Baseball managers are like television producers: No matter how good of a job they do, the credit will always be deflected towards the people working under them. This is because, contrary to other sports, baseball isn't predicated on devising a game-in, game-out strategy for each specific opponent.
When you play 162 games, each one must be approached in context. Bruce Bochy isn't going to pull Tim Lincecum if he gives up three first inning runs on May 23rd. But if Lincecum does the same on September 15th, with the Giants one game back of the D-Backs in the NL West, Bochy will undoubtedly pinch-hit for him once San Fran gets a few men on base.
This illustrates the alarming disparity between regular season and playoff managing. In the regular season, the manager must manage his personalities. Over the course of a seven and a half month grind beginning with the start of spring training in mid-February, baseball teams spend twice as much time together as football, basketball or hockey teams.
Put 25 eclectic millionaires in the same room and you better have an authoritative figure to keep them focused on collective, as opposed to individual goals. Once a team reaches the postseason, the ultimate team goal is close enough to leave a realistic scent, forcing all individual agendas to the back burner. At this point, the manager has successfully instilled a winning, team-oriented culture.
But any shmohawk could win a bunch of regular season games with a talented roster. It's the postseason that separates the Joe Torres from the Bobby Cox's of the world. This is because in the playoffs, strategy is everything.
And the manager elevates from caretaker to game changer. If the opposing catcher has a glass arm, even your round-waisted first baseman and athletically challenged pitcher should try to steal second if they get on base. If you have three aces and a serviceable fourth starter, do you go with the three man rotation and bring the fourth guy out of the bullpen if one of the aces flames out early? Or do you let the fourth guy start Game 4 and give all the starters an extra day of rest?
These are the types of questions a manager has to answer countless times per game during a playoff run. In July, pushing the wrong button will lose you a game in the standings. In October, it could cost you your season. Some leaders thrive in this scenario. Others run home to their mommies.
The 2011 postseason features five managers with multiple October appearances. The other three are just getting their feet wet. Let's see how they stack up against each other.