By In Baseball

Manager of the Year

Here are a few fun facts about baseball managers of the year:

1. Bobby Cox won the award in 1991, when he led the Atlanta Braves to the first-ever pennant. Over the next dozen years, he managed the Braves to 11 division titles, four pennants and a World Series championship.  He did not win the award a single time during that stretch. Among those who won the award in those dozen dry years: Larry Bowa (for a second place finish), Jack McKeon (twice), Larry Dierker, and Dusty Baker (three times — yes, three times).

The team turned over some, and Cox  became popular with the voters again. He won the award in 2004 and 2005, even though in the first year the Tony La Russa’s Cardinals won 105 games and in the second year the Braves won just 90 games, the second-lowest win total of the Cox regime up to that point. They also lost in the first round of the playoffs both years.

2. The quickest firing after winning a manager of the year award happened to Davey Johnson, who was forced out the  day he accepted the award. But Joe Girardi was fired about a month BEFORE he officially won his 2006 manager of the year award, so that’s probably the record.

3. You would have to say that Buck Showalter has had the poorest luck. He has won the award three times, but it’s the first that stings that most. He was named manager of the year in 1994 after leading the Yankees into first place when the strike happened. A year later, he managed the Yankees to their first postseason appearance in 14 years — and THAT is when he got canned. Joe Torre came in, and you know the rest.

Showalter also managed the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 100-win season in their second year of existence — this earned him a fourth-place (FOURTH PLACE!) finish in the award behind Jack McKeon, Bobby Cox and Larry Dierker. Weird.

4. Three different managers — Buck Rodgers with the Expos in 1987, Tony Pena with the Royals in 2003 and Showalter with the Rangers in 2004 — won their award though their teams finished third in their divisions. Joe Girardi won the award in 2006 for the Marlins though they finished fourth. He is the only person to win the manager of the year with a losing record.*

*That year Girardi won, by the way, Willie Randolph’s Mets won 97 games after winning 83, 71 and 66 the three years before. The point to make here is that you often hear about how tilted such voting is toward New York. I think the fact that Derek Jeter never won an MVP, that Joe Torre won just two manager of the year awards (and in one he was actually tied with Johnny Oates) and that Willie Randolph lost this award to Girardi suggest that the New York bias is a complicated issue.

5. Best I can tell — I went through the list — no manager of the year has ever been fired in the middle of their next season. Lots of manager of the years were fired in the second year after winning the award. Jim Frey. John McNamara. Hal Lanier. Frank Robinson. Don Zimmer. Tony Pena. Lots more — just trust me, there have been many. But none have been fired in the middle of the next season.

So Matt Williams has a chance to become the first.

I actually don’t think the Washington Nationals will fire Williams because GM Mike Rizzo doesn’t seem to operate that way. But you have to believe there will be some discussions. The Nationals came into this season as the consensus favorite in the National League. I know I fell for them. Well, look, they had won 96 games the year before. They finished third in runs scored, and that was before Bryce Harper emerged. They finished first in ERA and added Max Scherzer to an already stacked rotation. How could you pick anyone else?

And now the Nationals have a LOSING RECORD.

True, the Nats have been hammered with injuries throughout their lineup. They’ve been hammered by underachieving seasons from more or less everybody not named Harper or Scherzer. Rizzo tried to fix the late-inning bullpen troubles by making that ugh trade for Jonathan Papelbon which I think created all sorts of bad mojo. It’s not entirely clear what can or cannot be blamed on Matt Williams.

But that’s our story, isn’t it? You cannot look at the history of the manager of the year award without thinking: Sheesh, we really have no idea what makes a good manager. John McNamara and Jimy Williams won the award as manager of the Red Sox but Terry Francona did not. In 2009, Jim Tracy won the award for finishing three games behind Joe Torre’s Dodgers. In 2010, Bud Black won it by finishing two games behind Bruce Bochy’s Giants. In 2013, Terry Francona (who, remember, never won it in Boston) won the award by finishing a game behind Jim Leyland’s Tigers. Does any of that make any sense?

