Manager of the Year awards are pretty funny. Whichever manager sees his team outperform its expectations the most gets an award. Unless they are Joe Maddon, then they get the award for actually being a good manager and also — not insignificantly — being a great interview.
The skills and abilities a manager brings are hazy at best, especially since most of the factors contributing to their decisions are rarely known beyond a small circle inside the team.
Take Game Six of the World Series, for example. Many of us wondered why Ron Washington went with Darren Oliver to start the 10th inning, instead of turning to Neftali Feliz. Turns out it wasn’t a decision based solely in strategy.
Recall that ninth inning, in which the Rangers were one scant strike away from clinching their first World Series title. Soon-to-be series MVP David Freese triple just over the head of Nelson Cruz, allowing Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman to score and tie the game.
Feliz then retired Yadier Molina to end the inning. But he didn’t return to start the 10th. Why might that be? Ron Washington confirmed on Texas radio why he left his closer on the bench (via the Dallas Morning News):
“We’ll just say that he was really upset and his state of mind at the time wasn’t where we felt like he could go out there and get it done,” Washington said. “The lineup set up perfectly for Darren Oliver and he didn’t get it done. So it wasn’t like we didn’t get it done because Neftali didn’t go back out there. I still think that lineup set up perfectly for who we put out there and the job just didn’t get done, and then the end result, we didn’t get it done.”
Not a total indictment of Feliz. There were consecutive left-handed hitters coming up in the form of Descalso and Jon Jay but still odd to hear Wash lay it so bare.
Washington was responding to a Jon Heyman tweeport of the Rangers moving Feliz to his rightful place in the rotation, citing his lack of Closer Mentality. Washington balked at the suggestion of Feliz moving to a starter but he (at the risk of sensationalizing) didn’t exactly leap to his player’s defense. Slightly odd coming from a man known as a real player’s manager who has the respect of the clubhouse.