Tuesday, October 17, 2006


There has been a lot in the news about managers this off-season, and a lot more was added today, when Lou Piniella was hired to manage the Cubs and Ken Macha was fired as manager of the Oakland A's. A lot of opinions have been expressed this year (as they always are) about just what it takes to make a good manager, and what measures we can take to evaluate them.
I'm actually very fond of Bill James' 3-pronged system of evaluating managerial performance. I've never read James' Guide to Baseball Managers (which is out of print), but in his Baseball Abstract 1988 (later revised for This Time Let's Not Eat the Bones), James put forward 3 main levels of performance which are the essential features of a manager's job, and the means by which we can evaluate him.

A. Game-Level Decision-Making
This is the most focused-upon and most second-guessed element of a manager's job. We're all familiar with these choices, and we all have our own opinions about them. These include setting up the game plan, which involves close collaboration with scouts (or at least their reports), coaches, and also veteran players (especially catchers). Then the manager must decide upon the specific personnel for that game. This is, of course, a super-analyzed and over-analyzed job, but is nonetheless important. A manager has to determine a starting pitcher. This is usually a function of the starting rotation, although there will be many times, especially in the postseason, where the manager will deviate from the 5-man rotation -- either by necessity or design -- to choose his starter.
The selection of the lineup also has many set points, but is more fluid than many people think. It's not just the arrangement of the hitters from 1-9 (which isn't nearly as important as people think), but the decision about who starts and who doesn't. It seems to me that one of the most difficult things a manager must do is balance a half-dozen different needs in order to assemble the optimal lineup. A manager will usually have a set number of "everyday players," but even they must be given off-days, especially catchers and any injury-prone players. Some managers use a very predictable everyday lineup (Yankee manager Joe McCarthy was often criticized for his "push-button" managerial style). Other managers use what James calls a "hard platoon," that is a strict righty/lefty split. Much less frequent is a "soft platoon," or a platoon that can depend upon righty/lefty splits, but also the nature of the opposing team, opposing pitcher, and ballpark. These fluid lineups involve a lot of change and a whole lot more choices than do your typical order, which is why (I think) few managers use them. The managers that do -- Casey Stengel and Earl Weaver to name a couple -- usually see good results.
Most criticism of manager's personnel selections involve batting order. You can find entire articles devoted to where a hitter bats in the order. Some hitters will even complain about getting dropped in the order. But while batting is important, it's not nearly as important as many people think. The difference between the worst batting order and the best batting order is not that significant. And in baseball, nobody uses the worst batting order (batting your pitcher leadoff, hitting Albert Pujols in the #9 spot). Batting orders are generally constructed well, and all of the hoopla about them is generally overdone. Much more important is determining who starts the game and when.
Once the game starts, there are of course many different options available to managers. These range from selecting pinch hitters and relief pitchers to positioning the fields and deciding when to issue intentional walks. Most of these decisions are taken with the advice of the coaching staff, of course, but ultimately they are the manager's responsibility. The ultimate extent of a manager's influence over this part of the game is determined by the particular style of the manager. Some managers call pitches from the bench, give the batters hit and take signs, decide when to steal and sacrifice, all the while reacting to what the opposing team does.

This takes a great deal of concentration and skill. I know I'm often dismissive of specific managers, and to a certain degree the effect that a manager has on a ballclub. But managing in the major leagues is a very difficult job, and we (myself included) shouldn't be so quick to criticize everyone who proves incapable of doing it.
I'd also like to add that -- by and large -- a manager's skill in making in-game decisions are, generally speaking, not as important as his other responsibilities. Mistakes made in this field are more excusable and often a lot tougher to offer specific criticism towards.
This comes with several caveats, though. A manager who consistently makes poor in-game decisions is most certainly costing his team. And if an in-game decision is truly misinformed, it is certainly up to us to offer criticism.
That said, in-game management takes place on a very personal basis, making it pretty much impossible to criticise for the simple reason that we are not in possession of all of the facts. Here's a short list of the things that the manager knows that we do not:

