On blame skipping two levels

DMZ · May 26, 2008 at 6:08 am · Filed Under Mariners 

How do you blame the players if you’re a GM? They’re your players, each of them the product of a long series of decisions that resulted in them being on the roster over a hundred other possibilities. No matter what the cause, either you’re responsible or the manager’s responsible.

I gave the manager the wrong players: my fault
I gave the manager the right players and they’re not doing well: manager’s fault
I gave the manager the wrong players and created a losing atmosphere where they underachieve: my fault
I gave the manager the right players to put together a winning, yay-chemsitry team, but they act like losers and lose: manager’s fault

If the players suck and the manager’s doing a great job, then the players sucking is the GM’s fault. If the players all looked like they’d do great but it turns out they’re all head cases who can’t work together, the GM didn’t do a good evaluating them (and the manager didn’t do a good job coping). There’s no way that an entire roster of 25 players came together spontaneously without intervention of the front office and decided to play horribly without management noticing or having some chance to influence the outcome.

And even if the GM put together a perfect team and the manager screwed it all up, the GM hired the manager.


55 Responses to “On blame skipping two levels”

  1. Breadbaker on May 26th, 2008 5:08 pm

    If managers and general managers were never culpable for on-field performance, it is curious why they are paid so much.

    I think you can divide a manager’s performance into three parts:

    1. The really visible part: lineups, onfield strategy. I’d give McLaren a D for that.

    2. Team preparation. This shows itself in different ways, but you don’t see everything. Missed cutoff men or ill-advised throws, players not on the base they’re supposed to be on. Pitches made to the batter’s hot spot. From what we can see, I’d give McLaren a D for this, too.

    3. Team cohesiveness. Baseball is not an individual game, despite all you read about it. The only players who don’t have to interact with each other in the field are the right and left fielders. Pitcher and catcher must be in synch. First basemen must know which infielders have a tendency to bounce throws in the dirt and which ones have a tendency to sail throws high. Cutoff men must line up and outfielders throws be made to be cutoff. This is supposed to be taken care of in spring training. When it’s done well, the players play together like a well-oiled machine, and make plays that make you go wow!. I’d give McLaren a D on this, too.

    The last bit is hard to see on most teams. But you can see it on the M’s by the way someone like Washburn will complain to the press about his catcher, and neither the manager nor a single player does anything about it (other than for McLaren to give the baby his rattle). I can’t imagine anyone on a Lou Piniella team making a press statement demeaning a teammate’s performance; he’d know he’d have Lou to answer to and so he’d never make the statement. All those incredible plays we saw Erick Aybar make: that’s a hallmark of a Mike Scioscia managed team–they’re always in position. Notice how the Braves’ prospects always seem to blossom: that’s a hallmark of a Bobby Cox managed team (Lou never caught on to that one). Different managers have different strengths. Different managers are the right person for a team at a particular point in time (Joe Torre sucked managing the Mets, Braves and Cardinals; Lou couldn’t have been more wrong for the Devil Rays). And some managers have to get fired to learn a lesson (Bob Melvin being the most obvious example).

    All of which is a very long way to saying that it might not be McLaren’s “fault”, but that is completely the wrong question to ask. The right question is: given where the team is today, is there someone who is the better person to turn the situation around. That of course requires one to have a goal in mind. Clearly, 2008 is not a playoff year here. So the goal, imho, would be to determine what the future should look like. If a manager is still running out Sexson, Vidro and Cairo, none of whom will be active major leaguers when this team next makes the playoffs, then that is the wrong manager for this team.

  2. jHUGE on May 26th, 2008 7:15 pm

    I hate to see Mac be a scapegoat.
    I would rather see Bavisi eat it, and the current roster be gutted first. Give Mac a chance with some young players in their prime (instead of over the hill–best years behind them “experienced” players)and see what he can do.

  3. Axtell on May 26th, 2008 10:34 pm

    Every talking head had the M’s contending for the title.

    Every serious stat-based website had the M’s contending for the cellar.

    It’s apparent M’s management based their efforts on the talking heads instead of looking at objective stats. They decided to overlook last years RS/RA and inflated win totals and felt 2 new pitchers would be the push them over the top. Every website I read that looked beyond wins and losses had the M’s in trouble.

    So it’s not like the research wasn’t out there that this team was going to suck. It’s apparent that Bavasi feels each of the 25 men on the roster are collectively sucking, and, instead of taking ownership for some of those problems, he feels the need to dump on the guys going out every day and trying?

    Do I think that players like Vidro (who I really, really think should be DFA’ed) aren’t trying? No, I don’t. I simply think they’re usefulness as players is gone. But Bavasi thinks that a magical leadership dust would turn this disaster around?

    How did this guy get to run a team again?

  4. jspektor on May 27th, 2008 9:02 am

    53 – His Dad.

  5. et_blankenship on May 27th, 2008 12:41 pm

    2. Team preparation. This shows itself in different ways, but you don’t see everything. Missed cutoff men or ill-advised throws, players not on the base they’re supposed to be on. Pitches made to the batter’s hot spot. From what we can see, I’d give McLaren a D for this, too.

    These are examples of basic baseball fundamentals, instincts every professional baseball player should have incorporated into his DNA by the time he finishes watching Tom Emanski’s instructional videos.

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