It’s a completely barren post-apocalyptic wasteland where few can find refuge in the seemingly endless struggle to survive. No, it’s not Mad Max: Fury Road. But you’re close; it’s the world of baseball managers.
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This weekend saw the league’s second victim in this arbitrary and confounding vocation. The Miami Marlins fired Mike Redmond after posting a 16-22 record. And notably right after nearly getting no-hit by the Atlanta Braves’ Shelby Miller.
After the game, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria left it to president of baseball operations Michael Hill to deliver the news at the post-game press conference. “We’re swinging the bat well at times, but not when we need to do it,” Hill said. “We’re pitching well at times, but not when we need to do it. I think the solution is in that clubhouse.”
So, basically, Mike Redmond was fired because he’s not a sorcerer with the power to make hitters hit and pitchers pitch at the “right” times. Loria couldn’t pass along this bull feces himself since he left the game in the middle of a no-hitter because he is human garbage. Maybe stick around and watch one of the most exciting moments in baseball or even just stick around to see one of your players reach deep down within himself and break up the no-hitter with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Road Warrior had the Lord Humongous. The Marlins have the Loria Humongous.
Immediately after the announcement that Redmond was gone, there were rumors that former Marlins player Jeff Conine might be given the job. This is a swell idea because he has no experience whatsoever – except for the pre-game show he does for the team. Then came more rumors. Maybe it would be former catcher Pudge Rodriguez or current GM Dan Jennings. No matter how stupid the rumors sounded, you couldn’t just dismiss them because the baseball manager landscape is so crazy – exponentially so when you factor in Loria. Why not add Will Ferrell and Justin Bieber to the list?
After all that, GM Dan Jennings was chosen to take over managing the team. Brilliant! Zero experience at the position – except for coaching some high school games a couple decades ago. I guess Bieber wasn’t available.
For the Marlins sake, I hope Jennings brings a good mix of leadership and wizardry to help get those hitters hitting and those pitchers pitching. Also, he should be a competent medicine man to help heal the injured Marlins players that Mike Redmond never got around to doing himself.
Redmond was a decent manager and, in this day of terrible managers on at least half the teams in the league, “decent” is high praise. His teams over the last two years have basically performed up to expectations.
However, expectations are the bane of every manager’s existence. The Marlins, as assembled, are a mediocre team. If they get a new manager, they will still be mediocre. One can assume Loria was expecting the team to do better this season. I guess there’s always a chance a new manager could pull a Jim Tracy and spark this team to the playoffs like he did with the Colorado Rockies. Though Tracy eventually wound up having to be fired for being a terrible manager.
The Redmond firing was the second manager firing of the young season. Just a few weeks ago the Milwaukee Brewers fired their manager Ron Roenicke because the team got off to a slow start – even though the team had just won a series against the pretty-darn-good Chicago Cubs.
It’s really his own fault. He should have made the players perform better and heal from injury faster. Where was his sorcery? Where was his shaman?
But this is the bleak world of baseball managers. Where a team with only five winning seasons in the last 20 years can fire its manager despite having led said team to three winning seasons in the last four years and getting a contract extension for the next season just six weeks ago.
It’s okay, though, because they replaced him with Craig Counsell, a former mediocre player who has absolutely no managing experience. Can you imagine opening a fancy restaurant and hiring a waiter with no managing experience to run everything, but he wasn’t a great waiter and kind of bounced around various eating establishments never really being of much value?
Again, regardless of how stupid this move is, it is well within the ridiculousness of the hiring process for managers. The bigger problem of the baseball manager world is that most people don’t have any idea just what makes a baseball manager good.
Football has the benefit of knowing that every play is specifically decided by the head coach and his staff, so his involvement is more noticeable. Basketball also has plays, though like baseball is more reliant on talent than schemes.
A baseball team doesn’t have a “head coach” – it has a manager. But, I tell ya, it might be better to call them mis-managers! [ZING!] Looking around the league, I’d say off hand that there are maybe five or six very good managers. Then there’s probably about eight decent managers.
And the rest are just awful.
But even the awful ones are going to win games. First, because every team wins games no matter how bad they are. And second, because the win and loss difference between a good manager and an awful manager is just a few games all season.
It’s easy to second-guess the decision-maker of any sports team, but baseball managers catch the most heat from fans because fans could actually manage baseball games if they had to.
“Uh, the pitcher looks done, let’s bring in another.” This isn’t as complicated as whether or not to run the ball in from the one yard line to win the Super Bowl or pass and lose the most heart-breaking game ever.
Baseball managers do a lot of things just to look like they’re doing things. And with such an uncertain future regardless of your contract status, managers try to make it seem like someone with no experience could step in and do their job (even if that’s exactly how that manager got his start).
The Washington Nationals’ Matt Williams is a good example of not being good. I remember last year when he benched superstar-in-the-making Bryce Harper for “not hustling” to first base on a ground ball. Strong move – establishes Williams’ authority over the young upstart punk. Oh, except Harper had been recovering from a leg injury and unnecessarily “hustling” could have aggravated the injury. Oh, and Williams didn’t reprimand a veteran player days later for “not hustling” to first on a ground ball.
When baseball teams get to the playoffs, the differences seem to always come out. Ron Washington’s brain farts in his team’s two World Series appearances come to mind. As do the genius team management of the San Francisco Giants’ Bruce Bochy, who has taken three mediocre teams to the playoffs in the last five years and won the World Series each time.
Don Mattingly and his Clayton Kershaw problems are a wonder to behold. Here is a manager with the greatest pitcher alive today and he just doesn’t know what to do with him. And this has resulted in Kershaw turning in record-setting playoff failure.
Ned Yost is so bad that, last season, people on Twitter started using the slang #Yosted whenever a manager did something stupid. Then Ned Yost #Yosted his team all the way to the World Series. He was credited for his team overachieving and “pressing all the right buttons.” Okay, but Yost wasn’t being methodical about his moves. They were random and arbitrary. So, he’s more like the kid in the elevator who presses all the call buttons. Sure, some of them are going to be right. But it’s just dumb luck if everyone on the elevator actually needed to stop at each floor.
It’s hard to say whether a manager is good or bad just based on results. Many people feel that St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is not terrible at all. They are wrong. He is. But his teams win lots of games. He even won a World Series against the Texas Rangers (with a little help from Rangers’ manager Ron Washington).
Joe Maddon has been running things for the Tampa Bay Rays for the last few years but has been failing at getting the team to the playoffs despite being quite good at his job. Unlike the Cardinals, his teams lack the talent needed to get to the postseason with the additional problem of playing against the difficult American League East division.
Based strictly on team results, Matheny is the better manager. But if you factor in the players each manager had, Maddon is vastly superior. That’s part of why the Dodgers can’t bring themselves to fire Don Mattingly. He is a weak manager but his teams keep making the playoffs. But these are the same teams that are among the league leaders in talent.
For all the terrible managers out there in the desolate managerial tundra, there is hope. Do you remember I mentioned Clint Hurdle before, who was so bad that his former team made Jim Tracy look like a good manager? Well, Clint is learning. He’s relying more on actual statistical probabilities and less on gut instincts. Mix in some talented players and next thing you know the Pittsburgh Pirates have made the playoffs the last two season.
It’s hard out there for baseball managers. They have to do what they can to survive, but there’s just no telling when their swift and arbitrary end will come.