Hickey on Melvin

Dave · September 24, 2004 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

John Hickey writes the best possible defense of Bob Melvin that you could write, hitting a lot of truths on his way. While I don’t agree that Melvin should be retained, there aren’t many things in the article to quibble with. Hickey basically makes three points:

1. The collapse of the team this year is not his fault.

This is pretty obviously true. There’s no way you can pin the collapses of the veterans on the manager. There isn’t a coach alive who would have won with this team.

2. Melvin is the scapegoat for the front office, the real culprits of this team’s decline.

Also true. Over the past two years, Gillick and Bavasi combined to build the team we have, and the majority of the blame for this season’s results fall on their shoulders.

3. Melvin’s personality can work, ala Joe Torre in New York, when given good players.

Again, a legitimate point, and a solid response to those who want to fire Melvin for his personality.

Hickey’s basic point that firing Melvin because this team failed is unfair is accurate. I don’t believe Bob Melvin should be fired because this team is awful. I believe Bob Melvin should be replaced because he’s not one of the 30 best baseball managers under contract to a team. He has shown a significant amount of weakness in in-game strategy as well as role development. If you’re going to cost your team wins during the game, you have to offset them through some kind of ultra-motivation that causes your team to overachieve. Melvin hasn’t shown that ability, and his lack of tactical skills is a sufficient reason to replace him.

The M’s took a flyer on Bob Melvin. It didn’t work out, and in the same way that the organization wouldn’t have problems replacing a prospect who got the call and didn’t perform, the M’s shouldn’t have any qualms about moving on here either. Bob Melvin doesn’t deserve to lose his job for what has happened; he deserves to lose his job because there are more qualified individuals ready to take his position.


44 Responses to “Hickey on Melvin”

  1. andy on September 24th, 2004 12:18 pm

    Actually, he is one of the 30 best baseball managers under contract to a team, even if he is the 30th.

  2. DMZ on September 24th, 2004 12:20 pm

    I’d add one thing to Dave’s points: Melvin’s strengths: being a player’s manager who lets the vets do their thing, makes sure people are comfortable with their roles, etc — are not suited to the team the Mariners have today, or will have for some time. Melvin’s not a motivator, or an instructor, or good with young pitching, or a good talent evaluator, and those are things the team is desperately going to need in these next few years.

    Melvin’s not the manager the team needs now.

  3. Paul Molitor Cocktail on September 24th, 2004 12:24 pm

    There is a difference between saying “The Ms would have had a losing team anyway” (true) and losing 100 games, which is probable at this point. At some level of suckiness, you have to hold the manager responsible.

    This team shouldn’t have lost that many games. And many losses can be tied to Melvin’s incompetence: refusing to let Guardado pitch in a non-save situation, ruining young starter’s arms by letting them go to 120+ pitch counts, nonsensical lineups, not moving Winn when he was clearly terrible in CF at the start of the year, etc.

  4. James on September 24th, 2004 12:26 pm

    I couldn’t agree with you more Dave and I’ve had this argument with many people who ask me why I think Melvin deserves to be fired. I tell them that Melvin obviously isn’t the sole reason for this team’s decline, but what has he shown that would make someone think he could contribute to a winning Mariner’s team? None of the reasons Hickey cites for not firing Melvin are reasons that would make Melvin a winning manager in the future. A manager shouldn’t be able to retain his job simply because he isn’t entirely to blame for a team’s collapse, the manager should have to demonstrate what makes him an asset to the team. Melvin has not demonstrated how he is an asset. And if Bavasi can’t be fired, then you have to improve where you can and Melvin needs to go.

  5. dave paisley on September 24th, 2004 12:37 pm

    If I had to pick one single reason to fire Melvin it would be that he cannot manage a bullpen. He plays lefty-righty slavishly and especially last year burned the bullpen out so early in the season it wasn’t funny. There are plenty of other reasons as noted, but I’d fire him for this one alone.

  6. Matt Williams on September 24th, 2004 12:37 pm

    Actually, he is one of the 30 best baseball managers under contract to a team, even if he is the 30th.

    It depends upon how you read that. If it’s including guys who are contracted to MLB teams and better managers, but don’t have the specific title (bench coach, hitting coach, bat boy, slushee vendor…)then he could be much lower than 30.

  7. MoxMox on September 24th, 2004 12:40 pm

    The Yankees have a winning strategy in constantly evaluating every position and upgrading if a better player is available. This is the strategy we should employ when evaluating our manager. It isn’t a question of whether Bob Melvin has been bad enough to be fired, the question is can we improve the team by hiring someone with better managerial skills? We should be able to do just that. It doesn’t mean Bob Melvin is a poor manager or that his personality is too bland – it just means we can improve our team with someone better.

  8. Ralph Malph on September 24th, 2004 12:43 pm

    Some teams must have more than one manager under contract (fired managers whose contracts haven’t run out).

  9. G-Man on September 24th, 2004 12:44 pm

    Since The Great Bottom Line is what really drives this team, I predict that the Marketing Department will request a new skipper with more personality to feature in their 2005 season ticket campaign. i exaggerate, but I am not kidding, I think it’s one reason that Melvin will be gone.

  10. Coach on September 24th, 2004 12:46 pm

    Great post, James. This answers the real conclusion of Hickey’s article, and should be sent to him directly.

    We’ve examined the outrageous conduct of the FO many times, so I think most of us would agree that the FO is more culpable than Melvin. But what the hell are we supposed to do with that?? The reality is that these guys are not going to fire themselves. Let’s deal with what we CAN change. Bob Melvin is NOT the entire problem, but he is not part of the solution. We need to turn the page.

  11. mistersleestak on September 24th, 2004 1:06 pm

    So what about Art Howe? I hear he’s gonna be available…

  12. Jim Thomsen on September 24th, 2004 1:51 pm

    Hickey’s commentary is worthless because he, like every other member of tyhe mainstream sports media, insists on interpreting Melvin’s position as one of images and perceptions, rather than reality. If Hickey had gotten into the substance of why Melvin’s a bad manager, namely the oft-discussed-here quadumvirate of:

    a) He doesn’t get his pitchers out of the game before they get into trouble, and has no concept of healthy pitch-count management;

    b) He squanders too many outs via bunts and other sacrifices — deadly on a team already genetically engineered to use up too many outs as it is;

    c) Has no concept of good bullpen management — in his mindless fealty to the mythic properties of “the ninth-inning closer,” he too often had his worst relievers out there in late-inning game-tied or one-run situations;

    and d) He has no concept of efficient distribution of talent — a real manager would have forced Ichiro into center, gotten Randy Winn out of a job he couldn’t do and stood up to the front office’s idiotic roster machinations.

    I propose USS Mariner start a permalink to the left of its home page in 2005 — a repository of annotated, bullet-pointed, fully contextualized specific good or bad in-game management decisions so they can be cited as handy reference material when judging the effectiveness of the manager … and passed along to moronic mainstream sportswriters who think it’s all about how you look or are perceived.

