And we’ll know Zduriencik from his off-season
This will consume a huge portion of press attention until it’s resolved, but it’s not that important. While the manager’s the public face of the team in some ways, and I’m sure we’ll hear about the importance of their ability to run a harmonious or winning clubhouse, there are really three kinds of managers:
- the good
- almost everyone
- the really bad
Almost every manager uses the same in-game tactics, more or less: it’s a matter of where they fall on the spectrum. Most managers follow the traditional book: they try to steal a little more often than is productive, sacrifice too often, and so on. The difference between the best and the worst managerial tactician is maybe twenty runs a year, and I mean utter incompetence against devious genius. And Earl’s not managing these days. They can be important decisions that backfire, but even then, bringing in one reliever over another might mean the chance of a game-losing hit goes from 30% to 20%.
The big difference a manager makes is in filling out a lineup card every day, putting the best team on the field, resting players, balancing offense and defense according to the needs of the day, and bullpen management.
I’ve always favored hiring someone with a lot of managerial experience, even if that’s in the minors. The failure rate of coach conversions is remarkably high. There’s no reason to risk it: there are tons of qualified candidates in the minors who’ve been grinding it out, and they’ve already dealt with more clubhouse madness than they could talk about.
Good sign: Anyone with more than a couple seasons under their belt. Bonus points for smarts, reputation, good player relationships, and so on.
Bad sign: Ned Yost.
Raul’s been the public face of the franchise and also one of the lesser problems. His defense in left is so bad it negates much of the value of his bat. He really should be a DH. As much as Ibanez’s swing is well-suited to Safeco, left-fielders and designated hitters, can be had on the cheap. The team’s really better off taking the draft pick. But the temptation to bring back one of the only productive and popular players of the last few years will be there.
Good sign: they offer Ibanez arbitration (and if he accepts, put him at DH)
Bad sign: Ibanez re-signed to a multi-year deal for a lot of money.
Local boy and Ibanez’s public face assistant. Gets huge applause. Can’t hit. Can field decently. Can steal a base. Equivalent skills cost major league minimum. Like Ibanez, there will be organizational sentiment in his favor.
Good sign: Bloomquist signs a super-cheap deal or they let him move on.
Bad sign: Bloomquist gets a multi-year deal for too much money.
The team’s spent a lot of money these last few years for proven middle-of-the-order professional hitters. This is a poor use of resources. And in left they’ve punted defense entirely, though Ibanez was at least affordable.
Good sign: they bring in some cheap and effective players, especially if they make a break with the past and try to put together a nice platoon or pay for a glove in left field.
Bad sign: spending a ton of money on name players
Like left field and DH, there’s no need to spend a ton of money on first basemen. My friend Jonah Keri, who is one of the most cheerful and even-keeled people you’ll ever meet, gets all agitated every time a team gives out one of these deals (“Free agent contracts never work! Never!” he says, though obviously he’s exaggerating a bit. But not much.) Fortunately,
Good sign: someone cheap and effective. Or Clement moving to first.
Okay: Bringing some rent-a-bat in for a one-year
Bad sign: One of those Mo Vaughn-style deals.
Wlad’s glove can’t play in center, and he’s not hitting. Reed plays but he’s not hitting either. But centerfielders who can hit don’t come cheap.
Good sign: someone who plays defense. Hitting would be nice, but cheap-and-effective fly catcher would be fine.
Bad sign: a season of Wlad, or a big contract to an immobile hitter.
Lopez and Betancourt have both turned into stone-gloved horror shows out there. But how do you solve this kind of a problem? Is it even a problem? They’re both cheap, and young. But then Betancourt’s defense went terrible and we’ve already seen him as good as he’s going to get, offensively. Lopez at least bounced back offensively — but his defense is so bad it makes him an overall liability. Do they dare hire a glove to play one or both positions and punt one of the two to another team?
Good sign: the team goes into next season with some kind of improvement at one or both positions
Bad sign: things get worse somehow
They’re not likely to do anything about catching this season. They’ve got Johjima under contract and a host of backup options, even if they move Clement from behind the plate. I bet this is way down on the organizational to-do list.
They’ve got some internal options to sort through, but it’d be great to pick up, say, a good fourth outfielder, and if they toss Bloomquist, they’ll need a backup middle infielder.
Good sign: nice complementary pickups
Bad sign: Cairo comes back on a two-year, $5m deal
Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh. Cleaning this mess up would make anyone wince. Z may have the rotation declared a Superfund site. After all, it’s abandoned, hazardous waste is there… anyway.
Good sign: managing to get rid of one or more of the Washburn/Silva/Batista contracts. Signing some good reclamation or rehab projects for insurance or back of the rotation.
Bad sign: A huge contract to someone who sucks. Or, while we’re at it, a Washburn extensions.
They don’t need to do much.
Good sign: if anything, small, nice pickups to supplement the current group
Bad sign: huge deals to veteran relievers
In all of these things, we’ll see some patterns emerge:
- How does he evaluate and value offense?
- How does he evaluate and value defense?
- Do things like clutch hitting, veteranosity, professional hitting, previous role experience, and the like make a difference?
- How much are they worth?
- Similarly, how are pitchers evaluated? For instance, are we going to see Silva/Washburn-style deals, or will our new GM possibly look for candidates who were unlucky in things beyond their control?
- Relatively, where’s the payroll at hand going towards?
- How good is he at evaluating and signing freely available talent: the minor league free agents, the rehab projects, the rebound candidates?
- How does he compare a free agent option to those freely available players?
- How well does he do in dealings with other teams?
… and on, and on.
Up next: looking forward to organizational changes.