By In Stuff

Dusty Roads

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Bruce Bochy will be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager someday. I think just about everyone would agree with that.

Dusty Baker will not be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. I think just about everyone would agree with that too.

In this ranking of managers, Baker was ranked 13th … Bochy third.

In this one (from last year), Baker was 11th, Bochy 2nd.

Bruce Bochy has never been fired … he was allowed to leave San Diego for San Francisco in 2006 when the Padres decided they didn’t really like making the playoffs. He is just beginning a sweet three-year contract that goes through the 2019 season.

Dusty Baker has been fired once, twice not had his contract renewed (which is basically the same thing) and as of right now he has the Washington Nationals 13 games up in the National League East but he does not have a contrct for next year.

Yes, there have been complaints about Bruce Bochy as a manager — every now and again someone will ask for his firing. But they pale in comparison to the mountains of criticism piled on Dusty Baker through the years. People have blamed Baker for everything from blowing a World Series to ruining Mark Prior to getting outmanaged in playoff series after playoff series.

Here’s the thing, though. If Bruce Bochy retired tomorrow .. and Dusty Baker’s Nationals lost the next 200 games in a row — TWO HUNDRED GAMES IN A ROW — Dusty Baker would STILL have a better regular season record than Bruce Bochy.

You could probably win a bar bet with that one. Bochy’s Giants won on Tuesday so he now has 1,830 wins and 1,824 losses. Baker has 1,829 wins … and 1,613 losses.

Yes, of course, I’m deliberately talking just regular season baseball and entirely leaving out Bochy’s three World Series victories, which isn’t right because THOSE are the reason that he will be going to the Hall of Fame and Baker’s zero World Series victories are the reason he won’t.

But it is still fascinating to me that there’s such a wide perception gap between Bochy and Baker when Baker’s regular season record is so much better. Baker’s teams have won 95-plus games in a season five times and might do it again this year; Bochy’s teams did it once (and it was with San Diego almost 20 years ago). Baker’s teams have won more division titles (7-6 — and that doesn’t even include the 103 win Giants of 1993 that were berat out by the Braves), they have more winning seasons (13-12) and, heck, Baker has a better winning percentage WITH THE GIANTS (.540 for Baker; .509 for Bochy).

More than that, Baker’s record is striking for it’s timing. In 1993, he took over a Giants team that had back-to-back losing seasons and led them to that 103-win season. He managed the Giants for 10 years, had that .540 winning percentage, made the playoffs three times and won a National League pennant. And he was gone …

… to the Cubs, who were coming off a 95-loss season. His Cubs promptly went to Game 7 of the LCS, we’ve all written plenty about that craziness, and then, absolutely, it went bad and he was gone …

… to Cincinnati, where the Reds had not had a winning season in seven years. After a sluggish start, Baker’s Reds won two division titles and a wild card spot in three years, at which point he was canned for not winning in the postseason. The Reds have not had anything close to a winning season since.

And he came to Washington, a talented team that had wildly underperformed in 2015 under manager Matt Williams. He promptly settled things down, the team won 95 games last year and they are rolling along this year.

All of that suggests that Dusty Baker is either one lucky son of a gun … or he might have some ability to manage baseball teams to winning seasons. I am one of these people who believe that strategy is more or less the least important part of a manager’s job. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE talking about it, LOVE writing about it, LOVE pointing out when managers do illogical things. That’s a big part of the baseball fun.

And, yes, Dusty Baker’s strategies have been a wonderful inspiration to my writing career.

But the job is to guide a baseball team through a long season, to keep players focused on the work at hand, to minimize distractions and ease tensions and keep things consistent without letting it get monotonous. The job is to to let your stars be stars without letting that offend and irritate everybody else. The job is to keep it loose but not too loose, make it fun but not so players lose focus, to make everyone feel like you trust them without making them feel like there are no consequences for failure. The job is to make young players feel old, and old players feel young, to make pinch-hitters feel important and cleanup hitters to feel like they don’t have the weight of the world on their backs, to make starters and relievers feel like they have your complete confidence without letting them blow too many games (something that has been REALLY had in Washington this year).

