Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and 6 MLB Managers Unfairly Blamed for Team Issues

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 22, 2012

Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and 6 MLB Managers Unfairly Blamed for Team Issues

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    When the going gets tough, blame it on the manager.

    For good or ill, that's how it is in baseball. Managers aren't the ones throwing the pitches or swinging the bats, but it's almost always their fault when things aren't going well.

    So it goes this year. The 2012 MLB season has seen several surprise contenders pop up throughout the landscape, and it's also seen some would-be contenders struggle to live up to expectations. As always, their managers are to blame.

    The Detroit Tigers and the Los Angeles Angels come to mind. The Angels looked like they had one of the best teams in the land when they signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson this offseason, but they haven't played like one of the best teams in the land. Similarly, the Tigers have also underachieved after signing Prince Fielder to a massive contract this past offseason.

    Clearly, Jim Leyland and Mike Scioscia are to blame here. Both of them should be run out of town on a rail.

    They just might be when all is said and done. Even if they are, though, that won't mean that their teams' struggles were all their fault. They're just a couple of several managers around baseball who don't deserve the blame that's been placed on them.

    Let's take a look at six in particular.

    Note: Stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians

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    Will Manny Acta be fired when the season is over?

    Probably, yeah. Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com both think that his seat is a little warm at the moment. And given how badly Cleveland's second half has gone, you just get the sense that somebody's head is going to roll. It's likely to be Acta's.

    If the Indians do ax Acta this winter, they'll probably say something like, "We just didn't feel that the performance of the team was up to par with our expectations, and we felt that a change needed to be made."

    They'll be right about the performance not being up to par, but making Acta the fall guy for it won't reflect what really went on in Cleveland in the second half of the season.

    The No. 1 reason the Indians have struggled so mightily in the second half is because their pitching has been utterly atrocious. Per ESPN.com, Cleveland pitchers have a 5.19 ERA since the break, worst of any team in baseball.

    The club's starting pitching has been the primary culprit. The Indians have used 10 different starting pitchers in the second half, and seven of them have compiled ERAs over 5.00. Derek Lowe, Josh Tomlin and Roberto Hernandez compiled ERAs over 7.00. Ubaldo Jimenez's ERA since the break is 6.78.

    And it's not just bad pitching that has plagued the Indians. They're only scoring 3.29 runs per game in the second half.

    No manager can win with a combination such as that. When you add bad starting pitching to bad hitting, an 18-47 record in 65 games is what you're going to get. It's a wonder Acta hasn't said "screw it" and just flat-out quit.

    Pinning the bad times on Acta is the easy thing to do, but it's not the fair thing to do. He's not throwing any pitches or trying to drive in any runs, and he certainly didn't put together the roster that's trying to do these things for him.

    If the Indians don't find more talent this winter, the next guy they bring in to manage the team won't be able to do any better than Acta.

Joe Girardi, New York Yankees

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    Had I sat down to write this article two weeks ago, I doubt that it would have even crossed my mind to include Joe Girardi in the discussion.

    But circumstances have changed in the last couple weeks. The Yankees have pulled into a tight battle with the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East, and some people are wondering whether Girardi will lose his job if the Yankees miss out on the playoffs altogether.

    Which is ridiculous, of course. It's so ridiculous, in fact, that Yankees GM Brian Cashman answered with a simple "no" when when somebody from the New York Post (via Hardball Talk since the Post seems to have misplaced the story) asked him if Girardi's job was in jeopardy. When he was asked if he was sure, Cashman just said "yup."

    If nobody from the media had bothered to ask about Girardi's job security, one wonders if we'd even be talking about him being on the hot seat right now. 

    But somebody did, and here we are.

    If George Steinbrenner was still running the show in The Bronx, I could see Girardi's job being in jeopardy. After all, the Yankees had a 10-game lead in the division back in July, and that lead has slowly dwindled down to the smallest of advantages. If it were to be lost under The Boss' nose, there would be hell to pay regardless of how many good excuses Girardi had.

    But this is 2012. Cooler heads are running the Yankees these days, and one assumes they don't need to be told that Girardi has damn good excuses for not having a big lead to work with so late in the season.