Let’s put it this way: Bruce Bochy has won the award once, or exactly as many times as Tony Pena, Gene Lamont, Kirk Gibson and Eric Wedge. And do you know when he won the award? Right, he won it in 1996 when he managed the San Diego Padres to a quick postseason exit. He has never won the award while managing the perennial underdog San Francisco Giants to three World Series titles.

So did Matt Williams do a good job last year when the Nationals won and he was named the manager of the year? Who knows? Is he doing a bad job this year with the Nationals floundering? Who knows?

The one thing we do know is that the Nationals are playing stupefyingly bad baseball, and Williams’ public stance doesn’t inspire much confidence. “One swing of the bat and we just might win that one tomorrow,” he says. “And you never know what can happen from there.” The Gipper speech, it ain’t.

And so the one thing that COULD motivate Rizzo to make a move now is to provide some kind of spark for a dead-battery team. That’s kind of a desperation move, and it’s a cruel thing to do to a loyal employee who gives everything — I have little doubt that Matt Williams is a good soldier. But the manager switch does turn things around sometimes, and let’s be honest: This is a cruel business. Hiring and firing at the big league level isn’t like hiring and firing the people where you and I work. Let’s not confuse this with real life. In the big leagues, everybody understands the rules. Everyone — players, managers, general managers, even owners — are walking the high wire, breathing in the altitude for as long as they can. It’s like Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says: “Being a manager is to promise winning … and survive losing.”

In Washington, the winning was promised. And Williams is in pure survivor mode. He won’t win any manager of the year awards this time around. But if he can turn this thing around in time to save himself, well, I expect that will be the best managing job he’s ever done.

40 Responses to Manager of the Year

  1. Todd says:

    Isn’t it a bit disingenuous to say some manager didn’t win MOY in a year his team won the World Series or some other manager won MOY and his team was bounced from the playoffs? I thought voting for these awards were performed immediately after the conclusion of the regular season and before the playoffs started? So the MOY Award is given in a vacuum with respect to playoff performance.

    • jscape2000 says:

      Isn’t that part of the problem? The award recognizes success (or over-performance?) in the regular season, but not in the postseason, when a manager’s moves and influence on the outcome of the game is most magnified.

    • I think it’s also understood that Managers are usually judged on how they perform relative to expectations. If they’re expected to stink & make the playoffs, their manager might be a candidate for MOY. If you’re expected to stink or expected to win, and do, then you are perceived to not have done anything one way or another. If you under perform relative to expectations, like Matt Williams, you’re usually gone…. especially if the expectation was a World Series appearance, at least, and you have a losing record.

      Absent a lot of goodwill built up over previous successful seasons and a lot of circumstances that explain the under-performance, you’re toast. And goodwill and excuses might not even exist anymore.

  2. chlsmith says:

    No one can explain how “Rah Rah” speeches or “building a winning culture” or whatever has any relevance to throwing, hitting, and catching a ball. This isn’t basketball or football, where a winning strategy and keeping the players in line with it wins games.

    • It’s not a team game. If the hitters hit well and the pitchers pitch well, you win. If not, you lose. Teamwork in basketball and football, and the coaches systems, do make a difference. But in baseball, other than managing the press, the managers mostly have two jobs. Put together a decent lineup card and manage the bullpen. Everything else is pretty much paint by numbers. 7th inning and the pitcher is up, you pinch hit and maybe double switch. Pitch count hits 100, go to the bullpen. Even that’s pretty much paint by numbers. Incompetent managers may mismanage these things, but your average manager can usually handle them pretty easily.

      • KHAZAD says:

        Managers mostly have one job, and it is managing people. That is why it is such an apt title for baseball. A Football coach actually coaches. He and his coordinators have a system, and draw up playbooks, etc. A Baseball Manager needs to keep 25 guys on message, all pulling the rope in the same direction. He needs to be believed in by his players and be able to lead them, and to have them believe that he has a plan and knows what he is doing, whether he does or not. He needs to surround himself with a good staff that presents a united front.

