Friday, September 23, 2005


Bill James, some years ago, came up with the category of Smart Managers and Dumb Managers. It was based primarily on how the managers had adjusted to new technology, meaning the computer age.

Perhaps the first of the smart managers was Casey Stengel. Even before the computer age he started using platooning in ways that had never been seen before.

Bill James even graded the managers within the categories. For one, he rated Joe Torre as the smartest of the dumb managers. That may still be true judging by the way he was using Tony Womack, a below average hitter, in left field this year.

In his defense, he was perhaps using the best of what he had been provided. Since that failed experiment the Yankee lineup has been much improved and so has their won-lost percentage.

Some of the dumb managers have been monumentally dumb. They judge where a player should plat by the way he hits.

“He hits too good for a shortstop. Let’s move him over to third base.”

“He hits too good for a 2nd baseman. Move him to 1st.”

Or if he gets a good hitting middle infielder, the dumb managers figure out ways to negate the find.

“Good,” he says, “then we don’t have to carry a good hitter in right field. We can put a defensive guy out there.” He doesn’t realize it brings the team back to mediocre.

Dumb organizations are just as common as dumb managers.

But sometimes the dumb organization or dumb manager has great success and that knocks all the theories on their collective ass. Take the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles/Orange County Angels. That is an organization that rejects modern thought.

“On Base Percentage? What the hell is that?”

But they won the World Series! Maybe they’re right.

For the last month or more, their peerless manager, Mike Scioscia, has moved Orlando Cabrera into the #2 slot in the batting order.

Why has he done that?

Except for the aging and apparently washed up Steve Finley, Orlando Cabrera has the poorest on-base-percentage of the regulars, which means he is the most likely to make an out and kill a 1st inning rally or any other rally that he might be a party to.

A dumb manager might say, “I moved him up there because he’s a good bunter.”

But it has been proven (on computers) that bunting, giving up an out to move a runner from first to second, is a losing proposition. And besides, Darin Erstad, the man he replaced as the #2 hitter, is reputed to be the better bunter, is faster, and has a much better on-base-percentage.

Was the move made to take advantage of Erstad’s power? No. Cabrera has hit more home runs this season, only one more but that’s more.

But if Scioscia didn’t want Erstad as a #2 hitter, who does he have to replace him besides Cabrera?

That is such a dumb question I could only pose it in a piece about dumbness.

Sitting back there, in the #9 slot, is the prototypical #2 hitter. The 2nd baseman, Adam Kennedy, has the second highest on-base-percentage on the team. Second only to MVP Vladimer Guerrero. He is also an excellent base stealer.

Then why is he batting 9th?

The dumb manager might reply, “He’s my second leadoff man. When the lineup bats around, he’s hitting in front of my leadoff hitter, so we’ve got a good chance of getting one of them on base.”

Well, duh! Excuse me and all that crap! Why not consider your #2 hitter as your 2nd leadoff man?

There is no argument that works against dumbness. Dumbness is a world of its own. Dumbness is like a religion.

But what trumps all of us pencil-neck-geeks is sometimes these dumb guys win it all. Then who can act so f-ing superior?

There are lessons to be learned even from that.

1. Sometimes a dumb manager who is a leader can win it all.

2. Sometimes a smart manager who is a poor leader can win it all.

3. A dumb manager who cannot lead has no chance.

4. A smart manager who can lead may not win it all, but he’s fun to root for.


Post a Comment

<< Home