Could the manager challenge system sink expanded instant replay?
About that instant replay system that MLB put in place—we found a little problem with it. It started with us asking a pretty easy question. What is the best strategy for a manager to use in deciding when to throw “the flag” to challenge a call? We were sitting around talking about it, and the answer that we came up with is actually kinda scary: Managers should just throw that flag for any close play, the first time that they see one. When we say any close play, we mean just about anything that they have a smidgen of belief could be overturned by consulting a replay. And they shouldn’t fear throwing it even in the first inning, or throwing it to contest something that would give them only a trivial advantage.
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No prior major-league managerial jobs, no coaching experience, no problem.
Early in the World Series, my girlfriend wondered aloud why FOX was showing so many reaction shots of the same St. Louis player. “Which player?”, I asked. “That one,” she answered, the next time the broadcast cut to the dugout camera. She meant Mike Matheny.
It was an understandable mistake. Matheny can pass for a player because he’s not that far removed from being one. His playing days were done after 2006, his age-35 season, and he’d been retired officially for only five seasons when he was hired to take over for Tony La Russa. Given 25 years and approximately 20,000 packs of cigarettes, a fresh-faced manager like Matheny could come to look like Jim Leyland. (Okay, maybe not Leyland, who looked like this at Matheny’s age.) But that’s a long way away, and Matheny doesn’t smoke.
Want to stick as a 21st-century skipper? Don't be like Baker.
Dusty Baker was fired on Friday, and few Twitter tears were shed. When a manager who’s perceived to be anti-analysis gets the axe, sabermetricians celebrate. It's about time, we think. All those bunts by position players, all those illogical lineups, all those refusals to bring in the closer with a tie game on the road. We said they didn’t make sense, and someone finally listened. Maybe Bob Castellini reads blogs! Ding-dong, the Dusty era is dead. We did it!
Well…no, probably not. Most managerial hirings and firings aren’t referendums on the industry’s acceptance of sabermetrics, or the result of what anyone on the internet says. Sure, Baker was known as one of the game’s most first- and second-guessable tactical managers, and sure, he’s now out of a job. Correlation, causation, etc. Maybe Baker was let go because the Reds felt his in-game decisions and reluctance to look at certain stats were costing them wins, but it’s not the only (or even the most likely) explanation.
Like Mike Scioscia Face, but for managers not named Mike Scioscia.
On every major-league team, in every major-league dugout, you will find the same thing: A manager, with a face. This is important to remember if you ever find yourself filming a baseball game for a regional sports network, because the manager's face is the spine of your narrative. Every manager's face is different, but every manager's face is important, and every manager's face can be counted on to do some sort of Manager Face thingy when the manager's team screws up.
We now embark on a tour of the Manager's Faces in Major League Baseball today. The exact context of these faces isn't terribly important, but know that every face is motivated by chagrin, caused by either a team miscue (usually a bases-loaded walk, a fielding error, or bad baserunning), an umpire's call, or some sort of bad luck. We will start with our first set of 10. Others to follow at some point soon.