By: Holly Horning
Ahh, let the baseball post-mortems begin! Currently, media organizations are dissecting teams who failed to make the playoffs. I found one of the analyses most intriguing… and somewhat disturbing. Let me explain.
Here is my summary of what I read in this article used to explain the demise. Much of this you may already know, but it’s still very important to read this in its entire length. Trust me.
An elderly, wealthy owner, who desperately wants to win the World Series, gives his GM one of baseball’s biggest payrolls. They field a championship team, yet, with each year, they don’t achieve the stated goal. Despite some big stars, each year the window keeps closing, little by little. There’s only a couple of years left and a sense of urgency is being felt.
The GM goes out and hires a new manager, a rookie with no track record but with a solid long-term career as a player. The only thing the GM really knows about him is that the rookie used to play for his team. A decision to hire someone with unproven experience and no track record is made to take a championship team to the World Series, based solely on the GM’s judgment. But everyone bought into the program because the GM had a reputation as one of the best traders and evaluators of talent.
At first, things went well. Players seemed to like him but once the respect for him as a player wore off, they had a hard time respecting him as a manager. Eventually, the public was treated to watching the team’s star pitcher cussing him out on the mound when he didn’t want to come out of the game.
There was another pitcher who had an established attitude problem, but it took until nearly the end of the year before he was asked to leave the team. And another star player, upset with the manager, took himself out of the game and headed to the locker room. The manager didn’t know he was gone.
Last year, the team was one of the best in MLB. Finished first in their division but were easily eliminated in the first round of playoffs. The manager’s decisions on a starting pitcher and the bullpen helped to seal the fate of the team. He also substituted wrong relievers into games instead of the guy best-suited to the situation.
Despite having the best pitching rotation in baseball, they were sent home early after being shown up by the opposing manager over his poor playoff strategy. He ended up saving his best pitcher in a defining moment that would make or break the series.
Yet, the rookie claimed he made no mistakes and would do it all again.
This year, the denials and refusal to admit mistakes grew. He wouldn’t acknowledge what went wrong. He told reporters not to judge the team until later in the season and would not review past games, preferring to look to the future.
But his m.o. had started to solidify. He was often accused of leaving pitchers in too long and misusing the bullpen. He had a “seventh-inning guy” and also “an eight-inning guy” indicative of an inflexible habit of who pitched when instead of matching the pitcher to the situation. He also often saved his best pitcher to protect leads or for potential extra innings.
He was repeatedly described as being “inflexible”, “rigid” and “linear in thought.” He was seen as being wedded to plans he made and when the situation changed, he did not alter those plans.
Analysts said he was always looking at the immediate moment, not the big picture. This year, he took out some of his best bats from games and didn’t anticipate extra-innings. In an infamous game, he then had to substitute a weaker bat into the lineup with bad results. He also spent his way quickly through relievers and didn’t have the right ones available when games changed.
In post-game interviews, he often talked about the numerous injuries to many of his players. Some of them big stars and several of them missing significant chunks of time this year.
But as the year started to wind down, some things among the team were starting to get ugly. There was a visible fight in the dugout between two players.
And at the end of the season, the GM said he used feedback from the players in his evaluation of the manager. Everyone in the media felt that having a rookie manager was the wrong person with the wrong experience at the wrong time for this team.
And based upon the above history and summary, the GM fired the manager and his entire coaching staff. Every. Single. One. Oh, but the GM still has his job.
Say whaaat? Did you think this story was about the Detroit Tigers? I was summarizing the in-depth analysis from an article in the Washington Post about the Nationals.
So how on God’s green earth could two very similar teams in similar circumstances end up with polar opposite results?
Could there be factors the Front Office won’t reveal that saved the career of Brad Ausmus?
Could this be a case of East Coast Impatience vs. Midwest Nice? https://totallytigers.wordpress.com/2015/06/27/midwest-nice/
Or could it be due to the lack of the right, qualified manager at this time? Changing managers just for the sake of change would possibly create a new problem by anchoring the team with another multi-year contract and possibly preventing them from signing a top choice in the near future.
Could the Tigers really be biding their time waiting for the perfect candidate to become available? And could they be keeping from the fans that they believe they can afford to wait another year because they need to retool?
This story isn’t as clear as many fans may think it is. The other shoe may not have dropped yet. We’ll know more if and when an accomplished manager becomes available this winter or by early summer.
In the meantime, the Nationals need to find someone with experience, someone who checks all the boxes for them and is currently available. Someone to take them to the World Series in their last solid year of contention. Good luck with that.