Archive for August, 2010

The Bill James Guide To Baseball Managers

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

The complete title of this book is: “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today”. Bill James is the author. This book was published in 1997.

I was reading a book titled “How Bill James Changed Our View of Baseball”, and there was a quote to the effect that if Bill James wrote a book about peanut butter, he (the speaker) would buy it.

That statement prompted me to seek out books written by Bill James, which led me to this one. And now I can say: Bill James has written a book about Baseball Managers and we all should read it!

As Dan Gutman of Newsday is quoted on the back cover: ”He’s proven that he knows more about baseball than anybody in the whole world”.

Also on the back cover is this observation (from the book) by Dick Young about Leo Durocher: “You and Durocher are on a raft. A wave comes and knocks him into the ocean. You dive in and save his life. A shark comes and takes your leg. Next day, you and Leo start out even.”

Bill James’ bio on the inside back jacket cover includes the following items: “From 1977 through 1988 James wrote and edited ‘The Baseball Abstract’; from 1990 to 1992, ‘The Baseball Book’. His other books include ‘This Time Let’s Not Eat the Bones’, ‘Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame’, and the ‘Historical Baseball Abstract’, winner of the Casey Award as the best baseball book of 1986.”

In introducing this book Mr. James observes: “A manager is not someone who excels; a manager is someone who copes. I’ll manage somehow.”

His introduction continues: “There is one indispensable quality of a baseball manager: the manager must be able to command the respect of his players. This is absolute; everything else is negotiable.”

The introduction also includes: “Managers are fascinating people. Of the twenty-five greatest managers of all time, at least eighteen were alcoholics. Is this a coincidence, or is there a reason for it? Should we, in looking to hire a manager, make sure he has Betty Ford on his resume?”

The chapters of this Guide to Managers are arranged decade by decade. Here are a few of the decades and the managers profiled within:
– 1930s: Stengel and Southworth
– 1940s: Leo Durocher, Jolly Cholly Grimm
– 1950s: Casey Stengel, Paul Richards, Al Lopez, Fred Haney
– 1960s: Walter Alston, Bill Adair, Joe Adcock
– 1970s: Sparky Anderson, Earl Weaver
– 1980s: Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda
– 1990s: Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella, Tony LaRussa

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

– “The most important question that a manager asks is ‘What needs to be changed around here?’ Any manager, over time, loses the ability to see what needs to be changed.”

– “Almost any manager, when a pitcher gives him a big season, will make a commitment to that pitcher. If he has a couple of bad starts, the manager will say ‘It’s just a couple of bad starts; he’ll get it turned around.’ If he has another bad start, the manager will say, ‘Well, we need him to pitch well if we’re going to contend.’ Then he’ll have a good start or two, and the first thing you know, he’s 5-13, and you’re out of the race.”

– “Stengel didn’t do that. With Stengel, unless you were Vic Raschi or Whitey Ford, you were only as good as your last start. And that was a large part of why he was able to stay on top, year after year, in a way that few other managers ever have. It’s not that he wasn’t ‘loyal’ to his players, but his idea of loyalty wasn’t ‘Joe helped me win the pennant last year, so I owe it to him to let him work through his problems.’ It was ‘These boys are trying to win. I owe it to them to do everything possible to help them win’.”

– “A famous Stengel quote occurred when Casey was asked by a reporter why he had used three pinch hitters in the first three innings of one game. ‘Whaddaya want me to do,’ he asked. ‘Sit there and lose?’”

– “Both Richards and Lopez were ‘defense first’ managers. Lopez once said that all a team really needed was pitching and defense, because if you didn’t allow the other team to score, eventually they would give you a run, and you’d win the game. Richards was less extreme in this regard.”

– “As anyone who has been around athletes ought to know, the most difficult years of an athlete’s life are the years when he is coming to grips with the fact that his skills have gotten away from him. By loading his roster with players at that stage of their careers, Haney virtually guaranteed an unhappy clubhouse.”