And, yes, the job is to endure moops like me telling you every day that you should never have intentionally walked that guy or bunted that guy or pulled that pitcher — even though that was probably the 12th most important thing you did that day.

All of which is to say: I don’t think Dusty Baker’s a great strategic manager. I think many of the criticisms are perfectly fair. I think his strategic quirks and philosophies might hold his teams back in October; I don’t know but it’s possible.

I also think his teams do win an awful lot. When the Washington Nationals hired him, there were some eye-rolls but you look now and his team is winning. It’s a pretty consistent trend.

 

 

 

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64 Responses to Dusty Roads

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    I find it interesting, but in this age of WAR, OPS+, WHIP, FIP, BLIP, etc. (I actually don’t know if all those actually exist), our evaluation of managers doesn’t seem to have changed – it all comes down to what we THINK we see, a few critical moments, and the “common wisdom.” Why don’t we have a WARM stat (Wins Above replacement Manager”)?

    • SDG says:

      People have tried, but there’s no real way to gauge what a manager does independent of the players or the higher-level strategies of the FO. And, well, “institutes a culture where players don’t slack off or panic” isn’t considered difficult.

      It’s funny. Lots of baseball people have pointed out that our only ways of judging managers are (a) wins and (b) how much he looks and acts like a military leader from a movie. The annual “Handsomest Manager” ranking on NBC Sports is probably the funniest sendup of this. Does he have a crew cut and a square jaw? He’s probably a strong skipper leading his crew.

      This is 90% of why people like Billy Martin as a manager.

    • DjangoZ says:

      I was thinking the same thing.

      Manager evaluation is one of the last frontiers of statistical analysis that seems relatively untouched.

    • todd says:

      I wonder if a crude method might be differential between total wins and Pythagorean expected wins. Baker for his career is +8. Bochy is +18. I randomly calculated Joe Torre (who obviously managed much longer): +31. I’m sure smarter people have been playing around with something like this as a base.

      • rarumberger says:

        That would be very crude, since we can’t just assume that the difference is the manager. We just can’t isolate a manager’s contributions from everything else, and we probably never will be able to.

  2. Mark says:

    And Grady Little managed the Sox to 93 and 95 win seasons. You just didn’t want him calling the shots in October, when every mistake is magnified and you need to put your team in the absolute best position to succeed.

    I agree that Baker’s accomplishments are undervalued. But in a sport/business with payrolls well over $100 MM, don’t you want a manager who is competent in all facets? I apologize in advance for clogging up your comment section, Joe.

    • SDG says:

      I think there’s also the belief that in a 162 game season, peaks and valleys are smoothed out and it all comes down to talent. In a short series where anything can happen, it all depends on what we talk about when we talk about “manegerial strategy”. You know, writing the lineups, pinch-hitting and pinch-running, picking which starters and relievers to use when, that sort of thing. Of course, increasingly those decisions are made by the analytics staff and not on the field, so in a few years I have no idea how anyone is going to judge who’s a good manager. I wonder if anyone will get into the Hall as a manager, absent a huge Yankees-like WS winning streak.

      • Mark says:

        SDG: I think you’re right, and that the type of manager who resists analytics is slowly disappearing. But they’re still out there. And the smart ones can still make a difference when it counts. By way of example, do you think Baker could have done what Francona did for the Tribe throughout the playoffs last year, with his creative use of Miller and his entire pitching staff? I don’t.