  • 1) who is completely healthy. We know who is on the DL, yes, but we do not know for sure who is hurting and who isn't, and we most definitely can't make that determination on a day-to-day basis.
  • 2) the personalities involved. Those of us outside the game -- this includes on-the-spot reporters -- really know very little about the personalities and behaviors of those in the game. It is very gratifying to pretend that we do. But to do so is not only to accept bad information, it's patently unfair to the players. New York fans have already made up their minds that Alex Rodriguez is a prima donna. But there is far less reliable evidence of this fact than there was about, say, Reggie Jackson. Reggie's ego was legendary, and he didn't feel the need to hide it from anyone. Reggie did not see any reason to make a diplomatic response to an answer when he could make a self-serving one. There are rare cases like Reggie, or Albert Belle where it's hard to argue their central personality issues. But for the hundreds of other baseball players, we only know what other people tell us and what they say about themselves. And that's just not enough to make a reliable decision. A good manager knows his players much better than I do. This is a fact that fans (and especially beat reporters) are loathe to admit.
  • 3) a manager's gut-level instincts. I'm often quick to dismiss the concept of team "chemistry" and "clutch" as truly significant. But a manager's gut-level instincts, while they must be taken with a barrel of salt, are important and informative. This is because they are typically based in experience. A manager knows his players, knows different baseball situations, and has (hopefully) experienced many similar situations in the past. So long as your gut instincts are grounded in this experience and wisdom, they can be very valuable to a team. That said, if you're a manager whose gut instincts never seem to work out, perhaps it's time you started using your brain more often (are you listening, Dusty?).

Hindsight is indeed 20/20. Managers take risks every day, and within seconds, everyone knows if it was a good risk or a bad one. But -- and this is important -- there's a specific difference between a risk and a blunder. A risk is doing something which may not be the accepted or safe decision, but which may be necessary under the circumstances. A blunder is doing something which isn't a good idea under any circumstances. Example: if Grady Little leaves any other starting pitcher in the game in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. It's a risk, but it's one that his "gut" told him was the right one to make. Even if the result was the same, we can still say that Little's decision wasn't a blunder, because he didn't know for sure what would happen. When that pitcher is Pedro Martinez, however, it is indeed a blunder. Pedro quite obviously (statistically and visually) turns into a different pitcher around the 100-pitch mark. That Grady Little either didn't know this or ignored it is unacceptable. If we can't think of a circumstance that could justify this choice, then we can call it a blunder.

B. Team-Level Management Decisions
These are the larger, broader decisions a manager must make about strategy and personnel. These decisions are typically made in collaboration with the General Manager or the front office in general. These include determining the roster composition, shifting player roles (starter to utility man; middle reliver to closer), and general team composition. This is where a manager chooses between a good-hitting rookie and a slick-fielding veteran; where he as to choose his team's closer from among the various options; and where he (in a larger sense) plans what sort of offense or pitching staff he wants. Some managers prefer a slap-hitting, speedy team. Others prefer the Earl Weaver "3-run homer" approach, with sluggers and plate discipline.
These decisions are easier to criticize and evaluate, because they are rarely taken in the "heat of the moment," are are much less dependent on individual variations and unknown quantities. They're also questions that statistics are very good at answering. Stats have affirmed the importance of plate discipline and the relative unimportance of the stolen base. They've determined that rookies can and should be trusted and that while veterans are worth seeking out, there is little relationship "veteran leadership" and winning. Most managers, who come from the background of gut-level decisions and a general sports-jock anti-intellectualism, don't want to hear this. They also resent the intrustion of the front office into decisions which were, in the past, up to the manager. But this is the future of baseball, and it can be a very successful one.
As I said before, this area of management is the easiest to criticize. They are usually made in advance, with full opportunity for analysis and forethought. They are typically broad-based decisions of philosophy which lend themselves more to stats and "playing the percentages." And they have further-reaching consequences, affecting entire seasons rather than just one game.

C. Personnel Management and Instruction
Well, we all know what this is, and I think we can all admit that it's the hardest to judge. How do we know if players don't like their manager? Unless they go to the press, we simply don't. And even then, it's often just one player, and we have to determine whether the player is just one grumpy guy or if he speaks for his teammates. We can look at the manager's overall record or past performance to see if there's any grounds to believe them. We can also look for any signs of discontent on the field, although these are very rare and so shrouded that we often don't know what we're looking for and at the same time seeing things that aren't really there. The on-field blow-up, however entertaining, is quite rare.
I think we can also all agree on the importance of a manager's skills as a motivator and uniter. I often talk about a player's personality being largely irrelevant, because it rarely affects what they do on the field. Acting like a professional is important, but it's not their job.
With a manager, on the other hand, being a professional is their job. And if you're failing at one of your primary duties, then you're probably not worth keeping around. The old saying goes that it's easier to fire the manager than to fire 25 players. It's essentially true; if the manager doesn't get along with the players, it's going to be the manager that gets fired. There are exceptions; if the players are just unusually grumpy, or if the front office wants to avoid the appearance that the players are running the team, they will keep on an unpopular manager. But usually, the guy has to go. It may take a while, but in my opinion, these guys usually keep their jobs much longer than they should. Especially if you're someone like Larry Bowa, who isn't doing anything on the field to justify being a hellacious horse's ass off the field.
This is not to say that a manager has to be a nice guy or that they shouldn't be firm. In fact, there are many managers whose main fault was, according to many, that they were too nice. A manager has to be firm, decisive, and in control. In the process, they may alienate people and even make some players not like them. But you must be assertive and very firm to be a successful manager; otherwise, the players will walk all over you.
But as I said before, it's very difficult to determine a manager's performance in this area, because it is almost entirely hearsay evidence and second-hand information. That's not to say that we can't get a clear picture of what's going on by piecing the evidence together, but I think we're often too quick to pass judgement, when we're not even in control of all of the facts.