        Fans (including me) love to scrutinize lineups, but most evidence shows that if you had a completely “upside down” lineup, (Like batting your worst hitter leadoff and your best hitter ninth – which no one actually does) you would probably only win four games less per season than if you used an optimal one. It doesn’t make that much of a difference.

        Also, on most teams, the pitching coach has as much input as the manager over bullpen moves, though the manager has the final say. We love to analyze these as fans also, but mostly as a source of after the fact blame (Post hoc ergo propter hoc) when things go wrong.

        In both these situations the skill of the players available is mostly on the GM, and the type of moves the manager can make is shaped by the talent of the players available.

        If you watch any team closely, you will see that most managers are pretty similar as far as the moves they make. The most important jobs a manager does are done behind the scenes. We don’t really know when they are good at them, so we look at wins and losses (colored by our own expectations) and decide that way.

        • I totally agree. On the fan chat sites, the Braves fans all seem to hate Fredi Gonzales. I don’t think he’s great, but it’s instructive when I ask what they don’t like about him. Inevitably they didn’t like some matchup here or there that didn’t exactly lineup in their minds…. i.e. batting the pinch hitter or matching up the wrong relief pitcher (according to their interpretation of splits from BBR) in a certain situation. They will sometimes go back a couple of years and highlight a key mistake (not wrongly btw).

          But there are a lot of variables that the fan is unaware of. You can’t always put the best pitcher for a matchup in every time. If you do, you’ll burn out your best arms. In past years Craig Kimbrel was your best option in almost every scenario. But obviously you can’t pitch Kimbrel every time you have a key at-bat. Sometimes the fifth guy in the bullpen has to get a key out. Same with the pinch hitting. Maybe the guy he’d like to pinch hit has a nagging injury or is having a fight with his wife, or something, & so he goes another direction.

          To your point, the Manager has 25 guys to work with… guys the GM has selected, I’m sure with Manager input. In the Braves case, during a rebuild project, they’re short bullpen arms & have a lot of AAA guys in the bullpen. If they’re in the pen, you HAVE to use them if you don’t want to fry everyone else. So, they fail, and somehow it’s the Manager’s fault. Or the scrub they have on the bench gets a pinch hitting opportunity in a key situation and hits into a double play. Manager’s fault.

          Sometimes, players just need to step up and perform. It’s not the Manager’s fault if he has limited options & sometimes goes with a sub-optimal matchup that doesn’t work. I don’t get why fans don’t understand this.

          • KHAZAD says:

            It is funny you mention fan opinion and everything being the manager’s fault because I have a theory about that.

            I think that being a major league manager is one of the most thankless jobs in the USA, because people remember every time they think you are wrong, and give you no credit when you are right.

            Let’s take a simple situation that happens almost every game: whether to take a pitcher out for a reliever, or leave him in.

            If the fan agrees with what the manager does, he doesn’t get any credit if it goes right, (“even I knew that!”) or very much blame if it goes wrong. (“He did the right thing, it just didn’t work”)

            If the fan disagrees, though, he has the benefit of never seeing the outcome of his own choice, and in his mind, it would have worked out 100% of the time. So if the manager’s choice works out he still doesn’t get any credit. (“He was lucky it worked out he should have….”) If the Manager makes the opposite choice of the fan and it blows up, then he gets lambasted (“What a Moron, ANYONE would have known to…..”) and it is never forgotten. In the fan’s mind, the manager lost the game, which would have been won (100% of the time) if they had just done the opposite.

            It kind of works this way with the media as well, and I think it leads to more push button managing and less taking chances. For instance, if your good “set up guy” and “Closer” blow a game in the 8th and 9th, you won’t be questioned very much, because you did the status quo, most people agreed with it, and shit happens. If you blow the lead late doing anything else, prepare for the deluge. Therefore, it behooves the manager to do the former as much as possible, and not stray from the norm.