    For starters, injuries have killed the Yankees this season. Michael Pineda was lost for the season before it even got underway. The next thing anyone knew, Brett Gardner and Mariano Rivera were wiped out, and then went Andy Pettitte and Alex Rodriguez for a couple months. Even CC Sabathia has had to spend a couple of stints on the DL.

    Add these injuries to the fact that Mark Teixeira has regressed once again (albeit very slightly) and the fact that Curtis Granderson hasn't been the player he was in 2011, and you get a pretty shaky Yankee team.

    I just listed a lot of issues, but the hell of it is that I'd guess that I only listed about half of the problems that have plagued the Yankees in 2012. It's been that rough of a ride.

    If there's a party to be blamed for the Yankees' trying season, it's the baseball gods. For the first time in a long time, they've stopped being Yankees fans.

Ozzie Guillen, Miami Marlins

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    There's no defending what Ozzie Guillen said about Fidel Castro earlier in the season. He never should have opened his mouth in the first place, and there's no denying that his comments couldn't have come at a worse time or in a worse place.

    But have you noticed something strange since then? By his usual standards, Ozzie has been pretty quiet.

    Sure, he had some not-so-nice things to say about Bryce Harper and he's recently rekindled his wacky antics on Twitter, but Ozzie just hasn't been in the headlines this season as often as he was in seasons past. Seems that way, anyway.

    It sounds like he's doomed either way. The South Florida Sun Sentinel and other sources have reported that the Marlins are weighing firing Guillen, and that they could pull the trigger after the season is over. If the club's decision-makers decide to pin this season on one man, it will be Guillen.

    I'll grant that the Marlins will be ridding themselves of some sleepless nights if they do fire Guillen, but they won't be ridding themselves of the root of all the team's problems. Guillen is not to blame for Miami's struggles.

    Ever since the Marlins traded Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers and Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers, they've resembled little more than a Triple-A team. They started the season with as much talent as any team in the NL East, but half of it is gone now.

    To boot, a good portion of Miami's talent has been hurt this season. Giancarlo Stanton had to spend a few weeks on the disabled list. Emilio Bonifacio has been limited to 64 games due to various injuries. Logan Morrison's season was derailed by a knee issue.

    Other "talented" players have done more harm than good this season. For a good example, go check out the stats of a guy named Heath Bell.

    Things didn't pan out the way they were supposed to in Miami, but pinning it all on Guillen is a little too easy.

Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers

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    Many people, myself included, had the Tigers pegged to win the AL Central in a landslide this season.

    If you just took a look at the team's stats, you'd think they would be at this point in the season. Miguel Cabrera has a legit shot at the triple crown. Prince Fielder has lived up to his big contract. Austin Jackson has made huge strides this year. Justin Verlander is having another great season. Doug Fister has been money in the second half. Max Scherzer was on a dominant run before he hurt his shoulder in his last start.

    But here we are on September 21, and the Tigers are two games behind the White Sox in the division and on pace to win just 86 games. They were supposed to do a lot better than that.

    This is the part where people glare at Jim Leyland. Some, such as the guy in the picture, are spelling out their desire in writing.

    But is Detroit's dire situation really Jim Leyland's fault?

    Not really. He doesn't have much in the way of hitters beyond Jackson, Cabrera and Fielder, and none of the different lineup variations he's tried has really stood out as being better than all the others. He also can't help the fact that Jose Valverde has been beatable this year, and that the Tigers' infield defense is not a good match for the team's starting rotation.

    For that matter, defense in general has been Detroit's Achilles' heel all season. As much as people want to say that Cabrera and Fielder are at least average defenders at the corners, both of them rate as below-average defensive players as far as advanced stats like UZR and DRS are concerned (see FanGraphs).

    As a team, the Tigers have a DRS (defensive runs saved) of minus-43 this season, according to FanGraphs. That puts them in the same company as defensively challenged teams like the Mets and Marlins. Bad defense such as this isn't going to help a team win close games, so maybe it's no accident that the Tigers are 17-26 in one-run games.

    Leyland can change his lineups all he wants, but there's not much he can do to change the team's defense. The responsibility for Detroit's lack of an elite defense lies primarily with the front office.

