So … You Think You’re Smarter Than An MLB Manager?


Fire up the grills … we’re gonna put some flame to the feet of our local manager.

Wait … “we” do that EVERY game? Regardless of the outcome? You’re kidding me?!?

*raises hand* Mr. Blog Writer, why are Reds fans so filled with vitriol, even when the team wins? Don’t they have the 3rd-best record in all of MLB right now, including 2nd-best in the NL trailing only their division-rival St. Louis Cardinals?!?

You are wise, inquisitive reader. You are wiser than many of the (over)reactive fans, notably on the social media website known as “Twitter”. Why can’t there be more people like you who stand as voices of reason in even the good times for this team?

*shakes head* Well, let’s be honest … I’m not *that* unique, right? You just don’t hear from me because I’m too busy actually *watching* the games, absorbing the wins AND the losses … and not asking for the manager to be fired every other game.


Does this sound familiar? Do you follow Reds baseball at least to some extent through Social Media (be it Twitter, possibly facebook, maybe Google+ … If so, my GUESS is that you’ve watched full-scale, “the-world-is-gonna-end” nuclear-level WW-IV meltdowns on some medium roughly every two to three days.  Am I close? Did I get it right?

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) in the dugout during the third inning against the Colorado Rockies at Great American Ball Park. (Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

If you’re like me, Twitter used to be a FUN place to interact with my fellow fans, consciously and knowledgeably analyzing games in-progress to guess “what would I do” in certain situations and see who else agreed or disagreed. In more recent times (i.e. post-Apocalyptic October 2012), Twitter has become nearly unbearable to watch, particular in a game that *should* be won by our beloved Reds.  Take Sunday afternoon’s bloodbath, for example.  Who took the brunt of the negative words that day? Dusty Baker.  Who *usually* takes the brunt of the negativity in EVERY game regardless of the outcome? Dusty Baker.

Look … I’m hardly a “Dusty apologist”. I’m not … in fact, I was deeply frustrated by yesterday’s game – in a WIN, no less – that Dusty wouldn’t at least give Bronson Arroyo a CHANCE to get a complete game shutout. What was the harm, through benefit of a THREE-RUN LEAD (thanks, Jay Bruce, for some gorgeous insurance runs), to NOT allow Arroyo to face at one batter in the ninth? If he couldn’t get the out (i.e. walks or allows a hit to the first batter), THEN bring in Aroldis Chapman.

Ultimately, my own disagreement had *no outcome* on the final result.  I just like seeing pitchers still pitch complete-game shutouts … is that so wrong?!? Heck, CG anything is hard to find in the “modern” (post-1980s) game. Why is it taboo to finish a game with one pitcher anymore, especially one with only 86 pitches after 8 innings and a comfortable margin to “take a chance”?

Cincinnati Reds manager Dusty Baker (12) argues with umpire Jeff Kellogg (8) during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Great American Ball Park. (Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

This brings me to a broader concern – second-guessing.  It’s easy to second-guess an MLB manager, like Baker, AFTER things have fallen apart. “Monday-morning quarterbacking” is commonly used for the water cooler talk on the Monday workday following a Sunday football game … now, the feedback cycle doesn’t even wait that business day – it starts after the last out. It starts *immediately* in many cases.

Dusty got so frustrated with his “regular grilling” by not only the local media (notably the beat writers but, also likely, the general public where he reads online publications – likely blogs, including this one) but most likely Social Media queries regarding his perceived “inability to manage a bullpen”.  He went so far as to say:

"“That’s a manager’s decision. You can’t put in Chapman all the time. I was saving Chapman for the (save). It’s easy now to say. I don’t know, man, maybe you should come down and manage.” – Dusty Baker, post-game June 2, 2013, after 5-4 Pirates loss"

I realize it has been written ad nauseum for how to best utilize Aroldis Chapman … that’s a topic unto itself.  However, count me in the camp that Chapman isn’t particularly well-utilized as an expensive component of this bullpen.  For that matter, neither are the less-expensive components of Sam LeCure, JJ Hoover, or Alfredo Simon … but I’ll digress.

The long story short of it is that managerial decisions don’t often WIN games but they sure as hell can contribute to LOSING them.  Sometimes, the best thing a manager can do is roll the dice, put the best available guy(s) in to face the most-difficult situation(s) at the peak time(s).  It’s all about high-leverage, high-capability pieces in matchups with high-success predictability / favorability. By NOT using Chapman in a critical moment against a tough lefty batter when Chapman IS available in lieu of saving said reliever for a “save situation” is not leveraging the asset known as Aroldis Chapman.  I hope gut-feeling and sabermetric analysts in our arm-chair roles alike can agree on that point … and, eventually, my hope is Dusty Baker sees it, too.  Lou Piniella didn’t win a World Series in Cincinnati in 1990 sticking to a single closer; he utilized his three strongest chips (Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, and Norm Charlton) as he saw fit in the best-case scenarios to close games.  Baker could learn something given the nature of his current bullpen.


Continue the conversation with me on Twitter @JDRentz