Now, having set up this basic framework for managers, let's take it on a test run. Let's evaluate a man who was, in 2005, possibly the worst manager in the big leagues, Dusty Baker. But have I been too tough on Dusty? Let's take a look at the evidence.

A. Game-Level Decision Making
B. Team-Level Decision Making
We'll combine these, since Dusty's problems extend to both equally.
Dusty is not very good at assembling a batting order. Yes, I've said that batting order is generally not a huge factor; but that's because most people use a sensible batting order. On-base players at the top, sluggers in the middle, weaker hitters at the end. Dusty failed at even assembling this very basic batting order. Dusty is an old-fashioned manager who thinks that speed should be at the top of a lineup. It's true that this was the conventional wisdom in baseball for many years. But we know a lot more than we used to, and times have changed. Dusty's old-fashioned views are understandable, but not excusable. You wouldn't hire the Flat-Earth Society to manufacture globes, and you shouldn't have Dusty Baker assembling your lineups.
Case in point: Juan Pierre. Now, Juan isn't a bad lead-off hitter when he's hitting for a high average. Juan's best year was probably his 2004 season in Florida, where he hit 326/374/407. He stole 45 bases that year (which were cancelled out by 24 CS for a 65% success rate) and struck out only 35 times in 678 ABs. That Juan Pierre was a fine lead-off man, getting on base and striking out rarely, although he could be a lot more selective with the baserunning.
But that Juan Pierre was only for one year. The Juan Pierre who's played the last two years has not been a good lead-off man, or even a good baseball player. In 2005, he hit a woeful 276/326/354, although he improved his base-stealing to 57/74 (77%). But with a .326 OBP in 656 ABs (still batting leadoff), he made 504 outs. He ranked third in all of baseball for most outs made. This is someone that should not be batting leadoff, regardless of how fast he can run. Someone making that many outs a) is not getting on base for your sluggers b) is giving the team one less out to work with, and c) is making even more outs, because batting in the leadoff spot gives you more chances for ABs.
Pierre was traded to Chicago in the 2005-6 offseason. The friendly confines only moderately helped Pierre, who hit a still-poor 292/330/388. He was still a good base-stealer (58/70, 83%), but that was little comfort. He made 491 outs this season, only 6 behind Jimmy Rollins for the most in baseball.
You could argue about whether Pierre is a bad player, or simply below-average. His poor defense certainly doesn't help. You could also argue about which is the real Juan Pierre, the 2004 version or the 2005-6 version. But this is irrelevant; in the midst of 2006, when Pierre was doing just as bad as he had been doing the year before, Baker kept him in the lead-off spot. That is not a risk, that is an ignorant blunder.
Is is possible that Pierre was the best they had? No, not since nobody else on the team made nearly as many outs. Teammate Matt Murton doesn't steal any bases, but his .365 OBP was much better than Pierre's. Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez all have too much power to hit leadoff. But any of them would still have been better than Pierre, even considering that you'd sacrifice having a true power hitter.
Baker also gave 534 ABs to Ronny Cedeno (245/271/339, or one of the worst hitters in 2006), but at least he had the good sense to bat him 8th most of the time (although he did bat lead-off in a couple games).
Baker's track record actually shows a preference for low on-base percentage. A high OBP would be, in Baker's words, "clogging up the bases." Baker has time and again shown preference for useless hitters such as Jose Macias (.292 OBP in 194 ABs '04; .274 OBP in 177 ABs '05) and Neifi Perez, who got off to a hot start with the team, causing Dusty to fall in love with him. The honeymoon should have ended before Perez got an unconscionable 572 ABs in 2005, hitting 274/298/383 with an 8/12 stolen base rate. Baker has no clue how runs are scored.
There are other baseball facts that Baker is clueless about. In Rob Neyer's Book of Baseball Blunders, Neyer devotes a whole chapter to Dusty, one of which begins with this 2005 quote:
"I remember my old general manager Al Campanis telling me that a player doesn't reach his peak until he's somewhere between thirty-two or thirty-six and beyond, and it depends on how his legs are and his desire and if he keeps his weight down and his waistline down."
My reaction is the same as Neyer's: Thirty-six and BEYOND?!! I'd like to give Al Campanis more credit than for saying something this stupid. This would explain, as Neyer points out, Dusty's unwillingness to give playing time to deserving young players (such as Hee Seop Choi, Juan Cruz, and Jason Dubois, who all got traded away mainly because Dusty wouldn't use them). His belief is so far beyond reality that I have to question whether this man has somehow suffered some sort of rare Toothpick Poisoning that's affecting his brain. That would explain why John Mabry got 237 ABs this year to hit 205/283/324. Mabry is, by the way, a first baseman. He hit like a backup catcher. But Dusty still stuck with him.
Part of the problem, I must admit, is that Dusty does not have a wealth of options, thanks to deposed team President Andy MacPhail and lame duck GM Jim Hendry. But a good manager should be able to get the most out of what he has. Not only has Dusty failed to do that, he's used his players in a manner which exposes their flaws and makes them even more costly to the team.
What about the pitching staff? Apart from a tendency to favor veterans such as Glendon Rusch beyond all points of usefulness, Dusty's greatest problem has been in his use (or abuse) of his young pitchers.