– “We know this already, but it is worth noting: In hiring a manager, look for someone who is ‘secure’ and ‘positive’.”

– “He looked for an attitude, a willingness to get it done. When a player lost that edge, that fearlessness, that love of risk, he lost his value, and then his manager had a problem. If the manager faced that problem head-on, there would be conflict. If he didn’t, there would be mediocrity.”

– “What do you put on the back of a manager’s baseball card?”

The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers contains a lot of discussion about topics I wasn’t expecting to see here, including “the definitive history of the sacrifice bunt”, and “fundamental analyses of the several billion options available to a manager setting a batting order”, among other things.

I enjoyed reading this book. It was both entertaining and informative. I do believe that Bill James could make a book about peanut butter be fun and educational, yet somehow relevant to baseball.

I recommend “The Bill James Guide to Baseball Managers from 1870 to Today” to anyone with an interest in baseball &/or good writing. It’s too bad that the analyses only go up to the mid 1990s. But after reading about the earlier decades the reader can supply his own ending.

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Game 128: All’s Well That Ends Well

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Before we get to the recap of tonight’s game, let me express my feelings about Derrek Lee In The Rearview Mirror: “I will try to remember the good times, but it’s been over for a while now.”

Moving right along: Wednesday’s game (#128) was the final meeting of the 2010 season between the Cubs and the Nationals.  The two teams seemed pretty evenly matched at the git go.

Jason Marquis balked early in the game, and the Cubs returned the favor in the late innings.

Blake DeWitt, Starlin Castro & Micah Hoffpauir teamed up to create an outstanding  4-6-3 double play in the first inning.

Ryan Dempster and Jason Marquis took their scoreless pitcher’s duel into the eighth inning.  Mr. Dempster allowed only 2 hits (and no runs) through seven innings.

Colvin & Castro (“The C.C. Riders”) worked together to score the 1st run of the game in the top of the 8th inning.  Tyler Colvin (pinch hitting for Ryan Dempster) drew a walk and Starlin Castro doubled him in.  Aramis Ramirez drove Castro in with a two run homer.  Alfonso Soriano added a solo shot in the 9th.

Andrew Cashner and Carlos Marmol maintained the shut out through the 8th and 9th innings.  The Cubs won 4-0 and completed the three game sweep of the Nationals in D.C.

With this victory Mike Quade improved his record to 3-0 as a Major League manager, and the Cubs are back up to 20 games below .500.

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Five Questions……Among Many.

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

As the Cubs season trickles to a close I find myself wondering what the future has in store….or doesn’t.

Five questions …….five lingering little thoughts of doubt, and intrigue that keep me up at night and threaten to strip me of my sanity (not really, but it sounds more dramatic this way).

Without further ado, here they are…….

Question 1: How many moves need to be made?

Recently Jim Hendry made the statement that the Cubs are “four for five moves away from contending next year”.   This concerns me because over the past five years you will remember that Jim has made statements along the lines of “We really only need to make a move or two to contend” ….now that number is up to four or five.

My theory is that if Jim thinks we need to make one or two moves then we really need to make four or five.  If he thinks we need to make four or five then we need to make eight or nine and so on.

His favorite line going into each season is “If  (insert player name here) plays like they did in (insert said players best year in the last five here) then we should be just fine.”

Hope floats, huh Jim? Not quite, and the Cubs have paid for that two straight seasons.  I can remember earlier on in the decade when we were “hoping” for Prior and Wood to “return to form” and nowadays it’s A-Ram, Soriano, Soto, or Zambrano. Hope doesn’t float on the Northside and should not be used as a strategy to win.

Question #2: What if Mike Quade pulls off the sensational?

Lets just say Mike Quade wins 80% (or some ridiculous number) of the games down the stretch.  I know, he has won his first two, and no I am not drinking anything.  Just wondering what kind of wrench this throws into the management search?

