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Rosecrans: What the insiders say makes a good manager

From SABR member C. Trent Rosecrans at Baseball Prospectus on September 11, 2012:

We’re just a couple of months from everyone’s favorite time of year: complaining-about-awards season. Once the World Series is over, there’s a dearth of opportunities to call others stupid and feel superior—until the awards roll around. The MVP will have his detractors, and we’ll find out just how dumb the voters are when he’s announced. The Cy Young will either prove the mainstreaming of advanced statistics or show that the voters still don’t get it. And Rookie of the Year? Well, there’s a third-place vote somewhere out there that’s going to get someone upset.

But then there’s Manager of the Year, the least prestigious of the three major awards handed out by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Last year I voted for the National League version of the award, and while I’ve voted for the MVP and Cy Young awards in the past, those seemed easier to define, and my choices were easier to defend.

In the end, I used the age-old formula for Manager of the Year voting: actual wins minus preseason expected wins. For the NL last year, that meant Kirk Gibson, the eventual winner. Because voting is due before the postseason begins, that seemed like the logical choice, and Gibson ended up winning. I’m sure he did do a great job, if only because I didn’t expect much from the Diamondbacks and he led his team to the playoffs. But doesn’t that criterion say more about me and what I didn’t know than the job Gibson did?

I wasn’t the only one who saw things that way: Gibson received 28 of the 32 first-place votes in the National League. Joe Maddon got 26 of the 28 first-place votes in the American League, in part because the Rays weren’t expected to make the playoffs and did. Were they the two best managers? I guess so, but I don’t know, and I’m not sure I can know.

I remember a time early in my career as a beat writer when I second-guessed a decision by a manager. I asked about it, got a perfunctory, “I did what I thought was best” quote, and went on to write about the absurdity of that explanation. The next day, the manager asked me to stay afterward, and off the record, he gave me a more in-depth explanation of why he made his decision. I’m not sure I can write more than that and not break his confidence, but let’s just say that when I knew the whole story, I saw his point.

That was an early lesson to me that you never know—and will never know—the entire story, but there are plenty of reasons why major-league managers do things that armchair managers think are “wrong” or “stupid.” In the end, there are always a multitude of factors involved in most decisions, and they have an impact on a player and a team long after the one game in question is over. Since then, I’ve had a theory that 85 to 90 percent of a manager’s job consists of things we don’t see.

Because I don’t know exactly what makes a good manager, I decided to ask some of those who know much better than I. Over the last week or so, I went to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati and asked several people in different roles about what makes a good manager. Here’s a sampling of what those in the game had to say.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18302

This page was last updated September 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm MST.

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