Eric Wedge is a bad manager. The manager of the Seattle Mariners, he continues to do things that make no sense, like play Chone Figgins and Miguel Olivo. Fans criticize this because, you know, Figgins and Olivo are horrible major league baseball players. Also many of these fans have some understanding of statistics and evidence. Mariners beatwriter Geoff Baker thinks we mere fans should lay off:
There is no time to be delving through stat pages in your brain when this stuff is happening. Jim Riggleman once told me that he would get a thick, book-sized stats package before every game and that he’d throw out about 95 percent of it. He was kidding about actually throwing it in the garbage, but what he meant was, in terms of preparation, there wasn’t time to go over every itty-bitty stat. No time for coaches to do that and even if there was, his players would have it go in one ear and out the other because human beings typically can’t process that much info in such a short time.
And those human managers all know about baseball. More importantly, they know about managing in baseball and the human subtleties that come with the job. The human politics that must be played. The pressures that younger players fall under versus the more experienced ones. How those pressures might impact daily play on an individual and overall lineup basis.
That is more important in discussing a manager and his employment future than whether or not he uses words like “RBI” and “home run” in discussing a hitter. Wedge knows what types of hitters he needs and where. But he simply doesn’t have enough of them. So, if Olivo is his best shot at a .450-slugger who doesn’t rely merely on doubles, then that’s what he knows. And Olivo has been that guy before. Just not last season. And Wedge, trust me, knows he needs to get more out of Olivo’s bat. He needs a daily catcher as well and Olivo is his best bet, but that’s a discussion for another day.
I’ll leave you with this one thought, which occured when I read this comment over the internet yesterday:
“Today is Eric Wedge’s 1316th game as a manager of an MLB team. If you take him at his word, he apparently still believes that it is a worthwhile effort to (1) place a fair amount of importance on Olivo’s veteran status, and (2) reference RBI numbers as a measure of how effective a player is.
He’s had 1316 chances for the light bulb to come on and realize why that’s wrong. If I did my job wrong for 1316 days, I would be wondering why I was still employed. I don’t think it’s a stretch to wonder if Wedge is really cut out for this sort of thing.”
My thought after reading that comment is, is this really the level of arrogance our increased knowledge of stats has brought us to? For me, out of simple humility, the thought process should be: “Wedge has had 1,316 chances for the light bulb to come on and realize he’s wrong. Maybe, the fact that Wedge hasn’t realized he’s wrong is an indication that my thought process might not be as bang-on correct as I think it is. Maybe it’s me who has to re-evaluate. Maybe there is more to the job than I realize and that’s why Wedge has been employed at it for 1,316 games.”
But that’s just me. Something to think about.
No, Wedge has been employed for 1316 games because many people in baseball resist something called intelligence. Not all, of course. And those organizations tend to maximize their resources pretty effectively. Take Tampa Bay. But a lot do. Dumbness is prioritized in the clubhouse and throughout baseball culture. If a baseball player sees a movie in a foreign language or reads a serious book, he’s seen as a freak. God knows what the other members of the As think about Brandon McCarthy, who is not only not dumb, but actually takes stands against the homophobia so deeply ingrained in the game and its traditions. Though if there is any organization that would really appreciate a guy like McCarthy, it’s the As, and not only because he’s a pretty good pitcher during his rare periods of health. As Dave Cameron noted in his preview of the Seattle-Tampa game the other day:
Oh, also, Chone Figgins is playing because he’s 7 for 14 lifetime against Niemann. Joe Maddon is shifting his defense on every play because of the work the Rays front office has done to figure out the spray tendencies of every hitter in the Majors, and Eric Wedge is starting Chone Figgins because of the results of 14 at-bats against a particular pitcher. But, yeah, us stat nerds are the ones that are out of touch with today’s reality…