Most of Cub nation wants to see either Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi as the new Cub Manager.  What if though? What if Quade rolls through the end of our season? What if he goes a miraculous 30-7 down the stretch?  How do you look at the guy and say thanks for effort, but third base is your home.

Then again, how do you pick Mike Quade over Ryne Sandberg or Joe Girardi? That’s like picking a Yugo instead of a Porsche or Mercedes….or is it?

Question #3:  Who will be the Cubs first baseman next season?

Okay, finding a guy who can pick it like D-Lee will be a challenge but with all the defensive holes on this team we can ill afford another liability in the field.

I am also a little afraid we are going to grab a guy on the downside of his career.  One name that stands out, and is the one I fear the most becoming a Cub, is Adam Dunn.

Yes Adam hits for power, but he also has suspect defense (that’s being kind) and he strikes out a ton!  We have a lot of this already, the only problem is I am not sure what else will become available?  Do we resign D-Lee?

This is a scary topic and really needs your thoughts, what do you think the Cubs best options are?

Question #4: What new and obnoxious  advertisements will we see at Wrigley next year?

I walk by the Kraft noodle at least once a week.  Every time I walk by I feel like the Cubs organization is collectively standing on the corner of Clark and Addison hookin’!

“What can I get for $10?”

“Anything you want!”

What new and obnoxious, soul sucking, yet revenue generating ideas will flow from the Cubs brass for 2011?

Question #5:  What is the most important move that needs to be made?

Of the four or five moves needed per Jim, what do you think is the greatest need for this team?

Do we need a true ace on the mound? A stopper? A Cliff Lee type guy?

How about that power hitting first baseman with a good glove?

I would say the relief core needs a boost but picking up relievers in free agency is a large expense and usually a gamble.  It seems to me that relief pitching is very much luck of the draw.  You either happen to stumble upon it within the organization and it flashes for a season or two and dies out, or you try to buy it and almost always end up disappointed.

Among the many needs this team seems to have,  is this where they want to sink their money? Or is there a greater need?

So there you have it!  Five questions, among the many, for you to answer. What are your thoughts?

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Game 127: How The Mighty Have Fallen

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

An old baseball saying tells us, “Pitching wins championships.” Perhaps we should change that to, “Good pitching wins championships. Lousy pitching sandbags your season.” Just ask the Cubs and Nationals.

Tuesday’s matchup featured the aggravating Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97) and the disappointing John Lannan (5-5, 5.13). Both “aces” took the hill on opening day, and both were beaten soundly. Would it be more of the same at Nationals Park?

The Cubs wasted a Starlin Castro double and came up empty in the top of the 1st. The Nationals put two men on in their half of the inning, but an Adam Dunn doubleplay ball kept the contest scoreless (don’t worry Adam, we’d still love to have you at 1B next year).

Two straight singles by Baker and Soto got the Cubs going in the next frame. Former National Alfonso Soriano turned back the clock and drove a breaking ball over the LF fence. Cubs 3, Nats 0. It’s hard to believe that only four years have passed since Soriano swatted 46 homers for Washington. Time flies when you’re underachieving.

The quick lead seemed to fuel Big Z’s confidence as he attacked the strike zone aggressively (for a change). Though his velocity is still down, the command appears to be coming around. Zambrano’s remaining 2010 starts should be worth watching.

Future star Ryan Zimmerman got the Nats on the board with an RBI single in the 3rd. Yet another player I wish the Cubs had! Zambrano pitched around Adam Dunn to load the bases, but a Bernadina flyout kept the score at 3-1.

Tyler Colvin flexed his muscles once again in the 4th. His two-run shot put the Cubs up 5-1. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s 14 homers in 212 at bats vs. RHP for Colvin. If he could only do something about that dreadful on-base percentage.