        • Marc Schneider says:

          I agree that the manager’s main job is to manage the clubhouse and to keep the players focused and away from each other’s throats. But it’s a chicken-and-egg kind of thing (as Jim Bouton and Jerry Kramer have noted). If the team is winning, the players are happier and more focused and probably get along better. If the team is losing, players are less happy and things begin getting under their skin. Obviously, the best thing a manager can do is try to keep the clubhouse as stable as possible. As you note, rah rah doesn’t mean a lot in baseball and lots of teams have won pennants with managers that the players had little respect for. (For example, Bill Lee-perhaps not the best example-once spoke of, I believe John McNamara, who won the pennant with the Red Sox in 1975-as having fallen out of trees all season and landed on his feet.) Basically, what it gets down to is that the team with the best talent usually wins; if it doesn’t-as seems to be happening with the Nats-the manager usually gets blamed. But the Nats were probably overrated to begin with to some extent and many of the stars have been injured and/or underperformed.

          I know that Braves fans consider Freddy Gonzalez the worst manager in the history of managing, but does the manager really make much difference? How good was Joe Torre; apparently bad when he had bad players and good when he had good players. Assuming that they don’t completely lose control of the clubhouse and have guys fighting in the street, I doubt it. Or, put it this way, a really good manager, say Joe Maddon or Buck Showalter, might have some positive effect, but I question whether most managers have much effect one way or the other unless, as I noted, they are completely incompetent.

          • Exactly. Sparky Anderson was a genius when he managed the Big Red Machine or the 1984 Tigers. He looked bad when the Reds got old & was fired in 1978. He looked really bad in his later years with the Tigers as the teams sometimes lost 100 games. I doubt he managed any differently.

            Also, I’ve experienced the happiness that goes along with winning, even on teams where players didn’t get along that well. When you’re winning & your teammates are doing great, well, they’re just fine (High Fives all around!) even though I’d never even go out to lunch with any of them. When you’re losing, they’re a bunch of useless POS’s that should quit the game. That’s just human nature. Some are better than others at keeping an even keel.

          • NevadaMark says:

            That was Darrell Johnson whom Lee was referring to.

    • bpdelia says:

      I’m a sabr guy. I also played division I baseball and have now been a working adult for twenty years.

      Rah rah may not work but having a pleasant work environment certainly is HUGE for any job.

      Haven’t you ever worked in a toxic environment? The kind where the moment you woke up you cursed and began preparing yourself to make out through another day without assaulting someone?

      So culture does in fact matter.

      You can’t expect guys to live and work so closely, away from their families, constantly on the road dealing with so much pressure and still perform to expectations if the working office environment is toxic.

      I don’t get the sense that’s the issue with the nats. The issue is half of their lineup is still expected to produce as if it was 2012. Ramos, werth, Zimmerman and Desmond aren’t good players anymore. That’s the issue.

      But more generally working in a toxic office does negatively effect production.

      There have been countless studies that link production with happiness and worker satisfaction and the issues are even more intense on a baseball team.

      • You are right about that. I don’t know how well Matt Williams does with the clubhouse, but when you have key injuries (Span, Rendon & Werth) and a number of players underperforming (Strasberg, Gonzalez, Fister, Zimmerman, Ramos, Desmond), unless the Manager is creating chaos behind the scenes, it’s not the Manager’s fault.

      • buddaley says:

        There are all sorts of negative environments. It would be interesting to analyze all the winners and losers in baseball history and try to identify (classify?) their clubhouse atmospheres to see whether there is any kind of correlation. Famously there were very combative clubhouses, such as the early 70s A’s and the late 70s Yankees, that appeared to be made up of players who disliked each other to the point of fighting and yet won. And I have often read of how much players love their teammates and manager on teams that underachieved based on pre-season evaluations of talent.