    Hickey, you doofus … what happens during games actually matters.

  13. Dave on September 24th, 2004 2:05 pm


    Is Bob Melvin, circa 2004, that much worse than Melvin v2003? And, if so, do you really believe the M’s were a 100 win team last year, and his failings cost us the division?

    In game management doesn’t matter nearly as much as most fans believe. I’d guess that over the past two years, Melvin’s poor strategies and tactics have cost the team maybe 5 wins over the course of 324 games.

    What happens during a game matters, but not that much.

  14. jeff angus on September 24th, 2004 2:16 pm

    ALVIN DARK, paraphrased: When you go out to the mound, never do it to take a pitcher out, always do it to put in a pitcher you want pitching now.

    He’s not “to blame” for the Cherry Pie Time that the Ms have become. To win, you have to look forward. The question about keeping Melvin is not about how badly/to-blame he is. It’s about 2005+. The question is “¿Who is the best manager available or that we can make available?”. The answer is arguable, but no reasonable argument can be made that Melvin is the best manager available.

    I sure he’s a nice enough, bright enough guy. But he hasn’t shown us an ability to drive .500+ ball on an above-average payroll team. And if he was on the market, he could be a nice fit for some other team that’s using with someone with less talent. There’s just no reason for him to be the Ms manager next year, even without blaming him. No reason at all.

  15. Eric on September 24th, 2004 2:18 pm

    I would say that in general managers get too much credit when the team wins and too much blame when the team loses. That said I say Melvin needs to go, the bottom line for me is 1) The manager is hired to be fired, he will take the blame when the team underperforms, goes with territory. 2) The Ms shouldn’t be breaking in new managers, as one of the top revenue and top payroll teams in the league, one that seriously intends to contend they should have experienced, upper tier managers. My personal favs at the moment to try and hire are Tom Kelly and Larry Dierker.

  16. Jim Thomsen on September 24th, 2004 2:19 pm

    Really … to guess from the teeth-gnashing over Melvin’s myriad poor specific in-game choices as hashed over on this blog over the past two seasons, one might suppose the cost was more like a dozen games this year. I certainly wonder how many games were lost early on because Melvin/Price went with Kevin Jarvis or a poorly-defensively-backed Shigetoshi Hasegawa or an in-over-his-head J.J. Putz in tie games in the eighth inning while Eddie Guardado never got into a game? Or because Melvin gave up bunt outs in key innings to set up one-run situations, only to have hackers like Spiezio or Ibanez or Wilson or Bloomquist end the inning on a double play or give up the second out on a popup or a grounder to the wrong side? Or because Melvin let a pitcher stay in well past 110 pitches and no sooner turned his back after a mound visit than said pitcher gave up a three-run homer or double? Or because Melvin went with a strict right-on-left platoon matchup despite the fact that the numbers said the pitcher or batter in question does worse against the non-platoon side and got burned on it in the late innings? Seems like that happened a hell of a lot more than just five times over the past two seasons.

  17. Paul Covert on September 24th, 2004 2:19 pm

    There is, of course, always the Dusty Baker counterargument: that a manager whose command of strategic reasoning is worse than worthless can still make a strong positive contribution to the team, if he has a good enough knack for helping guys perform at the top of their game.

    Therefore, what I think would make a good sidebar link would be a comparison of actual vs. PECOTA-predicted stats for the 2004 M’s. It wouldn’t be a pretty picture, except for Ichiro and maybe Winn; but it would make the point.

    Whether that should land on Melvin’s doorstep, or on Molitor’s and Price’s, I’m not in a position to say; but I maintain that when a whole bunch of guys underperform all at the same time, it’s usually wise to look higher than the individual players for the source of the problem.

  18. Bernard Aboba on September 24th, 2004 2:21 pm

    I agree that the front office deserves a good portion of the blame for this dismal season. In particular, a substantial fraction of the 30+ game deficit over last year is explained by two moves: the trade of Carlos Guillen and not resigning Benitez. Benitez currently has 44+ saves for the Marlins, and we all know what kind of season Guillen was having prior to the injury. Add this to other bone-headed moves such as signing Spiezio, and the front office might end up being responsible for half of the 30 game deficit by themselves.

    So with respect to Melvin, the question is: how many games has he cost the Mariners by poor managing? One way to look at this is to see where the Mariners should have placed based on their run production and the runs allowed. And a comparison with respect to Tampa Bay is instructive.

    The Mariners have scored only 647 runs so far this year, the worst in the league. The next worst is the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with 666. The Mariners have given up 782 runs, 735 of them earned. In contrast, Tampa Bay has given up 792 runs, 710 of them earned.

    So in terms of the difference between runs scored – runs allowed, the Mariners have a deficit of 135 runs , and Tampa Bay has a deficit of 126 runs.

    That’s where the comparison ends. Tampa Bay has a record of 64-87 so far, the Mariners have a record of 58 and 94. So it looks to me like Melvin’s contribution to the mess is around 6 games or so, versus Lou.

  19. Adam S on September 24th, 2004 2:22 pm

    I think Melvin is not much worse this year than last year. However last year he was a rookie manager who deserved a chance to learn and grow. As well, the makeup of the team makes his deficiencies more relevant this year. Last year he had 5 solid, healthy starters and a bullpen with Sasaki, Rhodes, Soriano, Mateo, and Nelson/Benitez (please correct me if memory fails). This year he has to make decisions on the pitching staff, including the 4th and 5th starter, and he can’t do it.

    I agree the overall impact of a manager is small. I’d say Melvin was -3 last year and -4 this year. The team has underachieved because a dozen key players are having bad years and three or four had awful years, but Melvin isn’t helping.

  20. chris w on September 24th, 2004 2:28 pm

    Dave, you’re probably right that in-game strategy is less important in terms of Ws and Ls than most people think. Or at least it is out of proportion to how much screen-space is often devoted to the subject.

    However, it is pretty clear to me that Melvin way overworked Meche and Pineiro early in 2003, despite having a very effective bullpen, and other starters that munch innings, and I’m pretty sure that’s why they were both mediocre/bad in the second half last year. That cost us a few games, and Pineiro has never really been the same since. Melvin also threw Soriano into the fire when he wasn’t completely recovered from his oblique injury this year. To the extent that led to a breakdown in mechanics that led to Soriano’s elbow injury, Melvin shares some blame. If Madritsch or Meche come up lame next year, Melvin and Price will share some blame, in my opinion. Add all that to his sometimes-questionable roster and lineup construction and in-game tactics, and, yes, he may have the cost the Ms the playoffs last year, and he could conceivably cost the Ms the playoffs years after he’s gone.

    Until the last month, I didn’t have much of a problem with Melvin. I just didn’t think his shortcomings mattered enough to worry about, and I didn’t want any criticism to be deflected from the real culprits above him. However, after he abused Meche and Madritsch, and in light of the way he treated Meche and Pineiro last year, I really think he’s a problem

  21. Coach on September 24th, 2004 2:56 pm

    Dave, following up to post #13 – If Bob Melvin’s tactics are responsible for ~ 2 losses this year, who is responsible for the other 90+?

