Posts Tagged ‘Joe Girardi’

2017 Awards: Managers

October 4, 2017

It’s time again for my annual foray into the minds of the writers. Each year I prove that I’m a terrible mind reader, but I continue to give my opinion on who should win the various MLB postseason awards. This time I want to start with the managers.

National League

Lovullo

Generally, the manager of the year comes from a team that wasn’t supposed to be particularly competitive, but astounds the world, or at least baseball fans, by heading into the playoffs. There are a couple of those this year: the Diamondback and the Rockies. And I begin by wondering how much the “Coors Field Effect” will hurt Bud Black. There are those that argue that Coors gives the Rockies an unfair advantage and that anything happening there is suspect. I don’t know how much I buy that, but I think ultimately it will hurt Black. The Dodgers, Cubs, and Nationals were all expected to win, so I think that Torey Lovullo will probably win the National League Manager of the Year Award.

American League

Molitor

This should be a three-man race among AJ Hinch and his Astros who swept away the opposition and coasted to victory, Joe Girardi and the Yankees who weren’t supposed to be a postseason team this year, and Paul Molitor and his Twins who got to a playoff spot after 100 loses last season. Because the Astros were ultimately passed by Cleveland, I expect Hinch is out (as is Terry Francona because the Indians were supposed to win). That leaves Girardi and Molitor. My personal pick is Molitor, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers favor the New York based Girardi.

If you’ve been following along all these years, you’ll recall that I’m only right about 50% of the time, so don’t bet your life savings on this.

2013 Awards: Managers

September 30, 2013
Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Babe Ruth with Giants manager John McGraw

Although there’s still a game left in the regular season (and isn’t it strange that the “play-in” game counts as regular season so that two sets of players get an extra game to pad their stats?) it’s time for me to begin my annual look at the upcoming awards season. As usual, I’m giving you two picks for each award: who I think will win and who I would vote for if I had a vote (sometimes it’s the same guy). I’ll drop these in over the next several weeks (not four posts in a row). This time it’s Manager of the Year.

National League: I think this is essentially a two-man race. In late June the Dodgers were dead in the water and in September they clinched their division title with a great 50 game run. Don Mattingly will (and should) get credit for a lot of that.  On the other hand, the Pirates hadn’t produced a winning season in 20 years. Manager Clint Hurdle led them not only to a winning season but to a playoff spot. I think Mattingly, because it’s a prime franchise, will garner several votes, but I expect Hurdle to win the award. I know I’d vote for him.

American League: The AL is much more wide open. I think there are six candidates that can pick up votes. Joe Maddon at Tampa and Bob Melvin at Oakland did great jobs with teams that were supposed to do well, but don’t really have great stars (quick name two Athletics not named Donaldson). Joe Girardi at New York was supposed to do well, but his team was wretched. But I expect him to garner some votes because the problem was injuries not mismanagement. Considering all the Yankees injuries having this team in a playoff hunt with a week to go was damned good work.  Did you know that the last time Kansas City had a winning record was 2003 and that the time before that was 1993? Ned Yost led the team to a winning record in 2013 (what is it with the Royals and seasons ending in 3?). That should get him a some votes (I’d put him third). But I think the real race will come down to the men at Boston and Cleveland. Last year Boston lost 93 games and this season John Farrell led them to the best record in the AL. A year after a second consecutive third place finish, Boston let Terry Francona, the only Boston manager to win a World Series in the lively ball era, go. After a year in the broadcast booth, this year he took Cleveland, which lost 94 games last season, to the playoffs. Boston still had a number of quality players from the last few years while Cleveland had nothing last year and very little this year. I think the glitz that is Boston will get Farrell the manager award, but I’d vote for Francona.

Other awards to follow as the muse directs.

Adios, Jorge

January 13, 2012

Jorge Posada

Now that I expended all my Spanish, except for words like Taco, burrito, and refried beans, on the title, it’s time to bid farewell to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. Never been a great fan of either the Yankees or Posada, but it’s tough to overlook his accomplishments. So now the Core Four are down to the Dynamic Duo (or is that Batman and Robin?).

I’ve always been sure that Posada was overlooked when it came to the great Yankees teams of 1996-2010. This was Derek Jeter’s team. Or it was Mariano Rivera’s team. Posada sometimes seemed to be the guy who wasn’t Joe Girardi. That’s kind of a shame. He was not just good, but was a key part of the team. He wasn’t Bernie Williams cool or Paul O’Neil fiery or Tino Martinez clutch or even Chuck Knoblauch error-prone. He was, however, always there, always contributing, always available.

In some ways he wasn’t a typical Yankees catcher. He wrote children’s books (can you seriously image Yogi Berra doing that?). I read one. It was pretty good (Heck, I even understood it). He was, despite a notable accent, quite articulate. He was a major conduit into the Hispanic community.

Part of  his problem was that he was almost never the best catcher of the era. For the last decade of the 20th Century both Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez were better and for much of the first few years of the 21st that was still true. By the time they were fading there was Joe Mauer. And he was also a Yankees catcher. Consider this pedigree: Wally Schang, Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson. Quite a legacy to live up to, right? By and large I thought Posada lived up to it quite well. So he wasn’t Yogi or he wasn’t Dickey. Well, almost no one else has ever been either, but to be mentioned with them is quite a feat. And that’s not taking into account that his wife  looks like this:

Laura Posada

So from a non-fan of the Yankees, Adios,  Jorge. You were better than we anti-Yankees types wished. You were also better than we baseball fans could have hoped for. Enjoy your retirement.

The Way to Win: Observations

August 13, 2010

This is the final post in the series. I want to make a few observations about what the series is and isn’t. Let me begin by saying what prompted it.

