The Baseball Exchange

Thoughts on the pitching coach job and the Joe Torre dilemna by red
October 18, 2007, 4:11 pm
Filed under: MiLB, MLB, New York Yankees, Phil Hughes | Tags: , ,

This is Red speaking. TheFallenPheonix has stepped in for a moment for his take on a few things:

There seems to be a consensus developing in the media and the blogosphere that Ron Guidry is likely not to be returning next year, and furthermore, that Ron Guidry should not return next year. I’m a little skeptical, since this does not seem to be leaked information, but (admittedly reasoned) speculation.

The replacement who keeps coming up would be AAA pitching coach Dave Eiland. I’m…well, I’m not so sure this is best, although it does stand to reason he’d do a better job with the pitching triumvirate than Guidry might. On the other hand, the kids (especially Hughes) have spent more time with other coaches than Eiland (actually, I recall reading some blogs from earlier in the year that argued Eiland might have had a negative influence on Hughes, but I’m not taking a position there one way or the other), so it’s not as if he’s best for all the kids (though I do think Neidi Contreras would be a better fit with Hughes, for example, after teaching him that curveball). On the other hand, there is some benefit from keeping good pitching coaches in the minor leagues, since that can better facilitate the development of the other good, young pitchers in the Yankee organization.

It’s certainly an interesting dilemma one way or the other, if you do accept Eiland’s a good pitching coach and one who would do well with the triumvirate. And I’ll admit I think I lean towards the opinion that, if Eiland would do better with the triumvirate than Guidry, and do the most to facilitate their continued to development (and this is admittedly a big if), I think that would be worth more to the Yankee development than ensuring the development of its other pitchers, since I think the triumvirate is ultimately of greater value than the other young pitchers, especially since the former are already in the majors.

Now on the Joe Torre news:

I think it was a reasonable deal; I don’t think playoff performance is necessarily a proper evaluation of a manager, unless due consideration is given to circumstances (e.g., if a managerial decision directly leads to a playoff ouster, that’s one thing, but if you make the perfect managerial decisions and still do not advance, that’s a different story). Of course, that’s hard to write in objectively in any contract, so I can see how playoff performance-tied incentives would be a reasonable compromise.

Furthermore, I think the deal was overall a reasonable one, considering the baseline salary of $5 million is still higher than what any of the other twenty-nine major league managers (and, by extension, what any of the myriad minor league managers) are getting paid. I’m not going to make a normative judgment one way or the other whether Joe Torre made a reasonable decision here; I hope he didn’t reject this offer because he believed he was being low-balled, or if he took issue with the process that led up to the offer, because I cannot see how the Yankees can reasonably be faulted for wanting to have a careful, rational deliberation before coming to a group consensus.

Sad indeed is the world that favors reflexive impulse decision-making, a scenario that effectively eliminates any possibility of a careful, reasoned deliberation that can lead to the best possible judgment.

I suppose it is possible to read into this process certain signals from the Yankees, such as decreased urgency in their contract offer (since it was a paycut from Joe’s previous contract), and by extension a lower desire for Joe Torre to be manager. But even if that were the case, I think the fact that the Yankees were willing to offer a contract at all, unless the hierarchy seriously believed Torre was going to turn it down ahead of time, demonstrated that Torre was still the Yankees’ first choice, and I want to believe that should count for something.

Of course, psychologically, it’s not so simple, and I understand that, which is, again, why I’m going to reserve a normative judgment. If that’s truly what Torre was considering, that the Yankees just didn’t want him as much as he felt they should, then I think it’s absolutely correct of Torre to turn down the contract. But that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily “sticking it” to the Yankees, or that the Yankees themselves are in the wrong. It just means both parties had a difference in preference (or, if you’re mathematically/economically inclined, utilities), and that the gap just couldn’t be successfully bridged. It happens in negotiations all the time. We can say that perhaps the Yankees are misjudging the value of Joe Torre to the organization in offering an offer that doesn’t match Torre’s preferred expected utility, but only time can really tell whether that is an accurate assessment or not.

I’ll just add that I am feeling ambivalent about this. I respect Joe Torre a lot as a person, I respect what he’s done with the Yankees, and I am also of the opinion that managers frequently get attributed too much blame and, sometimes, too much praise when it comes to the job they do, especially from the general sports media.

Nonetheless, I do believe that Joe Torre was certainly not the best tactical manager out there, and therefore I would certainly support the inclusion of a better tactical manager in Torre’s stead. On the other hand, it is difficult to ignore the widespread respect that most current and former Yankee players hold for Joe Torre, and while I doubt that this will dramatically or decisively affect the decisions of some of the Yankees’ impending free agents, I do think that Joe Torre’s ability to keep clubhouse order (and deal with the pressures of the NY media/George Steinbrenner) has not been overexaggerated, and I’m not sure whoever succeeds him will have that same ability. Ultimately, however, I’m not sure which managerial ability is most important.

I do think, though, that George’s successor coalition is going to be much more reasonable/easy to deal with as George Steinbrenner, so that might have to be taken under consideration, too.



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