  22. Dave on September 24th, 2004 3:06 pm

    The players.

  23. Coach on September 24th, 2004 4:07 pm

    So can you give me an example of how a player has been responsible for a loss?

  24. Dave on September 24th, 2004 4:18 pm

    No one player, or manager, is ever responsible for any individual win or loss. It is fair to say, though, that Scott Spiezio has contributed to a significant number of losses. Sandfrog being below replacement level for the season has probably cost us at least two wins.

  25. Coach on September 24th, 2004 4:32 pm

    OK, several more questions.

    1. Who penciled Spezio into the line-up? Wouldn’t that person then be responsible for the 2 losses?

    2. Since you use that approach for Spezio, couldn’t you calculate the VORP for all players and assign responsibility for the losses?

    or, alternatively

    3. What, in your experience, is the job of the Field Manager? What is it that he adds to the collective effort?

  26. John on September 24th, 2004 4:34 pm

    If you just want to trot out a team so you can charge admission, then take the attitude “managers don’t make much difference.” If you want to go to the playoffs, then reach and win the World Series, you’d better not take that attitude. You need EVERY edge you can get. As for Hickey’s contention that Melvin might be a Torre or Cox waiting to happen because they have similar personality types… that’s ridiculous. For every Torre or Cox you can find dozens of “similar personality types” that have been complete failures. The M’s should never had banked a team with a window of opportunity on an untried manager. Do you really want to bank this team’s future on a manager who has yet to prove his abilities?

  27. big chef terry on September 24th, 2004 4:40 pm

    Bob Melvin is being thrown under the bus to take the fall and push scrutiny away from Lincoln. Most of the writers including Hickey blame Lincoln rather than Bavasi, for this season.

    One point back to Mr. Thompsen, Kevin Jarvis was being shopped during his ridiculous number of appearances, because the front office wanted to recoup the salary, not because BOMEL thought he was great. Nobody in the Mariner’s org thought he should be on the roster accept for Howard, who thought he could stooge somebody into taking him. 82-83 on the gun with hanging breaking pitches doesn’t elicit much interest.

    Nobody worth a hoot will come here as long as Lincoln is in charge, be it top free agent or great manager. All of baseball knows that the M’s are cheap and won’t do down the stretch what is required to win pennants. At most players core, they still want to play to win it all.

    Nobody should get a job managing in the bigs, without experience at some level managing. Bob’s shortcomings became evident by the end of May in 2003 with respect to the bullpen.

    He may be far better than anyone they get.

  28. Dave on September 24th, 2004 4:52 pm


    Melvin didn’t sign Spiezio, nor did he fail to acquire anyone on the roster who could outplay him. Melvin penciled Speizio, Wilson, Davis, Aurilia, Hasegawa, and the band of replacement level players into the lineup because he had to actually put a team on the field every day. He didn’t send Spiezio to the field and keep Eric Chavez on the bench.

    This miserable season was a team effort. Why the insistance on laying it at the feet of one man, especially one who never took the field?

  29. Coach on September 24th, 2004 5:05 pm

    Well, because you seem to hold the opinion that the Field Manager makes little or no difference.

    If that’s the case, then why are teams willing to pay $4-5 million for a Manager. What do you know that they don’t know?

    It’s a good thing the Florida Marlins didn’t take that attitude last year. They were under-performing pretty badly early on. Instead of just saying, “well it looks like we assembled a bad roster” they went after a Manager who somehow got the same players to turn things around. Turned out pretty well for them, don’t you think?

  30. stan on September 24th, 2004 6:29 pm

    I agree Melvin should be gone. What scares me is who will be hired to replace him. I would rather have Melvin than Jimy Williams.

  31. Dave on September 24th, 2004 7:54 pm

    My opinion on field managers is this: there are a couple of very good ones, Bobby Cox and Dusty Baker among them, who have an impact on their team’s performance and are worth several wins over the course of a season. Note that neither is a particularly good in-game strategist, but they have an obvious positive impact on their players performance. There are a few pretty terrible ones-Ozzie Guillen, Lloyd McClendon, and Tony Pena would head this list-who cost their teams several wins over the course of the year. The other 20 guys have some strengths and some weaknesses, but are basically interchangable. Most managers fall into this category.

    Dusty Baker and Joe Torre are the only two managers making close to the money you mention. Jack McKeon is one of the better managers around, but he’s the classic example of interchangable managers. He was sitting at home for a reason when the Marlins decided to fire Jeff Torborg. Consequently, the Marlins turnaround had a lot more to do with Josh Beckett getting healthy, Miguel Cabrera coming up from Double-A, and Ugueth Urbina being acquired, all of which happened after Torborg was fired. McKeon didn’t win the World Series with the same team Torborg took to spring training.

    Most managers don’t really matter. Bob Melvin should be replaced, but let’s not get all hysterical and claim he’s been the man responsible for the 2004 season. The 2003 Mariners won 93 games with Melvin at the helm. That doesn’t justify Melvin as a good manager; it is an example of a team not being overly affected by a poor one.

  32. Jerry on September 24th, 2004 9:27 pm

    There really is no point in discussing whether Melvin should go, because that is a foregone conclusion. You can’t go from 93 win to 100 losses and keep your job.

    I hope that the M’s can get a more new-school, statistically oriented manager. I don’t really think that there are any truly great managers who are jobless right now. This team is young, and needs a skipper who can teach and motivate younger guys. The only real established manager I think would be a good idea is Tom Kelley, but he will be tough to drag out of retirement. Perhaps Grady Little should get another chance. I really like what I have heard about Joe Maddon also.

    I think that the best thing is a stats-savvy manager. A lot of the things that piss me off about Melvin are things that are clearly bad ideas if you look at probabilities: bunting too much, playing guys who can’t get on base, playing guys who have ‘intangibles’ that make up for lack of production, letting young starters throw 120 pitches consistently, ect. If Maddon looks at stats, I doubt he would do these things.

    The main point of these two articles in the PI that is really positive is that the local press is pointing the finger at the front office. That is great. I hope that every fan reads these articles, and remembers who’s really responsible for this horrible season. I also hope that the front office reads these articles. Hopefully it will convince them that they need to make some aggressive moves in free agency. Their policy of signing older, mediocre players to short contracts just isn’t cutting it.

    Good article. I am glad to see that the media is not fooled by the upcoming scapegoating of Melvin.

  33. Bela Txadux on September 25th, 2004 12:33 am

    Yo Dave, I’m with you on this, although I’m putting my thumb down on the scale for BoMel for a ‘subtle accumulation of misjudgment’ not becaue the season is his fault.

