Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Dodgers hired WHO???

Dipping into my personal archives...

Two years ago, the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 7th game of the 2003 ALCS. The loss was almost universally blamed on Boston's manager Grady Little. The venom and vitriol directed at him over the course of the next couple of weeks was amazing to watch, and it resulted in the team not offering him a new contract to continue in that position. On 10/24/03, I made the following comments:
It's time to stop the Grady-bashing...just so there's no confusion about this, I think Grady Little was responsible for the Red Sox losing the ALCS. Yes, if they'd scored more runs, they could have overcome his decisions. Yes, if Pedro hadn't given up the HRs to Giambi, or if he'd made it through the 8th, they could have won. Yes, if Wakefield hadn't given up the HR to Boone, they might have won. That said, they scored 5 runs, and got 7 innings of 2 run starting pitching. The offense did enough to win, the starting pitching was good enough to win. The team, through 7 innings, had done everything necessary to win the AL Pennant. They had control of the game, and needed just 6 outs.

Whether the bullpen would have gotten the 6 outs without giving up 3 runs is, obviously, unknowable, but given their past performance, it's a good bet. In any event, the bullpen didn't fail, as they didn't get a chance to succeed. The manager cost the team the game. I know that some people are upset by that, but I'll say it again - the manager cost the team the game. Had he gone to the 'pen, and they'd failed, then the 'pen would have cost them the game.

All of that said, there's been enough Grady-bashing. There have been too many "village idiot" jokes, too many "dumb" comments, too many "idiot" comments. Grady's not an idiot. He's not a stupid man. There are a lot of people who've responded to criticism of Grady all year with "but they won the game" who now want him fired because they lost the game. And that's not fair.

...Grady needs to go. And it's why I wanted him gone before the season started. Not because he made a critical mistake that the team couldn't overcome (after all of the critical mistakes that they have overcome over the past two seasons.) But because his world-view is such that he's going to continue to make that mistake, and other mistakes like it. Which is not to say that he did everything wrong. He did a decent job with the lineup (though there weren't, in many places, a lot of options.) He didn't bunt much, which drives some people crazy, but I believe is the right way to go.

He clearly had the respect of the players, but I think that's vastly overrated. Not that respect isn't important, just that I think most managers get it. It's kind of like hearing announcers go crazy about a first baseman making a good dig on a throw in the dirt, and raving about how many runs he saves the team. Well, maybe he does, and maybe he doesn't. But the alternative to that Major League first baseman isn't a little league player, or some schmoe off the street - it's another Major League first baseman. And far too often we get raves about plays which, as impressive as they look, get made by every Major League player! It's like that with managers, particularly ones that are clearly tactically deficient.

People assume that...if a manager clearly can't manage the game, he must be great in the clubhouse. Well, I don't have any way of knowing how good Grady is in the clubhouse. I do know this - if they replace him, they'll replace him with someone else who'll have some effect in the clubhouse. I don't see any reason to assume that that effect will be worse than Grady's.

I don't want to run Grady out of town for one mistake. I want him replaced because I believe that his tactical decisions, particularly with regard to the pitching staff, cost the team games. Period. Not for vengeance. Not for punishment. Just to improve the team. The same reason that I wanted him replaced before the season started. I think that Theo's got to take at least a smidgen of the blame, because he put the team together, and then left Grady in charge. I don't give him much blame, however, because I think that, politically speaking, it would have been nearly impossible for him to fire Grady at any point before game 7. I think it's legitimate to criticize Pedro for the HRs to Giambi. I do not blame him for the 8th - he clearly shouldn't have been out there. He was still throwing hard according to the radar gun in the 7th. But he had velocity at the cost of touch and movement. He was out of gas, and overthrowing. It was obvious to me in Lawrence, MA. How it could have not been obvious to Grady 120 feet away, I've no idea...

There are a lot of people angry with Grady, and a lot of vitriol spilling out. I'm still stunned about the game, and I am upset. I guess I'm angry with the decision, but at this point, I feel more sorry for Grady than anything else. All Red Sox fans are upset that we lost the opportunity to watch the Sox beat the Yankees and win the AL pennant. Grady cost himself all of that, plus several million dollars, and his job. He seems like a genuinely good guy.

But he also seems, in my opinion, like a baseball dinosaur. I believe that we're going to see fewer and fewer Grady Little's, as the Jamesian view of the world takes over. We're going to reach a tipping point eventually, and it's coming. There are clearly statheads in charge in New York, Boston, Oakland and Toronto right now, and they're succeeding. And there will be more coming. Grady, and other baseball lifers who share his world-view and lack of respect for statistical analysis, are not going to get a managing jobs from JP Ricciardi or Billy Beane or Theo Epstein. And those guys, and others like them, are going to be responsible for more and more of those managing jobs as the years go by.

I still think that I'm right. I think it's safe to say that Paul DePodesta wouldn't have hired Grady Little. But Ned Colletti is not Paul DePodesta, and Grady, much to my astonishment, has got another gig...



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