Meanwhile, Zambrano was locked in. Through 7.1 innings he fanned eight batters and showcased a sharp breaking ball. It was refreshing to see him throw so free and easy. Granted, he wasn’t exactly facing the ’27 Yankees, but I don’t want to pick apart a solid start (hey, that rhymes).

Sean Marshall took over with one on and one out in the 8th. Two straight walks loaded the bases and opened the door for Carlos Marmol. The Cubs closer got out of that jam but started another in the 9th. As usual, the last inning was extremely uncomfortable as Marmol struggled to find the plate. A bases loaded double by Adam Kennedy made it a 5-4 nail biter. With the tying run at second, Marmol pulled it together and got Zimmerman on a flyball to RF. Phew!

Mike Quade’s undefeated season continues. Maybe the Cubs should start wearing lightning bolt patches on their sleeves.

Update: Carlos Zambrano has flown back to Venezuela to be with a nephew who has contracted a deadly infection. He’s expected to rejoin the team in Cincy this weekend and make his start against the Buccos on Monday.

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In the News: Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

 LWDYWMTD?

Hey, Cubs fans. I’m a little pressed for time today — doing the Dad thing as my daughter’s summer vacation winds down. Obviously, the earth-shaking news since my last post is Lou’s abrupt left turn into retirement. So let’s jump right into the action with an, uh, action-packed edition of …

Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings

1. Ryne Sandberg.His name is echoing throughout the complex set of tubes that makes up this thing we call “the Internet.” Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith has endorsed him. The New York Times has profiled him. And he’s still taking interviews.

When Jim Hendry named Mike Quade the interim manager, he may have been putting someone in place to hold down the fort so Ryno can take over come spring training. He still seems like the guy to beat, though I’d guess Jimbo is going to explore every avenue to ensure he’s not missing out on a better candidate.

2.  Joe Girardi. I know, I know … I saw the quote this morningin which Girardi established that he’s focused on the Yankees. But what else is he supposed to say? Interestingly, the Yankees won’t be discussingJoe’s contract until after the season, meaning anything can still happen. And, for what it’s worth, WGN/Comcast’s Dave Kaplan continues to beat the drum for Girardi. And, for what it’s even further worth, MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds agrees that Joe could shock the world and come to the Cubs.

* 3. Mike Quade. He had a nice debut yesterday and has said himself that he considers the next few weeks an audition. So this odd-looking gentleman, who’s from the Chicago area, has skyrocketed onto the chart. I mean, laugh if you want, but if the Cubs somehow play .500+ or even .500 ball here on out, Quade may do a little shocking of his own – assuming things go south with Sandberg (Seattle?) and Girardi stays out East.

:-| 4. Bob Brenly. BB’s acerbic comments from the booth are getting attention. He called out Aramis the other day. And many fans want an enforcer in the dugout — especially given the teams ungodly error and unearned run totals this season. And Brenly himself has confirmed that he’s interested managing again … somewhere. So maybe he would give up his cushy seat in the sky. But will the Cubs have him?

5. Don Wakamatsu.  Hey, he’s available. I didn’t see many bloggers or pundits linking him to the Cubs. In fact, if anything, Wakamatsu’s ouster earlier this month could mean Ryne Sandberg could wind up in Seattle (where he’s from originally) rather than Chicago. But if Hendry is doing an exhaustive search, I’d have to think Waka-Waka will get at least a courtesy interview.

* 6. Eric Wedge. I’ve seen the former Indians manager’s name making its way into discussions lately. His seven years in Cleveland were up and down – only three of the seven were winning seasons. But he’s another under-the-radar guy to keep an eye on.

7. Alan Trammell. ELIMINATED. But he’s cool with it. I was a little baffled by Hendry’s decision to be so explicit about rejecting current bench coach Alan Trammell for the Cubs manager job. But Tram doesn’t seem to have taken it personally and who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. I still suspect that Trammell is simply too valuable as a hands-on coach to Starlin Castro (among others) to tie up amongst managerial responsibilities.

________________________

* Debut!

:-| Back again!

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