Blake hits a homer and almost sprints around the bases, Blanton’s was slower than anything Reggie Jackson ever could’ve come up with at his most flamboyant moments of showboating. In movie terms it was the difference between a teaser preview and sitting through Titanic.
As for the game, the Phillies have started hitting and—-despite the pundits going on about Scott Kazmir and how the Rays can’t be counted out—-this series is going to end tonight. The Phillies don’t want to have to go back to Tampa; Cole Hamels is going to give them another solid performance and lock up a John Smoltz/Dave Stewart-type post-season by winning the MVP in both the League Championship Series and World Series and Kazmir’s going to get shelled and be gone by the second inning.
One question: Unless he was simply getting his arm loose because he hadn’t pitched since Wednesday, why was Brad Lidge warming up in the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 10-2? Even if the Rays had scored two runs and then loaded the bases, there would’ve been ample time for Lidge to get loose in time to get a save; why waste what bullets he has left at this time of year?
- The next manager of the Brewers to be…Willie Randolph?
Ken Macha is still said to be the frontrunner for the job, but (this is my speculation), I think the Brewers are going to weigh everything that their three main candidates can provide and smartly pick Willie Randolph as their new manager. Joel Sherman wrote this in the NY Post yesterday:
The perception has been that Bob Brenly is the
frontrunner to become the Brewers’ manager. But a person familiar with
the process said Brenly’s interview did not go that well and that
former A’s manager Ken Macha is now considered the leading candidate. Willie Randolph is the third person currently being considered for the job. He is well liked by Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin and his interview apparently went well. In addition – surprisingly – he has received strong endorsements from Mets officials. Of course, if Randolph is hired by the Brewers some of the $2.25
million the Mets still owe him for 2009 would be removed, which could
be a good reason for Met officials to be so positive about Randolph.
I think cooler heads will prevail regarding Brenly. Melvin’s a smart guy and he has to know what really went on in Arizona when Brenly managed the Diamondbacks and he just functioned as a breathing, functioning body in a veteran clubhouse that had grown tired of Buck Showalter’s micromanaging. I also believe that Macha’s reputation is going to prevent him from getting the job. Supposedly Jason Kendall, a strong and respected voice in the Brewers clubhouse, didn’t get along with Macha in Oakland with the Athletics and there’s the perception that Macha’s a bit too Machiavellian after the way he reportedly stabbed Art Howe in the back as his bench coach and weaseled his way into getting the Athletics job by interviewing for several vacancies and being portrayed as the “brains” in Oakland. (There was only one brain in Oakland then and it was Billy Beane.) It also helped that Howe wanted a contract extension and more money, which he got from the Mets. That leaves Randolph.
While Sherman’s assertion that the money aspect probably contributed to the Mets glowing recommendation of Randolph is partially true, I think the majority of the Mets front office generally liked and respected Willie for his hard work and how he instilled discipline and accountability in a team that so desperately needed it. I’m not sure how the contract stuff works (maybe someone could verify this), but I believe that the Mets would only have to pay the difference of what’s left after he receives a contract somewhere else; so if the Brewers give him a $900,000 a year deal for 2009, the Mets would pick up the other $1.35 million.
It ended badly for Randolph with the Mets, and that wasn’t all his fault; but he’s the best of the three options for the Brewers for a number of reasons, not the least in which he doesn’t have the baggage that Macha and Brenly do and he’s smart enough to have learned his lessons from what happened with the Mets. If anything, the Mets experience should prepare him for whatever would happen in Milwaukee strategically; in the clubhouse; with the press; and with the front office.
This is the problem teams using the bullpen by committee run into when in times of stress. Had the Rays had a legitimate closer on their roster who could be counted on to throw strikes, wriggle out of jams and run up strikeouts, he would’ve been in the game. *Check that.* He would’ve been in the game with a manager who made conventional, intelligent decisions regarding his roster instead of whatever pops into his head at that particular moment; there’s every chance that even if manager Joe Maddon had Mariano Rivera on his roster, he wouldn’t have used him citing the faulty logic that Rivera then wouldn’t be available in a save situation if one arose.
