On Theories, Hypotheses, and Joe Torre's Mancrushes
I've said before that for some reason, Joe Torre gets all flustered when managing against the Angels and their manager, Mike Scioscia. He either is threatened by Scioscia's perceived "small ball" style of managing or the sight of the sexy Scioscia just gives Torre the vapors. Either he's got a crush on the man, or Mike Scioscia's tragic smile makes him ill. Who knows.
Either way, it seems when the Yankees and Angels face off, Torre tries to out manage his opponent and winds up over managing to a degree you rarely ever see him achieve against other squads.
I'm also starting to think that the other supposed (at least, portrayed by the media) "small-ball" manager to have won a championship since Torre - Ozzie Guillen - may also be the object of his affection/envy, because he's making ridiculous calls against the White Sox as well.
Example of ridiculous managerial move #1:
August 9, 2006, Yankees at White Sox
The situation: Yankees 7, White Sox 2, bottom of the 8th. Starting CF Johnny Damon left the game with a stiff groin (*insert Beavis laugh*) in the 7th inning, and Torre shifted Wilson from 1B to RF, Abreu from RF to CF, and inserted Andy Phillips at 1B.
Ok, so this is not the move I would have made (I'd have put Cabrera in CF, left Abreu in right, and moved Wilson to LF while inserting Phillips) but really I didn't have a big complaint about the move.
Then however, in probably the most inexplicable managerial move of 2006:
Torre decision: Forgo having a DH, and put your worst defensive outfielder (Bernie Williams) into centerfield as a "defensive replacement."
At the time I'm screaming at my television. I know the White Sox have a good lineup. A 5 run lead is not completely safe with 2 innings to go. Besides the fact that it's sheer overmanaging to lose your DH in that situation for no reason, you now have the worst possible defensive centerfielder playing in the game, making a comeback all that much easier.
Joe Torre knew the White Sox have a potent offensive attack. He said so in the postgame:"Every single hit was big, even though at the time we were stretching the lead," Torre said. "You know this ballclub (Chicago) is so explosive, though."
So, back to me screaming at the television. "If the White Sox come back and tie this game and the pitchers have to hit (at that point, the bench was down to Giambi, Fasano, and Nick Green) maybe more people will begin to see that a drunken crackhead is in charge of the New York Yankees."
Sure enough, they came close, and the Yankees held on for a 7-6 win. A part of me however wished the White Sox would have tied it, just so that for once the free pass Torre gets from the media might be questioned to an extent. I mean the guy could sunbathe topless with his wife and daughter during the game and the NY press will give him a pass.
Maybe I shouldn't attribute this move to a mancrush on Guillen though. It could be another example of his mancrush on Williams.
Example of ridiculous managerial move #2:
August 14, 2006, Angels at Yankees
The situation: Yankees 2, Angels 2. Bottom of the 7th. Damon leads off with a single. Jeter at bat, no outs.
Torre decision: Bunt with Derek Jeter, your team's leading hitter and second in the AL for average.
Result: Jeter lays down an excellent bunt, and beats it out for a base hit.
So, the Yankees catch a break there. As most sabermatricians will tell you, the bunt is rarely if ever a good percentage play by a non-pitcher, and especially not with a good hitter. It is essentially giving up an out when the percentages that the batter's attempt at a base hit would result in something negative, like a double play, is far less likely to occur to justify sacrificing an out. In poker, this would be called putting all of your money in with the worst hand. In baseball, it's called "small ball."
But I digress. We're not even close to being done here.
The situation: Damon on second, Jeter on first, no outs. Bob Abreu at bat.
Torre decision: Torre asks his hottest hitter by far - a guy who is hitting over .400 in his (albeit brief) AL career and getting on base at a .500 clip - a guy who is hitting in the third spot in the lineup, with a fast runner in scoring position - a guy who hasn't had a sacrifice bunt since before Shane Spencer was a major leaguer - to bunt.
The bunt was successful, and Damon and Jeter each moved up a base, but this is precisely why sac bunts can kill an inning. What immediately happens? Well, Lackey intentionally walks Giambi to set up the double play. You've just gift wrapped the Angels a way to get out of the inning without giving up any runs when you had two on and none out. Rodriguez promptly hit a sac fly to the wall for the only run of the inning.
When you have your two best baserunners on with no outs and your 3, 4, and 5 batters coming up, bunting any of them in inexcusable. It's over-managing. But it's "small ball."
Example of correct managerial move #1:
August 16, 2006, Orioles at Yankees
The situation: Orioles 3, Yankees 2. Bottom of the 8th. Abreu singles, Rodriguez singles. Two on, no outs. Cano at bat.
Torre decision: Let Cano swing away.
Now, this situation sounds quite similar to the one mentioned above against the Angels where Torre bunted not once but twice with his 2 and 3 hitters, doesn't it? A .330 hitter at the plate here, a .345 hitter at the plate there? Two speedy baserunners? So why, pray tell, doesn't he stay consistent and have Cano lay down a bunt?
While I may agree with the decision to have Cano swing away, it just doesn't make any sense to me why Torre would do things so completely differently here. Why completely change your gameplan in a near-identical situation?
Maybe poor Sam Perlozzo just doesn't impress our boy Joe.
Perhaps he was getting more green tea and missed the play.
It's possible he wasn't paying attention, or was thinking about how great it was to have Bernie out there in center again.
Whatever the reason, I'm sticking to my "Joe Torre Tries to Outmanage Mike Scioscia By Overmanaging" theory and adding a "Joe Torre Tries to Outmanage Ozzie Guillen By Overmanaging" hypothesis. Until proven otherwise, I'm going to continue to believe in both of these.
To those who have asked about my lack of activity lately, I apologize for my absence. Sometimes real life catches up with you, and time and inspiration for blogging just aren't there. I assure you though, I'm back again.
posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 1:59 AM