Wellllll those were some doozies. Both NLDS matchups wrapped up last night and both featured some…interesting…decision making by the managers of the losing teams. In one corner we have Don Mattingly, who hit the panic button pre-game by opting to start Andre Ethier in center field over the admittedly struggling Yasiel Puig. In the other corner we have Matt Williams who seemed resolute in his decision to rest his best relievers for the next game, even if that game comes in Spring of 2015

There are things each manager could not change, given their rosters and matchups. Mattingly shouldn’t be faulted for sticking with Kershaw in the seventh inning in St. Louis, because his bullpen had proven it’s own incompetence throughout the series. There was another option, but…

Jonah is right of course. That was the highest leverage situation in the game, and going with Jansen was the right move. Possibly for more than an inning. That won’t happen in today’s game though, so while it is a failing, it’s not one Mattingly should be excoriated over. The biggest issue, beyond not starting his second-best hitter, was that Mattingly never got Puig an at-bat. With the game on the line in the ninth inning and a runner on first, Mattingly chose to pinch-run Puig, who supposedly had an ankle injury, instead of pinch-hitting him. He turned instead to Justin Turner. Turner has had a wonderful season but isn’t nearly the hitter that Puig is and doesn’t have quite the same ability to turn the game around. The question of the hour was whether this was a fireable offense. It just might be, though Donnie has proven adept at managing the clubhouse egos. It could be his on-field tactical shortcomings are too much to tolerate. Alternatively, a significant portion of blame can be laid at the feet of Ned Colletti for assembling what has to be called a bullpen, but certainly didn’t look like one, and then refusing to upgrade it throughout the season.

In San Francisco, it seems that the playoffs might have been a bit too unwieldy for Williams. He made a lot of adjustments as the regular season went on, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll learn from this series as well. That said, gaffes were made, and blame seemingly must be laid. The decision to go with Aaron Barrett and Rafael Soriano instead of Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, or Stephen Strasburg is going to haunt Williams. Especially after Barrett couldn’t even deliver the necessary pitches for an intentional walk. It seemed like Williams was going for the kill when he pinch-hit for Gio Gonzalez after only four innings, and then pulled supposed long reliever Tanner Roark after just two-thirds of an inning. Somehow though, he eschewed his best relievers when he needed them most, opting instead for the singer from Reel Big Fish, who had all of 40.1 major league innings under his belt, and his previously deposed closer.

It was a headscratching move by someone I personally voted as the third best NL Manager this season. Part of the issue is that he was matched up against who I saw as the best manager in the league, in Bruce Bochy. While nobody is perfect, Bochy’s deft hand with the bullpen is perfectly suited to October baseball, and that’s showing itself out thus far.

Of course, that’s not how everyone sees it. Clint Hurdle is something of a runaway in NL MoY voting, leading Bochy by 139 points, and appearing on 29 more ballots in general. Williams is in third, with a healthy lead on Don Mattingly. Wait, Don Mattingly? I guess winning counts for a lot. Mike Matheny rounds out the top five, as all the playoff teams are present and accounted for. Fredi Gonzalez received the fewest votes, totally three points, finishing behind Walt Weiss, who presumably got credit for working under the mayhem that was the O’Dowd/Geivett front office. Still, it’s got to be hard for Bryan Price, Weiss, and Gonzalez to realize people think they did a worse job than the now-fired, butt-of-jokes Kirk Gibson. Understanding that with the exception of Weiss, it’s a case of guys who did less with more, that’s still got to sting.

A full breakdown of the voting is below. Please remember that this votes aren’t frozen, so if you’d like to chime in, please do so here.

NL Manager of the Year

Rank Manager Points
1 Clint Hurdle 814
2 Bruce Bochy 675
3 Matt Williams 512
4 Don Mattingly 316
5 Mike Matheny 232
6 Mike Redmond 216
7 Bud Black 41
8 Terry Collins 37
9 Rick Renteria 35
9 Ron Roenicke 35
11 Ryne Sandberg 22
12 Kirk Gibson 12
13 Bryan Price 9
14 Walt Weiss 7
15 Fredi Gonzalez 3

NL Player of the Year

Rank Player
1 Clayton Kershaw
2 Andrew McCutchen
3 Giancarlo Stanton

NL Pitcher of the Year

Rank Player
1 Clayton Kershaw
2 Adam Wainwright
3 Johnny Cueto

NL Rookie of the Year

Rank Player
1 Jacob deGrom
2 Billy Hamilton
3 Ender Inciarte

AL Player of the Year

Rank Player
1 Mike Trout
2 Michael Brantley
3 Corey Kluber
Rank Player
1 Corey Kluber
2 Felix Hernandez
3 Chris Sale

AL Rookie of the Year

Rank Player
1 Jose Abreu
2 Masahiro Tanaka
3 Dellin Betances

AL Manager of the Year

Rank Manager
1 Buck Showalter

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Some smart team is going to figure out the pool of potential great managers is not confined by the pool of men who "played the game" and appoint someone who did not. See basketball. Maybe then we can start to get away from the absurdity of "push button bullpens" etc.
It's possible. Or at least I hope it's possible. I also think there's a certain amount of buy-in that comes from having played. There are certainly things you can't know, without having played, or can't know as well. Those differences can be overcome, to be sure, but I also think the managers greatest influence comes in the clubhouse, rather than in on-field strategy.

Perhaps it's fair to say that's less the case in the playoffs than it is the regular season, but it's also possible to get guys who *have* played to not be push-button managers. Clint Hurdle has made a big shift, and a lot has to do with how the ideas were communicated to him and his staff.
The light at the end of the tunnel is Joey Votto. MVP caliber player "old school" players will have to respect? Check. Smart/educated enough to work in a front office? Check. Canadian? Check.

If a dedicated "front office liaison" to players is ever I thing, I could think of no-one better.
All coaches in all sports have played the game - at some level and at some time. It seems to be that baseball is unique in the insistence that the manager has to have "played the game" and more often than not now - that means "play it at the mlb level". I could accept that The Manager because the job entails so much more than in-game tactics has to be someone who did not play the game - but why not have a tactician who may not have who is there to say - hey - why do we not get our best reliever up and warming now in this game?