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.