clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

At What Point Does a Strength Become a Weakness?

New, 6 comments

Years ago, in one of the Baseball Abstracts, Bill James mentioned someone saying that Chuck Tanner, who was a manager at the time, was great because he managed the same if the team was winning or if the team was losing. James suggested maybe this wasn't a strength, saying do you want your doctor to treat you the same if you are sick as when you are healthy? Do you manage your money the same in a depression than you would when times are good?

Cito's greatest strength as a manager? His calm, his patience. When you are winning it is a good thing. Short losing skids it is a good thing. You don't want a manager reacting to every moment, drives the players crazy, they are always worried if they have an 0 for they will sit. Billy Martin, a younger Lou Pinella and Larry Bowa were like this and while it might help short term, long term, well, players can't handle the roller coaster. It is a long season.

Cito was the perfect manager in our glory years, we had a virtual All-Star team, he could easily pick his guys and ride them. And if he made an interesting choice, like having Devon White lead off when he had Roberto Alomar and Paul Molitor, it really didn't hurt because the team was that good and Cito's faith in White made him a better player. Don't think that it is easy to win a World Series, never mind two,  with a team like that. You need the right manager for the team.

But when those players aged or left he was slow to make changes. Carter still hit 4th when he was batting .230 with little power, Devon still lead off when his on base was .313. He was slow to bring in talented young players. His resistance to putting Shawn Green and Carlos Delgado into the line up was a sad thing.

And, of course, he had the type of starting pitching, in the good years, that you could rely on to go deep into the games, so running a bullpen was an easy thing, pick the two guys you like and use them every time you need them. With out those guys you have to manage how much your best relievers pitched.

Anyway....I'm not sure we are at the point where calm and patience is no longer a virtue. Sure you could move guys around but then no one is hitting with RISP so moving guys around would just be to pacify  the fans. I wish he would have given guys a day off now and then earlier in the season, the team has played 49 games in 51 days. What ever you think about it, playing baseball everyday wears on a guy. And he's got the problem now that if/when he does let someone have a day off it is looked on as a punishment, if not by the players, by the fans. 

It is hard for me to judge Cito, because the managers that I grew up admiring were ones that would do things. A guys isn't hitting, sit for a couple. Team's losing? Do something silly like bat the guys in alphabetical order. Or have guys skip batting practice or turn batting practice into a contest of some sort. And, of course, most of the managers I liked would, at some point, yell, scream, kick things and be a jackass for a bit just to take the focus off the players and shock them enough to make them forget that we are losing.

It seems strange to me to see a losing streak without these things happening. But that doesn't mean he is wrong. Two weeks ago we were admiring Cito's calm and patience, now we are cursing his calm and patience. 

I think that's a fan thing, we want to do something, we want Cito to do something. But what Cito does best, he does behind closed doors. Talks to the players, suggests little things. Works on their swing. Works on the confidence. Fans want him to do something we can see. But he is going to do what got him here as a manager, what won him World Series rings, what he does best. He's not going to do things just because us fan expect it.