        Perhaps combative clubhouse atmospheres bring out the best in players. Perhaps comfortable ones blunt competitiveness. The 1950s Yankees were cliquish and not known to welcome rookies or be generous to each other, while Stengel used the press to castigate players, a technique often perceived as suicidal for a manager.

        Was it Stengel who said in any clubhouse there were 5 players who loved the manager and 5 who hated him, and the trick was to keep the other 15 away from the 5 who hated him? If so, it might be clever, but also may be untrue.

        I think the manager does play a role in figuring out players strengths and weaknesses and putting them in the most promising situations. I think he knows how to keep everyone sharp, makes his reasoning clear so that players buy into their roles and instills positive thinking so players work to improve and succeed. Leadership is a skill, and good managers are good leaders. There are many styles of leadership though, some apparently contradictory.

        • Karyn says:

          “Perhaps combative clubhouse atmospheres bring out the best in players.”

          I would edit that to say that maybe combative clubhouses bring out the best in *some* players, while others might do better in a more even keeled environment. I think your final paragraph is closer to true, especially “putting them in the most promising situations”. Set your players up for success whenever you can.

        • Kenny Novak says:

          I’d heard that Casey Stengel quote, but a little differently as “You’re trying to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who haven’t made up their minds yet.” Same idea! :=)

  3. Philip G. Bokan says:

    I was working the front desk at the Arizona Biltmore the day the property was sold to Wayne Huizenga. Mid-shift, up walks Williams… I was the only one to recognize him and walked up to assist (albeit pretty giddy).

    me: Sir, how may I assist.
    mw: I’m here to see mr. huizenga.
    me: ummm, he’s not here, Sir. the property sale just closed this morning, we wont have an official transfer of ownership here, may I leave a message?
    mw: duh, ok. (he leaves)

    Have known forever that baseball players need to be athletes, not academics. But, the first though through my mind was…. I hope to god this man never manages the giants.

    told this story to my nats faithful friends upon his hire, as fair warning.

  4. Ryan says:

    Williams should have been fired after last year’s playoffs, when he let his team lose without ever using Storen, Clippard, or Strasburg in the last game…and then said that Strasburg was being saved for “an emergency.” Well, you were losing by 1-2 runs for most of an elimination game – what would have qualified as an “emergency” if not that?

  5. bake mcbride says:

    MOY is one of the most useless awards in sports.

  6. AdamE says:

    “no manager of the year has ever been fired in the middle of their next season.”

    In 1974 Bill Virdon won Sporting News Manager of the Year and was replaced by Billy Martin in 1975.

  7. 1. MOY is voted on before the playoffs, along with all the other awards. Pointing out playoff failure means nothing — the votes were already in.

    2. Anyone who thinks Bud Black didn’t deserve the 2010 MOY should be sentenced to read Dan Shaugnessy columns for life. Black took a team which consisted of Adrian Gonzalez and 24 other guys to within game 162 of winning the division, winning games in the most ridiculous ways from teams that should have mopped the floor with them. Bochy did a fine job with the Giants but it wasn’t nearly as fine until Brian Sabean brought up Buster Posey in mid-season.

    3. If you want to know what makes a good manager, watch Joe Maddon. Four rookies in the starting lineup — four — and they win 15 out of 16. A starting staff about whom everyone said “tsk, tsk, Jon Lester is not going to be enough for this team to make the playoffs.” A bullpen which was a major liability in April and is now a major asset, without a radical change in personnel. I see now why the Cubs are paying the guy $5MM a year. There is no way in the world his team should be 9 1/2 games ahead of the Nationals in August.

    • Not to contradict your overall point that Maddon is a really good manager, but his rookies are Matt Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler an Addison Russell. I hope you’re not suggesting that Maddon has much to do with them being really good players. Matt Bryant was already the second coming before Maddon was even hired.

    • Living in Florida, I watched Joe Maddon work for several years and agree that he is a good manager.

