I wanted to weigh in on this manager search before it becomes a moot point. Or “mute point”, if you’re Rod Allen.
Jim Leyland is gone. I appreciate everything he did to change the baseball scene in Detroit after two decades of misery. If I ever saw the man on the street, I would ask to shake his hand. Thanks for the memories, Marlboro Man.
At the same time, I’m not exactly sad to see him leave. His views on bunting, bullpen usage, and Don Kelly are things that have had me frustrated beyond belief in recent years. And don’t get me going on starting Alfredo Figaro at the end of 2009 in a “must win” situation.
So who should replace him? I have my own dream qualifications in a Tigers skipper.
-A younger manager. I feel a guy in his 40’s has a better chance at relating to the modern MLB athlete than someone in his 60’s. They’re also more likely not to have the “old-school” approach on bunting, batting orders, and drinking prune juice.
-A Latino manager. With so many Spanish speaking players in Detroit, I think a bi-lingual skipper could only help in communication. I’m not exactly sure how “grumble, no-brainer, mumble” translates into Spanish.
-Someone that isn’t scared of math. Leyland openly mocked the use of computers and sabermetrics in his time in Detroit and it blew my mind that a manager would knowingly not use information that could help the team win. Just because it wasn’t a procedure used in the 1970’s doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it today. Math can be your friend. Is it too much to ask that my team’s manager be smarter than the average bear?
So with all that in mind, I do know who I want to be the next manager of the Tigers. I also have two backup candidates in mind. And I definitely know who I do NOT want to manage the Tigers in 2014 and beyond.
HIRE THIS MAN!
Manny Acta is young (44), he is Latino, and he embraces sabermetrics. Write the man a check TODAY. Hire him just for wearing hats like that! That’s a man I can respect.
Here are a couple quotes from Acta in a 2012 article at Fangraphs:
“The main thing is scoring runs, so you need to stack up your best hitters up front. You forget about trying to put a guy in the second spot just because he can hit-and-run and bunt. After the first six hitters, you should put your best hitters in front of the [lesser] hitters. The bottom of your order should be the bottom. I’ve never been a big believer in the idea of having a second leadoff hitter. I don’t like putting a guy in the nine-hole who should be hitting in the seven- or eight-hole. To me, you have to maximize at bats. Your better hitters should have a shot at getting that extra at bat.”
No more hitting Don Kelly first, third, or sixth? I’m in love.
But what about the leadoff hitter? Do you put a guy at the top of the order just because he’s fast?
“Speed at the top is important, but it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get on base. It’s been proven over the years. Guys like Wade Boggs had no speed, but if you have a high on-base guy, you have a better chance of scoring runs than if you have a guy leading off who can’t steal first base. The guy who hits first obviously has to be an on-base-percentage guy. Then you go from there.”
Okay, okay…this is all nice. But what about my arch-nemesis: the sacrifice bunt?
“I’m not big on bunting guys from first to second. I don’t think it’s a secret, because the facts are out there. It’s been proven that a guy has a better chance of scoring from first with no outs than from second with one out. I have to have way too much of an advantage late in the game, bullpen-wise and great hitters lined up, to do that. At first and second with no outs, I usually only do it with the bottom of the order, or maybe the top guy in the order, depending on how he’s swinging the bat. It guarantees me a runner on third with less than two out and another runner in scoring position. But I probably won’t if we need multiple runs. If it’s the heart of my order, it won’t happen.”
I love you, Manny Acta. You complete me.
The main knock against Acta is that his career winning percentage as a MLB manager is .418. But keep in mind, those teams were awful Nationals and Indians teams that no one would have won with. Some people refuse to see that, including Jamie Samuelsen of the Free Press.
Samuelsen called Acta a “retread” and then said the following:
The new metrics crowd loves Acta for his reliance on advanced statistics. While that’s enticing in the modern game, it has to be concerning that the Indians flourished under Terry Francona once Acta was fired.
That’s not concerning if you’re not an idiot. It’s all in the roster.
