By: Kurt Snyder
When do managers really earn their keep? Is it the way they set their lineup? Is it the way they set their starting rotation? Or is it how they use their bullpen?
Well, it’s all those things really. And they all require a decision. It’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ scenario. Every game offers different challenges where quick, intelligent decisions need to be made.
And we hold managers to a level of performance that is really unattainable when the team struggles. There are mistakes on the field, poor performances on the field, poor hitting and poor baserunning. It goes on and on when you are in the midst of a losing streak or extended slump. Nothing seems to go right. So sometimes we look to the manager to make it all right.
Is it fair? Not completely. But when a team is struggling as much as the Tigers are, mistakes by the manager on top of everything, seem to be magnified.
But I also firmly believe that a manager can learn a lot by fighting through a losing streak with their team. They learn how their little mistakes become big ones when all you need, all you want in the worst way, is a single win.
When the team is playing well and things are clicking, a team becomes much easier to manage, because players are executing. Your plan is executed. And if you make a mistake like Brad Ausmus did on Monday night by pinch-hitting VMart in the situation where he would certainly be walked with first base open, it becomes a mistake that is so much more amplified when you are losing.
A team that is winning games can survive managerial mistakes. They can be easily erased with continued execution. But when opportunities to score are limited or there are missed opportunities to score, managerial missteps are glaring. And that’s when the fans notice and want the manager’s head for all the losing.
But baseball is a team game. Long losing streaks are shared by just about everyone up and down the roster. And managers unfortunately must take a lot of the blame as well.
Managers tend to earn their money in the late innings. It’s when they need to make their most critical decisions. So when your team executes the plan, the manager looks good.
But here’s the thing; as a manager, your decision cannot take the ability to execute out of the hands of a top player. When they are not allowed to affect the game positively because of managerial decision, that’s where we have a problem.
Taking the bat of out of VMart hands Monday night, a valuable bat waiting on the bench, hoping for the opportunity to help win a game, is a glaring mistake. And it’s a puzzling one when a manager admits full well that he knew Vmart would be walked, and then follows it up by trying to defend it.
A manager has to earn respect. And he earns it by executing in the late innings. That’s right, the manager needs to execute as well. It’s a team game. But when he doesn’t, you want to see him own up to it sometime before the next day. It took the Tiger manager overnight before he decided the right move was not made with his most dangerous hitter off the bench.
Cameras and microphones are thrust into the faces of players every night after games, win or lose, and they are faced with questions about their performance. And they own up to a lot when the team doesn’t fare well. They should. They are getting paid very well to execute their roles. But rarely do we see our manager own up to his lack of execution, when those instances occur.
Refreshingly he did it Tuesday, admitting to the VMart mistake the day after the game. But, I have to be fair. I don’t think Brad thought it was a mistake. It had to sink in … overnight. Better late than never I guess.
Instinctive decisiveness; it is maybe the most concise way to describe the role of a successful major league manager. But hidden in those words is instant recognition. You must quickly understand and acknowledge, when you make a mistake. It may prevent the next one.