How Much Does a Manager Matter?

Ignore the post below. It never happened. Carsoncalc fail.

This blog is more for my personal amusement and megaphoning than analysis or any sort of reasonable thought. I write at Prospect Insider when I want to present myself as a passably intelligent person. That won’t be happening below.

So, today, I wanted to briefly soapbox about the importance of managers and how much value they do or don’t add to a ballclub. It’s one of those arguments that fill my ear in the local pub and I sort of just shrug off. There’s no real way to quantify manager value, after all, so why bother? In in the past I’ve just shrugged it off and figured that things probably even themselves out. Good teams will be good. Bad teams will be bad. Managers may meddle, but over a large sample it doesn’t mean much.

However, it’s getting increasingly hard to feel this way when I watch the things Eric Wedge does on a daily basis.

Last night, the Angels marched into Seattle with their right-handed heavy lineup. There are currently only two left-handed batters on their roster. They’ve got a beer barrel* full of switch hitters, of course, but those guys just hit righty against Jason Vargas. This comes just hours after punting the only capable left fielder, Casper Wells, from the roster. Heck, even Mike Carp has a little experience out there. Instead, Wedge trots Alex Liddi out there because his bat has coming alive.

If you absolutely wanted Carp and Liddi in the lineup last night, why not just swap them with Liddi playing first base? Neither provides a gold glove at either spot, and Carp for sure has more experience manning the first bag but tossing Liddi out in left was akin to slaves being nudged to the lions in the coliseum.

Oh, and let’s not forget Miguel Olivo. You see, Eric Wedge said before the game last night “I told Miggy we’d work him back in slow.” Wedge’s definition of working a guy back in slow is apparently sticking him behind the plate and in the lineup against a tough right-hander. Who knows, maybe Jaso is stilled feeling something from that foul ball a few days ago. Or, maybe Eric Wedge is doing backflips because his favorite toy is back at his disposal.

If John Jaso was hurt, why make the comment about working Olivo back in slow? If Jaso was available, there was absolutely no good reason for Olivo to be in that lineup. Forget about how poorly the rest of the lineup hit or how it wouldn’t have mattered because Haren was so good. This was a bad decision. Period.

I fully expect to see Olivo trot back out there tonight. He’s tough. He provides leadership!

As I said in the open, this doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things when it comes to wins and losses. And if it does, I can’t quantify it and neither can you. But what kind of tone does it set in the dugout? What does John Jaso think about his future when he can fill in nicely in his first real opportunity in Seattle, only to be shot straight back to the pine at the first possible moment? What sort of message does it send to fans who are being fed the same plate of youth growing pains for dinner every night? If you want us to buy into this new wave of players, why do you send one packing to Tacoma and tuck another away in the darkest corner of the dugout?

I really have no answer for all this. It’s a frustrating matter that I can’t help resolve and that I should probably just get over.

But if I’m going to watch a young group of players lose ballgames while chasing their potential, it’d sure be nice if the man calling the shots would stop making decisions that one of the middle school kids I coach have labeled as “really perplexing.”

You can do better than this, Eric.


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