Saturday, 8 March 2008

Morning Roundup

Richard Griffin slaps a bunch of random factoids together and comes to the unlamentable conclusion that John Gibbons is on his way out this year if he doesn't somehow pull a 90-win season out of his ass. We know that Griffin has been grinding his JP axe for so long that it's now no bigger than a toothpick, so much of what's to come shouldn't be a surprise.

Gibby is not perfect. In three plus years on the job he's been learning as he goes and most would probably agree that he squeezed about as much as one would've expected from the talent at his disposal. He usually plays it safe by going with the matchup the numbers dictate, but he rides his starters--even TJ survivors--too deep into games. He has a reputation for being a players' manager, scraps with Lilly and Hillenbrand notwithstanding. He showed creativity in 2006 by moving Troy Glaus over to shortstop, keeping Hillenbrand's bat in the lineup at third, behind fly ball pitchers and in interleague games. And on the other hand he showed what might be a head-scratchingly vindictive side by using J-Mac as a pinch hitter last year with a healthy Alex Rios sitting on the bench. "I had my reasons," he said when questioned.

Just what his ceiling is as a manger I don't venture to say. He might get a little better than he is now, or he might not. He didn't do anything egregious enough last year to warrant a firing, but he didn't exactly cement his status here for the long term either.

Uncle Griff usually tests our credulity and doesn't disappoint this time around. Problem: how to compare Gibbons with the nine other managers who have longer tenure with their respective ball clubs? Solution: in a manner that's least flattering to JP's friend and personal hire.

Here's how Griffin proceeds:

The 45-year-old Texan has been at his job longer than 20 other managers and his total of 536 games managed in a Jays uniform trails only Cito Gaston and Bobby Cox, while his 270 victories are 11 behind Jimy Williams for third in franchise history.

As for the nine other managers currently with more service time in the same place, they are Cox (Braves), Tony La Russa (Cards), Mike Scioscia (Angels), Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Eric Wedge (Indians), Ned Yost (Brewers), Clint Hurdle (Rockies), Terry Francona (Red Sox) and Ozzie Guillen (White Sox)...

In comparing the accomplishments of the top 10 in terms of longevity, from No.1 Cox to No.10 Gibbons, five of them have won a World Series. Hurdle's Rockies went to the Classic and lost to Francona's Bosox in '07. Wedge last year made it to the ALCS with the Tribe, falling to Francona's Sox in seven games. Only Gibbons and Yost have prevailed this long without at least one post-season appearance.

Ok, so taking your club to the playoffs is the sole measuring stick for success when it comes to managers, which means Gibby (and Yost) are the worst of the bunch. Maybe they are.

But if you compared Gibbons' W-L record from his first three full seasons to those of everyone else on the list, you might come to a different conclusion. Gibby had two .500-ish clubs that couldn't hit (2005 and 2007) and one that flirted with 90 wins despite the best efforts of
Josh Towers (2006). Two of those clubs had no shot of going to the playoffs, and the middle one did a fairly good imitation of a contender into August.

Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa both had losing composite records in their first three years and they get kudos around the league for being great managers, deserved (Cox) or not (LaRussa). Scioscia got a ring in year three, but his first two clubs were uncompetitive. Gardenhire is a fantastic manager whose teams regularly outperform their pythag; he rang off 90 win seasons and AL Central titles in each of his first three seasons. Wedge took over as the Indians were rebuilding, but his clubs are usually bad on the pythag, the 2006 edition drastically so (11 games under). Yost had two crappy clubs and one .500 one, then regressed, then got back up around .500; he's playing with some phenomenal young talent (Fielder/Braun) in a weak division and has little to show for it--so far. Hurdle had five straight losing seasons and probably would've lost his job last year if not for the Rox improbable late season playoff run. Francona is probably--no, scratch that, he is--the best manager in baseball, but it didn't start out so beautifully in Philly. Guillen rode the Chisox to a WS victory in 2005 when the pitching clicked, but he's constantly running his mouth and making headaches for the club.

