Things have changed a lot in baseball. And nowhere is it as obvious as it is down in the dugout…including the New York Mets dugout.
I have always been a Buck Showalter fan. I was ecstatic when he was hired to be the manager of the Mets. And I was dumbfounded when he was fired.
The New York Mets front office HAD to have known what they were getting when they hired Buck.
Buck was a guy who pretty much ran things…would steer his own ship. He was at the helm developing the young core that became a dynasty in the Bronx. He helped build an organization to the point where he even had input into the actual design of the playing field in Arizona. And isn’t amazing how the Orioles are now leading contenders in the A.L. East after Buck spent a few years there reorganizing things?
So when you take a job, and your duties suddenly are a tad different than what you expected it to be, I would think anyone would a bit befuddled. So then you ask, “What IS my job description?” I would THINK that the job description of a Major League Baseball manager is to make out the lineup card every game.
Long before launch angles…exit velocity…linear weights became the language of Major League Baseball, I always believed the manager was the guy who wrote out the lineup card, the guy who made the in-game decisions. I guess I was wrong. And I guess Buck found out HE was wrong.
Apparently, the lineup card is decided upon by some Harvard or Yale or Wharton School of Business graduates who analyze mathematical tendencies. Why not have some psychotherapists in there? Doesn’t a player’s emotional state contribute to performance? I’m sure that medical doctors have a say in a player’s ability to execute, no?
What made baseball great was the human element…the ability to think and out-think the opponent. How many times did we see that a decision made by a manager came down to a “gut” feeling? Sometimes it might be wrong…but sometimes it might be wright…that’s the human aspect of the game. It’s us playing the game…not the computers.
Davey Johnson was the most successful manager in Mets history. Look it up. Don’t bother. We all know it’s true. And Davey was quite open about his use of the computer to do analysis. But do you think that an analytics department would ever make out a lineup card that had Howard Johnson or Kevin Mitchell at shortstop? Do you think we would ever see a game today where two pitchers would spend half the game switching back and forth with each other between the mound and centerfield?
Another former Mets manager, Terry Collins, once expressed the same frustration in an ability to make “managerial” decisions, and having to cower to way too many “suggestions” from above. Terry took the Mets, unexpectedly, to the World Series in 2015, only to be dismissed when he couldn’t replicate that surprise, apparently when he had to deal with too much interference from the front office. Buck took the Mets, unexpectedly, to the post season in 2022, only to be dismissed when he couldn’t replicate THAT surprise when he was subjected to the interference of the front office.
If this is the trend in Major League Baseball, then perhaps the tradition of the manager wearing a uniform should be put in moth balls, and there should be a “suit” in the dugout like good ‘ole Connie Mack. Because having a uniform, and a great baseball mind, apparently is like the game of pepper…no longer needed.