    Say there, Coach (you are one as I recall, and no disrespect to your preparation or effort at all in saying this), the statistical work on this has been done for the _entirety of major league history_, and Dave is giving the straight dope: in-game management has an extremely minor effect on Ws and Ls, just about the number he first cited above (or did when I first read about this over a dozen years ago). In fact, the presence of individual managers with their strengths and weaknesses en toto has only a very minor correlation with Ws and Ls in a given season period. You have to be Maurie Wills/Ozzie Guillen bad, or, say, Davie Johnson good to have anything show up in the numbers, and even then it’s just a tiny tick one way or the other. ‘S truth.

    Why is this? First, the things that a manager can do to impact Ws and Ls on a daily basis are vastly outweighed, + and -, by things he can never control. Your ace pitcher falls off a barstool and the AAA rook in his place goes 1-3, 2 L more than expected. The wild-swinging shortstop the manager must play because no one else has two, whole feet connects for a four-run knock and a W. Coach does his all with the bullpen to nurse a 1-0 lead on the road against the leagues best team when the sun comes out from behind a cloud in the bottom of the ninth on his all-world CF, E-8 and an L. This is the nature of the game, and it has been ever thus.

    Secondly, since Branch Rickey came down the pike the field manager no longer selects the 25-man, the GM does, so the ‘coach’ must play with what he’s dealt, and no matter how good or bad the coach is he cannot significantly raise or lower the talent level of individuals over the length of a season (even if over several seasons he can have a modest impact). It’s 98.5% the players and 1.5% the coach, that final W-L record.

    So why don’t the fans or the media see it that way, and most front offices _pretend_ not to see it that way? First, if a manager does something WOW! good or egregiously bad IN A HIGH PROFILE GAME it stands out massively even if statistically speaking it ain’t much. Little’s wretched decision on Pedro in the same game where Torre brilliantly husbanded his own tattered bullpen to have his best arms available in the event of a tie or a lead (best game of Torre’s career, and he knew it) is plenty enough to get Grady made into au gratin and Joe into the Hall.

    Second, before 1940 the field manager was an organization’s principal talent evaluator and really _did_ put together the 25-man roster, and media and fandom still have a residual memory of something that hasn’t been accurate during most of our lifetimes. John McGraw built the teams he won with, and was arguably the most important person in OB of his time not in a playing uniform. Connie Mack (owner-manager) built two of the best teams in baseball history, and if he’d had the money to work with that the Yankees did we would probably have a different ‘flagship franchise’ for the Majors now.

    Third, front offices pretend that the manager is more important than he his because, well, a human shield is useful when the fans should be shooting at YOU, and would be so aiming if the world was a rational place (that made fact-based assessments). The GM in conjunction with his owner are massively responsible for a teams W-L, and furthermore have far more ability to affect that count _in-season, if not in-game_ than any manager alive (or dead). When a team stinks, the fans should be holding up signs in July, “Fire Bavasi,” not that all this is his fault, although wa-aa-aaaay too much of it is. Or “Wilpon for the road,” since he is, in effect, his own GM.

    Here’s what a baseball manager can impact and should be assessed on, in my view, in descending order of importance (and feel free, coach, to transmogrify this list from your perspective):

    –man management
    motivation (get the team to play smart to win)
    acountability (deal with poor preparation, bad judgment, inadequate skill development, and bad conduct, etc.)

    —role definition

    have every player know and be ready for the role he must execute to help the team and be assessed by for outcome

    —skill evaluation

    what can a player do to win or lose a game, and how quickly and accurately does the manager identify this

    —workload management

    PT assigned to players on the basis of their ability to get a W, and players held out to manage fatigue and injury risk

    —in-game decisions

    get the match-up that YOUR talent has the best chance to win against

    —external communications

    media, Front office, owner, community

    Melvin has some strengths. He’s organized and his preparation is good as far as I can tell, and certainly professional. He makes definable decisions (eventually) and sticks to them, but will generally take a different tack (eventually) if they don’t work or the situation changes. He’s handled the media well, although his subdued personality has given him no traction in the community (which in this marketing-driven organization is _why_ he will be fired, but not why he should be fired). He does want to win, and has been able to use his man management skills to the point where he had a terrible team still playing hard until it all finally got to them in August, after which it’s been fits and starts. His in game skill are undistinguished, but no worse than a third-half of other managers, and nothing like a total basket case (don’t feel like defending this at length but it’s no hard case to make).

    So why should BoMel go, particularly since the wet-paper sad sack this team has become is the responsibility of, in descending order, Lincoln (and whoever he _really_ asks for baseball advice which hasn’t been his GMs or managers), Gillick (after he became Stand Pat with an aging team he knew would collapse, just like the last two veteran winners he built—got out just in time, Pat, which says a lot for your smarts, I’ll hand it to you), and Bavasi (‘nother post)?

    Reasons in descending order of importance, and not exhaustive:

    —BoMel can’t stand up to the Front Office on anything, the players know it, and he’s lost their attention, likely most of their respect, and will be _totally_ tuned out next year by absolutely everyone. Now, Lincoln can only tolerate yes-men among his employees judging by the changes of the last four years, from the Front office, to the dugout, to the last man on the roster (whose name is A. J. Zapp, I guess if we’re talking the organization entire). BoMel was hired because he was the yes-est of all the guys interviewed, just as Bavasi was hired, to my view, for exactly the same reason. The Front Office has been cheapskate, vicious against players that ‘were soft’ or ‘malcontents,’ unable to evaluate the realistic worth of their non-stars on the 25-man, unable to stick to a consistent talent acquisition approach, and unwilling to make consistent, appropriate use of their minor league talent. Melvin is just lost in this blizzard and carries the mop like he’s told when what this group needs someone to stand up to them without blowing up on them. Bob will never be that man.

    Bob does not handle accountability at a level sufficient that he should continue to have the job; he’s a rookie manager, near the age of his players, and it shows like his skin was grass green. The baserunning on this team is TERRIBLE, and has been all year, and _the same guys keep making the same errors_. This is the manager’s responsibility. Too many guys have been taking the same, poor approach at the plate all year long. This isn’t entirely BoMel’s fault, because I believe Bavasi wants a different approach than in recent years judging by the kinds of guys he brought in, but still this falls on any manager’s account. Now, Melvin has never, to my ears, said a single disdainful word about anyone’s personal play ever, but whatever he says to them in private hasn’t improved their concentration or execution; on the evidence the reverse is true, i.e. they’re blowing him off because they know there’s no consequence in doing so. Bob’s lost the team’s attention, and if he’s back next year this is really going to begin to show in negative ways.