I have no problem with using Grant Balfour in the ninth inning last night; after the season Balfour has had this year, he’s earned the right to be the guy in the game when strikeouts are needed; but the entire situation necessitated an ace out of the bullpen, and the Rays simply do not have one. The wild pitch by Balfour, which sent Eric Bruntlett to second exemplified how Balfour is a loose cannon out there who reverted to the pitcher he was before this breakthrough season with the Rays; one from whom no one knows what to expect. After the wild pitch, catcher Dioner Navarro made that unnecessary throw to try and nail Bruntlett at second base, air mailed it into center field, and allowed Bruntlett to go to third base.
From there, Maddon walked both Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs—-arguable, but understandable strategies—-something I probably wouldn’t have done with Balfour. Balfour is a strikeout guy who occasionally loses the strike zone; walking the bases loaded gave him no margin for error. Shane Victorino and Greg Dobbs are surprisingly good contact hitters, but not many pitchers throw as hard as Balfour. There’s an argument for going either way and Balfour got Carlos Ruiz to hit a dribbler that was perfectly placed to end the game; there’s nothing that can be done about that.
Another maneuver that I cannot understand was starting Gabe Gross in right field to begin with against Jamie Moyer and leaving him in to bat against J.C. Romero, then double switching him out of the game in favor of Ben Zobrist when he brought Balfour into the game. Looking at Gross’s numbers against lefties indicate a hitter who is borderline clueless against left-handed pitchers. The numbers are so bad that without realizing it, one would think that it was a pitcher posting them instead of an outfielder. Career-wise, Gross is a .148 career batter in 122 at bats and Maddon removed him in the bottom of the inning anyway; he had two right-handed options on his bench in Zobrist and Rocco Baldelli; why was Gross in the lineup to begin with unless there’s some little man on Maddon’s shoulder giving him suggestions on what players to play based on some hunch that has no basis other than a shot in the dark? There’s no way to know what Baldelli or Zobrist would’ve done had they been in right field from the start of the game or if they’d pinch hit in the ninth, but there was a pretty good indicator of what Gross did because the guy can’t hit lefties.
This series may be over by tomorrow night.
- Fixing the Nats:
Jane at Confessions of a She-Fan suggested that none other than yours-truly should’ve gotten the Seattle Mariners GM job after my assessment of their new GM Jack Zduriencik—-Blog 10/23; I mentioned sort of kiddingly, but not really, that the job I’d want wouldn’t be in Seattle, Washington, but in Washington D.C.; then I got to thinking about what I’d do with the daunting task of fixing the Nationals. Here’s the strategy, bearing in mind that with a 59-102 record, there’s nowhere to go but up:
Improve the starting pitching: Understanding that the Nationals neither have the intention nor the realistic reasoning to spend a load of money on free agents, they have to be creative. Being creative and gambling would involve following the lead of teams like the current Marlins and the late 80s Expos. What those teams did was to bring in a large volume of veteran starting pitchers coming off injuries or with bad reputations and hope that two or three of them become useful acquisitions. The late 80s Expos are still a great example of what can be accomplished by giving second and third chances to certain guys who might realize that this is their last chance. The Expos got brilliance from Dennis Martinez and a brief spurt of usefulness from Pascual Perez. There are names floating around now that would be scoffed at, but Martinez and Perez prompted eye-rolling when they were signed as well.
Those names—-veterans like Steve Trachsel, Kris Benson, Victor Zambrano, Shawn Chacon—-would be low-risk financially, and they might realize that Washington is their last chance and that if they perform well, stay healthy and behave, they could convince a big-money team to give them a large contract after a solid 2009. It’s happened before and with the sad state of pitching in the big leagues, is definitely worth a shot.
What needs to be done is to get compete
nce in the starting rotation, leaving young starters that the Nats already have in John Lannan, Jay Bergmann (who wasn’t nearly as bad as his record), and Shairon Martis to develop without being at the top of the rotation and learning from veterans who’ve got plenty of experience. Such competence at the big league level would allow the Nats to begin:
Rebuilding the minor league system: Without a minor league pipeline of players to develop and trade, an organization with limited funds like the Nats has no chance to improve. There’s already some young talent on the roster like Ryan Zimmerman, Jesus Flores, Emilio Bonifacio and Lastings Milledge. The draft and finding players from Australia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea and Taiwan as well as obscure locations like Europe and extending the reach to Africa to find anyone who has some ability would be a way to smartly use resources. As for the draft, the way I would run it is to draft the best available talent regardless of position or experience.
