I have been critical of Davey for what, I believe, were indefensible on field decisions, the most prominent and consequential being how the Espi problem was handled, or not handled to be more precise. And the benching of Rendon so that Tracy would start on Friday night was unquestionably a ‘shooting yourself in the foot' moment. It may have cost the Nats the game, but the prolonged playing of Espi well past any realistic hope of improvement had passed, probably cost the team more than one game. When I criticize Davey it is with full knowledge that he was the manager of the 2012 team that won 98 games and that he has been quite successful at most of his previous managerial stints. So I ask myself two questions:
- Who am I, as an armchair fan, to question the decisions of a distinguished baseball man of 50+ years experience?
- Is the Davey of 2012-2013 the same Davey that managed earlier?
To answer the first, all I can say is that even a mere fan can have baseball wisdom based on watching and analyzing baseball games over an extended period of time, 50 years or so in my case. Baseball is not a simple game, but it is not brain surgery either. Admittedly, I am always worried that I do not have all the relevant facts when criticizing managerial decisions.
To answer the second question, the short answer is I do not know. The reason is I do not have detailed knowledge of how he managed other teams one or more decades ago. So what follows is highly speculative. Normally, we do not know what Davey is really thinking because interviews are filled with platitudes, positive spin, and half-truths. However, I noticed a quote posted on one of the Federal Baseball articles that went something like this (paraphrasing since I have not tracked down the exact quote) after Espi was put on the DL and demoted, Davey apparently said "Espi was probably mad at him [Davey] for ......... ." I found this quite curious and, I believe now, revealing of one of the guiding influences on how Davey now makes decisions regarding personnel. After the Nationals manager gave Espi more chances and got less offensive performance for it than for any other non-star player that I have every witnessed, why would he say such a thing openly? My take, at this point in Davey's managerial career, is that he is unduly influenced by wanting to be liked by the veteran players. His quoted comment reveals his inner desire to not offend a player who has been a starter in the past over an extended period. He cannot seem to cut Tracy loose for the same reason. Speaking as one fan I want a manager who puts winning games first, or close to first, rather than one is who is liked by his players. Being liked is not the same as getting respect. The starting position players on the Nationals may be too comfortable. A little more fear in players of loosing their starting jobs or roster spots may not be a bad thing. Patience for a player to turn things around can be a good thing. Desmond is the prime example. But I think the latter day Davey has had the attribute of patience morph into avoiding decisions that might offend players.