Dusty became Cubs manager in 2003. He inherited two aces in the rotation, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Subsequently, both pitchers have suffered a number of injuries that have severely limited their effectiveness and possibly affected their careers. Is it possible that this results from Dusty's treatment of them? Let's take a look. (To be fair, Wood had been suffering injuries ever since his sophomore season of 1999 . His injuries and overwork are not entirely Baker's fault).
Pitcher Abuse Points (PAP) are one metric of measuring how much a pitcher throws while fatigued. It rates different starts by category based on the number of pitches thrown. Category 1 is a low-fatigue outing; Category 5 is the highest. Pitches thrown in each category are assigned points, with the point value increasing exponentially as the category increases. While it's hard to establish one statistical metric to measure something as complex as pitcher fatigue, PAP does have a high correlation with future injury.
In 2003, Baker's first season in Chicago, two of the top four pitchers in all of baseball in PAP played for the Cubs. They were Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Wood was #2 in the MLB, averaging 111 pitches per start, including an unfathomable 141-pitch outing, the longest outing in all of baseball that year.
Here's some (seemingly) simple wisdom. You have a flame-throwing young pitcher. He's already missed one whole season due to T0mmy John surgery. Under no circumstances should he be throwing 141 pitches. In addition to that one Category 5 outing (>133 pitches), Wood made 8 Category-4 starts (122-132 pitches) and 11 Category-3 starts (110-121 pitches). Now, it's true that some older pitchers have shown the ability to consistently throw high levels of pitches without injury. However, with young pitchers, we simply don't know what their breaking point is, and it's a stupid idea to try and find out.
Despite pitching only 140.1 IP in 2004, Wood still ranked 16th in all of baseball in PAP. There were (thankfully) no more Category-5 starts, but he did top out at one 131-pitch outing. There were also 8 Category-3 starts. Anything above Category-2 is a threat, especially for a young pitcher with an injury history. The fact that Baker essentially ended Wood's career (he's thrown 85.2 innings in the two years since) is unacceptable. Blame should be shared by those who abused Wood from 1998-2002, as well as the pitching coach and front-office executives (ahem) who allowed Baker to keep doing this. But, although Baker abused Wood, we cannot say for sure that it was his abuse that has basically finished him as a quality starter.
With Mark Prior, on the other hand, we can put the blame on Dusty. With the exception of his rookie half-seaosn in 2002, Baker has managed Prior's entire career. The results are depressing. As I mentioned before, Prior was #4 in all of baseball in PAP in 2003. 22-year-old superstar pitchers should be handled with the utmost care and caution. But Baker was a bull in a china shop. 20 of Prior's 30 2003 starts were Category 3 or above, with his highest a 131-pitch outing. He averaged over 113 pitches per game, and it's questionable whether you should ever let a 22-year-old throw 113 pitches, let alone average that many over 30 starts.
The effects were apparent right away. The next season, Prior threw only 118.2 IP because of injuries. Despite pitching barely half a season, he still ranked 49th in total PAP, with 6 of his 21 starts Category-3 or above, maxing out at 129 pitches once. The single-biggest reason the 2004 Cubs missed the playoffs was because of the injuries to Wood and Prior, injuries which lay at the door of Dusty Baker.
Prior managed a comeback of sorts in 2005, increasing his innings pitched to 166.2. But he was probably the most-abused pitcher in all of baseball. He ranks third overall in total PAP, and the two guys ahead of him both threw more than 220 innings. Baker still hadn't learned anything, giving Prior 10 of 27 starts Category-3 or above. In 2006, Prior succumbed, throwing 43.2 IP with a 7.21 ERA. It's questionable if he will ever be a truly effective pitcher again, giving us another career murdered by none other than the Mad Toothpick.
But that wasn't all for Baker. There was another pitcher involved here. He's a guy who's been abused as much or moreso than Prior and Wo0d, despite entering the 2006 season at 24 years of age. His name is Carlos Zambrano, and we're all unfortunately waiting for the other shoe to drop on his right arm.
Like Prior, Zambrano reached the majors for good in 2002. He threw 108.1 innings of very good baseball, despite showing a good deal of wildness. He was a fine young pitching prospect, but was overshadowed by the even more amazing Prior. Also like Prior, almost all of Zambrano's career came under Dusty Baker.
And therin lies the tragedy. In 2003, when both Prior and Wood made the top 10 in total PAP, Zambrano was 11th. He made 10 Category-3 starts and 3 Category-4 starts. But Baker was just getting started. With Prior and Wood being ridden to death by Baker, Zambrano was the only one left, and Baker rode him hard. In 2004, Zambrano finished 3rd in the MLB in total PAP, a 23-year-old ranking only behind two guys in their thirties (Livan Hernandez and Jason Schmidt). Zambrano had a whopping 7 Category-4 starts and 13 Category-3 outings. He made 31 starts, and 20 of them could be considered truly abusive.
The next year, 2005, Zambrano passed Schmidt to become the #2 man in all of baseball in PAP, behind only rubber-armed Livan Hernandez. Nearly half of Zambrano's starts were in Category-3 alone; this doesn't include 3 Category-4 starts and his first career Category-5 outing, a 136-pitch affair.
This season was much the same, with Livan #1 and Zambrano #2 in PAP. There was no Category-5 outing, but there were 13 more Category-3s and 6 Category-4s. Carlos Zambrano is one of the great young pitchers in baseball, and it's absolutely shocking that he hasn't yet suffered a career-altering injury. It's possible that Zambrano is one of the few who can handle the load. If so, thank God, and Dusty Baker should thank his good luck. But odds are that Carlos' time is running out, and if he keeps getting used this way (thankfully, Dusty is gone from Chicago), the odds are overwhelming that he will suffer serious injury.