    • Rob Smith says:

      The same (valid) criticism was put on Bobby Cox. He was great on the long term view of the 162 game season. Handle the pitching & divide up the innings. Make sure guys get days off and bench players get at bats. If things go wrong in an inning, it’s better to do nothing & not burn through your bullpen. These same exact things are the last things you want to see in the playoffs, but Bobby couldn’t seem to hit the switch. In a long season, one game doesn’t mean that much & messing up your pitching rotation is not worth saving one game. In a short playoff series every game is key. You have to risk burning through your bullpen and stop the bleeding in a bad inning. Every game is too important to just let it go. Bobby’s in the HOF, btw. And I think if Baker ends up winning a couple with the Gnats, he will probably end up there too. It remains to be seen whether that will happen, but he’s got a hell of a lineup, and that’s the most important factor.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        True about Bobby Cox. He drove Braves fans crazy in the playoffs. But how good a manager was Joe Torre? He won a lot of World Series with the Yankees; didn’t do well with other, less talented teams. I have no idea how good a manager he was. And, conversely, ok, Bruce Boche is a great playoff manager, but perhaps not so good in the regular season; the Giants don’t look so good now. So, which is more important, getting to the playoffs or doing well once you are there?

        In fact, Dusty should have won one World Series, with the Giants in 2002 where they had a 5-0 lead in Game 7. He might well have won in 1993 when he won 103 games.

        • Mike Schilling says:

          It’s Game 6 the Giants blew the lead in. They went quietly in game 7.

          • Rob Smith says:

            I’ll never forget Dusty handing out the game ball in the 8th inning of that game 6 (before it all came apart) & the misadventures of his young son as bat boy getting in the way of a big play. To me, that’s what’s defined Dusty, kind of like Buckner was defined by the “little roller” that got by him. If Dusty wins this year, he can change the narrative.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Joe Torre did have a couple of good years with the Braves and won a division championship one of those years. He kind of got the rebuilding Cardinals with one of his gigs, so you can’t blame him for that…. and he managed some terrible Mets teams right before they got an influx of talent in the mid 80s. But, in the end, he has four rings and 10 Division titles, finishing no worse than second. Yeah, those Yankee teams were talented. But you can’t really win championships without talent. All HOF managers managed talent. Was Torre a great manager? We don’t have much to go by except all the wins.

  3. E.H. says:

    Postseason managing decisions matter. Just look at the Mets Terry Collins. His team was winning game 5 of the World Series(in the 9th inning!) and he let his pitcher manage the game instead of him…and of course they blew it.

  4. EnzoHernandez11 says:

    Let’s face it: we really don’t know much about how and why managers succeed, so we work the maze backwards–if his teams win a lot of games or World Series, the manager must be a Hall of Farmer. Thus, Bochy, whose regular season record is mediocre, is assumed to be a slam dunk for Cooperstown. I guess he’ll owe his plaque to winning Game 7 against KC in 2014 and winning Game 7 of the NLCS in 2012. If both games go the other way, nobody is seriously thinking about Bochy in the HoF.

    Give me a choice between good players in a weak division and a “superstar” manager, I’ll take the former every time. And I’ll win, which will, of course, make my manager the new lock for Cooperstown.

  5. SomeGuyInVA says:

    Long-time Nats fan here…

    I honestly cannot think of a game that Dusty’s cost the Nats during his short time with the team. Maybe that’s due to the fact that they won their division last year and they’re up 13 games this year (while missing three of their opening day starting position players), so none of their losses have really mattered, but compared to Matt Williams, I can’t think of any bonehead moves he’s made that have cost the Nats. I suppose you could nit-pick some of his pitching decisions, such as leaving a starter in too long or replacing a starter with an execrable reliever, but given that the bullpen has been full of execrable relievers for most of the year, those decisions have been damned if you do damned if you don’t.

    As for the post-season, yes, they lost the NLDS to the Dodgers last year, but that was in five games, the Nats had the tying run on base on the bottom of the 9th, they just couldn’t score against Jansen and Kershaw. Last year’s playoffs were the first time I felt like the Nats just got beat by a slightly better team, rather than choking away a lead (2012) or getting out-managed (2014).

    To my mind, Dusty’s been exactly what this team needs, especially after Matt Williams, and unless and until they lose in the post-season *because of something Dusty did*, I’ll keep saying that.

