Monday, September 19, 2005

Damned If He Does. Damned If He Doesn't

Sunday's game was a marked managerial contrast to Saturday's. Where on Saturday, Frank pulled relievers at the first sign of danger, on Sunday, he tried sticking with them.

Our friends from Nationals Interest wrote the pre-criticism criticism, arguing that criticism of his reliever usage amounts to nothing more than hindsight managing.

Certainly, they're right to a point. I wouldn't be objecting to much had we won. (Although I've awarded many Frank Senior Moments in winning games.)

But they're also wrong in their use of hyperbole. As is typically the case, the answers don't lie to one extreme or another. It's somewhere in between.

And Frank managed Saturday and Sunday like the impressionable freshman who read Marx right after Friedman.

What distresses me about Frank's decisions, though, isn't so much the actual decision and the ensuing results. It's the motivation for them, and the consistency of philosophy.

Despite National Interest's withering sarcasm, leaving Eischen in on Sunday was just as wrong as pulling the relievers on Saturday.

For those lucky enough to have watched the game yesterday, Joey Eischen was toast. He clearly wasn't himself, and he cleary didn't have good stuff. His 0-2 pitch to lefty Robert Fick missed about as badly as a pitch could, nailing him squarely in the back. Had Fick been a righty, it would have been a perfect Intentional Ball -- that's how badly it missed.

With runners on first and second, Eischen proceeded to throw three straight balls to the wannabe bunter, Dave Roberts.

Think about that situation for a moment. How many times have we seen that come up this year? And how many times has Frank trudged to the mound to replace the pitcher? Frank has zero tolerance for not throwing strikes. And yet here, in the heat of the pennant race, Frank abandons what it is that he's done all year?

Truth be told, once the game was tied, there was probably no way we'd win that game. San Diego's bullpen is deeper than ours, they have the home advantage, and our offense didn't appear to actually be in the park. But Frank's decisions sure are curious.

Why did Frank change his managing strategy from the night before? Why did Frank change his pitching philosophy from earlier in the year? Those are the questions that trouble me the most.

I realize that a one-size philosophy isn't right. Different situations require different strategies, which is why I think that Nationals Interest has it wrong, but Frank seems willing to change on a whim.

I don't really have an answer for it, just some conjecture.

Recall that earlier this year, Frank was consistently making some headscratcher decisions, especially his overuse of the bunt. Barry Svrluga ripped him mildly (I wrote about it here)

Soon after that, the bunts slowed to a trickle.

Is Frank responding to the mild media criticism? Did he change his pitching philosophy just because Barry and Zuckerman (Sounds like a Broadway producing team) ripped him gently. Hell, even Bill Ladson pointed out the strangeness of his decisions on Saturday.

Is Frank reacting to the press? I hope not. But he has certainly given that impression a few times. The manager shouldn't worry about how this will play in Peoria. He should just focus on making the decisions that he believes will the game.

Sometimes he'll be right. Sometimes he'll be wrong.

But making haphazard moves and trying a one-size approach is going to cloud that decision process, helping to ensure that he'll be wrong more often than not.

And pointing that out isn't nitpicking things through hindsight.


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