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…
Zero managers out of 30 would do it. But with season on the line right here, this should be Kenley Jansen.
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
NL Player of the Year
NL Pitcher of the Year
NL Rookie of the Year
AL Player of the Year
AL Rookie of the Year
AL Manager of the Year