That means eschewing the idea that college-age players are closer to the big leagues; ignoring stats as the final arbiter and whether or not they play a position of need in the organization. The only disqualifying factors that would matter to me would be whether they have a history of being troublemakers and if they’re represented by Scott Boras. Unless a player is quite literally can’t miss—-and by that I mean a player who could be placed in the majors within two years of being drafted and perform competently with the development into MVP/Cy Young Award status not far behind—-then Boras as an agent disqualifies them from being drafted simply because I don’t need the aggravation that Boras brings. I can deal with a bit of irritation, but not someone who’s unreasonable and is starting from an adversarial position before any numbers have been exchanged.
That also means if the best available players in the first ten rounds are all pitchers, then I draft all pitchers; if they’re first basemen, I draft them; if they’re whatever position, I draft them because they can always be moved to different positions in the minors; and if they develop, they can be traded if there’s a surplus. It makes sense in baseball to draft based on ability rather than position because there’s no way to know if going to make it in pro ball at all, let alone project a position for them. And as for amateur pitchers with gaudy stats, radar gun readings but questionable size (Tim Lincecum) or motions (Jake Peavy), I’d draft them anyway knowing that their young arms are likely to stay healthy long enough for me to garner enough interest in them to trade them. Thinking outside the box is the only way for a limited payroll team to build a quality organization and that comes from creative scouting, drafting and frugal signings.
Try to mentor and develop the troublemakers while clearing out some big, unnecessary contracts: Specifically, with troublemakers, I’m referring to Elijah Dukes and Lastings Milledge; and with the contracts, I’m referring to Dmitri Young, Ronnie Belliard and Cristian Guzman. There is an opportunity to take care of many of those issues at once; it’s an unlikely strategy, difficult to complete and unlikely to work, but there’s a chance and that chance is one man who’d take some convincing and a leap of faith to get to Washington, but he’s available and would clear some of those contracts; that man is Gary Sheffield.
While he’s a felony waiting to happen, I do not believe that Elijah Dukes is unsalvageable; he’s very angry, very troubled and very talented. If he’s able to be brought under control; understand that his talent is only going to take him so far and that Washington is probably his last chance in baseball unless he changes his ways, he could end up fulfilling his star potential. Milledge has been plagued by attitude issues throughout his career and while he’s not seen as incorrigible as Dukes is, still needs guidance. I don’t think Milledge is overtly bad and is just immature, but he doesn’t have the MVP potential that Dukes does.
Sheffield has a limited no-trade clause (one would assume the Nats are on it) and while it’s unlikely that he could be convinced to join the Nationals, I’d appeal to his better angels and that he’d be a great influence on both Dukes and Milledge and could be seen as a mentor to both; someone who they’d automatically respect and listen to as another African-American player who’d had a bad or a misunderstood reputation, but still made the most of his abilities after a rough start. Sheffield could reach both players in a way that the GM, manager or babysitters that were attached to keep an eye on Dukes couldn’t because he has the history, on-field hardware and background to get through to them on how to behave and perform. The Tigers are desperate to get rid of Sheffield’s $14 million contract and would absolutely take the expiring contracts of Young and Belliard off the Nats hands. It’s something to think about to get through to both young players and might work because Sheffield absolutely would not put up with crap from either player and has the cachet to get them to listen to him.
These are just some strategies that popped out of my head, but they make sense on many levels. Some might work, some might not; but they couldn’t do any worse following them than they’re doing now and the risk/reward might be a rebuilt and successful organization with a brand new ballpark in a money-heavy market that is starved for someone and something to cheer for on the diamond.
If there’s any encompassing storyline to the World Series so far, it wouldn’t have anything to do with the players; or the “worst-to-first” aspect of the Rays; or the historical ineptitude of the Phillies, but it would be a question from observers directed toward the decisions made by both managers as they’re being made; and that question—-What the hell’s he doing?—-overshadows just about everything else.
The questionable strategic maneuverings of both managers—-Phillies manager Charlie Manuel’s decision not to pinch hit for Pedro Feliz against Dan Wheeler in the sixth inning (for the record, I probably would’ve let Feliz hit as well); and Rays manager Joe Maddon’s odd lineup choices and bullpen selections—-are rife for second guessing not just because of their failures, but because there’s no iron-clad explanation for what they’re doing. Manuel didn’t DH Pat Burrell in game one because Burrell doesn’t like to DH; Maddon inserted Ben Zobrist in right field for reasons no one seems to know—-it’s like they’re picking strategies out of the air and using the oft-used and nonsensical reason of “going with my gut” as a way to put an end to the queries of what they were thinking.
