In his book’s aftermath with accusations and lawsuits, the façade is torn from Lenny Dykstra

Books, MLB, Uncategorized

There’s a difference between a book review and the individual(s) behind the book. When reviewing a book, it’s a necessity to take any information that is coming from outside sources – even the author – and push it to the side in order to stick to the goal itself and read and analyze what the book and, by extension, the author says.

This is not the same as providing what amounts to an opinion piece – bolstered by facts – to gauge how truthful and accurate the book is and if there’s an agenda at play.

Such is the case with my review of “House of Nails” by Lenny Dykstra and my underlying opinion of Dykstra based on perception and facts from multiple sources that, to be blunt, are inherently more credible than Dykstra himself. That list includes newspaper articles in The New York Times, televised profiles such as Bernie Goldberg’s interview (discussed here on Deadspin) with a muttering, incoherent Dykstra on HBO’s Real Sports, and having read the book “Nailed!” by Christopher Frankie about his life working with Dykstra right up until Dykstra was arrested.

There are multiple sources that come across with greater transparency and less of a modus operandi than that which Dykstra presents his “everyone’s against me and nothing’s my fault” tome that starts off as, at the very least, a somewhat interesting biography of a unique character, and then veers off into a tattered combination of shaky self-defense and shady infomercial.

The aftermath falls directly in line with what precipitated Dykstra’s momentous fall in the first place. Rather than be happy he’s out of jail, make some money with the book and perhaps try to find a quiet, baseball-related job where he can stay out of trouble, he’s taking his return to fame as an opportunity to get back in the game of high finance and rebuild that wealth he squandered by doing the same things he did before.

It doesn’t take a psychic to see where this is going to end up.

Naturally, as the apparent truth comes out and the lawsuits fly, Dykstra himself admits to having a husband and wife editing team work on the book with him. The person who ran Dykstra’s social media campaign is suing him for non-payment. Veteran writer and sports book collaborator Peter Golenbock was helping Dykstra before he was fired and has chosen not to sue, but readily states that Dykstra used the chapter titles that Golenbock wrote.

Is this evidence of Dykstra lying for profit? Is he shading the truth harmlessly? Or is he trapped in the ambiguity of being a salesman who’s promoting his goods? Would Dykstra himself know the difference?

The Twitter account is indicative of the jaundiced view we should have of Dykstra. From the time it cropped up to being book promotion, there was something off about it. Considering how Dykstra comes across when speaking, does anyone truly believe that he would not just have the patience to tweet, but would do so in a way that was not only remarkably free of typos, but was also grammatically correct?

I called this one not long after he (or, more accurately, his social media manager) started the account:

The book is an exercise in self-justification with the sprinkled in wink-and-nod of him knowing that some of the things he did might not have been moral, but he was living the high-life with private planes, drug parties with celebrities, harems full of women and antics that would have made the hardest of the hard core partiers beg off at the debauchery.

We don’t see Dykstra as a stooped, slurring, sometimes incomprehensible and furtive ex-convict who’s telling stories and pushing products that we know in our heart-of-hearts are probably half-true and moderately effective at best. We want to believe Dykstra because the story is a fascinating tale of determination and unheard of achievement in spite of the obstacles that he he faced. We want to view him as a testimony to the value of fearlessness. We want to believe that someone of such modest upbringing, limited talent and lack of business experience was able to accumulate vast wealth and do so legitimately.

The reality is that he probably didn’t. The baseball career, even with the steroids, was real; the car wash business was a smart investment that he and his partners and employees made into a success. After that, who knows what’s real and what’s not? Did Jim Cramer use Dykstra for his stock-picking acuity, or was he latching onto an entertaining cohort for use on his show? It’s been widely stated that Cramer is a brilliant financial mind and also a WWE-style carnival barker. So do we believe the cogent Cramer who shakes his head and shrugs at Dykstra for overleaping, or the Cramer who was mentioned by Dykstra as a stalwart supporter of his financial skills?

Dykstra’s reaction to any and all negative reviews as well as legal actions that are being taken against him – with justifications from the pursuers that seem all too consistent and real with Dykstra’s history – is indicative that the author’s real self is showing as he’s called to answer for his behaviors. The star lust with the testimonials from luminaries like Stephen King and Jack Nicholson as well as the quotes from and defenses issued by the author of such vilified figures as Lance Armstrong and Donald Trump is evidence that Dykstra is acting the same way and doing the same things that sparked and hastened his downfall.

As this article in The New York Times illustrates, the “little people” don’t matter in Dykstra’s world. That includes people who worked and sacrificed for him to whom he replies “<Bleep> them” amid accusations of them of trying to “steal” his money. It includes family members. It includes former friends. Anyone who requests money for services rendered or to receive repayment on a loan is “stealing” from him the money “he” made and is graciously giving them. Using their credit cards to rack up massive bills to fund his lifestyle isn’t seen as wrong since, in Dykstra’s mind, they wouldn’t have had the credit line in the first place had he not “given” them money – money they worked for.

This is the logic he uses.

Everything about Dykstra has the earmarks of a scam artist and, like the “great, new, never before seen” invention on TV, we don’t want to think that we’re being taken advantage of by a crafty sales pitch.

He’s convincing. He’s aggressive. He doesn’t take no for an answer and keeps hammering and pushing until he gets what he’s after. On one level, that’s how he made it to the top of the baseball world and acquired all the money and toys he did; on the other, it’s also how he spiraled to the depths with blistering speed.

Did Dykstra work hard to achieve everything he did? Absolutely. Did he stomp on others along the way? Obviously. In its aftermath, the book comes across as a vanity project that just happened to be salable enough that a publisher wanted it.

Dykstra is not stupid. Some of his ideas such as the car washes with the baseball-related themes and even the glossy magazine “Players Club” were good ideas. He just doesn’t worry about consequences for what doesn’t work. And he doesn’t let professionals do what professionals, by definition, are expected to do and flesh out the ideas, making them streamlined, financially solvent and workable.

The lawsuits and allegations are eerily reminiscent to what he was inundated with prior to his arrest. Being sued is often a side cost of doing business for even the most successful companies. However, with Dykstra, the lawsuits are endemic in that he can’t do business without being sued.

The new, post-prison Dykstra wrote the book, explained his side of the story, and got predominately positive reviews for the book itself. It is entertaining. Now he’s getting sued; now he’s reacting badly with embarrassing Facebook videos to reply to criticism he receives; now he’s reverting to the Dykstra who was portrayed in articles, interviews and legal filings as someone who cannot take any responsibility for that which is, all or in part, his doing. The new Dykstra isn’t really new at all.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice – Review

Movies, Uncategorized

Batman v. Superman poster

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice has all the ingredients at its disposal to be a classic blockbuster while appealing to hard core comic book geeks, fans of a good story regardless of its subject matter, technophiles, and appreciators of talented actors dedicating themselves to a project and delivering nuanced performances. Ultimately, it misses the mark not because it’s a “bad” film – it’s not – but because dueling agendas conspired to cram so many different aspects into the story that the actors are constrained by a paucity of narrative and the indecisiveness and lack of conviction for the film’s director Zack Snyder.