    There are now three very bad instances of woakload _mis-_management with the pitching staff, two of which have had quite negative consequences; if BoMel was not necessarily principally responsible for these decisions, he has certainly signed off on them, and I want someone else to make the choice differently the next time. Down the stretch in ’05 he had several young starters clearly fatigued, one just back from severe arm problems, and he just kept sticking them out there. We can do pros and cons on this, but in fact the pitchers faded badly, the process certainly effected Meche negatively the following year and can’t be ruled out for Piniero, either. It was a bad choice with bad consequences. Coming out of spring training this year, Guardado had a knee problem which I swear the team knew needed to be scoped, but everybody decided to let him ‘pitch through it because the team needed him’ until the offseason. Soriano had extremely little time in spring training to get ready, was rushed out into major league games, wasn’t ready, was shuffled around the country like a pinball, put back in games ‘because the team needed him’ but wasn’t ready, and regardless of what the status of his arm was going into camp (regarding which the team has obfuscated and then fallen silent) he was certainly ‘unable to perform’ at the end of it. Both of these players came down with severe arm problems at the end of these trajectories. When the bullpen fell apart after Villone was moved into the rotation, following a brief period of flailing the starters have been consistently left in for very high pitch totals, and sent back out in late innings when rationally they should be pulled, and this down the slop stretch of a lost season. We’ll find out next season what effect, if any, that this has on Madritsch, Meche, Franklin, et. al.

    This isn’t Brian Price’s doing I believe, as from the day he arrived the pitchers went on strict pitch counts that relfected their age, health, and the pitch total where they regularly lost effectiveness. From the time BoMel asserted himself when the team faded down the stretch in ’03, pitchers consistently been pressured to take it for the team and pitch in workload situations which are understood to be bad. Five of the five best pitchers BoMel has been given to work with—Meche, Pinero, Garcia (DL in Chi), Soriano, and Guardado—have had major falloffs in performance and/or arm injuries following this talent utilization. While this can’t all be certainly be attributed to Melvin, it is quite clear that his strategy for coping with team adversity is to ride his horses into the ground. The team needs someone else to make this decision; he’s failed at the opportunity.

    Fourth, Melvin is just very slow on the uptake with talent-performance outcomes, although he does learn. When the team faded in ’03 he couldn’t bring himself to rest anybody despite having just about the oldest team in the majors. Winn in CF was a disaster from the first day of camp, but it wasn’t until after the All-Star break that Melvin seemed to acknowledge this in any significant way. At the beginning of August, Melvin started leaving his starters out too long because he didn’t have a bullpen—and was still doing this in mid-September several weeks after he actually had enough bullpen arms working to have them slotted in a workable group. Melvin learns, but its weeks behind the curve.

    With several more years in the majors, Bob Melvin could likely fix many of these problems. He’s shown enough to get hired a second time, may very well be so hired, and I wouldn’t be suprised in the least to see him do better the second time around. Torre was terrible with the Mets, and nothing to notice in St. Louis, but he’s been so vastly better at just about anything since the Yankees gave him the cap that he shows old dogs can learn how (or at least stop doing things that have bad outcomes and let the talent get on with winning).

    Now, historically the Mariners have hired ‘name personnel’ for the manager and GM slot. If this means that they’re going to hire Jimy Williams in the offseason, I’ll take BoMel for another year. But that’s like saying that with a gun to my head, I’ll give you my wallet; it’s not a choice.

    -Bela Txadux-

  34. stan on September 25th, 2004 4:46 pm

    Dave, I really enjoy your posts on the upcoming free agents. I would also enjoy your thoughts on the available candidates to be the next Mariner manager. My choice would be to promote Dan Rohn, though I do not think this time around the front office will choose a guy without major league managerial experience. Bela and I both agree it should not be Jimy Williams; I would be interested to hear your views on both who should be selected and who you think the Mariners will hire.

  35. Dave on September 25th, 2004 5:17 pm


    Glad to hear it. We’ll do a prospective manager breakdown after Melvin’s officially fired and some candidates start to spring up. There are so many possibilities out there that to speculate now would be shooting in the wind. Once the M’s start interviews, we’ll have a better idea of who they are looking at, and we’ll provide our thoughts then.

    Jimy Williams and Art Howe are a definite no, though.

  36. Bela Txadux on September 25th, 2004 7:54 pm

    Tag end, here, Dave,

    I agree on Howe also: no way, no Howe. Without any details, he’s had three shots, and I have yet to see any team raise their effort level or smarts under his management; he’s just a passenger.

  37. Coach on September 25th, 2004 10:49 pm


    I like your list of managerial responsibilities. My own list would be very similar, differing a little in the order of importance among groups 1-4. I would also say that there is a large gap down to the last two (in-game decisions and media responsibilities over a 162-game season tend to even themselves out and are much less important than they are over a 12-game NCAAF season).

    What I don’t get is the contention that someone who does very well at these things is interchangeable with someone who does them poorly.

    Likewise, your list of things Melvin can’t seem to master is excellent. I agree right down the line. Once again, though, I do not believe the team behavior that results when these things are mis-handled only result in ~2 extra losses.

    Respectfully, I don’t see how the effect of a Manager having lost the ability to hold his players accountable can have been analyzed over the entirety of MLB history. How does one do that?

    In my mind, in-game decisions like hit-and-run versus straight steal, or sacrifice, versus pinch hit could potentially be analyzed. But how does one judge the impact of having a player out of position on a given day? He can only be in one position at a time, so how would we judge if a line drive off of pitcher_A by batter_B would have been caught if Centerfielder_C was in center and not at DH? To compare other fly balls hit on a differnt day off a different pitcher is not analogous, in my view.

    Perhaps we are talking on different wave lengths? In my view, if a game is lost due to base running errors that were earlier in evidence, then I would say that loss rests with the Manager for failing to correct the situation.

    You might say, I’m guessing, that the manager is in no way responsible since he is not the one on the field. In my view, the Manager is responsible because he has a number of means at his disposal to correct the situation and prevent it in the future.

    He can have a “conversation” with the player that would etch the importance on the player’s mind. He can give individual instruction. He can sit the player. If he has any ability to stand up to the FO,(which is also on your list) he can also make use of the 40 man to selectively demote that player (or another for an unrelated reason) to serve as a “reminder” that poor play can have dire consequences.

    If I put on a hit-and-run and my guy lines out into a double play, it kills me but I accept that it is just part of baseball. However, if I fail to anticipate a squeeze bunt and don’t warn anybody, then I don’t see how that is any player’s fault, that is my fault. If I have a guy out of position and he doesn’t execute, That is my fault, not his. The losses that really stick with you are the ones when you walk off the diamond beliveing you were out-coached.

    I just don’t see how any of us could view a player “swinging wildly” and know with certainty why he did so or if it could have been prevented. Off-field stuff at the professional level certainly would be out of the Manager’s ability to control, but I guess from my perspective, the on-field stuff should be much more under his control.

    At any rate, I appreciate your viewpoint. I would like to repeat AGAIN, that I think the FO set Melvin up to fail. Before Spring Training started, I told everyone who would listen that they were going to finish third in the division and win 83-85 games (shows how much I know).

    But now that the mess is created, we have to find a way out of it. I just don’t see an absentee owner holding anyone in the FO accountable. I’m frustrated because I don’t see any way that the MAIN culprits will ever be held accountable.

    But that sentiment doesn’t blind me to the list of things you assembled and I agreed with. I think the breakdown you are predicitng will indeed be worse in ’05 and replacing Melvin, while not the sufficient condition, is none the less the necessary condition.