  6. Dan says:

    As a Nationals season ticket holder since Day One, and someone who was VERY unhappy with the Dusty hiring, I have to say that I was completely wrong. Dusty has been the perfect manager for this team – they are a very business-oriented, get things done clubhouse, and Dusty is the absolute right guy. He understands time off for everyone, he doesn’t play favorites, he plays everyone, and even guys he has to cut – see Chris Heisey – speak well of him. They’re going to lose in the NLCS to the Dodgers and there will be an off-season of idiocy with his contract, but he has 100% been the reason for their very successful regular seasons since he’s been here.

    • SDG says:

      I think the issue is, most baseball fans (and certainly the baseball media) don’t see managers in those terms. There is a tendency to believe what a manager does is the strategic decisions, and so-called “soft skills” like communication and people skills are at best the icing on the cake and at worst, silly girly stuff.

      The popular image of the manager (going from McGraw to Lasorda) is tough guy field general and strategist. The idea is games are won because they make complex, sometimes gray-area, strategic decisions and lead the men into battle. If you look at the managers in the Hall, they all have that image. Being strategic and being tough. Players liking you? That’s for wimps.

      • Old #38 says:

        We also don’t like things we can’t quantify or measure.

        You can game out percentages of outcomes based on in-game managerial choices. It’s a lot harder to measure whether Dusty’s clubhouse vibe has anything to do with Wilmer Difo’s performance in July.

        • SDG says:

          I’m not sure that’s true. How often do we hear that a player with suboptimal stats gets wins for his team because he’s gritty and clutch? Or the reverse, that getting a great player is a bad move because he’s a headcase choker? Or why the sports press cares so much who’s a clubhouse leader and whether the players get along with each other?

          Studies show lineup construction doesn’t have much of an effect. And how many manager moves (like deciding up rest an injured player) are truly his decision? And with the other stuff (lefty/righty matchups, pulling for pinch hitter and runners) people only notice those is (a) the manager does something unconventional (say, put a Molina in as a pinch runner) AND (b) it fails. How often does that happen? To the point where we can see trendlines over a long season and not just individual games?

          Looking at the managers who’ve been seriously considered for the Hall, we look at their win total, win percentage and WS wins. And then assume the manager was doing something right.

      • Scott says:

        I wonder how much of this is image. For all of his tough persona, McGraw didn’t blame Merkle or Snoddgrass after their famous mistakes.

        • Rob Smith says:

          Probably. Lasorda was mentioned above as being tough, but he was most definitely a players manager, certainly compared to Walt Alston, who was aloof. Tommy just swore a lot and had an occasional temper, which he largely saved for umpires and the occasional sportswriter question. He was a by the book (at the time) strategically and was very predictable. Average, at best. But he kept the players happy during the long season and pretty much did what he did. Great pitching and clutch hitting won his two championships. I don’t think there were any bonehead moves nor were there any great moves. The players are generally the reason for winning and losing.

          • Rob Smith says:

            Oh, maybe the one great move was pinch hitting Kirk Gibson in the 88 World Series. Vin Scully famously described it as really being a “roll of the dice”. It was kind of a desperation move, and could have easily failed. But it’s not like he had a lot of guys who were great on the bench…. and it worked out, setting the stage for an upset win against the powerhouse A’s.

  7. Alter Kacker says:

    Last season, 32 years after he last played for them, LA had a Dusty Baker bobblehead giveaway — when he was the VISITING manager.

  8. Carl says:

    Always seemed to me that the same way Joe Torre (who was not well thought of as a manager with the Mets, Cardinals, Braves, but became a genius in NY with the Yankees) had Don Zimmer as a “Bench Coach” to help with the strategic decisions, Dusty Baker needs a bench coach.

    • SDG says:

      My favourite example of that is another winning Yankees manager, Casey Stengel.
      Dodgers: losing record
      Braves: losing record
      Yankees: WINNINGEST MANAGER OF ALL TIME HE’S A GENIUS HOLY SHIT!
      Mets, losing record, including the worst team in modern history

      Interesting Zim was thought of as the strategic genius in that group. I didn’t realize he had that image. I always thought Torre was seen as the genius (or at least the inspiring leader) and Zimmer was the goofy old guy who tried to fight Pedro Martinez.