Traversing the thin line of integrating superhero stories into the real world is a difficult task that has confounded Snyder before in Watchmen. Perhaps he learned a few lessons from that film’s ultimate underachievement from an admittedly promising idea, but Watchmen was not as well-known to the public at large as are Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Lex Luthor and the Justice League with their backstories ingrained prominently in the public discourse. Nor did it have the entire future of a franchise riding on its success or failure.

The sense of realism has to be adapted to suit the holes that will be in the story if one wants to look for them. Either it’s the real world or it’s not. If it’s going to be set in the real world, then there are certain facts that have to be altered to accommodate that. Superman v. Batman is not as clumsy, unwieldy, preachy and ridiculous as Watchmen, but it’s clear that Snyder is still unable to decide exactly what he’s trying to say, how closely he wants to adhere to the genesis of the characters, and what demands he and the writers acquiesced to in a “go along to get along” manner for the sake of commercialism.

Superman/Clark Kent is sufficiently vulnerable and confused as to his place in a world that is not his own. Batman/Bruce Wayne is well into his career as a crime fighter and wedged in with being unable to stop while wondering whether or not his actions have helped or hurt. The introspection of both as to what Superman should do and if Batman has wasted his energies or even made things worse could have been explored as they move through their lives in parallel lines that eventually intersect in large part due to their upbringings and circumstances.

The freshness of the idea in taking a younger actor like Jesse Eisenberg and casting him as Lex Luthor could have been a master stroke designed for the modern world in which the film is set. In the nascent stages of preproduction and casting decisions were being made, the usual interpretation of the character lent itself to it being a middle-aged corporate titan who saw the appearance of a being from another world as both an opportunity for himself and an affront to his own accomplishments as an all-powerful human who saw his life’s work decimated by this thing that did little more than appear and was, by accident of circumstance, accorded the power to rule should he choose to. That meant that the story would follow previous film incarnations of Luthor with Bryan Cranston the one most prominently mentioned to play it. This was a repeat of the same concept of Luthor that led to the casting of Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey in the role in prior film incarnations.

Eisenberg is the Luthor for a new generation. A Mark Zuckerberg-like tech genius who has achieved everything one could reasonably expect to achieve in life, he is seemingly haunted by his past – simplistically explained by an abusive father – and a brain that is operating on a level so far above everyone else that he simply does not know what to do next. He has every reason to be satisfied in life, but he’s not. Rather than being a Zuckerberg turned evil, he comes across as a Martin Shkreli-clone: a brat who has no respect for anyone or anything and will eventually face the consequences for that oblivious arrogance. In a comedic sense, the character devolves into something close to Scott Evil from Austin Powers instead of a fully-developed and layered badness that is as ingrained as Batman and Superman rather than him being bad and not having a single viable reason for it.

It’s not the fault of Eisenberg that his Luthor makes so little sense. Major plot lines were haphazardly tossed in like a paella in which the chicken is undercooked and the seafood is three weeks old. Eisenberg’s Luthor is manic and rudderless, unsure where to point his energies and acerbic tongue. He doesn’t seem to know what it is he exactly wants. The idea of a young Luthor is new and interesting, but with that comes immaturity and a lack of focus that is inherent in the character and was not present in Hackman or Spacey’s interpretation, nor would it have been an issue had Cranston been cast as a classic Luthor.

Whereas the older, wiser and more calculating Luthor subtly nudges the two heroes into a confrontation with neither knowing they’re being callously manipulated, the younger Luthor is afflicted with the impetuousness of youth and the “I want it NOW!!!” attitude that accompanies a level of wealth at which everyone bends to his will.

The suspension of belief goes too far in reconciling with Luthor who, by some inexplicable amount of self-control, was able to tamp down on his desire to commit mass murder and build a billion dollar company before age thirty until his derangement detonates. His plans and schemes are just as difficult to believe. The creation of Doomsday was not the initial goal, but a backup plan.

Doomsday was a backup plan only set into motion when Batman steals Luthor’s cache of Kryptonite and, rather than steal it with some semblance of ambiguity as to who took it, he leaves a mini Batarang as a method of taunting Luthor, confessing, or condescendingly informing audience members who took the stuff.

As the story moves along, the question continually arises as to what it is and what it’s supposed to be. Without coming up with story alternatives as to what they “should” have done, the fundamental differences between Batman/Wayne and Superman/Kent are such that they could easily have been adapted to today’s world and a film could have been made exploring the dichotomy as to how their characters and philosophies have been molded.

The alien Kent was raised in a conservative, middle-American enclave in Kansas – on a farm no less – by caring parents who created a family unit and successfully sought to instill in their adopted son a belief that people are inherently good and helping is not a right that he can take or leave at his whim, but a duty because he has the ability to be a force of good.

Wayne’s story has never deviated from its initial intent. He grew up as a wealthy city-dweller with liberal parents who’d spread their wealth to those less fortunate and sought – as Superman does – to do the conventionally “right” thing only to be randomly murdered by one of the same criminals their liberalism and sense of fairness allowed to roam the streets and do what it is criminals do: commit crimes. This lesson was never lost on young Wayne as, during the day, he maintained his father’s generosity and legacy and, at night, brutalized criminals who violated his own sense of justice that emanated from that one minute in his life in which his idyllic landscape was ripped from him in a senseless act of random violence. Batman’s violence is just as random in that he decides, unilaterally, who deserves it and who doesn’t.

These characterizations put Superman and Batman on an inevitable collision course. This is something the movie explored and inexplicably abandoned.

Simultaneously borrowing heavily from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns in which the ultimate face off is not about Batman and Superman fighting for its own sake, but because their sensibilities were always so different that the eventual conflict was unavoidable, the movie goes halfway in fleshing out the disagreement in tactics that put the two on opposite sides.

There are so many unnecessary distractions and plot deviations that look like they were tossed in at the behest of upper-tier executives and it hampers the film. Was it necessary to see an extended montage of Bruce Wayne training for his fight with Superman? The amount of weight he has chained to himself as he does chin-ups will be irrelevant when it comes to that battle. It’s Superman. If Batman’s going to beat him it won’t matter if he can lift 500 pounds, but if his gadgets work and he’s been able to effectively synthesize the Kryptonite he stole. It was a vanity shot from Snyder and nothing more than needless filler right out of the Sylvester Stallone “look how ripped I am” days of Rocky IV and Rambo II.

One scene during the Batman-Superman fight is unintentionally symbolic as they end up in a public bathroom and Batman picks up a sink and uses it to batter Superman. The “kitchen sink” analogy is apropos as they threw everything in there including the kitchen sink because there was a commercial need to sacrifice continuity and common sense for the good of the other, forthcoming films in the burgeoning DC Universe including Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Justice League Part I and II and perhaps new standalone Batman and Superman films.