      However, you tried a little too hard to make the case when you wrote: “A starting staff about whom everyone said ‘tsk, tsk, Jon Lester is not going to be enough for this team to make the playoffs.’ ”

      I don’t know of anyone who said that but you, considering what these other starting pitchers did for the Cubs in 2014:

      Jake Arrieta, 2.39, 14-6
      Kyle Hendricks, 2.46, 7-2
      Jason Hammel, 2.98, 8-5

      The bullpen has made a slight improvement, but nothing major:

      Pedro Strop, ’14 – 2.21; ’15 – 2.56
      Hector Rondon, ’14 – 2.42; ’15 – 1.65
      James Russell, ’14 – 3.51; ’15 – 3.14
      Justin Grimm, ’14 – 3.78; ’15 – 1.34
      Wesley Wright, ’14 – 3.17; Jason Motte ’15 – 3.63

      For some reason you imply that playing rookies will hurt a team. I would love to see your evidence to support that contention.

      It certainly is irrelevant when the rookies are good players.

      Factor in that Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Addison Russell and Jorge Soler may well become an historic rookie crop, along with trades for Dexter Fowler and Miguel Montero, and it is clear that the difference in the Cubs from last year to this year primarily resides in the players.

  8. John Leavy says:

    Too often, awards like Coach of the Year and Manager of the Year are what some brilliant wag called “Oops” awards! That is, they tend to go to managers and coaches of teams that did better than anyone in the media expected.

    Nobody in the media thought the Mets would be much good this year, so if they win the NL East, Terry Collins may well be named Manager of the Year. After all, sportswriters are brilliant, and couldn’t POSSIBLY have been wrong about the Mets’ talent level. So, if they surpass expectations, it MUST be because Terry Collins was a great manager.

  9. Michael Green says:

    Many good comments on this, but that won’t stop me from saying something that will probably be useless. Here goes.

    In Veeck–As in Wreck, ol’ Bill talked about the right manager for the right team. Writing in the early 1960s, he said that Casey Stengel was good with players who liked the night life because he had been that way. Al Lopez was your guy for a team with good pitching and defense, and Paul Richards was similar. Leo Durocher was bad with rookies, but with a veteran team in the hunt, he was great. He also talked about how Charlie Grimm followed Rogers Hornsby as Cubs manager and because he was so relaxed compared with the Rajah (so was everybody else), it was good for the team–but eventually his loose approach would lead to the need to fire him and bring in a disciplinarian.

    I think the Dodgers provided an example of this. When Walt Alston retired/was forced out, Tommy Lasorda certainly was not a better strategist (I’m not convinced that Lasorda was a better strategist than even Don Mattingly), but he brought a different approach. Much the same team that lost in 1975 and 1976 won pennants in 1977 and 1978. And I’ll give Lasorda credit. The Dodgers should have done well during the 1988 regular season, but should they have beaten both the Mets and the A’s? No. And it helped that Lasorda managed post-season differently than regular season, as though every batter was the end of the world, while Davey Johnson in particular didn’t approach it that way.

    All of which is to say that honoring the manager of the team that didn’t win may actually acknowledge a better job of managing, of taking a team beyond where it was supposed to be. Which is why Joe Maddon really should be manager of the year every year, I guess.

    • I think it’s true that you want the right manager for the team you have. I always like the Sparky Anderson comment after praising one of the bad teams that got him fired. One of the press asked him why he always said positive stuff about players who weren’t any good. Anderson answered that “I talk positive about them because they’re all I have”. I think consistently good managers might have a knack of keeping things positive, defending players from the press & fan attacks, and basically taking some pressure off the situation during a long season so they can play ball. But obviously that’s hard to quantify, and there have been some managers that don’t operate that way who have also won.

      • Michael Green says:

        Very true. I know that his players could be unhappy with Casey Stengel for insulting them in the media, but the Yankees didn’t mind those World Series checks and the Mets knew they were bad anyway. In his later years, Lasorda could be seen swearing and shaking his head on the bench at some of the dumb baseball he was seeing, and of course the players weren’t thrilled with that.

