Shaughnessy Doesn’t Get It

Well, it appears Dan Shaughnessy of the Boston Globe is at it again.  Never one to go too long without complaining, he’s directing his ire toward Red Sox leadership because of their apparent disinterest in hiring an experienced manager to lead the team.  While there’s certainly merit to posing such a question, Shaughnessy’s preferred method of using outrage, disgust, and hyperbole to make his argument mutes any possible value he might bring to the discussion at large.  Not surprisingly, he sprinkles in his standard cliches to remind everyone he dislikes the club’s general direction; their reliance on statistics, analysis, and facts; and their desire to take an “organizational approach” to decision making. 

Perhaps Shaughnessy’s most bothersome accusation was his portrayal of management using their field manager as nothing more than a marionette.   

“We know the Sox emphasized the “organizational approach’’ in the eight years that Terry Francona managed the team. Francona had a computer on his desk, and Theo Epstein’s minions were in and out of his office all the time.  But only in the days after Francona was fired did we get a grasp of the extent of the interference from above.

If you saw Philip Seymour Hoffman’s depiction of an emasculated Art Howe in “Moneyball,’’ you know what I’m talking about. 

This is why you won’t hear about them trying to bring Tony La Russa out of retirement. This is why Bobby Valentine and Joe Torre are out of the question. There will never be another Dick Williams type in the Sox dugout. The Sox want a “player’s manager.’’ Some would also say they want a guy who’ll take lineups from Bill James, Tom Trippett, and Carmine the computer.”

While I’ve always felt the managerial philosophy of micromanaging was counterproductive, the idea of a completely autonomous field manager in baseball has never set well with me.  The owner puts forth the capital to acquire talent, and the General Manager is responsible for taking said capital and putting together a winning team.  As a result, they have not only a vested interest in the performance of their on-field product, but also a right to provide input on the allocation of the resources they provided.  Should management trust their manager to make the appropriate in-game decisions?  Of course, but that doesn’t mean regular dialogue and input shouldn’t be given. 

The same expectation is true in any job.  We all have bosses…who have bosses…who have bosses, etc.  In my line of work, every project I put together goes through multiple layers of review and refinement with my superiors before being submitted for consideration.  Each project starts as something that’s completely my creation.  I submit it to my manager for review and approval, and she sends it back with edits and recommendations.  I make the appropriate adjustments, and I return it back to her for another review.  From there, she works the project a little more on her end, and sends it forward to her manager.  Her manager reviews the proposal, and returns it back to us with edits and recommendations.  And so on…

The same is likely true with Mr. Shaughnessy.  As a columnist, he’s given a great deal of autonomy about the subject and style of articles he writes.  Despite immense leeway, he has an editor to whom he submits his stories.  The editor has the right to proofread, edit, provide recommendations, or deny the article all together.  Even though he has freedom to write what he chooses, his superior acts as a check and balance system designed to reign in outlandish or poorly constructed ideas.*

* We can argue all day about how well this system works in general.  The fact that it exists is significant.

Contrary to what Shaughnessy believes, the Red Sox want a similar employee-manager model with their field manager.  They want to have input, provide constructive criticism, and foster an environment that promotes two-way open communication between the club house and front office.  Will that input include recommendations from Bill James, Tom Tippett, and Carmine the computer?  Yes, it will.  Management put all three in place for a reason, and they have a great deal of confidence in their analytical findings.  While there have been a few missteps along the way, the last ten years have been overwhelmingly positive. 

Still, this idea that Shaughnessy seems to have of James, Tippett, and Carmine providing lineups to Terry Francona and the new incoming manager is absolutely ridiculous.  In fact, it shows how little understanding he has of advanced statistical methods and research.   If  Terry Francona had truly been nothing more than a puppet, positional platoon situations would have been strongly enforced; Jonathan Papelbon would have pitched in multiple crucial opportunities outside of ninth inning save opportunities; and Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew would have hit leadoff regularly.  As it stands, none of those things occurred; potentially costing the team wins as a result.

You see, with every article Mr. Shaughnessy writes, he’s trying to tell you something.  He wants the Red Sox to return to the team they were before John Henry bought the club in 2002.  He’d rather we all go back to living in a championship free existence than have the club controlled by the whims of a sabermetric duo and a computer.  That’s his choice, but I disagree.  If the team’s organizational philosophy helps the Red Sox win championships, then I’m happy to have Carmine on our side. 

Categories: Boston Red Sox Dan Shaughnessy J.D. Drew Jonathan Papelbon Kevin Youkilis

After being slapped with a restraining order for stealing Nick Cafardo's mail, I was forced into retirement for a brief period of time. As fun as it was to lounge around the community pool and play shuffleboard with noted internet columnist, Murray Chass, I quickly felt a yearning to write again. Now in my second tenure with Fire Brand, I have set lofty goals of achieving world domination, ending the plight of the hipsters, and becoming BFFs with Mike Trout. I am fluent in two languages (Sarcasm and English, in that order); have an intimate relationship with M&Ms; firmly believe that Lucille is the best character on Arrested Development; and spend my spare time trolling select members of the Boston media. You can follow me on Twitter @Chip_Buck.

