MLB Managers: Time To Throw "The Book" Out The Window!
In the aftermath of Jim Joyce’s safe call that ruined Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, there has been much debate about the implementation of instant replay. There are many fans that believe since it is the 21st Century, baseball cannot progress without getting with the times and using available technology. On the other side of the argument are baseball purists, who believe the human element is part of the game and do not want instant replay to be used in baseball. The vocal emergence of baseball purists has caused me to rethink many other aspects of baseball, and prompted me to write about the aspects of baseball that currently bother me the most: managers making their in-game decision by “The Book”.
Before I begin my argument, definitions and a disclaimer are necessary. First, a definition of “The Book”— “The Book” is a term for generic decisions to be made in the course of a baseball game. The decisions are conventional, and thus considered safe. It is less likely that a manager gets second-guessed for their decisions if their decisions are by “The Book”. Now, I don’t think that an actual book exists, or there is an author to the book, but if there were, I would hate him/her, and I would not buy that book. The most typical decisions to be made by "The Book" are pulling a pitcher from a game due to their pitch count, and putting in a relief pitcher/pitch hitter based on lefty-righty matchups.
Now, for my disclaimer. I am particularly irked by decisions made by “The Book”, because I am a huge Mets fan and their manager Jerry Manuel is the most by “The Book” manager I have ever seen in my life. I don’t think he has ever made a decision that goes against “The Book”, and a lot of times, these mindless decisions that don’t take context into account cost the Mets wins. And if I have to watch the Mets’ bullpen blow a Johan Santana lead one more time I don’t know what I’ll do.
With that, I would like to begin with the aspects of “The Book” I hate the most. The aspects I hate the most of “The Book” are pitch count and lefty-righty matchups. Here, I think baseball purists will agree with me that pitch counts are stupid. If your ace starting pitcher is pitching a gem, let him finish his game; who cares if his pitch count is over 100 pitches? Sure, these pitchers are investments, but you invest in them so they win you games; they serve no utility to your team after they get yanked from the game. Additionally, these pitchers are professional athletes and their arm isn’t going to fall off because they eclipsed the century pitch mark. Of course, if the pitcher has no gas in the tank then that merits their removal from the game, but if they’re still going strong and they want to finish their game themselves, please leave them in to do so.
Secondly, I hate lefty-righty matchups. This aspect of “The Book” is more prevalent in the National League than it is the American League, since the NL has to worry about pitch-hitting for the pitcher, but nonetheless, I think lefty-righty matchups are stupid. It is one of the most annoying things for me to watch a manager put into the game a mediocre pitcher, or a mediocre pitch-hitter to gain an “advantage” in the matchup (I say mediocre because more often than not, a better pitcher or bench player is available, but they either pitch or hit from the wrong side). Again, we’re talking about major leaguers and professional athletes here. Lefty hitters can get hits off lefty pitchers, and lefty pitchers can get lefty hitters out. That is a fact. Sure, the numbers may show that lefty hitters are less successful against lefty pitchers, but the numbers are skewed, and this aspect of “The Book” is a fallacy. The numbers are skewed because lefty hitters rarely face lefty pitching. Since they are not accommodated to lefty pitchers, it’s no wonder that they are less successful against lefties.
I think that a manager who makes in-game decisions more so using their gut feeling than “The Book” is a manager that will find success in the Major Leagues. Currently, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa are the two longest tenured coaches in baseball, and neither are comparable in terms of conventionalism to “The Book”. Cox, for example, manages with a lot of passion, and as a result, he holds the record for the most ejections by a manager in history. Certainly, ‘The Book” tells managers that it’s not favorable to get ejected very often. But Cox is an antithesis of “The Book”, and for that, he has managed the Braves for 20 straight seasons. LaRussa clearly does not manage by ‘The Book” either. He often bats his pitcher in the 8 hole, with a light hitting position player batting 9th (the position in the batting order usually reserved for the pitcher).
Both of these managers are great managers and long-tenured managers not because they do things by “The Book”, but because they have enough confidence in their team to make decisions that can be considered unconventional. With that, they are not afraid to get second-guessed by the fans, the media, and the front office. Nonetheless, it is their decisions that consistently put them in a position for success.
If you have read this far, I hope that I have convinced you to hate “The Book” as much as I do. It is time for managers to throw “The Book” out the window, or burn it (is burning books legal?), delete it from their Kindle, rip it up, throw it in the ocean, delete the audio book from their iPod; basically just do whatever it takes to forget what “The Book” says and start making their own, contextually influenced in-game decisions. I think that not only will a better breed of baseball result from this, but it will cause less fan frustration (especially from me!), and most importantly, it will lead to more wins for their team – and that’s what it’s all about!
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