        • Having grown up in LA, Lasorda was usually the master of being positive in the press about his team. That was his MO. And he couldn’t even speak without swearing, so that didn’t necessarily mean anything. Still, he had some epic meltdowns & I’m sure he cussed out some players behind closed doors. But he is a great example of a guy who’s main job was to keep it positive & create a happy environment to play baseball. Strategically he was so predictable that Vin Scully would regularly call out what Lasorda was about to do next. Pretty awkward in Dodger Stadium in the days when the fans would have Scully’s call blaring from the stands so everyone could hear his call. But I’m sure the opponents were already well aware of his tendencies.

          As for Stengel, those were the old days & nobody had any expectation of coaches being positive. Also, there was a friendly local media covering teams and no social media, so there was less to manage in that regard.

          I think things are going even further where you have a top college football program in Oregon where the coaches have made the decision not to yell at players, in recognition that millennials don’t respond well to yelling… if any generation really responded well to it.

  10. “Rizzo tried to fix the late-inning bullpen troubles by making that ugh trade for Jonathan Papelbon which I think created all sorts of bad mojo.”

    Wait… is Joe still saying the Papelbon trade is why a team filled with guys who strike out all the time can’t score runs…

    Matt Williams has spent the better part of the season putting Michael Taylor and his sub- .300 OBP at leadoff. Maybe that is bad managing…

    • Matt Williams may be a bad manager…. but ultimately there are a lot of things that have gone wrong that he has no control of. Anthony Rendon has played 39 games. Jason Werth has played 46 games & hit a buck-80 win he’s played. Ryan Zimmerman is hitting .219. Denard Span, who’s having a good year, is currently on the DL. Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister and Stephen Strasburg are having sub-average years. The bullpen, outside of Storen, is a mess & has been a revolving door…. which I’m sure is the reason why they acquired Papelbon.

      But, to you, I guess batting Michael Taylor leadoff is a key reason they can’t win. I’m quite sure everyone would rather have a healthy Span or Rendon batting in that spot. But you have to admit, that Williams has limited options available to him with the roster and injuries he has. Taylor batting leadoff is just a symptom of a roster that’s thinning out, and I’m sure of Manager (and player) preference to keep Bryce Harper or Yunel Escobar down in the order. Those are the only two players currently performing decently that could be above average leadoff hitters btw. But the two of them can’t bat everywhere. Put Harper at leadoff, which would be fine, but then you’d have nobody to hit in the middle of the order. Escobar is not really a leadoff hitter, but you could put him there. I can tell you that never worked well when he was with the Braves & he preferred not to hit there. Probably one of those things that a Manager has to consider that the average fan knows nothing about.

      I know it’s an easy place to go when the team is playing poorly, but even if Matt Williams is terrible, he’s not the reason they’re losing. Lots of injuries and lots of poor player performances are the reason.

  11. In football, I scoff any year Belickick is not COY
    In basketball, I scoff any year it’s not Popovich
    In baseball, I scoff any year it’s not Maddon, Girardi or Bochy.

  12. Marc Schneider says:

    One of the Nats problems-I think-is that they assumed they were so good they could just go out there and the other teams would fall apart. Is that Matt Williams’ fault? Maybe. After signing Scherzer, Bryce Harper started talking about rings. I’m not one that thinks “bulletin board material” has much effect on the games, but the Nats’ attitude was wrong from the start. Maybe Williams should have said something about that (and, to be fair, maybe he did behind closed doors.) They are also weak defensively and, even at full strength, the lineup is not as good as people seem to think. Zimmerman is simply not that good a player anymore and certainly not a good enough hitter for first base. Werth is old and injured. And, you can’t discount the injuries they have had. But, in my mind, even when they won in 2012 and 2014, it’s been a sloppy team that makes a lot of mistakes, some big and some small. That was ok when everything else was clicking but it’s just not a team that has been constructed to be smart and disciplined. That can’t be all Williams’ fault because it was true with Davey Johnson too. I think some blame has to be placed at Mike Rizzo’s door, but managers can’t fire GMs. On the other hand, I do wonder if someone like Buck Showalter would have been able to get more out of the team. It’s not that the team doesn’t try, but there is a tolerance for sloppiness that I find troubling.