      • Ken says:

        I have an old memory of Zim as the 3rd base coach for the yankees and waving Jerry Narron home while I’m screaming Noooo!!! at the TV…Doesn’t he know Jerry Narron is like the slowest runner ever!! Needless to say Jerry was out, Rags blew the save, but the Yanks did come back to win it.

      • rnotr2 says:

        Warren Spahn’s great quote on Casey:
        “I’m probably the only guy who worked for (Casey) Stengel before and after he was a genius.”
        Source: Sports Illustrated (August 20, 1973)

      • steve says:

        Yeah, but. . . Casey was a professor.

    • SomeGuyInVA says:

      Dusty has a bench coach – Chris Speier.

  9. E.H. says:

    I’m one of those who think the manager matters a lot, except for Joe Torre who did absolutely nothing as manager for the Yankees. Yes, he won a bunch of World Series but in that case it was the overwhelming talent that did it all.

    When you get all your players on the same sheet of music..now that’s managing.

    • Mark Daniel says:

      Torre managed the greatest team in baseball history that had some of the biggest salaries (and egos) in the game in the biggest city in the world with the craziest owner on earth. Yeah, he had nothing to do with their success.

  10. SDG says:

    So what does Baker need to get into the Hall? I think if he wins two rings, he’s in. Or one ring and, say, 4 pennants. But people will complain. I think he needs world series wins more than a winning postseason record.

    • Old #38 says:

      Honestly, 1 might get him in. Eventually. He’s got division crowns, longevity… even if he doesn’t ‘look’ like a HoF manager.

    • E.H. says:

      I think one ring will get him in, that’s all it took for Whitey Herzog to make it.

  11. Bryan says:

    “Dusty Baker will not be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager. I think just about everyone would agree with that too.”
    *
    Bill James technically doesn’t state he expects Dusty Baker to be inducted into the Hall of Fame but if the Nationals finish with 93 to 97 wins in 2017 and fail to win the LDS Dusty Baker will have 111% of the qualifications to be a Hall of Fame manager by the system Bill James devised. Dusty was at 94% before 2013, his final season for the Reds. Bochy was at 68% before the 2013 season and even with the 3rd World Series win has not reached expected results for a Hall of Fame manager.
    *
    Source: http://www.billjamesonline.com/the_hall_of_fame_progress_of_the_active_managers/?AuthorId=3&Month=2&Year=2013&PublicOnly=y

    • SDG says:

      Things that will keep him out:

      – He’s managed for a million different teams and isn’t strongly associated with any of them. He gets fired and jumps around a lot.

      -There isn’t a “Dusty Baker” persona. Herzog was whiteyball. Weaver was “pitching, defense, three-run homers and yelling at the umps.” What’s Dusty? Saber-inclined fans see him as the dummy who talked about clogging the basepaths. I don’t think he really has an image besides that.

      -He would be the first black manager. And unless he’s super-slam-dunk obvious, to mix my sports metaphors, for too many people picking him will feel like affirmative action. That makes people uncomfortable.

      • invitro says:

        “That makes people uncomfortable.” — Utter nonsense. Do you mean like how uncomfortable the people were who awarded him three Manager of the Year awards? If anything, being black will give him massively more support than if he’d been white.

        • Rob Smith says:

          I think race will be neutral in evaluating Dusty. It’s going to come down to whether he wins a championship, or two. That’s it. Because, other than that, his record is plenty good enough.

          • Marc Schneider says:

            One of the things that I think is hurting Dusty is the perception-whether true or not-that he ruined young pitchers, specifically Mark Prior and Kerry Wood with the Cubs. That tag has never left him, although I think he has generally changed his approach to be more careful. (One problem with the Nats is that the bullpen has been so bad that he had to leave the starters in longer. With the improved bullpen, I think he is starting to ramp back.) I don’t think he will ever be able to fully shake that and that’s one reason I doubt he will make it unless he goes on a roll and wins a couple of WS. Plus, he is considered sort of a boob by the sabermetric community; it’s sort of the Joe Morgan as an announcer syndrome.