The 2012 Indians had Casey Kotchman (72 OPS+) at first base. In 2013, they upgraded to Nick Swisher (117 OPS+).
In ’12, the Tribe had the corpses of Shelley Duncan and Johnny Damon in left field. In ’13, they moved Michael Brantley to left and had Michael Bourn in center.
The bench was better. Lou Marson (83 OPS+) was upgraded to Yan Gomes (133 OPS+). Clowns like Jose Lopez (78 OPS+) and Jason Donald (49 OPS+) were out in favor of guys like Ryan Raburn (153 OPS+) and Mike Aviles (84 OPS+).
And don’t forget the pitching staff. Justin Masterson finally took the next step in his young career at becoming an ace seeing his ERA drop from 4.93 to 3.45. Ubaldo Jiminez adjusted to AL lineups and dropped his ERA from 5.40 to 3.30. Scott Kazmir and Danny Salazar are huge upgrades over Derek Lowe and Jeanmar Gomez.
Terry Francona is a great manager. But he didn’t step into Cleveland and wave a magic wand. He was given talent and this talent produced in 2013.
Joe Torre is considered to be one of the greatest managers ever, nowadays. But before arriving in New York, Joe had managed for 14 years with a .472 winning percentage. Even the best need talent to succeed.
I want to see what Manny Acta can do with talent. The Tigers have talent.
Make this happen.
If Acta isn’t hired, there are two other interesting candidates out there that I’d settle for. For the sake of brevity, I wouldn’t be as long-winded with them as I was about Acta, but I’ll list what I like about each of them and the down sides, too.
-The former Tiger catcher is only 44 years old and played in MLB as recently as 2010.
-Ivy League education. He understands math.
-One of the most highly respected catchers of his time for his game-calling, defense, and intelligence.
-Look at that picture. Ausmus could be fun for this blog. Imagine him and Porcello out on the town chasing drunk girls. Gold, Jerry. Gold.
-Has never managed at any level, other than Isreal’s WBC team in 2013.
-Is not Latino.
-Has been Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa since the 2008 season. Likely, he has picked up many of Joe’s positive traits as a skipper.
-Epic beard growing ability.
-Has never managed.
-Named one of his kids “Jagger”.
-Unclear on his views on sabermetrics and bunting.
A List of Maybes
There are a bunch of names floating around out there. If we can’t have the big three listed above, I’d be willing to listen on the following guys, but I’m not as crazy about the idea. I would need more information. Why Dave doesn't have me sitting in on these interviews is beyond my comprehension.
The Anwer is No, NO, NOOOO!
And here are some names I have zero interest in taking over the Tigers.
-Tim Wallach: I was indifferent on DD's old buddy from the Expos until I read this from GWilson over at Bless You Boys:
In the 16-team PCL, Wallach’s Isotopes laid down the 2nd most sacrifice bunts in 2009 and the 4th most in 2010. On defense, Albuquerque issued the 6th most IBBs in 2009 and ramped up to the 2nd most in 2010. Note that PCL teams averaged 5.1 runs per game during Wallach’s two years. Thus, without supervision, look for TW to go even more to the sac and IBB strategies in the lower scoring American League environment (4.3 R/G last year).
/jumps out window
-Lloyd McClendon: Do not hire a Leyland clone. I'm also curious if he stayed awake during his entire interview with Dombrowski.
-Gene Lamont: Old. Another Leyland clone. Please, no.
-Tom Brookens: Stupid, based on his third base coaching. Possible Leyland clone.
-Ozzie Guillen: Insane. Loves bunting. Would be fun for this blog, but terrible for the team.
-Charlie Manuel: Old. Dumb.
-Jim Riggleman: Too old. Kills pitchers.
-Dusty Baker: Old. Stupid. Kills pitchers. I will become a Blue Jays or Orioles fan if they even consider Baker.
-Bobby Valentine: Hahahahaha…no.
The choice is clear. Hire Manny Acta.
Please. HE WEARS FEDORAS!
What an amazing photo.