  38. Dave on September 25th, 2004 11:01 pm


    Let me further clarify; I believe that major league managers are mostly interchangable. Clearly, if we had me manage the Mariners, I’d cost the team 20 wins or so, simply because I’m completely incapable of handling the job.

    My point isn’t that what the manager does isn’t important (though I’d argue that no game is ever lost due to one play, including a baserunning error or a player being out of position), but it’s that the differences between the people qualified to manage at the major league level aren’t that great. When there’s minimal difference between a majority of people who perform a task, their individual value goes down.

    Make more sense?

  39. Bela Txadux on September 26th, 2004 1:36 am

    A few follow-ons, here Coach,

    Beginning with the fact that I’m glad that I didn’t hit any clunkers on the list from the PoV of a professional, so I’m not entirely talking through my prospectus, here. I certainly agree that the _rank order_ on the list of managerial responsibilities I threw out there could be changed, and indeed would inherently change somewhat depending upon context. The value of man management is much higher with a raw, young cast than with a veteran core group, for example; media matters far more in N’Yack then in Tampa, I think we can all agree.

    Furthermore, I accept entirely that a manager is _more_ important in a short season. A mistake or successful decision in a 162 game season is buried in the sheer number of games, while an action of similar value, + or -, in a short season, can either win big for you or leave you not time to make up a self-inflicted loss. —But reverse that comment: Over a _162+ game season_ (remember playoffs), the things a manager can do tend to even out in result, which is why someone has to be gigantically weighted to the extremes, superb or excreble, to impact the overall numbers at all.

    That’s a first point. Now, the work to which I refer, and which I read so long ago I will not attempt to cite in detail in order to avoid error, has to do with the Pythagorean Theorem of Bill James, and commentary that came out of it. In essence, the number of runs a team scores and gives up, properly weighted and formulated are so powerfully indicative of a baseball team’s final record that all other factors are trivial by comparison, literally fractions of a game difference. You can take a team’s stats over a ten year period, with three different managers quite distinct in style, and reputedly quite different in competence, run the numbers, and you can’t even tell that the team had a managerial change. This is why when player projections are done, everyone tries to control for park effects but no one in-formulates a managerial change. The work thoughout ML history I was refering to were tests of the Theorm with actual team aggregate numbers which proved the methodology beyond any reasonable dispute, and hence the implications of its results.

    Further simulations tend to confirm this from the opposite direction: what effect does the arrival of a new manager with a specific style have on the offensive and pitching results of a team (let’s set defense aside for the moment, as it’s well and sadly lamented that there are currently no really good defensive statistical analyticals out there). If you take the _players as a group_ and run their figures you’ll get yearly aggregate projections; this can be done in a running series starting anywhere you want. The projections are never perfect, but the actual results fall within their realistic margins of errors—and you’d just about never know that there was a managerial change. It just doesn’t show in the players numbers, which is the basis for the rock-solid assumption that the players’ offensive and pitcher numbers depend primarily upon what the _player_ does with their abilities rather than what the coach does with the player. Billy Martin was one of the tiny number of folks whose arrival and departure could actually be seen in the team’s numbers, and even his impact was small relative to the player’s contributions, and also small relative to simple year-by-year projectible ranges of variation. That last sentence is another way of saying that the natural variability in aggregate player performance is sufficient to swamp just about _anything_ a manager can possibly get a group to achieve. Yes, even Hurricane Larry [Bowa] is LESS important than whether or not Burrell and Milton bust up or bust out.

    In effect, a baseball manager can make a great deal of difference in how a team plays, but only a very, very small difference in how often a team wins or loses over the course of a season. I know that this sounds like a complete oxymoron but it is the most succinct way to put the issue. The actual talent-performance equation within the player(s) as expressed in the game decides almost everything, with inherent fluctuations in such actions swamping most other tertiary factors, with things like park effects being the only real secondary factors. The park configuration matters more than the manager, hate to say it, at least as far as what can be demonstrated analytically.

    Now, I _personally_ think that there is more to it than this in two aspects which show poorly in the numbers and would bolster your perspective, Coach. I think the coaching staff can have more impact upon _defensive_ results than on either offensive or pitching outcomes. Teaching D does matter; repetition does matter; positioning does matter; substitution in-game or for critical games does matter; the manager can act to accomplish all these things, ergo the manager does matter (somewhat). Most statistical analysis says that defense is vastly less important than pitching and offense, but again we don’t have good metrics, and my gut feeling over the years is that defense matters more than we believe it does BECAUSE IT KEEPS GAMES CLOSE and improves your ability to get a W and L with less total effort and/or talent on the pitching and offensive side. The best single quote on baseball I’ve heard (secondarily) in years comes of course from Bill James (anybody know his birthday BTW?), to the effect that a great deal of what we call pitching is defense. I believe that when we finally _do_ get good defensive metrics, they will demonstrate something very much like this. I think smart, smart organizations work tirelessly to have the best defense they can achieve, whereas jackass organizations than see their record fall of the deep end of the pier are all to ready to ‘trade defense for offense.’ So in this respect, coach, I’m betting that a good manager can indeed have a little bit more impact than the numbers suggest, but I can’t prove it.

    The second respect in which a manager can have more impact than we see directly in the number is in motivation, but this is very hard to quantify, particularly because it shows less when a team wins but shows terribly when a team takes a dive. If a team hates a manager, totally disrespects him, or loses ‘team’ because the manager loses the team, I feel certain that a squad will underperform their projected W-L from the gross numbers, that is players play for their own stats but they don’t bear down to turn those totals into wins as often as the totals say should happen normatively. Also, players can just check out and their performances suck so that their actual totals go down and the teams record with it. This is a long way of saying that a bad coach has much more impact upon a team’s negative performance than a good coach can have of a team’s positive performance. This is another reason why manager’s are not entirely inappropriately fired after terrible seasons: above average coaches have ‘poor’ seasons, but below average coaches have ‘terrible’ seasons in the aggregate (Casey couldn’t have one in ’62 unless he set up a machine gun in the dugout and held the trigger down on the other team).

    Here’s a final example on the realistic level of impact a manager can have. One out, man on first, the team’s CF, as usual, takes a ‘great circle route’ to a routine fly in the alley after his equally routine misread and late break, and the ball ticks the glove for a gift double; second and third, one out (man on first had to hold because anyone else would have caught the ball). The pitcher is pissed and Ks the next batter on three. Two out, score unchanged. He tries to do the same on the next guy who screams a one-hopper to the rightfielder who puts the pet to the catcher blocking home in the best old style, YERRRRRRODT! Score. Unchanged. The bad play that the manager has/has not corrected has _no_ effect on the score that day, terrible as the whole thing looked, and because it didn’t effect the score, it didn’t effect the W-L. Is the manager good/bad because he keeps playing the slow learner in CF? The same player who has 40 HR and 120 RBI who massively affects the team’s W-L??? This is simply an illustration of why the things a manager can do are swamped by the things he can’t do (pitch, hit, and pickit).