            I don’t know how good of a manager he is because I don’t know how much difference tactical decisions make. But I thought he did as good a job as possible early in the season with a really horrid bullpen in mixing and matching. He is an old school type who believes in pretty traditional baseball precepts (sacrifice bunts, for example) but when forced, he has been pretty creative at times. Frankly, I think he has done a great job in creating a more disciplined, fundamentally sound team, which the Nats had problems with going back as far as Davey Johnson (probably one of the more overrated managers). Yes, people complain that he should be hitting Rendon higher in the lineup and he goes out of his way to have speed at the top, etc, etc. But how much difference does this stuff make?

  12. First, a thought from Bill Veeck, who talked in Veeck as in Wreck about getting the right manager for a situation–that Stengel could manage a team with carousers like Mantle because he had been and was one himself, but Al Lopez was a quiet guy who didn’t want anyone rocking the boat. Veeck mentioned that Paul Richards was the sort of manager who could take a team not expected to do much and, with some shrewd moves here and there, bring them up to a contending position–but that he might not be the guy to get them over the top.

    I also think of the observation that Gene Mauch could take a fifth-place team to second and a first-place team to fourth faster than any other manager in baseball.

    All of that is a warmup to my saying that maybe Dusty is the guy to heal a franchise in trouble, but not necessarily the one to put them over the top. And I think he’s vastly underrated, based on his record and on Joe’s point that strategy may be the least important aspect of managing. If strategy were the issue, Tommy Lasorda would have been fired by his third year with the Dodgers (Lasorda will go to his grave insisting that no left-handed hitter has ever gotten a hit off of a left-handed pitcher). But if Walter Alston had continued as manager, the Dodgers wouldn’t have won the pennants that Lasorda won in his first two years because the change helped the team a great deal (so did the recovery, in 1977, of one of his players from a terrible 1976 season–some guy named Dusty Baker).

    By the way, another way to look at it: Tony LaRussa is in the Hall of Fame, as is Lasorda. I think LaRussa was a more innovative strategist, and yet Lasorda outmanaged him in the 1988 World Series. And as a Dodger fan, I’m grateful to him for it.

    • Just Bob says:

      I think of Marty Schottenheimer the same way, though in football, where strategy does matter a lot more. Good enough to make you good, but not great enough to make you great.

    • Rob Smith says:

      I think that although Mauch can be properly criticized for overmanaging (Tony Lorusso anyone?) I do think when you analyze the decisions he made, that ended up backfiring, they were all logical. Players have to execute. The Manager can put in the right guy, but if that guy gives up a game losing HR, the Manager somehow gets blamed. If you have no pitching in the last week of the season and you try to go on short rest with your frontline starters, and it doesn’t work, the Manager gets the blame…. forgetting that the other options available to him weren’t good either. You have 24 players and they’re all on the team for a reason. They’ll all be put into games in situations that can win or lose games. How they do in those situations determines wins/losses and how the manager is perceived.

  13. KHAZAD says:

    First thing – there is a reason why they call it a manager in baseball. Most of the work is done in the clubhouse rather than developing game plans or schemes. They manage people. There are really not that many differences between them as far as in game moves and the affect they have in game is smaller than the other sports.

    Secondly, I have always had a theory that some of the best and most underrated coaches are the ones that are consistently successful – often with multiple teams, since they didn’t win that big one.

    Now, I developed that theory for football initially. So many coaches success is tied to actually having a great team or (especially) QB, while some really good coaches make playoffs with teams whose record outstrips the actual talent of their team BECAUSE they were well coached. Most years, they are outmanned, and them it only takes a bit of bad luck for them to be snakebit.