All of this made me think back to former big league manager Davey Johnson’s book about the 1985 season managing the Mets when Johnson recounted his experience playing for the Orioles and Hank Bauer in the mid-1960s. The book itself isn’t all that great (it’s another in a long line of biographies in which the subject—-Johnson—-claimed to have been misquoted even though he was credited and one would assume paid as a co-author); but it does have some useful bits about what it’s like to be in the big leagues as a player and manager. Johnson didn’t think much of Bauer’s managerial skills even though he was at the helm when the Orioles beat the Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale Dodgers in a four-game sweep in the 1966 World Series. Here’s Johnson’s assessment of Bauer:
Hank wasn’t a very good manager. In ’66 he had been lucky. Everything he did worked. He would bat Chico Salmon, a right-hander, against a right-handed pitcher, and Salmon would double. Moe Drawbowsky, a good but not a great relief pitcher, would come in and strike out six in a row in the World Series. Frank Robinson would drive in runs or make a great catch so often it was unreal. Hank could do no wrong that year.
The next year, the confusion began. The pitching staff went to pieces, and his moves started to go sour. Hank was just hanging on, waiting for the ax to fall. (Bats, by Davey Johnson and Peter Golenbock; page 116; G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1986.)
Now Johnson doesn’t hide the fact that he didn’t get along all that well with Bauer, but Bauer’s Orioles collapsed to seventh place in 1967 and he was fired at mid-season in 1968. He took over the burgeoning dynasty of the Oakland Athletics in 1969 and brought that young team in second place before Charlie Finley fired him after one season.
There are some interesting things about Bauer. He managed the Orioles for five years and the first three were excellent, culminating with that World Series win; then the players appeared to stop listening to him and things slowly fell apart. The downfall didn’t have much to do with talent because the foundation of the Earl Weaver-Orioles teams was in place then and they were very, very young; it could’ve been that Bauer, a Marine tough-guy, wore down his players with his style, but that argument could be counteracted by Weaver being just as much of a disciplinarian. Weaver lasted from 1968 until 1982 and then returned for 1985-87 because he was a great (not good, great) strategic manager from whom there was always an explanation for his decisions.
This also begs the question of whether the players are tolerating a manager’s style while it’s working even if they don’t think he knows what he’s doing, and once his luck runs out, the players bail physically and mentally. I can’t believe that Johnson was the only player on that team who wasn’t impressed with Bauer’s strategic acumen, and once his luck ran out, it ran out and he had to go. In the record books though, Weaver and Bauer have the exact same number of World Series wins to their credit—-one. Weaver’s in the Hall of Fame and Bauer never managed in the big leagues after being fired by Finley even though he was only 46. He managed a couple of years in the minors, doing quite well, became a scout and then opened a liquor store in Kansas. (That wouldn’t happen today. Bauer would absolutely and deservedly get another job as manager, probably soon after the firing by Finley.) Bauer was obviously doing something right to have all that success, but that doesn’t make him a good strategic manager and who’s to say which is more important?
How much does luck have to do with a manager winning? With the better luck of not having to continually run into the Yankees or getting past some inferior teams in the playoffs, Bobby Cox and the Braves would have at least three more titles from their long run in the 90s and early 2000s; Tony La Russa would have won a couple more World Series than the two he’s won; Billy Martin, another great manager, would’ve won more than his lone title.
If he wins three more games, Joe Maddon will have the same number of World Series titles as Bobby Cox, Earl Weaver and Billy Martin and I’m convinced that Maddon just makes things up as he goes along without reason, but it’s working somehow. I picked the Phillies to win this series, but judging from the first two games, whoever wins is going to win because some unsung player is going to do something spectacular and make the manager look like a genius even though it’ll be clear to those that know something about
strategy that he didn’t make his moves for any viable reason, he just sort of did it, and it worked well enough to win him a World Series and make him a championship manager even though by all other standard basis of judgment, he wasn’t all that smart, he was just very, very lucky.
Lucky to have a clueless home plate umpire in Kerwin Danley in game two; lucky to have an unheralded player run into a pitch and hit it out of the park; lucky to have journeymen relievers get a couple of big outs; lucky, lucky, lucky. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good and if there’s an example of that it’s going to be the Rays’ highlight video of 2008, because I can think of no other reason that Joe Maddon has managed to get his team this far after watching him do everything possible to run them off the rails and still having them win.