Do Managers Matter?By: Sean Pidgeon
Yesterday morning, I tweeted to FireJerryManuel, “I never thought I’d say this, but you may have to change your name.” Before yesterday afternoon’s loss, the Mets had won 8 in a row, and 11 of 13, to go from 3-7 and last place to 14-9 and first place. The Mets may be 14-10, and a ½ game ahead of Philly in the NL East, but FireJerryManuel wasn’t biting. He tweeted me back. “Not happening.”
FireJerry wasn’t taking my bait. If Jerry was so bad the first two weeks of the season, as many have suggested, this site included, then an eight game winning streak doesn’t magically make him good, or change his bad decision making, despite reassurances that the guillotine has been temporarily stored away and the ship is sailing in the right direction.
Perhaps Jerry is not as bad as we thought. But he’s not, well, good, either. I’d have to agree with FireJerry; Manuel did not become Casey Stengel with that recent winning streak. But, honestly, I’d argue that baseball managers don’t make that much of a difference at all on the field. At best, they can fill out a lineup card, make bullpen calls, and leave the rest the hell enough alone. At worst, they can micromanage their team to a 20 inning loss.
Unlike football or basketball, baseball does not require that much decision making. In football, the coaches call every play. Even quarterback audibles are given by the coach in advance (And don’t use Peyton Manning to counter my argument. He’s practically a coach on the field). In basketball, players have a little more freedom, but they are subbed in and out at the discretion and judgment of the coach. In baseball, substitutions practically make themselves. Does a baseball team really need a manager to pinch hit for the pitcher, down by a run in the 8th? Is a manager necessary to pinch hit for the weak hitting catcher or pinch-run for the aging DH on first base?
Football coaches, to take the most extreme example, are far more important to the success of their teams than baseball managers. The current pool of NFL head coaches and MLB managers attests to this. Baseball managers are by and large ex-jocks. Twenty three of 30 managers played in the Majors, and all but one played in the minors. But only seven of the 32 NFL head coaches played in the NFL, and two of them were replacement players during the 1987 strike. In football, coaching is a career unto itself, readymade for egotistical control freaks with CEO mentalities (if you don’t mind me generalizing). In football, coaching really does win games. The Patriots won Super Bowl XXVI because they had Bill Belichick and the Rams had Mike Martz. In baseball, managerial jobs are retirement gigs for players who like to spend their springs in Florida. Sure, the Yankees won four World Series in the ‘90’s, and, sure Joe Torre is good, but they won because they had bleeping awesome players.
And, I’m glad Jerry Manuel has a nice retirement job with the Mets. I just hope he gets a little better at staying the hell out of the way and letting the players play. I’m serious Jerry; really, just relax. You don’t have to call that Luis Castillo sacrifice bunt every time Angel Pagan gets on first base. You don’t have to work Gary Matthews Jr. into the lineup three times a week. Just let the players do what they do and sit back for the ride.