I don’t have much to say about this — I just found it an interesting paragraph. Not long ago, I mistakenly identified the Cardinals as less of a sabermetric organization. In doing so, I casually cited outdated reputation instead of really thinking about it, and the truth of the matter is that the Cardinals have long been one of the more forward-thinking organizations in baseball. That was just a stupid error on my part, as my fingers got ahead of my brain. Someone who worked for the Cardinals for a long time is Jeff Luhnow, the current general manager of the Astros. Luhnow recently had something to say about the process of hiring a manager. The Mariners recently hired a new manager in Lloyd McClendon. All right, that’s the connection. This is the excerpt:
Luhnow, a former CEO who leans on analytics perhaps more than any other general manager, called hiring a manager the most important job of a front office. In hiring Porter, the Astros were “not looking for someone we could dictate how to do their job,” he said. But he demanded a candidate “curious enough to listen and bright enough” to be open to new ideas.
It’s funny how a word, or the absence of a couple words, can change everything. If Luhnow called hiring a manager one of the most important jobs of a front office, it would be an easy paragraph to ignore. That would just be interpreted as a statement of little substance. Instead, it’s very matter-of-fact: hiring a manager is the most important job of a front office, according to Jeff Luhnow. He didn’t give himself any wiggle room. He made a statement, asserting it as fact, and Jeff Luhnow is very smart and good at baseball.
And, you know, okay, maybe he’s wrong. Nobody’s right all of the time. But my inclination is to give baseball people the benefit of the doubt with most baseball questions, and Luhnow’s a hell of a baseball person. This is something he’s thought about before, at length. And while it’s obviously important to hire the right manager, it’s an interesting situation to have a manager be considered this important, when fans by and large don’t know and don’t care. Fans care about the roster. Fans care about the manager only when they have reason to complain about him.
Two points, to summarize what we’ve got here:
(1) according to at least one smart GM, there’s nothing more important for a front office than hiring the right manager
(2) we might not ever have any idea how well or poorly a given manager did with a given team in a given year
It’s maybe the most important thing, and we know nothing about it. Even when we think we do, we don’t for sure, but if Luhnow is to be believed, the Mariners just made a very significant decision in bringing on Lloyd McClendon. Of course, I don’t know if that’s a good decision or a bad decision, and there’s little sense in analyzing the quotes since McClendon’s just making a first impression and everybody’s positive, but let it not be suggested that the Mariners’ offseason isn’t underway. McClendon’s here now, and he’s going to try to develop a new and better team culture. For all I know that’ll be the biggest thing of all. Never underestimate what might be hidden in your blind spots.
As for the end of the excerpted paragraph? We’ll see about McClendon’s curiosity, and we’ll see if he’s provided with new ideas. Or, probably, we won’t see that, directly. But we’ll see if the team looks different. The person who knows the most about Lloyd McClendon is Lloyd McClendon. The people who know a lot are the Mariners. The people who know nothing, aside from what they’ve been fed, are us. We might never know whether the Mariners made a good move or a bad move, but I sure would welcome good moves. I’d like for this to be one.