    As far as genius coaches go, Bill Belichick is 54-63 without Brady. Now, before you say “Oh, but the Browns”, this was not even the same franchise as today’s Browns. He took over a team that had made the playoffs 4 of the last 5 seasons, with 3 AFC championship losses. They won a Super Bowl as the Ravens within 5 years of his leaving. During the pre Tom Brady Patriots days he took over a team that was coming off of 5 consecutive .500 or better seasons and had a QB that had a career winning record before he got there, and 5 years of a .500 record elsewhere after that time and had a 5-11 season. Overall, It is over 7 seasons of .462 Football, so a pretty good sample size.

    Meanwhile Marty Schottenheimer only had 2 individual seasons with a winning percentage that low in 21 years of coaching with 4 different teams and 20 different QBs.

  14. invitro says:

    Which active managers will make the Hall of Fame?
    — Bochy is a lock.
    — Maddon is a lock.
    — Francona is a lock.
    Active managers with three Manager of the Year awards:
    — Showalter.
    — Baker.
    Inactive managers:
    — Leyland would seem to be a lock.
    — Pinella had three Manager of the Year awards.
    — Davey Johnson, anyone?

    • Scott says:

      It sure seems like it’s easier to get in the Hall of Fame as a manager than as a player. That’s 10% of all managers, which is about the percentage of players who make the all star team.

      As much as I wish he was still the Sox manager, I don’t think I’ll ever say, “God, how much I wish you saw Terry Francona run a team.”

      • invitro says:

        Yep, I believe it is a lot easier for managers.
        FWIW, I count that 56 of the World Series winning teams’ managers are in the HoF. That’s exactly 50% of them. And a handful of the managers in the HoF won no World Series.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I think Davey Johnson is highly overrated, at least based on my observations when he was in Washington. The team was undisciplined and fundamentally unsound. Of course, they were a younger team then. He won with the Mets when they had an overwhelming team, but only once even though they were probably the most talented team. (In fairness, drug problems and sore arms didn’t help). I think players enjoyed playing for him because he pretty much let them do whatever the hell they wanted.

  15. Mike says:

    Baker’s carer is kind of reminding me of Bobby Cox. People were viciously critical of his strategy. But over 162 games, there was no better manager in the game. Players just loved playing for him. Cox was better than Baker (most notably in his management of pitchers’ arms) but I wonder if Baker wins that series in 2002 if we’re talking about him as a HOFer. Or if he manages to get one with Washington if he’ll suddenly be in the conversation.

    • invitro says:

      Baker’s winning %age is .531, Cox is .556. Baker would need to win his next (about) 190 games to match Cox’s winning percentage.
      They are not similar. Baker’s .531 is pretty high; Maddon’s and Francona’s are higher.

      I think Baker will certainly be “in the conversation” for HoF if he wins a World Series. He does have those three Manager of the Year awards, which count for a lot.

      • Marc Schneider says:

        In fairness, Cox had three Hall-of-Fame pitchers on the same staff. No one else that I recall has ever had that.

        • SDG says:

          Joe McCarthy did. (Lefty Gomez, Herb Pennock, Red Ruffing). So did Connie Mack with the early teens Philadelphia As. (Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, Herb Pennock again).

          Possibly the 1998 Yankees will. Rivera is in, Clemens will be one day, and David Cone has a shot from some future VC. Or Pettitte.

      • Scott P. says:

        No, Baker and Cox are not similar, but so what? Cox is one of the top 5 managers of all time. Tony Gwynn wasn’t as good as Ted Williams, but he was comfortably a Hall of Famer.

  16. Richard says:

    A thought exercise: What would their HoF plaque say?

  17. E.H. says:

    Here’s a question for you. If the Royals win the World Series this year does Ned Yost get in the Hall of Fame? He’d have 3 appearances(2014,2015,2017) in 4 years with 2 titles.