Unlike The Dark Knight Returns, there’s no clear explanation as to why they’re fighting in the first place. Nor does the end fight have any link to why Superman and Batman were eying one another as enemies.

The fight itself is misrepresented in the advertising campaign to appear longer than it is and for a different reason than what is portrayed. The script is, in part, responsible for that with its vacillation in answering the question of why. Initially, it appears that Superman is disgusted by Batman’s flouting of the law and violation of constitutional principles that all men have rights no matter what they’ve done or are accused of doing. Batman scoffs at Superman’s naïveté and his sheer and unavoidable inability to have a grasp on how humans function when they don’t have the ability to fly, move mountains, saved their loved ones as the child Wayne could not, or do whatever they want based on a sheer accident of birth and environment.

That foundation for the fight recedes into the background not because the two are facing a common threat, but because the reason morphs from a philosophical divide to a Luthor scheme to get the two to fight to destroy Superman.

There are a series of whys and whats that cannot be reconciled.

Why is Wonder Woman there in the first place and why is she interfering with what Wayne/Batman is trying to do if she had long ago abandoned humanity after her experiences in World War I – reportedly where the Wonder Woman film is set?

Why was she leaving only to decide to jump in when the Doomsday crisis looked set to destroy the entire planet?

Does Superman no longer see Batman as a threat to the American ideal once the two meet and come to an uneasy truce for the good of the masses?

Does Batman trust Superman when, before, he felt he was a threat to humankind that had to be preemptively destroyed?

Why is Luthor doing this? What’s his primary motivation, if he has one?

There are many more than this and it’s not nitpicking, it’s legitimate.

Interspersing social commentary into a story that, when dissected, could never happen in the world as we know it is a difficult strategy to take and the movie, trapped in its own excesses and corporate requirements fails to achieve it because the social commentary is abandoned in favor of special effects and settling the matter when it’s not actually settled.

When compared to the Marvel Universe, what’s missing here is more than story. The lightheartedness to take some of the edgy nature off the subject matter of life, death and how to counteract power and threats is noticeably absent. There are few moments of irony and no laughs as there are in every Marvel film. The darkness engulfs Batman v. Superman and its story is not able to bring it enough light to make it acceptable.

When there are great characters, there’s no need to tie them up. Great material is the fundamental basis for great work. Essentially, what Snyder did is akin to hiring James Taylor to sing and putting his voice into the same technical apparatus that makes the odious singing voices of Jennifer Lopez and Paula Abdul less objectionable. If this is what you were going to do, why bother? If the studio suits were looking at the script – as they appear to have done – and said, “Wait. Where’s Wonder Woman?” “We need more explosions and outer space and chase scenes and gunfights!!” where was Snyder, the in-the-trenches producers and the writers to say, “This won’t work. In fact, it’s gonna damage the brand”?

The actors are being unfairly castigated. Unlike many actors who have done superhero films for no reason other than the paycheck and the inevitable profile increase that comes with a massive blockbuster, Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons are all onboard in inhabiting the characters and seem to enjoy what they’re doing. The material is such that they too are hamstrung just as Snyder seemed to be by what was required to be the jumping off point for subsequent films. Because of that, they made something that had the money, the star power, the automatic fan base and the storylines to make something spectacular and sadly isn’t.

For a movie to be disappointing, it does not have to be classified as “bad.” And that’s where Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice ends up. It’s watchable and enjoyable, but is ultimately disappointing because all the puzzle pieces were in place for it to be special and they were bashed together for the sake of outside requirements when the first tenet of any creative endeavor – a point – was ignored and all the participants were victimized as a result.

506px-Mike_Scioscia

The Angels’ structure was doomed to fail

MLB

Combine an old-school entrenched manager, a new-school stat-based general manager, and a meddlesome owner and you have the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Angels’ situation finally blew up this week after 3 ½ years of dysfunction and disagreement between the direction in which GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia, and owner Arte Moreno wanted the club to go. In 2014, those fissures and diametrically opposed philosophies were glossed over by a misleading 98-win season and American League West title – the Angels’ first playoff appearance since 2009. They were unceremoniously swept away by the Kansas City Royals before they had the chance to enjoy their resurgence. While on the surface the rocky start to the relationship between Dipoto and Scioscia appeared to have stabilized with Moreno making clear than neither was going anywhere, the dueling belief systems were too much to overcome and Dipoto walked.

As the Angels struggled amid significant changes to the roster, were hovering around .500 and falling further and further behind the division-leading Houston Astros, Dipoto’s frustration with the on-field staff overtly ignoring the detailed statistical analysis and recommendations that were prepared reached a climax as he went to the clubhouse and addressed the issue to the manager, coaching staff and players. It did not go well. Rather than welcome the GM into the clubhouse, he was treated as an unwanted interloper undermining the manager and making unwelcome decrees.

This is a cultural issue more than disagreements regarding strategy. The old school that held sway as recently as ten years ago did not want the GM walking into the clubhouse and telling the manager and players, straight out, what he wanted. In today’s culture, such an instance is not only common, but expected. The days of the manager being left to run the team on the field as he sees fit are all but over in just about every venue except for Anaheim. And this is the problem.

Nowhere but in Anaheim does the manager have the power that Scioscia does. Bolstered by a 10-year contract and the (mostly) unwavering support of the owner, Scioscia has a backchannel to complain to the owner that has all but disappeared with the retirements of the likes of Joe Torre, Jim Leyland, Lou Piniella and Tony La Russa. Managers without a resume to pull such an end-around will get fired as Bo Porter did by the Astros in late 2014.

The mistake Moreno has made is not in allowing Scioscia that power, nor was it in hiring Dipoto. The mistake was that he kept Scioscia in place and allowed him to retain the power while hiring a GM whose philosophy was so diametrically opposed to the manager’s. There’s a misplaced belief that putting high-quality people together in the same room and telling them to work together will somehow yield a positive result. As has been proven repeatedly, that is not the case. Because they couldn’t get on the same page does not imply that either man was wrong. The fact that Dipoto and Scioscia were not able to reach a détente in spite of Moreno’s attempts to placate both does not mean that any one person is responsible. Moreno’s intentions were good; Dipoto and Scioscia are smart baseball men; and the three could not work together if the team wasn’t streaking towards winning 100 games and cruising to the division title.

Scioscia wasn’t going anywhere and Dipoto knew it. Dipoto comes from conflicting experiences that collided with his realities. As a former player, he knew that there were certain lines that players, coaches and managers didn’t want crossed by upper management. As a front office executive, he also knew he would not be doing his job were he not to address issues that he felt were hindering the club. Going into the clubhouse might have been done out of frustration with the enough’s enough tone that if the manager and the team were not going to be receptive to his ideas, then he’d simply give them what he had and hope they used it. Once the reaction was so profoundly negative and quickly degenerated into a confrontation, he threw his hands up in the air and quit. Everyone has their breaking point at which they say, “I can’t work like this.” For Dipoto to react negatively to essentially being attacked in the clubhouse is thoroughly understandable for someone who’d been hired to do a job and was not being allowed to do it in the way he was trained.

