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Do Managers Matter? Ask Mike Hargrove
Posted by Jason Thornbury at 5/29/2006 5:17:00 PM
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Liss and I were gabbing the other day in the office about just how much a manager matters (Liss is in the "very little" camp, while I have a more nuanced view). Well, here's Exhibit A why a manager's impact is not small: Mike Hargrove on Sunday.

It's hard to recall a worst-managed game. Seriously. No hyperbole intended. Hargrove didn't lose the game (the player's still play), but he did nothing to put the Mariners in a position to win, which is what the manager is supposed to do.


1. After Betancourt doubled to lead off the third, Hargrove called on Ichiro to bunt. Ichiro entered the game hitting .316 and singled in his first at bat. Betancourt is already in scoring position and is speedy enough to score on an Ichiro hit. Plus, Jose Lopez, who homered in his first at-bat, was due up after Ichiro with Raul Ibanez to follow. Ichiro popped out on his bunt attempt. Oh, and it's the third inning.

2. Fifth inning no outs, Ichiro at first, Betancourt at second, Lopez gets the bunt sign this time, sacrificing the runners over. Yes, this is the same Lopez who homered in his first at-bat and who leads the team in RBI (38 at that point). Two on, nobody out, your best run producer at the plate, and you bunt him? With a runner already in scoring position? In the fifth inning?

3. Lopez up With one out in the seventh inning of a 3-3 tie after Ichiro triples. A pretty good spot for the team's RBI leader, right? Hargrove calls for a squeeze bunt, which Lopez pops into a double play. Inning over. Yes, this is the same Lopez who has the highest slugging percentage on the team and second-highest batting average.

4. 10th inning, Ichiro on first, no outs, another Lopez bunt. He couldn't get it down, though, and then swung away and singled to center (imagine that). I get wanting to the move the go-ahead runner into scoring position, but you don't take the bat out of the hands of your best hitter in a tie game.

And this doesn't even mention the numerous base-running blunders (again no hyperbole ... there's been a TON) brought on by Hargrove's "aggressive" approach this season.


Well, I agree with you on Hargrove who is a total moron - why is he benching Jeremy Reed against lefties rather than letting him learn to hit them? But this just goes to show that a total *** manager can damage his team by a horrible lack of understanding as to the value of an out relative to an advanced base. But my point is that an average manager in terms of strategy (someone just going pretty much by the book) and a great strategic manager doesn't matter much. Maybe a win or two a year. (I'm not including motivation, the atmosphere in the clubhouse, etc., but I'd argue that again, unless the guy is a cancer, it probably doesn't matter much - basically as long as the guy is okay, and the players are good, they'll win).
Posted by cliss at 5/29/2006 6:22:00 PM
I think managers DO matter -- probably for as many as 5 to 10 games per season. I look no further than to the AL central for evidence. Do you think that the Tigers would be playing this well for Alan Trammel? No. They needed someone like Leyland to get them believing that they could play with the White Sox, Twins and Indians who were getting all of the press. Then look at Cleveland, where Wedge can't seem to get a handle on the talent that they have. Do you think a guy like Leyland or LaRussa could make a difference in a situation like that? I sure do.
Posted by Frankie From Akron at 5/29/2006 9:16:00 PM
I thought Wedge was supposed to be a genius last year when "he" rallied his team to within 2 games of the Sox... now it's his fault they aren't winning? I think the problem is the pitching staff they assembled this offseason, not Wedge.

I'm with Liss on this one... apart from Dusty and his sick fascination with starting Neifi Perez (who should have 100 ab's before June 1st) I don't think there's a whole lot a manager can do to affect the win/loss record.

Managerial changes can be successful and add wins, as was the case with the 03 marlins and McKeon and the 05 Astros and Garner but I don't know that those instances were as much about Garner and McKeon as they were about a midseason change envigorating the team. After all, Garner made plenty of questionable decisions in the postseason last year.

Posted by jscopacasa at 5/30/2006 10:37:00 AM
Believe it or not but there's an article in Maxim on the worst baseball managers that I think is pretty good analysis:
Posted by schoenke at 5/30/2006 10:58:00 AM
Great link Pete.
Posted by flutiefan at 5/31/2006 11:01:00 AM
I have to agree with Frankie. Jim Leyland is the perfect example, in my opinion, of the difference a great manager can make. Most managers probably don't make much of a difference either way, going by the book in most cases. There aren't many great or lousy managers. One could make the argument that leyland is the best manager of the past 25 years. Hargrove is a good example of a negative influence on a team. It's hard to believe that in 2006, with all the information at everyone's fingertips, not to mention the tens of millions of dollars spent by each franchise, that a manager can get away with inane decisions like bunting Ichiro in the third inning!
Posted by Thomas10966 at 6/3/2006 11:09:00 PM
I'm not yet convinced on the Tigers. They're 0-3 against the White Sox, 1-3 against the Yankees, and 1-2 against the Red Sox and haven't yet played Toronto. Yes, they've dominated Cleveland and that's a point in their favor.

I will concede that they're improved, but to what degree? Beyond that, how much credit do we really ascribe to Leyland? This is a team that was going to get better anyhow. A number of their key components are young (Granderson, Bonderman, Verlander, Rodney, Zumaya), they went out and signed two veterans (Rogers and Jones), and other key players (Rodney, Guillen, Ordonez) are much healthier this year. It's not as if Trammell could make Ordonez hit for power, or heal Guillen's knee in record time.

Put me in the "more credit/more blame than they deserve" camp.
Posted by Erickson at 6/5/2006 12:40:00 AM

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