    I want to say that I DO think coaching matters a great deal because it effects the attitude of a player and how effectively they are willing to use their talent, and how they deal with adversity, etc., etc. Thus numbers just don’t show that one man can produce large changes on a seasonal basis.

    AHHHHH, you say, I’ll turn yer flank there, over TIME a manager can improve a groups results. Yes, I think that this is true, and if a manager has essentially the same cast for five-six years, I sincerely believe that a good manager would be able to raise the W-L of that group at a statistically significant level even as assessed by present metrics. But he doesn’t. Have the same group for five-six years. Player turnover is high due to umpteen reasons, and changes the talent mix so radically that NO ONE has the ‘same group’ for any length of time; the turnover swamps whatever the manager was/was not achieving with the cadre he started with. The only cases where this isn’t true were ones where managers had exceptionally long tenures in organizations with consistent talent acquisiton strategies so that he was mangaging ‘highly comparable’ groups over time and his ‘baseball philosophy’ did/did not work; for exampe, Walter Alston who got a ‘team type’ or John McGraw who selected his own.

    Last note, Coach, Melvin was _absolutely_ set up by the FO before the season: this last offseason was so miserable I screamed. My off the cuff estimate from January was that the team would struggle to make .500—and lose with about 75 wins. Because they had the oldest team in the majors; their core was visibly aging, and had faded at the back end of three consecutive seasons; because they had no power; because the defenese with Aurila and Winn out of position was going to be terribly damagain but no one was ready for the implications. Then everyone who could possibly have a bad season all did at the same time, and Soriano, Guardado, and Spezio all got hurt (why is it that everyone has forgotten about his back, not that his contribution was going to be substantial even at career norms). And again, the ‘guilty are never charged’ in crimes of this kind. Which is why I’m dreading this offseason and hoping to be So Very Wrong.

    Best all.

  40. Bela Txadux on September 26th, 2004 3:41 am

    Further comment on ‘absentee owner’ of the Ms, here, going off on a sharp tangent from comment by Coach: Mr. Nintendo could decide that enough is enough and have a major impact, but on the evidence I think that this is highly unlikely. First, he is ultra-low profile, and making any kind of visible move, positive or negative, seems completely contrary to his established style. Second, from the standpoint that matters, things are going very, very well for him, and nothing about this season changes that at all—yet.

    Before this season, published estimates suggested that the Ms were pulling in $200M a year above non-payroll operating expenses since Safeco opened. The payroll has been steady at around $95M a year, and presumably a contingency fund; half the total income. The team has no significant debt. The owners—of whom Mr. Nintendo is what, 95%?—have pulled in $100M a year in pure profit from this franchise without even figuring in asset appreciation which has to be substantial indeed since the Quiet Guy purchased the team. Which I don’t mind a bit as I said elsewhere because if the team can’t win with that budget they can’t win with more, so why waste the dough?? Fiddle with these numbers as you like guys, they’re not perfect, but the annual take for the owners is obviously very, very high.

    Now, Mr. Nintendo may not like this losing at all, and memos may have been sent and conference calls made. Melvin is nothing to him. _Bavasi_ is nothing to him. They are utterly replacable and will be replaced if what is broken is not made whole. Lincoln hires and fires them, and clearly selects the people he is comfortable with. Keep in mind, however, that Lincoln is NOT the owner, he is _an_ owner of a tiny sliver, the ‘managing partner’ at the sufferance of the majority stakeholder; what Lincoln really is is an employee. And nobody, but nobody fires an employee making him $100M a year cash net profit. This is why Lincoln doesn’t care if the team wins, but does care if the team is competitive (necessary to get 3M a year in the seats), and does care if the community cares (necessary to keep them there), because this is how he meets his projection and keeps/doesn’t keep HIS job. If Ms _attendance_ falls below some target known to Mr. Nintendo, then he’ll fire Lincoln; if not, probably not. And Lincoln is the problem here, as anyone following this team for the last ten years shold have tatooed on some visible portion of their anatomy by now. He’s going nowhere; ergo . . . .

    And the funniest part of all of this, to me and Mr. Nintendo but likely to no one else (why?), is that he is pulling ~$100M of profit a year to finance the capsule vs. Box wars out of the highest paying, public profile asset in Bill Gates’ OWN BACKYARD!!!! It’s just a riot, one of the best sidebar stories in corporate rivalry EVER (if only that)! Wheeeeeee-HAHAHAHA! what a laugh.

  41. DMZ on September 26th, 2004 10:35 am

    Bela — Have you thought about starting your own commentary site? I’m entirely serious, you seem to have tons and tons to say, and I’m not sure that commenting entirely does it justice.

    To the managerial point: you’re wrong.

    To say that a manager is more important in a short series — I don’t think you’ve given this enough thought. If you have a good manager and a bad manager, who through their decisions make a 1-run difference every five games, that 1-run difference could possibly cost or win a team a playoff series, though that’s still unlikely given the number of runs scored.

    Over the course of the season, they’d be worth +34 and -34 wins to their teams respectively, a swing of six games. The switch from average to one of these guys would change the division lead in three divisions. That’s not-in-the-playoffs to in-the-playoffs. Accumulative differences over a 162-game season are much more important than a short one, even if the differences in a short season are minor.

    You can take a team’s stats over a ten year period, with three different managers quite distinct in style, and reputedly quite different in competence, run the numbers, and you can’t even tell that the team had a managerial change. This is why when player projections are done, everyone tries to control for park effects but no one in-formulates a managerial change.

    You’re totally wrong here. First, difference in record from Pythagorean record is often looked to as a indicator of managerial talent, though I disagree with that. You can look to managers and success-over-expectations and find consistently good ones.

    Second, your comment on the impact of managers: that’s not the case. You can look at Earl Weaver, guys who consistently won pennants with dramatically different personell. Billy Martin’s teams would do better in his first year with him and then tire on him. Davey Johnson out-performed with his teams, and he was another guy. Studies have been done on Dusty Baker that show that players perform better under him than they do with other managers (even as Baker has difficulties elsewhere).

    Third, your comment on why they’re not in projections isn’t true. The manager’s impact is between the lines. The greatest impact a manager makes is in selecting the players to put on the field every game, and there’s no way to simulate that. Of hitting and pitching coaches, rarely (Braves) does one of them have a consistent positive or negative effect, so they’re not built in.

    A manager doesn’t hit for someone, or take the mound for someone. The only tactical decisions that show up in individual stats are SB v CS, IBB, SH, etc., and the manager’s effects on are nearly impossible to project.

    And fourth, skipping ahead: how can “Mr. Nintendo” finance the Gamecube v Xbox war when he owns the Mariners personally? Write a check to Nintendo with “Console War” in the memo line? Is he buying company debt, or issuing then loans? I think that’d be news.

  42. Coach on September 26th, 2004 7:44 pm

    Dave, in reply to post #38.