You can basically spin this however you like because there's good, bad and in between on this list. But
Griffin likes to simplify things in a manner that fits his own worldview (must clone 1980 version of Ron LeFlore...), and he choses to tell a story that vindicates his own dislike of JP Ricciardi.

Forgive me for saying that line of reasoning is just dickish.

In other news, Stairsy has recovered from a minor ankle sprain and got into yesterday's game, going 0 for 3. The Beej is to throw simulated games today and Tuesday, with his first real fake game action slated for March 15.

AJ Burnett pitched well yesterday and Gibby is confident that he'll have his curve working by the start of the season. It might take a prosthetic nail, but he'll git'er done.

The Mockingbird really knocks one out of the park on the LF competition between Shannon Stewart and Reed Johnson. Blair's argument that that SS is the better player "Period", is faulty. Go have a look if you want to know why.

Wilner is getting a bit testy with the mental midgets who think the ship is on fire because the Jays aren't winning spring training games. He makes a good point here:

Will Machi giving up three in the ninth affect the Jays this season? Will Inglett and Ryan Patterson not being able to drive in a run with the bases loaded and one out in a two-run game? How about Ryan Ketchner giving up a four-spot in a game the Jays lost by three? Maybe it’s that the Jays had a perfect game thrown at them by the Yankees in a game in which 80% of the plate appearances were by Inglett, Lind, Coats, Snider, Pedro Lopez, Curtis Thigpen, Russ Adams, Matt Watson and Chip Cannon.

I’m hoping these examples are enough, but I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall when I read some of these comments.

I’ll close with this: The 1984 Detroit Tigers got off to the best start in baseball history at 35-5, barely breaking a sweat on their way to a World Series title. In the pre-season that year, they had the second-worst record in the American League at 11-17. In 1992, the Blue Jays won the World Series, an especially amazing feat because they had to overcome a 13-18 pre-season, the second-worst in the league. In 1993, they went 11-19 in games that didn’t count, and ridiculously, still managed to win the World Series again.

Seriously, the guy usually has more patience than a kindergarden teacher. Don't jump, Wilner!


* The Rays have pretty much made their peace with the fact that Rocco Baldelli, pencilled in as their right fielder, is going stay/get hurt and cause them massive headaches. External options would include Kenny Lofton, or there the possibility that Eric "Doug Heffernan" Hinske could do his awkward, rambling and always exciting impression of an outfielder. I'm pulling for Dougie. Same reasoning as the people who voted for William Hung on American Idol.

* Coco Crisp is cross at losing his job to wunderkind Jacoby Ellsbury, but of greater interest is the Boston Herald's use of OPS when listing a players stats. Just wishing the local papers would similarly provide the JaysTalk set with a little bit more context... Crisp suffered through various ailments last year and is probably the best 4th OF in the
AL. He will get his ABs when Manny goes on his annual summer vacation. I've been awfully kind to the Beantowners in this paragraph, no?

* The Yankees are apparently worried that Joba Chamberlain is letting his new-found celebrity status go to his head. Where is my eye-rolling emoticon? He threw 24 major league IP last year. Rival clubs just might have looked at his game tape this offseason. But I'm sure a 0.38 ERA is something he can easily maintain over a 15-year career, because Joba Rulez!

* Daisuke Matsuzaka may or may not be able to accompany the Bosox to
Japan for their regular season-opening March 25-26 set with the A's in Toyko because his wife has a little chavy to fire out later this month. Millions of Japanese fans will be gutted if he can't make it.

* A-Rod's got a sore shoulder that is temporarily limiting him to DH duties. Unfortunately, it doesn't sound serious.

Apologies to anyone who usually reads this in the morning. Blogger server errors prevented me from getting this up earlier

--Johnny Was


Anonymous said...

It's Saturday ... 2 PM is morning.

The Southpaw said...

The dog will scat all over the place if I don't take it out in the a.m. Sadly.