    Defense could be what costs the Tigers a chance to go to the playoffs this year. In turn, it could be the team's defense that loses Leyland his job.

    And that ain't right.

Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels

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    When the Angels signed Pujols and Wilson, many were quick to label them as contenders for the World Series. Indeed, this was before any of us knew how good Mike Trout was going to be.

    The Angels probably aren't going to make the playoffs. The Rangers are light years ahead of them in the AL West, and the Angels have a 4.5-game deficit in the AL wild-card race to make up with less than two weeks to go. That's a lot to ask.

    The Angels have done little to suggest that Mike Scioscia's days in Anaheim may be numbered, but the rumor mill has a voice of its own. The word from Heyman is that team owner Arte Moreno isn't happy with the team's performance and that there appears to be a divide between Scioscia and GM Jerry DiPoto. Rosenthal also noted that there seems to be a "power struggle" between Scioscia and DiPoto.

    Even for the casual fan sitting at home, it should be obvious that Scioscia doesn't dominate the landscape in Anaheim like he used to. If the Angels miss out on the playoffs, the Angels won't hesitate to fire Mike Scioscia just because he's Mike Scioscia. He no longer has the organization in his back pocket.

    Honestly, I'm not entirely against the idea. Scioscia was at his best when he had a team built to fit his NL-style philosophy. That's not the kind of team the Angels have now, and Scioscia now looks like a bad fit.

    But even I think Scioscia is entitled to a defense. And in his defense, I'll just point out what happened in April and August. 

    The Angels played almost all of April without Trout, and Pujols hit just .217 with no homers and four RBI. It's no wonder the Angels went 8-15.

    The losses the Angels accumulated in April are looming large now, and so are the losses they accumulated in August. They went 13-15 that month.

    However, seven of those games were lost by a bullpen that was horribly undermanned due to injuries. Scioscia was forced into using guys like LaTroy Hawkins, Jason Isringhausen and Hisanori Takahashi way more than he otherwise would have, and they just couldn't get the job done.

    Little of what went wrong in April and August can be chalked up to any sort of incompetence on Scioscia's part. It's therefore unfortunate that those two months could be the difference between him keeping his job and him losing it.

Bobby Valentine, Boston Red Sox

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    You're going to have to hear me out on this one.

    Bobby Valentine has been just as big a disaster in Boston as many people thought he would be. Terry Francona's players didn't take to his vastly different style. He said a lot of things he shouldn't have said. When he should have been keeping things calm in hard times, he went out and invited more bad vibrations.

    Oh, and the team is a complete wreck. It will be written in the stars when this season is over that it was Bobby V who presided over Boston's first losing season in 15 years.

    Bobby V deserves to be blamed for how badly he's damaged the perception of the Red Sox among the fans and the media. He's given everyone more than enough reasons to view the Red Sox as a laughingstock, and it goes without saying that a good manager doesn't do stuff like that.

    What he doesn't deserve to be blamed for, however, is the state of the team.

    The Red Sox weren't a good team to begin with. The team that opened the season was largely the same as the team that stumbled to a 7-20 finish last September, and it showed. Boston's team ERA in the first half of the season was 4.22, and the only reason it was that low was because the team's bullpen was actually pretty good once upon a time.

    The offense was fine in the first half, but the Red Sox played virtually the entire first half of the season without Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. They also had to put up with an underachieving Adrian Gonzalez.

    Things proceeded to get worse after the All-Star break, and we all know what happened at the end of August. Crawford, Gonzalez and Josh Beckett were all cut loose. Simultaneously, a white flag was flown over Fenway Park.

    Bobby V took a lot of flak when he told the media that he had the "weakest roster we've ever had in September in the history of baseball" earlier this month (h/t Ian Harrison, ESPN). But while everybody was quick to rag on him, few bothered to give Valentine props for the reality that he was 100 percent correct.

    Boston's roster is a lot weaker than it once was. And seeing as how it was never very strong to begin with, that's saying something.

    You can blame Bobby V for all the drama if you want, but don't blame him for the losses. Those are due to circumstances well beyond his control.

    If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter.

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