Dipoto isn’t some outsider who went to a well-regarded university and decided that he’d like to work in baseball. This adds another layer to the complicated nature of his time with the Angels. He could be classified as a stat-guy, but he’s also a stat-guy who had an eight-year career in the Majors. He’s not some guy in a suit walking into the clubhouse, sticking a chew of dip into his lower lip, talking in clubhouse vernacular and eliciting “look at this poser” eye rolls.

Like the separation between church and state, Scioscia wants the lines between the manager’s office and the front office to be adhered to. He has transferred his known catching skills from being the best plate-blocker of the 1980s into his protectionist nature of his territory as a manager. Moreno did nothing other than smooth the egos to try and keep the front office and on-field staff working together.

In the final analysis, did Dipoto need to keep the job in the sense that he is not going to get hired elsewhere as Ruben Amaro Jr. won’t once the Philadelphia Phillies dismiss him? The answer is no. He’ll get another chance to be a GM. Dipoto is respected inside baseball. The circumstances he walked into are understood as having been untenable. Most importantly, he’s worked with a large proportion of the baseball community that is now making the bulk of the decisions as baseball bosses and is choosing whom to hire and fire. The Angels were probably the worst place for Dipoto to go given the unprecedented power the manager has and what Dipoto’s beliefs as to what the GM’s job are. Short of Moreno openly choosing one or the other by firing either Dipoto or Scioscia, Dipoto resigned. It was the only way this forced marriage could end.

334px-Ryne_Sandberg

Sandberg would have been better off staying with the Cubs

MLB

In retrospect, perhaps Ryne Sandberg would have been better off having fought harder for the job managing the Chicago Cubs a year after he’d left the organization. To dispel the notion that Sandberg left the Cubs after Theo Epstein took over as team president, the fact is that Sandberg had departed the previous year when he was passed over for the job as manager in favor of Mike Quade. Quade had replaced Lou Piniella when Piniella resigned in August of 2010.

Having paid his dues as a minor league manager, learning his craft and the organization’s prospects rather than stepping off the field and using his Hall of Fame career and credentials as a Cubs hero to force his way onto the big league staff and, eventually, as manager, Sandberg did it organically and was still bypassed based on a misinterpreted strong finish by the Cubs under Quade. In his first year after leaving the Cubs, as he was managing the Philadelphia Phillies Triple A club in Lehigh Valley, the 2011 Cubs – like the 2015 Phillies – were in the midst of the last throes of a relatively successful run they had under Piniella and general manager Jim Hendry. They had come apart and needed the radical overhaul that Epstein was prepared to undertake.

It’s not often that a former star player like Sandberg will shun the airs that accompany such lofty status and show the willingness to go down to the low minor leagues, ride buses great distances, essentially do everything in running the club and do so in the interests of making the same primordial climb as a manager that he did as a player to get to the big leagues. Sandberg could have avoided that. He could have launched a public relations blitz, coerced friendly reporters with an agenda into supporting him, and subtly planted the seed within the fan base that the former Cubs superstar was the man to resurrect the declining franchise while there was still time to do so.

He didn’t. Since he started his professional career and had his first cup of coffee in the Majors with the Phillies, there was a linear aspect to him joining that organization. Again, he did not shoehorn his way onto then-manager Charlie Manuel’s staff as an interloping manager-in-waiting. That came later and had little to do with Sandberg. At the time, the Phillies, like the Cubs of 2009 to 2011, were plummeting from a star-laden contender into an ancient and crumbling structure that had to be detonated.

After he joined the Phillies coaching staff as the third base coach in 2013, it was no secret that he would eventually be the next manager when and if Manuel was dismissed or pushed into retirement. With the team floundering, Manuel still showed no interest in walking away by his own volition and he was fired so Sandberg could watch the club from the manager’s chair for the remainder of the season and get a gauge on what he wanted to do.

What he saw was a team of insolent, declining veterans who had grown complacent and too accustomed to the mostly hands-off approach of Manuel. Sandberg focused on the fundamentals, tried to discipline the likes of Jimmy Rollins, and tamp down on the country club atmosphere and eye rolls of “we’ve won here and we know what we’re doing” even if the team was no longer winning and the “knowing what they’re doing” included being lax and arrogant.

Getting the job managing the Cubs when Epstein took over as team president would have put forth the impression that team ownership was heavily influencing the new baseball czar in a way that was reminiscent of the situation Epstein had just escaped in Boston as the GM of the Red Sox and even if Sandberg had pushed for it, it probably was not going to happen. But, in retrospect, Sandberg’s focus on fundamentals and knowledge of the Cubs farm system at the time – particularly Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, among others – could have benefited the Cubs in the first two seasons under Epstein as Epstein’s hand-picked manager, Dale Sveum, was fired largely because of the lack of adherence to the basics and failures in development of those particular young players.

Given how he was willing to work his way up the ladder as a minor league manager, Sandberg would likely have adapted as necessary and followed the organizational plan when it came to on-field strategies of the new front office. And how much worse could he have done than Sveum, who took the job expecting to be allowed to deal with the inevitable 95-to-100-loss seasons as the Cubs tanked to accrue high draft picks and was still fired?

For managers, the situation has to be right, the front office has to be agreeable, and the players have to be willing to listen. The key is to get the players to do what the manager wants them to do without the players acting as if they’re doing the manager a favor by doing it. The manager who gets his way is seen as a keeper while the manager who doesn’t is on the way out. Looking at Sandberg’s time as Phillies manager, is there really a giant difference between his perceived cluelessness and that of current Cubs manager Joe Maddon in his first two seasons as manager of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Maddon has become the embodiment of pretentiousness, believing and furthering the media hype of being the “best” manager in baseball when he was, in reality, along for a great ride with a smart and lucky front office in Tampa as they starting winning with him running the club. The Cubs hired him as they too are on the precipice of title contention and he will get credit for it whether he deserves it or not. His career could easily have gone the way of Sveum and Sandberg had Tampa not been as patient and understanding of the circumstances.

Sandberg did not do a good job as Phillies manager, but he did do a good job as a minor league manager with the Cubs. He was overmatched in the big leagues, but did well with the youngsters in the minors. Taking someone who was good at one thing and putting him in an entirely different circumstance without a commitment is dooming him to failure. After trying to discipline the players, there was a sense of “what do you want me to do?” from Sandberg when the players didn’t follow his instructions and openly challenged his authority. When the front office didn’t make the decision to get rid of those players who were defying the manager and, in fact, enabled the insubordination, they extinguished any chance Sandberg had at success.

The situation he inherited was terrible with an organization that mortgaged the future for the present and whose present was burning down to its embers and cooling like a dying star. It is eerily reminiscent to the fading players he had to deal with in Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Rollins, Cliff Lee, Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Papelbon. He got caught up in that mudslide in the same way he got swallowed up when the Cubs were in transition. Now, as the Phillies are also on the verge of sweeping changes with Andy MacPhail widely reported as the next baseball boss, Sandberg walked off the cliff before they could push him. He was in a no-win situation and, unsurprisingly, he didn’t. With the Cubs, it might have been different had he chosen to stay with an organization that, while ruthless, has a more logical tack than the bottomed out Phillies.

