Monday, May 26, 2014

A little bit on a Memorial Day loss

Today's loss stung a little. Up 6-1 on the reeling Boston Red Sox, losers of ten straight, the Braves had the game well in hand as they entered the fifth. However, Ervin Santana nibbled and got into a bases loaded situation that began with a two-out walk to Daniel Nava. Santana got ahead of Dustin Pedroia, but served up a meatball that Pedroia ripped to left for a pair of runs. David Ortiz followed with a jack. After a lengthy rain delay, the BoSox added two more and won 8-6.

It was a miserable way to fall to pieces, but things got worse after the game. This comes from Grant McAuley, the Braves reporter for 929 The Game.
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Why in the world would a pitcher's win matter? The team win is all that matters. The team win is, at the end of the day, what decides which teams go to the playoffs and which stay home. Ervin Santana's win-loss record is a non-factor.

And being a veteran is a worthless, not to mention inconsistent, distinction. You went with Alex Wood and Ian Thomas as the next two out of the pen. So, a veteran if pitching with a three-run lead, youngster if pitching in a tie game? What kind of backwards thinking is that?

I'm not the type to second-guess every Fredi Gonzalez decision. In fact, I would argue that managers rarely matter, especially in the regular decision, and they are only acting in consultation with their coaches and a previously laid out coaching philosophy. And generally speaking, I believe most fans convince themselves that the manager is the problem over the playing talent, available options, and just sheer luck.

And it's not really the result of leaving Santana in that pisses me off. At the time, sure, but that's gone soon after. It would be a different situation had Fredi came out and said, "I thought Santana's velocity was good, but he missed his location and we suffered as a result." Or something more cliche-filled and less eloquent. You can be critical of that, but ultimately, going to the pen doesn't mean a different or even better result would have occurred. However, what Fredi is essentially saying is "I refuse to make a decision." He refuses to make a managerial decision, depending on his player to sink-or-swim, and worrying too much about the wrong "win" stat. That's not managing. That's letting the players manage your decision-making. Even Santana came out later and said it was Fredi's call so why not make a call? You believe in Santana? Make the call. You believe in the bullpen? Make the call. Don't let your decision come down to "shit, he hasn't finished the fifth. We got the lead so I gotta stick with him."

But this is Fredi Gonzalez, a graduate of the Bobby Cox School of Management. Cox is headed to the Hall of Fame this summer, but he has one ring for a reason. Oh, we can talk about how certain players didn't play up big in the postseason and the bullpens were too often ignored, but Cox did have a dream rotation throughout the 90's and some very effective players in the lineup. Why one ring? Because Cox is a player's manager. That makes him a superb guy in the clubhouse and his players will fight for him and speak up for him, but in moments where on-the-fly strategy matters, he became a mental midget.

Fredi is the same way. Rather than make the call, let the players decide it for you. Watch Fredi's bullpen management in the middle innings. "My starter's nearing 90-100 pitches, but I don't want to make a decision. I got it, I'll warm up a pair of guys and wait for my starter to put runners on before getting off my ass." It's gutless managing and it's the kind of stuff that leads to losses.

The Braves are a talented team and they should be there at the end of the season. They need their manager to make decisions to win the game, not give his players a chance to pad their numbers. They need a manager with brass balls, not cowardly avoiding hurting his player's ego.

Clubhouse management is nice. Makes those long road trips a lot easier. Guess what else does? Good results.

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