Monday, October 27, 2003

Grady's Gone, Everyone Happy Now?

Ok gang, you got what you wanted. According to several media sources, Grady Little has been relieved of his services. There is a press conference today at 3pm, so if you want to watch people lie for 20 minutes, it might be worth tuning in. The media seems to be disappointed about this development, while the fans are absolutely elated. Personally, I don't think a manager in baseball matters all that much, so I don't really care. Apparently the Red Sox would like a man more guided by statistics, which should be easy enough to find considering the wide intersection between the "Math Lovers" and "Veteran Baseball Men" social groups. There are some fine names out there: Glenn Hoffman, Jim Fregosi, Bud Black, Terry Francona -- but Red Sox fans (and upper management) won't really know what they've got until they have it. More likely than not, they'll find a solid fellow to do a solid job. Someone marginally worse than Little at pleasing a clubhouse, but somewhat better at calling a game. All of you second-guessers out there though, be warned. You have called for Grady's head on a platter, and late this afternoon, dinner will be served. Be aware that you might not like what you're getting. Whoever replaces Grady next year will be handed a Baseball Abstract when they walk in the door, and if they're not eager to use it, they'll be pushed right back out. In all likelihood the Red Sox will embrace a style of baseball that may make a lot of viewers somewhat uncomfortable, but guess what, you asked for it. So here is a list of things to look for - and don't even think of complaining when they happen:

  • Complete Absence of the Bunt: In general, sabermetricians view bunting as an unnecessary waste of the game's only limited quantity: outs. Statistically, it greatly decreases a team's chances of scoring multiple runs in an inning, so there is logic to the argument. Next year then, when Trot is on 1st and the Sox are down by 1, don't expect Mueller to bunt him into scoring position. Won't happen - new Manager won't go for it. Whose fault? Yours.

  • Complete Absence of the Stolen Base:
  • Similar to above, the Probability Police feel that the chance of moving a runner from 1st to 2nd is not worth the risk of having him thrown out, so forget about that one too. No more 30 steals for Johnny Damon. No more pinch running antics from Damian Jackson. Sorry. "But the game has become so slow and tedious, why won't they just send a guy or two to keep the defense honest?" you will cry. "Because you wanted a new manager." I will reply. You will frown.

  • Matchups Galore: Lefties will hit against righties, righties will hit against lefties. Bench players, even if their overall skills are suspect, will be in the lineup against pitchers they have success against. There will be much trotting to the mound, and much going to situational relievers in the pen. All of this will be based on good statistical information, but might seem counterintuitive and sometimes insane. Scream all you like at the TV. When it responds with a cold, listless silence you will know for whom the bell tolls. Uh, you. It's you.

  • Pitch Count City: Most pitchers don't perform well when they throw more than 110 pitches or so. Lowe is on a roll going through seven, why can't he go eight? Because the numbers say it probably won't work. And because you're a moron.

No, you're not really a moron. And for the record, I am in favor of all of the above changes, so a new approach is aces with me. Also, it is not entirely certain how far the Red Sox will go in this direction. Theo Epstein likes to posit himself somewhere in between the number-crunching left and the call 'em as I sees 'em right, so a complete conversion to Bill James baseball is unlikely. But make no mistake, this team will be managed differently. Some of the changes will be for the better, and others will not be so well received. But for once, Red Sox fans have no one to blame but themselves. Win or lose, the vocal majority has gotten what they want, and that must be remembered. When April and May appear on the other side of winter, Sox fans will know what statistical baseball really looks like, and they might not like what they see. But don't come crying to me. It was your idea.