Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Hitting coach? Who cares?

Baseball fans are like philosophers.  If you encounter them one at a time, you might learn something interesting about baseball -- much as a philosopher may teach you something interesting about life.  But if you should ever happen to see them grouped up with like-minded folks, then you should run as if your ass was on fire.

Way back in May or June, I began to lose my faith in Lou Piniella and suggested that he wasn't doing his job as a manager and should be fired.  I caught a shit storm over that, because we love Lou, and a manager shouldn't be responsible for his team's success, and what does a manager do anyway?

Seriously, though.  What does a manager do? 

I think that a manager's job should be to keep his team focused, first and foremost.  That means extra practice if necessary, that means recognizing problems early, it means starting the best guy on any given day and writing the best lineup.  It also means knowing when to pull a tired pitcher and which reliever to turn to first -- and last.  If your team is underperforming, it's the manager's job to figure out why.  If a player's attitude is a problem, it's the manager's job to fix the attitude. 

It turns out that a lot of baseball fans disagree with my assessment.  The manager is not responsible for how the batters hit or how the pitchers throw.  But if that's the case -- if he has no impact on, y'know, the baseball game -- then why have a manager?

Maybe major league baseball teams could save a couple million bucks a year by firing the manager and letting the hitting coach handle the hitters -- who starts and the lineups, for instance -- while the pitching coach could handle the pitchers.  It's not a bad idea, right? 

Except if you spend enough time with baseball fans, they'll eventually try to convince you that the coaches don't effect play either.  The best hitting coach in the world won't turn a bad hitter into a good one, after all, right?  And the best players won't listen to the coaches anyway, they're too arrogant. 

So maybe what a team really needs is to fire the coaches too.  Then hire a guy to book the hotels and airplanes, and another guy to handle the luggage.  They could rely on a computer program to determine the best lineups and use the honor system for when starting pitchers need to be pulled.  And maybe that day's starter should get to pick who relieves him.  See that?  More money saved, and the game would be even more in line with the ridiculous, bullshit concept that stats aren't just everything, they're the only thing.  And any right-thinking douchebag would tell you that until Fangraphs finds a way to determine the win shares of a manager, then managers mean nothing.

Or maybe it's like this: good teams can have bad coaches, bad teams can have good coaches.  But there's still a difference between a good coach and a bad one, and often times that difference is huge and essential.  Lest we forget the impact of Dusty Baker.

Managers

Referring particularly to your paragraph on what you think a manager's job is -- I couldn't agree with you more. Maybe I'd just add something along the lines of "keeping up with the times." If the stuff you guys published about Dusty was true -- batting order determined by position, playing time determined by seniority -- well, maybe that was reasonable managing back in the day when everyone else was doing it, but today I'd have to call that pretty bad.

Of course even at the MLB level the Bell curve still applies, with a few really good managers, a few really bad, and the rest just kind of mediocre. I remember thinking years ago that this particular manager was highly overrated; he had a winning team all the time, but he also had a ton of great players, and I thought, "Geez, an idiot could win with those guys." I could be wrong, but I think that was a mediocre manager who was just smart enough not to screw things up.

Anyway, I hope you guys keep writing about general baseball stuff this winter.

Thanks, and we will be.

Thanks, and we will be. We're just not going to post for the sake of posting for a while.

One of Dusty's most famous quotes is this: "it's not called walking, it's called hitting." Another of a similar vent: (players who draw walks) "clog the bases." In regards to Baker, everything we've said about him is regrettably true.

lets go back

to the early years in baseball where the starters were the only pitchers. start and finish the game. managers were on the team actually playing the game. saves billions of dollars that way. eliminate coaches and manager salaries. ur team captain is your manager. kills two birds with one stone. there is no reason to have all this added bs in the game. pinch hitters, back ups, 5th back ups etc.

Wow. Where to begin. First

Wow. Where to begin. First of all, this article made me log in. Thank you so much, couldn't agree with the whole thing more. And to the last commenter, where I would start is a 4 man rotation. But that's another topic.

One interesting thing to me about managers, I don't remember who said it, might have been Lou. Something to the effect of every team is going to win 60 games and lose 60 games, and it's what you do with the other 40 that counts. While "statistically" true, not sure that's how I want someone looking at the season.

Thanks again.

Your kind words are

Your kind words are appreciated.

I remember reading once that when the Cubs have sucked, they'd sometimes enter a series thinking "let's try to win one or two," but when they've been good their mentality would be "let's sweep." I appreciate a manager with a win-'em-all mentality and I think Lou is actually one of those guys.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award