But maybe I'm overstating the point. I'm using three pitchers to judge Baker's 4 seasons in Chicago. Granted, they were three young, supremely promising pitchers who aren't anymore (Zambrano excepted). But let's look at the team totals. Alas, they're even more damning. In 2002, the last season Before Dusty, the Cubs ranked 9th of 30 major league teams in total PAP. This is above-average, yes, but not significantly so. They were well behind the #3 Detroit Tigers, the #2 Arizona Diamondbacks and . . . wait a minute. Who ranked #1 in the 2002 season? Why it was the San Francisco Giants. And who managed those Giants? Take a big juicy guess: DUSTY BAKER! What a bizarre coincidence.
After 2002, the Giants fired Dusty. This was odd, since the Giants had gone to Game 7 of the World Series in 2002. Rob Neyer said today that if a manager gets fired after taking his team to the postseason, he probably deserved it. AlthoughI give Brian Sabean a lot of heat (and he seems to share Dusty's views on aging), he made one very smart, bold move in the winter of 2002.
After losing Dusty, the Giants fell all the way to 13th in total PAP. And who zoomed up to #1? Who do you think . . . Dusty's new team, the Chicago Cubs. In fact, the Cubs notched 643,236 total PAP, 90,000 more than the #2 team -- and twice as much as the #3 team (324,868). The Cubs' total was about four times the MLB average. That's bad, bad news.
In 2004, the Cubs fell all the way to fourth in total PAP(!). But perhaps that's because Dusty didn't have Prior and Wood to kick around. And great pitchers are the most likely to get abused, obviously, because managers want to get the most out of them. And the simple reason that the Cubs' PAP fell so much in 2004 is probably because, apart from Zambrano, the Cubs didn't have anyone worth abusing in their starting rotation.
Dusty "rebounded" in 2005, ranking second in all of baseball to the Washington Nationals. (It must be said, in passing, that Frank Robinson's teams are also consistently near the league lead in PAP. Although this is mainly due to the aforementioned rubber arm of Livan Hernandez, there may be something else there). It must be said that attention to pitch counts has increased across baseball, especially over the past 5 years. In 2003 and 2004, three ML teams averaged over 100 pitches per start. In 2005 and 2006, only one team did: the White Sox, blessed with a solid group of durable starters.
2006 also saw the Cubs fall back to #5 in baseball. It's odd that although the White Sox were averaging nearly 9 more pitches/start than the Cubs, the Cubs actually had the more abused pitchers. This says something about having a quick hook on tired starters, and the knowledge of steeply increasing risk as the counts rise.
It will be interesting to see where the Cubs fall in 2006 under Lou Piniella. The Devil Rays ranked in the top 10 in PAP in each of the three years Piniella managed them. They never ranked in the top 5, although it must be said that if Lou was that hard on such terrible pitchers, I shudder to think what he'll do with Zambrano. But we can at least give Lou credit for not being an imbecile. He should recognize his limitations. And it must be pointed out that in his Mariner days, Lou grew less and less abusive of his pitchers as time went on. (This may be due to the fact that the Mariner pitchers weren't nearly as good in the latter years of his tenure, but oh well). In fact, the 2000 finished dead last in baseball in PAP. So Zambrano should be in for an easier time.