640px-4TH_Pablo_Sandoval

Fung_Ku_Panda likes your photograph and probably doesn’t like Boston

MLB

Pablo Sandoval is lucky that the situation didn’t degenerate further with the Instagram woman in question saying that he was cyber-stalking her, leading not just to embarrassment but to this:

Sandoval’s first season as a member of the Boston Red Sox has grown tabloidish with the revelation that when he allegedly went to the clubhouse to use the bathroom, he grabbed his phone, checked it and decided to like the images posted by the buxom woman. Or, as he claims, he accidentally hit “like” when he checked his phone.

Whatever.

Self-proclaimed baseball “purists” who have fantasy-fueled notions of players who are thinking about baseball 24/7 and working, working, working to hone their craft will react with apoplectic dismay at Sandoval’s supposed breach of etiquette and lack of dedication to his job. In truth, many players will check their phones and tablets during the course of a game for one reason or another. It’s easy to forget that these larger-than-life characters that appear to be superhuman are, in truth, just like everyone else. Sandoval’s story combines this reality with the revelation that he, like everyone else, goes to the bathroom; he, like everyone else, checks his smartphone regularly; and he, like everyone else, is looking for action off the field.

Counting spring training, the season is at least eight months long and nine if the club is a playoff team. No one can maintain concentration and focus on the game for that amount of time without rapid burnout. And what are starting pitchers and backup players whose roles are specified supposed to do in the third inning of a game in June? Sitting and watching the game with rapt attention loses its luster not long after a player has established himself. In fact, it’s quite boring. Most managers don’t care what the players are doing as long as they do their jobs and don’t get caught doing other stuff. The idea that this was a show of disrespect to manager John Farrell is silly. This happens everywhere on every team. The unspoken rule is not to embarrass the manager and organization. Sandoval got caught and embarrassed his already embattled manager and panicking organization. That’s why it’s an issue. If the team was 39-29 instead of 29-39, this elicits a wink and a shrug.

Put it this way, if Sandoval were hitting .330 as he did in 2009 for the San Francisco Giants and the Red Sox weren’t mired in last place and going nowhere in the American League East, no one would have said a word. Similar to him showing up in camp with his belly hanging precipitously over his belt, it only matters if things aren’t going well. In truth, looking at Sandoval’s numbers, he’s doing precisely what he’s done since 2012 and his year-end numbers will reflect that. They’ll be identical to what they’ve been with a batting average in the .270s, a mediocre on-base percentage approximating .320 to .335, 15 home runs, and the questioning glances of those who had no clue what the Red Sox were getting when he was signed. Sandoval’s star status has been built on his post-season performances when he’s made himself into a Reggie Jackson-style spotlight hound.

The overreaction to this is multiplied by the perceived disappointment that Sandoval has been, that the Red Sox are terrible, and that the lack of “character” and focus has been an issue for the club in the not-too-distant past. What Sandoval and the Red Sox might be learning too late is that there are players who are simply not cut out for Boston and its inherent pressures and non-stop scrutiny.

The wild nights of Mike Napoli were only charming because he was productive and helped the team win the 2013 World Series. The Instagram activities of Sandoval are not viewed as fondly because the team is, right now, a bigger underachiever than the 2011 bunch and are dangerous close to being a repeat of the 2012 disaster for which Bobby Valentine got the blame when there were far greater problems with that team than Valentine.

Fans and media members were speculating about the possibility of getting rid of Sandoval before the Instagram incident. Now? They’ll want the club to eat a significant portion of his contract to expedite his departure.

Like players who go to New York, it takes a certain type of personality to make it in Boston. There has to be a thick skin and tough mentality (or complete obliviousness as was the case with Manny Ramirez) to function and thrive there. Some have it, some don’t. Worse is if a player thinks he has it, management thinks he has it, and then they discover three months into a six-year, $100 million contract that he doesn’t.

The idea that the Red Sox will be able to repeat the lightning strikes from August of 2012 to October of 2013, clear out players like Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez who did not belong in Boston, and go on a spending spree with every single one of the players signed contributing to a championship is ludicrous. The 2013 signees were probably doing the same things and worse as Sandoval checking his Instagram account during a game, but they won. So it’s okay. This only serves to explain why this regular occurrence of a player checking his cellphone during a game is being treated as a hangable offense and a symptom of what ails the 2015 Red Sox. They’re worrying about a hangnail when there’s a bone sticking out of the skin. Until they fix that bone, the hangnail is nothing.

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The agenda-driven myths about Bud Black

MLB

Bud Black was, at best, a mediocre manager whose main accomplishments were surviving through multiple ownership and general manager regimes; accruing respect from the media; and being the case study of how a manager’s perception trumps his won-lost record in today’s game.

The San Diego Padres’ decision to fire Black was treated as if it was a personal affront to those who are judging Black not on what his teams did on the field, but on the so-called “process” that has become more important in certain circles of thought. There’s an agenda in play and it supersedes how managers were once judged. If there’s a manager who’s adaptable, willing to listen to front office “suggestions,” and is able to play the role of manager regardless of whether or not he’s good at the actual job, then he’ll be treated as if he’s better than he is.

The media likes Black because he answered their questions without the trademark smugness and condescension that greets them with most managers. Front offices like Black because of the aforementioned attributes that might be useful if the roster is strong enough to account for his strategic gaffes. He’s good with the pitchers and especially at handling a bullpen. This is to be expected from a former pitching coach. As for running an offense, it was a vanilla, conservative, inside baseball-type blueprint that stemmed from him working as a longtime coach for Mike Scioscia and that he was a pitcher.

The facts regarding Black are as follows:

  • He accrued a record of 649-713 in eight-plus seasons.
  • He oversaw two teams that essentially had playoff spots sewn up and they blew them both on the last weekend of the season.
  • He finished over .500 twice – in the those two seasons in which they blew their playoff spots.
  • He was in the last season of his contract, was not hired by new Padres GM A.J. Preller, and Preller has the right to bring in the manager he wants.

His defenders say that he was functioning with an unstable ownership and front office; his teams were never particularly good; and he was dealing with payroll constraints. So he gets credit for the two teams with winning records, but is absolved of blame for every other season including one in which he lost 99 games? How’s that work?

He has some positives, but they’re not enough for him to retain his job given all the negatives. There was an argument for him to keep his job, but this firing is not on a level of idiocy of Ken Harrelson firing Tony La Russa as manager of the Chicago White Sox in 1986.

When looking at the situation as a whole, what is the justification for saying his firing was unfair? Even if the reasons provided in his defense are accurate, the fact remains that he had been with the club for an extended period of time and won absolutely nothing while the man he replaced, Bruce Bochy, has won three titles in San Francisco with the Giants.