    Even though this has hit the archive, I wanted to reply. Your clarification makes all the difference and is key to understanding your perspective.

    I believe I could take Melvin’s job and account for ~20 losses without it looking deliberate. I also think that with the 2003 team (and most of Lou’s staff) that I could draft off of the momentum from the previous year at least until the break from having seen the way Lou used them as a unit.

    However I don’t think, even with an improved team I could actually ADD wins. This might seem contradictory to what I have been saying here. But in my view the mistakes a Manager makes get magnified by an opponent trying to look for any opening to take advantage, whereas a good move by a Manager meets the resistance of the opponent as well as the normal law of averages.

    At any rate, thanks for the clarification. I appreciate the opportunity to contribute, so thanks for your time, I don’t see how you manage. I know that in my own case, I need to spend a lot more time working and less time on this blog.

  43. Bela Txadux on September 27th, 2004 1:39 am

    So DMZ,

    Your comment on my starting my own commentary site I’ll take as a sideways compliment, to which my answer is, if and only if somebody pays me (which ain’t happenin’). Just to fill you in on the dope on me: I’m a writer of serous, analytical non-fiction with a day job; nights, actually, answering a telephone which mostly doesn’t ring, sitting next to an always-on console with a T1 running out. I write at length by nature and compulsion, but my primary interest in doing so is in fact the process of making and developing a consistent argument—it’s good practice for what I really do. Outside of that, I’m do crushingly burdened for time with multiple books in process (complicated tale there), and a full time job I don’t want that I realistically have no time to do what you guys are doing here. There are a few issues that have been on my mind re: this team and the sport which they play, and I felt like speaking to them (hopefully in ways of interest to others), besides which this blog is a public forum sufficiently well-monitored by others whose ability to actually influence the thinking of the Ms organization far exceeds my screeds that it is worth gabbling on here on the chance that somebody takes a thread away with them and runs with it. I’ll be around on and off until the primary personal changes are mad for this team by the end of the year, and then evanesce to some other ‘noble cause,’ so to speak. Stretch the mind and bend an ear, spread come cheer, and a raw huzzah fer them ‘at’s earned it.

    Regarding my competance to advance insights here and command of the facts: There’s some strengths to my contentions but I’m rusty and I just fer-Gawd-sake lack the time to research the actual _current_ numbers on anything, so I have to make an argument, and take me lumps in the process, I do suppose. Now, I was following the minors and reading Bill James and others before some of the folks on this blog were born, or at least started seriously in ’79. He mailed out a pamphlet then, it was a joy to read; I may still have a few squirreled away somewhere. I read all that stuff, and others, too, until the mid-90s when the general trends in the owner-player wars and above all steroid use totally turned me off from the entire pursuit. I learned to play squash instead, and followed _that_ on the internet for some years, something I much recommend. : ) The Ms ’01 season had ‘Pure Magic’ written all over it from the first here, and I accepted that I’d be a fool to sit it out, so I’ve paid attention these last few years, and juggled a few factoids for my own elucidation. But I have been and am far too busy to get seriously current on analytical work of the last dozen years.

    I’ve never heard of or seen anything that shows that manager can or does have a + or – impact of 6 games over the course of a baseball season, DMZ, and I’m quite skeptical of that. If you’ve got the _numbers_ to back up your rebuttal to that effect of my comments above, more power to you, and at some point I’d be happy to peruse it myself. My sense from following the game and from what I read rather a few back is much closer to the numbers Dave put up, _maybe_ + or 1 THREE games, at max. That’s less then having Kevin Brown break his hard headed hand, or anyone of a dozen dozen things. Not a trivial result, the manager’s winshare, sure, but just much less important than many other things.

    I’ll make one point here that I think does not come through in my posts above: I, _personally_ believe that especially able managers have a marked impact upon SINGLE SEASON outcomes, in large part by _getting better seasons_ out of the talent-experience matrices of individual players, just as you speak to in your comments regarding Dusty Baker. I haven’t seen much in the numbers that can actually demonstrate this, but as you say you have I’m happy to yield to facts which support my own actual gut belief here rather than the ‘less impact’ contention I’ve advance above. Good managers don’t get stupid from one year to the next, so in principle good managers can raise the level of play of their teams consistently, or even win with entirely different teams. To take a football analogy Don Shula won with several different squads which were _totally_ different in the entire concept of game they played: he just knew how to coach (but I think this is much easier to demonstrate for football than baseball). I continue to hold to the view that managerial actions are swamped by other actions on a year-over-year basis, but this is a debate that I suppose needs to shift more to facts if it’s to have any meaning subsequently.

    Re: short season/series importance relative to season-long, ask Francona and Little their opinion. How about Lou sending out Arthur Lee against Justice _in two different years_ even though Justice hits him like a BP guy, and beat him both times to win one game and ice another? A manager simply doesn’t have time to recover from an error or plain misfortune in short series, and it is here that good managers maximize potential by ‘limiting mistakes’ more than anything. To me, this is a good part of what Torre does in-game (he does a great deal more outside the lines, too, yes) which sets him so far apart at the moment. If he makes a bad move in a key series, it’s always a forced move, and even so he makes it decisively; most of the time he takes the path of ‘most probable success’ avoiding mistakes and depending on his players to then utilize their talent; his vets understand this totalyl (cause he’s explained it to ’em) and make every effort to come through. I’m not saying that season-long impacts by managers are trivial, I hope that Ive mad this clear, so I’ll leave that statement in as my ‘closer’ on it.

    Re: Mr. Nintendo, it’s the games, not the hardware where the money is in video games, and he knows it. He’s holding his own and more because he is and always has secured better GAMES for his capsules, but this is an expensive proposition which requires _continual investment_ because yesterdays bonanza game is just that. Now, if at any time the other boys secure a monopoly level share of the platform, however, they gain enough leverage over the game developers to ‘box him out.’ What he has to do is keep his ‘eyeball’ share high enough to deny them platform supremacy by spending his dough to write or buy the best games for capsules OR ANY OTHER NON-MONOPOLY PLATFORM. See how it goes? And it is my hunch that Mr. Nintendo is able to use his winnings from the Ms—it’s his cash—to leverage development for games for his capsules. Or so goes the argument.

  44. DMZ on September 27th, 2004 10:14 am

    To respond, in short:
    It wasn’t a sideways compliment, it was a serious thought. Posting at length and in detail as you do even as you mention you have neither the time or inclination seems to be suited more to running a site of your own. Seriously, check out blogger — it’s plug-and-play, and you can post wherever you want.

    As for +/- 6 games: that was a hypothetical argument that if someone could lose or win a game in a short series by making an impact of one run, they’d have a huge impact over a year. It’s an argument of scope and reasonability of your argument, not of anything else.

    w/r/t Mr. Nintendo. I don’t understand why you assume I (and others) are ignorant about this stuff.

    My point was this: if he’s making, say, $50m a year personally from the Mariners, how does he put that back into Nintendo to finance the console wars without anyone noticing?