Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 25, 2006
BASEBALL: Getting Back on Track

Sorry for the outage in the site last night (my hosting company was sending bills to an old address and an expired credit card number), and for the general lack of baseball content of late. Should be back to normal here by tomorrow.

Two quick thoughts from last night -

1. Greg Maddux is just done. I had thought before this season that he might be a good mid-season pickup who can dependably take the ball for 6-7 innings every fifth day, throw strikes and let the defense work, but Maddux just looks finished. I assume he'll keep showing up to cash his paychecks and eat up innings (from the injury-plagued Cubs' perspective, the innings alone still make him worth the money), but I have to believe that 2006 will be the end.

2. One of the standard arguments of stat-head types vs. old-fogey sportswriters is that blowouts, rather than close games, are the test of a quality team: good teams beat people up and rarely get blown out, while most teams will play much closer to .500 in close games. Last night was a perfect example of why this is true. If the Cubs were a good team, they would have been more likely to bury the Mets once they had them down 3-0 or 8-4. If the Mets were not a good team, they would have been more likely to stay down. Instead, they mounted rallies to tie the game 3-3 and to draw within one, 8-7 (the latter including a fine effort by Bell, Bradford and Sanchez in relief), to give the top of their lineup a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth.

They didn't win it, of course, so this one goes down as a failure in a 1-run game. But that obscures their success in making it into a 1-run game in the first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Baseball 2006 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

The Darling/Hernandez team continues to do a great job. In the midst of the big Cub inning, Keith (I think) commented how Herzong never let the game get away, that 5-4, 6-4 is winnable, but more than that is not. Then of course, a scratch hit lets 2 more runs in and that is the game.

In many ways, the Cubs, a really lousy team, coupled with a lousy manager, got lucky. You can question why Randolph let Trachsel stay in so long, but actually, I think he is a good manager. Not for the strategy, that is the easy part that fans don't understand. You can miss plays, McGraw always forgave errors, and while he could get angry (trust me, Heilman would have heard it), he considered it a lesson. Willie is keeping the bullpen a bit more fresh while potentially letting one game, when you have a big lead, get sacrificed. A good manager, like any top executive (and baseball managers despite the name, are really company presidents, GMs are COOs and the owner is the CEO), makes sure his people are ready to do their job. Randolph, like Torre, always makes sure the Mets do the best, are always hustling, always thinking. After that, you are on your own.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 25, 2006 10:42 AM

Good comments re one run games, Crank. Another in a long line of quality explanations as to why one run games reflect very little of importance.

Posted by: Mike at July 25, 2006 3:10 PM

Darryl-

I agree that Willie excels in the "manager of men" portion of his job. Along with Hodges, maybe the best the Mets have had in that regard.

But I think he's *inadequate* as a game manager. His pitching decisions are consistently poor and he seems to have little sense of the long haul aspect of bullpen management (your example notwithstanding). I just can't help but feel that Willie's flaws are going to cost the Mets an ill-afforded game come October.

With Davey and Bobby V. I always knew that once the game began, we wouldn't be outmanaged. Maybe Bobby's ego-driven shenanigans from that afternoon would affect something, or Davey's laziness would lead to sloppy play. But the correct pitching moves would be made and there'd be bats on the bench if it went to extras. But Willie . . . ?

Posted by: Mike at July 25, 2006 3:15 PM

Mike, I believe, and always did, that in-game management skills are among the less important abilities a manager needs. Most managers are hired because of people think they can manage the game. Fine. Charlie Dressen and Billy Martin were both considered masters of that: they really did think 3 innings ahead. Earl Weaver was the unquestioned master of that as well. Earl however, knew how to manage his players.

Who were the great managers? Not Billy Martin, but Casey and Joe Macarthy were. Called the push button manager, yes, it's easy when you send out Lefty Gomez, and ask Joe to play center for you (there is never a subsitute for good players, no matter how good you are). Is Willie Randolph a good in-game manager? No I don't think so. I am not a big Rick Peterson fan, and like all good Company Presidents, you delegate and rely on your so called experts on most occasions. This genius thought he could maximize Zambano, 'nuff said. However, mediocre in-game skills get covered up when Carlos Beltran is hot, or when Pedro Martinez is on his game.

I would rather have Davey Johnson, because he is a proven sensational manager, maxing out too many teams to discount. But you won't win if the talent isn't there, no matter how good you are. But a bad manager can mismanage a team to death. Bill James' comments on Fred Haney are pretty dead on.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 25, 2006 3:33 PM

I don't know about Maddux being done. Look at Glavine over the 3 previous years going 33-41 with a K/IP ratio dropping under .5. Lots of people thought he was on the way out. I don't see how a guy goes from "resurrgent guy" when he was 5-0 to done in the course of a season. What contending team would not rather have Maddux as a #4 or #5 guy then what they have now? AL teams certainly look suspiciously at NL pitchers these days and the White Sox and Tigers have good enough rotations anyway that they would be out of the picture. Speaking as a Sox fan I would take Maddux over the Snyder/Johnson/odd rookie/possible Clement return/inevitable Wells' return thing we have going on right now.

As far as managers and in game situations: Let us return to one of the worst days of my life (Game 7 2003) when Joe Torre, in a tie game, ran Mariano Rivera out to the mound basically to pitch until the game was over. Grady Little "countered" with Tim Wakefield when he still had Scott Williamson available. Torre managed to win, Little to not lose. Torre had balls and smarts. Little had neither. Managers, over the course of the season, do not matter as much as talent but when it comes to the little details in big games you want someone whose head is in the game and not up their butt.

Posted by: jim at July 25, 2006 4:01 PM

Daryl & Jim-

Agree with most of what you both say. To me, being a good game manager is overrated. As Daryl points out, neither Weaver nor Casey nor McGraw turns the '62 Mets or '30 Phils into contenders. Talent and execution overcomes most of that.

But a bad game manager can cost games simply by failing to do what's necessary. It doesn't take a genius to pull a starter who's struggling after 101 pitches, or work the lefty-right vs. Pujols and Edmonds, or double switch with the 9 hole due to lead off, or bunt down one at home in the 9th when your gloveman is up. But when managers fail to do all that I just mentioned (Garner, Grady Little, Art Howe) it comes back to haunt them.

I fear that as a game manager, Willie is in Howe/Garner/Little territory. I fear losing a post-season series because Willie's opponant makes no "great" moves, but no dumb ones versus Willie making two mistakes.

Remember Bobby V. vs. Dusty in '00? Torre vs. Little, as Jim mentioned. (If anyone's a Jet fan I know you understand what I mean when I mention Herm vs. Cowher.)

Posted by: Mike at July 25, 2006 4:42 PM

You had to bring up the Jets Steelers, and ruin my night? I don't disagree that a poor in-game manager can cost you a game, just that it's not the primary school the sportswriters, who haven't a clue, think it is. And Grady Little in 2003, well, his move was almost as bad as Dressen bringing in a guy who gave up (I think) 5 home runs to Thompson that year (I'm right about it being a lot, wrong probably about the amount), not quite as bad as Macnamara and Stapleton (although everybody except Buckner) seems to forget the Stanley NEVER covered first--so Mookie would have been safe. You can bet Buckner looked up and saw that, muttered "Oh S___!" and then looked down too late.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at July 25, 2006 9:16 PM
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