This is all linked to the new job description of managers. In the past, teams hired managers because they thought they were superior strategists, because they sold tickets, or because they’d worked their way up to the opportunity. Off-field issues such as excessive drinking, womanizing, a terrible attitude toward the media, and rampant insubordination were glossed over with that one end in mind: winning. In today’s game, it’s naïve to think that teams would get away with hiring a Billy Martin-type for whom it was a matter of when rather than if he got into trouble off the field, but jumping to the diametrically opposed position and hiring a manager with his on-field tactics seen as essentially meaningless is probably worse.

As reluctant as front offices are to hire a manager whose off-field behaviors are likely to make a firing necessary, the new age front offices are also reluctant to hire a manager who will demand some level of say-so in the construction of the roster and will have the lucrative contract as well as the support of the old-school media, fans and ownership to pull an end-around on the GM and get what he wants.

With Black, none of this was a problem with the Padres, nor will it be a problem in his next job.

This ties in with the manner in which baseball people are judged. It’s how we see published posts on reputable sites listing the “best” GMs to the “worst.” I suppose if you want to have Billy Beane as number one, there’s an argument to do it. But to have him at number one with Brian Sabean – he of the three World Series wins in five years and fielding a consistent contender rife with homegrown talent – is clearly based on a selfish attempt to push one’s own belief systems as “right.” How is new Los Angels Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi – on the job for six months and whose big free agent signing was giving $50 million to Brandon McCarthy who promptly needed Tommy John surgery – the sixth “best” GM in baseball? Based on what? How is Matt Silverman – on the job for a shorter time than Zaidi – ahead of veteran Dan Duquette?

Why?

It’s for the same reason as the assertion that Black is a good manager and the Padres are stupid for having fired him: an agenda.

This is not to say that working with front offices, handling the media and being well-liked as Black was are without import, but in the end it comes down to what happens on the field and on the field, Black was found wanting. He had a poor record. He oversaw two inexplicable collapses. The new GM gave him a better team and more than enough rope at one-third of the season before pulling the trigger. And the one thing that Black was supposed to be “expert” in – the pitching – had been awful. In spite of floating concepts to the contrary, he got fired and deserved to get fired. The Padres may not be better without him, but they certainly won’t be worse.

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Terry Collins sounds like he’s had enough

MLB

Before he was fired as the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Paul DePodesta was preparing to hire Terry Collins as the new Dodgers manager to replace Jim Tracy. Tracy and DePodesta were never on the same page either philosophically or personally and the veteran manager Collins was DePodesta’s first choice as Tracy’s replacement. That plan was upended when DePodesta was also fired. So it was no surprise that when Sandy Alderson took over as the GM of the New York Mets after the 2010 season and brought DePodesta in as his assistant that Collins – already working for the Mets as their minor league coordinator – was at the top of the list to become the team’s new manager.

Collins would be able to stand a drawn out rebuild, keep the team in line off the field, and work in tandem with the front office without having to be treated as the functionary that the people in the Mets front office want their manager to be. Resistance to the plan is the bane to the existence of front offices that think like the Mets. It’s been evident with the Chicago Cubs as Theo Epstein is now on his third manager since taking over as team president. It was clear with Alderson himself when he pushed Bruce Bochy out the door as the San Diego Padres manager in favor of the cheaper and more pliable Bud Black. Bochy is on his way to the Hall of Fame with three World Series wins in the last five years as manager of the San Francisco Giants. Black, the epitome of mediocrity as a manager and a holdover with the Padres who’s somehow survived four regimes, may be on the verge of finally losing his job.

Collins has a superior resume to Black, but he too may be rattling his cage to the degree that Alderson finally pulls the lever and opens the trap door. It’s even possible that Alderson has his eye on the Padres situation with an idea that it will be Black replacing Collins.

The reasoning behind Alderson wanting to get rid of Bochy was in line with his belief system of what the manager should be. Bochy was resistant to the stat-based tactics that Alderson’s front office prefers and he understandably chafed at the interference and audacious interlopers who had never been in uniform or picked up a baseball, but felt they were qualified to make suggestions to someone who’s been in baseball for his entire working life as a player, coach and manager. In addition, Alderson didn’t want to pay Bochy what he was making at the time. Rather than fire him, he simply let him interview for other jobs. It was a mutual parting of the ways with everyone getting what they wanted.

Most managers have a survivalist instinct. In today’s game, part of that is following orders from GMs and their assistants when, in years past, they could tell their “bosses” to get the hell out of their office and get away with it. That won’t fly today.

Collins, while an old-school baseball man whose roots and sensibilities are similar to those of his former boss with the Pittsburgh Pirates Jim Leyland and Leyland’s longtime buddy (and Alderson’s former manager with the Oakland Athletics) Tony La Russa, was willing to implement the new metrics into his strategies. Whether he did this because he knew he had to to get the job or because he really believes in them is in dispute. Regardless, the cage rattling is something that bears watching as the Mets move forward into the summer with an injury-plagued roster and a clear shot to steal a division title with the reeling Washington Nationals betraying no resemblance to the prohibitive favorites they were prior to the season.

Collins was faced with a choice and for a long time he bowed to expediency. Knowing that this is more than likely his last chance to manage a big league team, he took the meddling with a shrug and did as he was told. He accepted that he was going to be saddled with relatively short-term contracts and, in 2015, the status as a lame duck. He tolerated the open statement on the part of his GM that he was on the verge of being fired in 2014.

But now, as the team is half on the verge of being quite good and half on the verge of suffering another second half spiral because of a lack of hitting, injuries and a failure to secure competent reinforcements, Collins is showing the “enough of this” attitude having reached his breaking point and no longer cares about the consequences. His attitude is that of knowing he’s probably going to get fired unless there’s a deep playoff run and he’s letting that seep out in his statements to the media and a clear disconnect between what he says and what the front office does.

Whereas he was once accommodating with the media and tamped down on the intensity that got him ousted as the manager of the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the feistiness is returning with Collins openly telling the media that they don’t know what they’re talking about and that he’s been doing this job longer than they’ve been alive. Collins made his displeasure with the current state of his roster known in a telling chat with John Smoltz that Collins himself related. The latest is that Collins stated that the Mets brief foray into using a six-man rotation was over after one turn and one poor start from Dillon Gee, only to see his proclamation undone by Alderson with Gee slated to start against the Braves on Sunday.

This situation is such that the manager took the job with a promised payoff years down the road. He would have an opportunity – one that he was not going to get anywhere else – to redeem himself. But like most “just wait” scenarios, the promises or allusions to promises do not appear to be written in ink on the blueprint. How much castration is he supposed to take? At what point does he say that he’s not going to go out as a baseball man with the entire world thinking that he was a faceless puppet or, worse, an incompetent?

