I guess I thought for a second this evening that, given how much it was expected both here and in Boston, it was kind of funny that John Farrell didn’t win the AL’s Manager of the Year award– which… he didn’t– but, truth be told, I actually couldn’t possibly care less about this award, who won it, and whether it was a manager who the Jays could have stopped from leaving last winter (as they’d done the winter before) and chose not to. (It was Terry Francona, FYI).
I don’t think anybody is going to have to console Farrell tonight, either, since he’s probably still drunk in the afterglow– though not in the good way, like Mike Napoli– of the World Series championship that his tactical butchery didn’t manage to get in the way of.
And that butchery sort of gets to the nut of the whole manager topic, for me. If this year’s World Series showed us anything, it’s exactly that teams can succeed despite having hopelessly clueless managers when it comes to in-game tactics– or, at the very least, ones who are prone to colossal fuckuppery despite otherwise having a reasonable-enough grip on what they’re doing.
Does this indicate that what mades John Farrell and Mike Matheny successful and valued by their bosses is some kind of ability to squeeze winningness from their club like more bullshit from the powdery remains of the stone that once resembled this beaten-to-death topic?
Well… yeah kinda, actually.
Or, at least, it sure as hell makes clear that they’re not in the position they’re in because of any kind of tactical superiority. So, then, it’s undeniable that their clubs have assigned value to those guys based on something in the unseen murk. Not much value, mind you. Not enough value to offset much more than the difference between Mike Aviles’ and David Carpenter’s worth. Not enough value to create astronomical bidding wars on the open market for those deemed to have the most highly attuned of these supposedly scarce and specialized skills– at least, not remotely close to the level clubs will pay for some of the most uninspiring player names you’ll see on the free agent market.
For example, the Cubs were reportedly very interested in hiring Joe Girardi away from the Yankees last month, though he ultimately chose to stay in the Bronx, accepting a four-year, $16-million deal. That’s a million dollar raise on the $3-million per year he previously earned, making him the second highest paid manager in the game. It’s an instructive amount, I think, even though he technically didn’t actually hit the open market– he wasn’t allowed to have formal negotiations with clubs until after the World Series, and it was reported that the Yankees, after denying both the Cubs and the Nationals permission to talk to him, told Girardi their offer might not remain were he to wait.
In other words, while it may not have been quite on the open market, he went from making Maicer Izturis money to making Jeff Keppinger money.
In other words, the team that worked with Girardi every day, saw what he brought to the organization, and had a player payroll of over $228-million this season, figured it was worth $4-million per season to keep their manager rather than get a new one, but they were iffy on getting into a bidding war that might end with their having to pay more than that.
And the Boston Red Sox so desperately wanted the stability, smarts, and familiarity of John Farrell that it took them and the Toronto Blue Jays several days to work out that he was worth about the difference between Aviles and Carpenter.
Now, those aren’t perfect examples– again, neither manager was ever actually on the open market– and it’s not as though the value assigned to them by the clubs employing them is zero. But these aren’t obscure, esoteric details in terms of the valuations that I’m citing, either.
So why in the hell can’t we have a conversation on this subject wherein we don’t stray a billion polarized miles from the rather reasonable baseline set by the very actions of the league’s front offices? Why must anyone half sensible continue to beat back invented narratives swallowed whole by fans bursting at the seams with their belief in magical reality? Why do I seriously feel it’s worth going down this insufferable road once again?
Oh, right, because they do things like give out awards by trying to divine stuff that’s mostly deeply hidden within the managerial murk, and because the way in which it’s done– or the fact that it’s even done at all– only seems to me to perpetuate everything that’s wrong about how people have grown to think about this stuff.
That, again, isn’t to say that there shouldn’t be room for the intangible stuff, or that anybody ought to pretend that it can’t exist because it can’t be quantified– in fact, teams are trying to find ways to quantify it, and certainly show through their hiring practices that they do think there could be something to it. Just, it’s quite clear, not anywhere close to as much as decades of lazy narratives and war metaphors and coaches overly convinced of their own worth and players who’ve bought into nebulous drilled-in concepts and beer leaguers and teenagers confusing signals or pretending that they’re emulating How It Is have led a lot of people to believe.
Good on Francona for winning the award, though. And on Farrell for a great season in Boston, too.