I've spent so much time discussing Dusty Baker and the first two aspects of a manager, that I won't really waste so much verbiage on his skills as a personnel manager. Dusty seems to be good at handling players on the personal level, although the ugliness surrounding Sammy Sosa and his exit from the team occurred under his watch. But it's quite likely that Dusty is easy to get along with, as many have suggested.

Well, that's great. There's a lot of guys out fishing that Dusty can easily get along with. While he may get another job managing, let's all pray that it's not on a team with fragile young pitchers. Let's also hope that he can find someone to actually fill out the lineup card for him. And someone needs to sit down and have a chat about the age at which a ballplayer peaks.

Dusty may have a career as a TV analyst. Why, just the other day on Baseball Tonight, Dusty remarked that Scott Rolen's "power numbers are down some." Sure, it's not clear what he was referring to. As Baseball Prospectus pointed out, Rolen's slugging percentage in 2006 (.518) was actually higher than his career average (.515). Rolen did hit just 22 HR, whereas he averages 29 per 162 games in his career. But Rolen only played 142 games this year and also played some while injured, which affected his productivity. So he was hitting homers about as often as he ever has, all things considered. He drove in only 95 runs, but a lot of that can be attributed to the increasingly awful bottom of the Cardinal order, as well as the aforementioned injuries. Rolen hit 48 doubles this season, just one less than his career high -- this despite the injuries. So he made up for a slight dip in home runs by vastly increasing his doubles.
And unfortunately, this isn't something Dusty can back out of, because he specifically referred to his "power numbers." If he had just said power, well that's a vague term that's hard to measure absolutely. But he referred to "power numbers," and I'd be very much interested to see what numbers he's referring to.
In all honesty, I'm surprised that ESPN hired him. Yes, I know that they tend to hire ex-managers and GMs without painstaking attention to their actual level of intelligence. Some ex-managers work out fine; I wasn't exactly crazy about Bobby Valentine or Buck Showalter, but I thought they were as good as anybody else on the show (except, of course, Mr. Gammons). But hiring Baker is rough; this is not a man famed for intelligence or insight even among his supporters. I thought they stretched things when they put Ray Knight on the show, but he's the next Allen Roth compared to Dusty.

So why did I spend the first half of the article saying how we should be fair to managers and the second half reaming Dusty Baker? Well, to be honest, I sometimes just go where the wind takes me. But really, Dusty is the exception. I mentioned the difference between risks and blunders, and Dusty's mistakes unfortunately tend to be the latter. And I've only begun to talk about the flagrant errors of judgment and logic he made in Chicago. The next team that hires him will regret it, believe you me.

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