The Mets front office is making their manager look like a fool by undermining him at every opportunity. With the new way in which baseball managers are treated, the majority of teams will never allow a manager to have the power that a Joe Torre, LaRussa, Whitey Herzog or Lou Piniella demanded and received. If that is unsaid and there’s still a façade of importance in the manager’s office, then it’s possible to get away with the front office dictating the on-field decisions. If, however, there’s so open a disdain for the manager that something he said a week before is suddenly undone with a total disregard for his perception in and out of the clubhouse, then what’s the point of keeping him?

Collins has been a good soldier hoping for that last shot. Now it’s becoming abundantly clear that there is a yawning chasm between himself and his bosses and it’s incrementally coming out in public undertones of displeasure. By mid-summer, if this continues, Collins might just dare Alderson to fire him. And Alderson will. Professionally, it won’t benefit Collins to do this, but at the very least he’ll salvage a portion of his baseball man self-respect because he’d reached his limit and did what he had to do to retain some sense of dignity.

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The old-school way of dealing with the Junior Lakes of the world

MLB

The easy way to asses the milling session described as a “bench clearing incident” between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs on Wednesday is to lambast Cubs utility player Junior Lake for his behavior. The video link is below.

We can get past the “Who the hell is Junior Lake?” bit as well as the argument as to whether a hitter or pitcher enthusiastically celebrating adheres to the game’s unwritten rules. This much is clear: Lake pimped a home run that cut a Marlins lead from 6-0 to 6-2 and the Cubs eventually lost 7-3. He celebrated a home run that meant absolutely nothing to anyone other than him. It’s a sign of selfishness and total lack of propriety that has become prevalent in the game today. Baseball is a naturally individualistic sport, but it’s increasingly forgotten that it’s an individual sport in a team concept. The latter half of that – “team concept” – is less and less important in the eyes of many and I don’t just mean the players.

While Lake is a non-entity as a player and an extra body for the Cubs, it’s the potential fallout from his act, the enabling from the organization and their new age manager Joe Maddon, and that the game has changed so drastically and negatively from its self-policing of yesteryear that has resulted in players feeling safe in doing exactly what Lake did. There hasn’t been a mention of any bad blood between the Cubs and Marlins that led to Lake’s leisurely trot around the bases, but judging from the clip, the Marlins bench was hollering at him for his showboating and he responded by “shushing” them with a finger to the lips.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto said something to both Anthony Rizzo and Lake and the benches subsequently emptied. No punches were thrown, but this incident won’t be forgotten by a Marlins team that has gotten beaten around this entire season, has veterans who know how to deal with acts such as that of Lake, and has clearly had enough.

The culture of today’s game has fomented the idea that it’s acceptable to be so overt when celebrating. In part that is due to the shrugging nature of what other teams think. In part it’s due to the tamping down on retaliatory strikes on the part of pitchers. Would Lake have dared to behave as he did if Don Drysdale or Bob Gibson were on the mound? The way the game was played during Drysdale’s and Gibson’s heyday was such that hitters knew they wouldn’t just get drilled, but they’d likely have to duck a fastball heading toward their heads. A contemporary copy of Drysdale and Gibson, Roger Clemens, would also have made certain that someone paid for Lake’s transgression and it wouldn’t have been a journeyman like Lake. The Cubs might not care one way or the other if Lake gets hit for his behavior, but they will certainly care if Kris Bryant or Rizzo take one between the shoulder blades for what Lake did. So too will the players in the Cubs clubhouse as the actions of one player caused other players to be targets simply because they’re more important to the team.

Baseball has tried to stop this in-the-trenches reality, but the fact is that hitting someone other than Lake is dealing with the problem in an effective way.

Umpires are mandated to issue warnings to stop beanball wars from occurring. In truth, like the Field of Dreams line when Moonlight Graham was knocked down as he asked the umpire to issue a warning to Eddie Cicotte and the ump replied by saying “Watch out you don’t get killed,” that was the way the umps of the past oversaw the game. Even they wouldn’t mind seeing a player like Lake being put in his place by the players.

Those who see nothing wrong with Lake flipping his bat and taking his stroll around the bases are speaking from a position of never having played a testosterone-fueled sport and are missing the point that he was drawing attention to himself in a situation that meant, basically, nothing. His home run was an individual achievement in a game that the Cubs were trailing and likely to lose – and they did. “I got mine” is not a team concept. The attention-starved Maddon, team president Theo Epstein and the rest of the Cubs staff are just as invested in the concept of the world knowing their names and crediting them as they are in winning, if not more. So they’re not exactly on the moral high ground when it comes to telling Lake to tone down the act.

But it can be handled in a variety of ways even if the Cubs don’t want to do it themselves. The key is ensuring there are legitimate consequences for one’s actions. The Cubs and Maddon might shrug off the behavior as the way the game is played today and it’s no big deal, but if they’re running the risk of losing one of their star bats because of Lake, they’ll care and it will stop.

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The 6-Man Rotation: Its Wisdom And Its Flaws

MLB

Had the Washington Nationals implemented a 6-man starting rotation in 2012, there’s a very real chance that they would have won the World Series that year. The predetermined innings limit on ace Stephen Strasburg that led to him being shut down in mid-September of that year could very easily have been avoided had the Nats taken the lesser of evils by implementing a 6-man starting rotation. They chose not to do that, sat a submissive Strasburg down, and lost in the National League Division Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

There’s no guarantee that the Nats would have won that series with Strasburg. Ace pitchers are generally hit or miss when it comes to the post-season – just look at Clayton Kershaw. For the 2012 Nats, it was the bullpen that betrayed them as they were set to close it out. But having Strasburg made the Nats a better team and they didn’t have him not because he was injured, but because they were paranoid and they did something absurd to feed that paranoia and shield themselves from criticism in case he got hurt. That he’s never fulfilled that massive potential is a secondary negative to his career. The protection was, basically, useless.

In hindsight, the Nats still insist they did the “right” thing because admitting to anything less is seen, in the macho and stupid world of sports, as a sign of weakness. Then-manager Davey Johnson was out of the Earl Weaver school of managing and wanted nothing to do with babying his players, but was overruled on the matter. Suffice it to say that had Strasburg been available, Johnson would have been happy to have him on the mound for game 1 or 2 of that series.

Many pitchers dislike the 6-man rotation, but given the dueling agendas of front offices and on-field staff, there are few other options that make sense. Currently, there’s an ongoing debate as to what the New York Mets should do with their enviable surplus of starting pitching. Veteran Dillon Gee is the low man on the totem pole and had a conveniently-timed groin injury. Rafael Montero had a shoulder injury. These issues allowed the club to recall Noah Syndergaard slightly earlier than planned. Syndergaard has nothing more to prove in the minor leagues and has been dynamic in all aspects of the game since arriving in the majors, even hitting a tape-measure home run against the Philadelphia Phillies while tossing 7 1/3 scoreless innings in his Wednesday afternoon start.