I noted the comments about the Yankees “Core Four” (Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Rivera in alphabetical order). I thought it was catchy, but immediately decided it was incorrect. The “Core Four” should be the core about eight or nine. Because the late 1990’s dynasty that ended in Phoenix in 2001 (the 2003 team is not, in my opinion part of that dynasty) had more than those four as significant members of the dynasy. There was Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Chuck Knoblauch, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Joe Girardi, and of course manager Joe Torre who were significant contributers to those winning teams. When I sat down and listed all the significant parts I decided to compare them with the other great Yankees dynasties of the past (1920s, 1930s, 1950s, 1970s). I simply wrote down the major players from the 1996-2001 team, then listed beside them the same position players for the other teams. It became fairly obvious that all the teams were a lot alike. They were all built very much the same. So I wondered if that worked for other dynasties as well.  As I’m spending a lot of time this year looking at the 1910 season, I especially wondered about the A’s team of that year. I decided to find out. I looked at a number of other teams (72-74 A’s, 29-31 A’s, 10-14 A’s, 57-59 Braves, 06-10 Cubs, 01-03 Pirates, 62-66 Dodgers). Turns out all of them had the same broad characteristics as the Yankees.

Let me emphasize these are broad characteristics and do not look at the details of the teams. In other words, I wasn’t looking at the stats so much as the quality of the players involved. This is, if you will, a macro look at the teams, not a micro look. Let me also emphasize that this is not a rigid formula to win. I don’t think there really is a good one of those (except maybe to keep your best players healthy). Back about 20 years or so I looked for the baseball stat that was the best predictor of getting to a World Series. I found it to be opponent’s runs. That was the stat the World Series contenders most frequently led their league in on a yearly basis. Don’t know if that’s still true (and there are new stats that weren’t available to check then). This current overview of mine is not meant to be something you can hang your hat on and say this is the winner this season.

Having said all that, I’ve begun to realize that a properly constituted team of stars, good players, and role players has a good chance of winning. Teams of all-stars don’t do it (Except, in the 20th Century,  for the 1930s Negro League Crawfords, and even they had role players.). It also helps to have a fluke; what I call the “one year wonder” rule. You can never account ahead of time for a Shane Spencer (of the 1990s Yankees) to have a short run that will help the team to victory or a Hurricane Hazle (of the Braves) to put you over the top. But they do happen and good teams take advantage of them.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the series and will look at teams a little differently now.

Harry Wright

March 5, 2010

Harry Wright

I have something in common with Joe Girardi. I’ve managed a baseball team. Ok so mine was a Little League team while his is the winner of the 2009 World Series, we’ve still both managed a baseball team. Together Girardi and I, along with any person who’s ever managed a baseball team at any level, owe a debt and a tip of the hat to Harry Wright. After all, he invented the modern job of baseball manager.

William Henry “Harry” Wright was born in 1835 in Sheffield, England and immigrated with his parents to the US in 1837 finding a home in New York. His father was a professional cricket player and Harry, along with younger brother George, played both cricket and baseball.

In 1866, following the American Civil War, Harry moved to Cincinnati, Ohio as a professional on the local cricket team. The next year he joined the local baseball club. In 1869 George Ellard, a Cincinnati businessman, organized a fully professional team, the Red Stockings, naming Wright as the manager at a salary of $1200.

I remember years ago I wondered why the field leader of most teams is called a coach, but baseball refers to its leader as a manager. Turns out Harry Wright helped define the role. He led the team in as an on field coach, but also served as what would today be called a “general manager”, a “traveling secretary”, scout, and even the clubhouse man. Wright did all those things and did them well. Over the years the general manager,  traveling secretary, and scout duties went to other people and the clubhouse got its own man, but the title stuck.

As a manager, Wright was very successful. He is supposed to have invented backing up a play, using a cutoff man, and playing positions based on the tendencies of the hitter. I’ve found no definitive contemporary information proving those things and I’m not sure that Wright can be credited with all (or any) of those innovations, but the modern mythology says he did. Somebody had to, why not Harry?

As a player Wright was the center fielder on his earliest teams, but by the formation of the first professional league in 1871 was beginning to concentrate on managing the team while other people manned the field. As late as 1877 he appeared in one game as an outfielder, but he was by now the manager. He took over the Boston Red Stockings at the formation of the National Association in 1871 and led the team to a disputed second place finish in 1871 and four consecutive pennants from 1872 through 1875.

With the folding of the Association after the 1875 season, Wright’s Red Stockings, renamed the Red Caps, joined the newly established (1876) National League, finishing fourth in an eight team league. In 1877 the Caps gave Wright his first National League pennant winning a six team league by seven games. They repeated in 1878, winning by four games. It was Wright’s last pennant. He remained in Boston through 1881 finishing second in 1879, sixth in 1880, and sixth again in 1881. In 1882 he moved on to Providence where he stayed two years finishing second and third. In 1884 he took his expertise to Philadelphia remaining there for the rest of his managerial career, which lasted to 1893. He finished fourth in 1893. His health broke down and he retired before the onslaught of offense that peaked in Philadelphia the next season. He died in 1895 in Atlantic City. In 1953 the Hall of Fame finally got around to recognizing him by enshrining him, 16 years after his brother George made the Hall (There was a third brother, Samuel, who got into 45 games in the big leagues without much success).

Wright deserves to be remembered as the first of a breed, the manager. Yes, there were other men who did the job before him, but he became the first truly successful manager. As a not overly successful Little League manager I owe him a debt, as does Joe Girardi, and Sparky Anderson, and Tommy LaSorda, and…