16 Responses to “Shaughnessy Doesn’t Get It” Subscribe

  1. Jay November 14, 2011 at 11:48 AM #

    Shaughnessy is a dope. Everyone knows it. Last manager we had that didn't use a new fangled computer to make his decisions was Grady Little. How did that work out?

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM #

      Good point. Joe Torre was once considered to be a huge mistake when the Yankees hired him. Despite having mostly mixed results during his career, he led the Yankees to four championships in five years. Terry Francona, Charlie Manuel, Ozzie Guillen, and Jack McKeon weren't big names when they were hired. They all won World Series championships within a couple of years after joining their respective teams.

  2. @ptesta9 November 14, 2011 at 12:03 PM #

    I have said it countless times. You give a manager a computer and next thing they are going to ask for is a Motorola Startac. It will never end. In my opinion the perfect manager is Lou Brown. He knows how to motivate take a cardboard pic in of a lady and remove a piece of clothing for every win. That Chip is how you win the whole god dam thing

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 2:02 PM #

      Maybe they should sign Rick Ankiel, give him a mohawk and black plastic rimmed glasses, and force him to pitch.

  3. Jay Seaver November 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM #

    I'm amused that he finds the Art Howe character in the Moneyball movie sympathetic and "emasculated", rather than an undermining obstruction. Forget what the real-life Art Howe was; the guy Hoffman played was clearly not meant to be one of the good guys.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 1:57 PM #

      Not to mention that Moneyball's interpretation of Howe was via Michael Lewis's through Aaron Sorkin. Who knows how accurate it was? Furthermore, the situation that was portrayed was probably not entirely accurate. Lewis has a history for taking creative liberties with certain aspects of reality.

      • Jay Seaver November 14, 2011 at 4:30 PM #

        As I said, forget accuracy – which, admittedly, might be especially hard for a professional sportswriter like CHB (he gets paid for it, thus technically professional) – the important thing is that the filmmakers went out of their way to portray the Howe character as selfish and an impediment to what Beane was trying to do. I wonder what you could figure out by looking at who watches the Moneyball movie and finds Howe in the right versus the wrong.

  4. @CurseOfBenitez November 14, 2011 at 1:14 PM #

    Good read as usual. However, rational thought is often cast aside for gross hyperbole and those who opine through less than credible means, and thusly, mouthbreathers like Shaughnessy remain afloat when they ought be drowned mercilessly.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

      So true. That's kinda why I write these articles from time to time. If I can expose his antics to a few people each time, then I've done my job.

    • darryljohnston November 14, 2011 at 5:16 PM #

      I have little to add to CoB's comment except to say that the word 'mouthbreather' is awesome.

  5. darryljohnston November 14, 2011 at 5:20 PM #

    Chip, good stuff. You can never win with CHB because if it were a one-man think tank, he would rip that to shreds and question why there is no lateral accountability in the organization.

    If we were to revert to the Harrington days it would be it's own storm cloud. He always wins. It's the shtick of all shticks.

    The only thing that can be done to squelch him is win the championship every single year. If you gave him a old duffle bag with a million bucks inside, he would complain about the duffle bag.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 7:22 PM #

      To Harrington's credit, he was hamstrung by the Yawkey Trust. There wasn't much he could do about a lot of the Red Sox's situation. He did cause many problems and he set the tone, but he wasn't a terrible CEO all things considered.

  6. Mr Punch November 14, 2011 at 5:22 PM #

    I read CHB's comments as more about personality than about approach. He (like Finn) wants a "tough guy," and such a manager would necessarily be an "old school baseball guy," "his own man," and at odds with the wimps in the front office. I see this as largely a reaction to the late-season meltdown, which of course would never happen with, say, a Gene Mauch in charge.

    • ChipBuck November 14, 2011 at 7:21 PM #

      Like I said, it's a reasonable position to take, but CHB uses the wrong method for making his argument. Finn is far more rational about his reasoning.

  7. Don November 14, 2011 at 10:23 PM #

    CHB doesn't have to be accurate or logical or make sense. He just has to be interesting. Which he is in a very annoying kind of way.

    He acquits himself better on TV it seems – cause he can't get into his long winded, lost path, manufacture a point out of nothing at all rants.

    I hope no one clicks on that link at the top of this article and encourages him. I haven't read comments to his articles – but he must get all kinds of abuse on the boston.com website.

    • ChipBuck November 15, 2011 at 9:55 AM #

      @Don – There are a lot of people that enjoy CHB. The commenters are a mixed bag at BDC, and few of them are intelligent.