They could send Syndergaard down, but he’s earned his position in the big leagues. The Mets would like to be rid of Gee, but don’t want to give him away. Clearly what the Mets are doing for the foreseeable future is giving extra and unwanted (from their perspective) rest to Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard, Jon Niese and Bartolo Colon while simultaneously showcasing Gee to try and get something of value for him when they trade him. It’s easy to say “just get him outta here,” but sometimes it makes sense to wait for teams to grow desperate as general manager Sandy Alderson did when he pried the Mets’ future second baseman Dilson Herrera and righty reliever Vic Black from the Pittsburgh Pirates for rejuvenated journeyman outfielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck. While it’s unlikely they’ll get anything of use for Gee, they might if they wait. The subpar deals that they can make now will still be there a month from now barring an injury or terrible performance.

Akin to the 6-man rotation, pitching once a week is the norm in Japan and it could be the change in scheduling that has negatively affected Masahiro Tanaka as he’s battling numerous injuries with the New York Yankees. In Japan, their workloads are heavier, but they get more rest. In North America, with all the medical expertise and studies that are used to decide how best to keep pitchers healthy, there are still an alarming number of injuries sabotaging these plans and schemes that look retrospectively ridiculous when the foundation of the decision was to keep them healthy and it’s not working.

Suffice it to say that the Mets five main starters want nothing to do with this arrangement, nor would there be any chance of a Strasburg-like shutdown of Harvey if the Mets are in playoff contention down the stretch. Both pitchers are represented by Scott Boras, but that’s about where the similarities end. Boras had a hand in the Strasburg shutdown with an eye toward the future contract his charge is set to command. If he had his choice with Harvey, he’d probably prefer the pitcher take a similarly acquiescent route as Strasburg did, listening to orders and acting like Boras’s brainless dummy, but that’s not going to happen. Strasburg meekly agreed to the shutdown, only resisting in a perfunctory fashion when he saw the public and professional backlash he faced for the perceived selfishness. If the Mets tried that with Harvey, he’d simply tell them that either they let him pitch or they trade him. No pitcher in baseball wants the playoff spotlight and accompanying attention that comes with it more than Harvey and he’s not going to shun that for the protective embrace that the innings limits are supposed to provide, but rarely do.

These are the options:

A) shutdown at X number of innings

B) ignore the research and let them pitch regardless of the workload

C) go with the 6-man rotation

Which is best?

The Nats and Strasburg are headed toward a parting of the ways after the 2016 season as his free agency beckons. They might trade him before that. His talent has been largely wasted at the time in his life when he should have been at the top of his game and pitching for his team in the playoffs. Other teams noticed how badly that situation was botched and are trying to find different ways to protect their young pitchers, adhere to medical recommendations, and still have them available for the entire season without blowing off the innings limits and placing themselves under the microscope for “abusing” their young arms. Some teams simply don’t care what others say and live by the old-school credo. That worked for the San Francisco Giants. The Mets aren’t doing that, but they don’t want to shut down their pitchers either. With all that in mind, the best option of all the questionable options is to go with a 6-man rotation for a few turns to naturally keep the innings down while trying to move Gee. They really don’t have any other viable choice.

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Dan Jennings represents a new threat to uniformed baseball people

MLB

Widespread bafflement and undisguised anger has simmered from the Miami Marlins’ stunning decision to replace fired manager Mike Redmond with general manager Dan Jennings. The results in Jennings’s first three games at the helm have mirrored what they were under Redmond with discombobulated losses and puzzlement as a team that many had considered a World Series contender looks closer to a club that’s heading for the number one pick in the 2016 draft. While owner Jeffrey Loria and his front office staff are loath to admit this sad fact – and probably won’t – it’s the flawed roster that’s the problem and not anything that the manager did or didn’t do.

That aside, Jennings put himself in this difficult situation by accepting the job. Uniformed baseball people have been anonymously expressing their dismay that the field is now being invaded by “suits.” While the Marlins situation is different from most other clubs in that there is a known quotient of dysfunction from the top down and has been for years, the Jennings hiring isn’t only offensive to those who have dedicated their life to the on-field, nuanced, “you can only learn by watching” portion of the game. It symbolizes the final infiltration of the last enclave in which players and “baseball people” held sacred and thought was safe.

To make matters worse, the Marlins aren’t even a pure sabermetrically-inclined team from whom this type of blurring of the lines of accepted propriety was possible or even likely. The Marlins under Loria are more Steinbrennerean than sabermetrican, lending credence to the idea that stat people are watching closely for the reaction to Jennings among the players, media and fans to see if they too can get away with a non-baseball person going down on the field and taking charge just as they’ve overtaken a large portion of big league front offices.

Uniformed baseball people accepted the new age front offices and statistical adherence not by choice, but out of necessity. These faceless, suit-clad front office people have no qualms about going into the clubhouse as if it too is their domain and they’re free to make “suggestions” to players, coaches and managers that are orders disguised as options. Now, with the Jennings foray down to the field, it might be making its way into the clubhouse completely.

The difference between uniformed personnel who work their way up through the minor league system as players, then coaches, then managers and finally find themselves on a big league staff or are actually in the manager’s office and those who are permeating baseball’s front offices today is that those who are in the front office have options for other forms of employment that will be just as, if not more, lucrative than being a GM or scouting director. Often, uniformed personnel can’t do anything else besides baseball. So it’s either accept the new reality or get a job at Wal-Mart. Another threat they have to parry is presenting itself and they’re resisting it.

The chipping away of the aura of the once insular and sacred realm of “baseball people” began with the widespread popularity and acceptance of the ludicrous stories in Moneyball. It blew up from there and is still multiplying like a disease meant to wipe out those who probably can’t formulate an algorithm, but have an innate sense of when their pitcher is out of gas. It’s easy to see why they’re chafing at Jennings being in uniform.

There’s no threat of the pure sabermetric front offices or even sabermetrically-leaning front offices having their current baseball bosses go down on the field as happened with the Marlins and Jennings. You won’t see Jeff Luhnow, Theo Epstein, Andrew Friedman, Brian Cashman or any of the other GMs who are stats-obsessed pulling on a uniform to run the team on the field. But is it possible that there’s a group of 20-somethings making a load of money in the stock market looking to buy a team with it in their minds to be the next subject of a book by having a non-baseball guy go on the field and win a World Series? The ego and arrogance that has led to the transformation of an endeavor that was once meant to be a plaything – a sports franchise – into a big business in which non-athletes can become sports celebrities. It’s treated as such. It provides a spotlight that these Masters of the Universe wouldn’t get by being mentioned on Bloomberg as a CEO with a $150 million bonus and a mansion in the Hamptons.

This is why the Marlins and Jennings could have unintended consequences throughout baseball. The Marlins are being deservedly ridiculed for what they’ve done. Jennings is a baseball guy, so It’s not “ridiculous” in the context of Bill Veeck’s midget Eddie Gaedel or Ted Turner going down on the field to manage the Atlanta Braves. It is, however, an intrusion into what the uniformed people felt was their domain. If one team does it, another team might do it. That’s what the uniformed people are rightfully afraid of more than they are offended by the Marlins’ breach of accepted protocol.