    • I will say that in defense of your comments about the Nats being sloppy, I’ve seen several games where their fundamentals were an absolute joke. Errors, throwing to the wrong base, getting thrown out on the bases (especially Harper) and just stupid plays. Now they’d pan to Williams who would have an absolutely frustrated look on his face. But is it Williams fault that the team is making mental errors? If he pulled out players for it, he’d have to bench Harper first…. and I know he has done that a couple of times. I’m not sure what else he can do. As it is, he’s playing some really bad players because of injuries & his options are not good. He’s kind of stuck with what he has.

      Bottom line is, even though Matt Williams may be a lousy Manager, it’s the players performances, not the managing that has them where they are.

  13. Ed says:

    I checked the standings, and though the Nationals have a losing record, they are only four and a half games behind the Mets in the NL East. So regardless of whether its fair, you have a situation with an under-performing team that still has a realistic chance of making the playoffs if it just picked up the pace a bit. As Pos pointed out, there are situations where mid-season managerial switches actually work and this does seem to be one of them.

  14. Kris says:

    It’s a little interesting that Robin Ventura (Matt Williams parallel player compare when they played) probably will also get the gas? Which also makes me wonder if 3b men make good managers.

    • Brent says:

      Well, John McGraw was a third baseman, so at least some of them are OK. Although, backup catchers seem to be the best route (see Yosted, e.g.)

  15. oilcan23 says:

    Silly me, I thought Jeter never won an MVP because he was never the best player in the American League.

  16. wjones58 says:

    Interesting about Stengel is that he won nowhere except for the Yankees. I don’t know what his managerial style was prior to coming to the Bronx, but can you imagine the fan’s reactions today (and the writers) at what Stengel did as manager? He was a manager who consistently threw his players under the bus to the press, changed lineups daily, platooned very unconventionally (how many fans go on sites and complain about how stupid managers are for not putting up a consistent lineup? Fredi gets that criticism constantly!), and used his rotation and bullpen so strangely that I doubt anyone, not even the players, knew what was going on. He used has ace, Whitey, basically against contenders, and pitched the likes of Larson and others who had gaudy won-loss records against the cellar-dwellers. Stengel basically had two things going for him, 1) The writers loved him because he was great copy, and 2) He won every single year! His teams weren’t any stronger than whoever his closest competitor turned out to be during that time, whether it was the Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, or Tigers. The other 3 were basically there to be teams to get beat. But as someone else said, at that time there WAS individuality between managers, much moreso than now, so there may have been clearer choices. Pity the manager who makes the unconventional move today.

    On what some said about Fredi, above, I agree that it is laughable about the tirade some go on. I have often called them on the carpet basically, and asked them who they thought were better managers than Fredi, and in their mind what made them better. I will even give them a few (Madden, Francona, Bochy, Showalter, etc) and acknowledge they are better than him. The answers I usually get are something along the lines of “he is the worst ever”, or occasionally they will say something like “at least three fourths of all managers” are better than him, never giving any reasons at all. At times they will speak about how he needs to put a consistent lineup out there every day (which is nonsense), they have a fit if a regular is out of the lineup, even when on the DL, several pine away about how he needs to play ‘small ball’, should bunt and hit-and-run more (I usually point out to deaf ears how Madden NEVER bunts, even with pitchers), but as best as I can tell the main things they dislike are that we didn’t win the game, and Fredi’s interviews make them mad because they lost, And that their favorite players have been traded. And Fredi is an idiot. I almost feel bad for making fun of some of them.

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