    • Bryan says:

      Yost doesn’t even need another WS necessarily. 2 Pennants, 1 World Series and 1000 wins not in the Hall of Fame (WS Wins/Pennants/Wins), 20 are in the HoF:
      *
      Active: Bruce Bochy (3/4/1830), Terry Francona (2/3/1438), Ned Yost (1/2/1061), Joe Maddon (1/2/1038)
      *
      Inactive: Jim Leyland (1/3/1769), Ralph Houk (2/3/1619), Billy Martin (1/2/1253), Tom Kelly (2/2/1140), Danny Murtaugh (2/2/1115), Charlie Manuel (1/2/1000)
      *
      Just miss and not in HoF: Al Dark (1/2/994), Cito Gaston (2/2/894)
      *
      Managers have a far easier path simply because so much is subjective and very few ever become ineligible (Rose, Shoeless). So the process is:
      1) Manage last game in 2001.
      1) Should we elect Tom Kelly? No, Dick Williams (elected 2008) is better.
      2) Should we elect Tom? No, Whitey Herzog (elected 2010) is better.
      3) Tom? No, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox (elected 2014) are better.
      4) Elected 2018? 2022?
      *
      While for Bobby Grich it’s:
      1) Play last game in 1986.
      2) Should we elect Bobby Grich? No, .266 BA and 1833 Hits. 11 of 430 in 1992.
      3) Never consider Grich for election for 15 years.
      4) Should we elect Bobby Grich? Who is that again?
      *
      Some players are up for vote more than once in the 20 years after they retire but all managers except Pete Rose are always available for election and there is no stat you can really pin on the manager. Teams lost more than they won? Well if Whitey Herzog (1281-1125) had Tom Kelly’s (1140-1244) or Ned Yost’s (1061-1103) players would his record be similar?
      *
      While Bobby Grich, Todd Zeile, Jay Bell and Tony Phillips definitely have around the same batting average and that’s clearly because of the player. Bobby Grich, Rafael Palmeiro, Roberto Alomar and Barry Larkin definitely have around the same on base percentage but that’s one of the made up fancy stats that many BBWAA voters didn’t/don’t consider relevant.

  18. Phil says:

    About a quarter of the way through Joe’s book on the ’75 Reds (just up to where Rose moves to third base); lots of good stuff so far about Sparky and his role there.

  19. pep says:

    How about a regular season manager & a playoff manager?

    This would be the equivalent of an open ocean sea captain & the harbor captain who brings the big ship through the complicated path to the dock.

    • invitro says:

      I think the Cubs already did this to some extent last year, with Epstein & his analytics guys being the (partial) playoff managers. The front office probably has a whole lot of say in game strategy all season long for analytically-minded teams.

  20. Larry Schmitt says:

    The biggest impact a manager has on a game, and his team’s chances of winning, is how he uses his bullpen. Girardi is one of many “by-the-book” managers (read Phil Mushnick’s columns at the NY Post) who run relievers in and out after one perfect inning, seemingly until he can find one who will give up enough runs to lose. He gets a pitcher to retire the side in the 6th on 8 pitches, and pulls him, because he has a designated pitcher for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. It’s frustrating to see Girardi snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in game after game. And for that reason, I would not have him in the top half of all the managers.

    • Marc Schneider says:

      I don’t think Girardi is the only manager that does that. A lot of managers buy into the idea that you have to slot guys into certain roles. Right or wrong, I think most managers would prefer to be able to manage that way.

  21. shagster says:

    Baker is a Hall of Famer. Giants LOVED him when he was a manager. He RAN that clubhouse, much to Bonds chagrin. And it won. A lot. He WOULD have had his WS win. With the Giants. If a certain left fielder had actually TRIED for a catchable shallow pop up in Game 6.

    Joe’s a Brav-o’s man. Did Cox lose that WS, or did Lonnie Gant? And now Baker is there a HoF manager?

    Baker has the numbers. Those things these posts go on about.

    He is a HoF manager.

  22. Rob Smith says:

    When Baker lost the World Series with the Giants and a late Angel rally, there were no real managing blunders that I recall. However, after the fact, handing out the game ball before the game was over (in the 8th inning) and having his son as bat boy getting tangled up in a play were really bad looks. I don’t think either really effected the game, but you don’t want to have anything ugly going on that looks like it might have effected the game. Dusty didn’t seem to care about such things. But the fans and the press do care. I think that’s led to a lot of the bad things written and said about him.

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