FanPost

Regarding the off and on debate on Davey Johnson

There are some who believe Davey’s managerial performance in the 2013 season was not to blame for the Nationals disappointing record. And there are some, like myself, who do put at least some of the blame on his shoulders. After many skirmishes between the two sides in this debate I would like to clarify some of the issues:

  1. For my part, and I believe most of the others who are on my side regarding Davey, we find fault with him only as the manager in 2013. Specifically, there is utmost respect for his overall managerial career and for his playing career. The Nationals benefited from his role as a senior adviser prior to his being named manager and will benefit from his advice in the same role now. There is no personal ’hatred’, or similar feelings, against him that I know of.
  2. Opinions regarding managers are very difficult to either justify or refute. All the participants in the debate are viewing the same facts, but interpreting them differently. For my part, I observe the Nationals play day in and day out, and have done so for each Washington baseball team since about 1958, which translates to about 22 seasons. When Washington had no baseball my attentions were less focused on any specific team. Anything I could say to justify my opinion on the 2013 season is easily countered by those who feel differently. But so are the arguments on the other side. I could argue either side. Such is the nature of manager evaluation. If I had known how much my opinion on Davey for the 2013 season would be challenged I would have made a running diary in real time, since my memory is lax for many of the specifics. The only relatively concrete reason to praise or blame a manager is to use the season win-loss record and compare it to expectation based on the roster personnel and accounting for injuries. Again, a lot of subjectivity goes into this. Arguably, the Nationals under performed expectations in the 2013 season, so it is not irrational to put much of the blame on the manager. Season to season randomness plays a role, but by how much is unknown. Since the season is quite lengthy I put this effect at a small number, perhaps plus or minus three games or less.
  3. In retrospect, it is usually not difficult to list the reasons why a team either performed better or worse than the previous year or than expected. For my part, I believe a manager has more impact on team performance than just decisions of who is put into the lineup, substitutions, and pitching changes. They are certainly important to a degree, though I would not argue with the idea that the decision making of a manager accounts for only an average net change in wins of plus or minus 3 games or less. However, I believe there is more than the tangible that can affect team performance. Whether there are mental and psychological influences exerted by the manager is highly debatable, and next to impossible to quantify even in a rough sense. I have not researched the average net change in year-to-year team wins for managers’ first season with a team, but I do know that there are some managers who seem to give their new team a jump start that is unlikely to be accounted for by managerial decision-making alone. Billy Martin and Davey Johnson were associated with new team win-loss improvement in several instances for each. If one believes that managers affect team performance in a positive manner from the intangible then one necessarily has to believe in negative influences also. It is my opinion that Davey made, or had a hand in making, several decisions that had a net negative effect on team performance in 2013. Without further elaboration I cite Espinosa, LaRoche, Eckstein, and Soriano as in this mix. I will not debate these further, since my opinion, and others that differ about them, have already had significant airing. Again, in my opinion, there were intangible reasons for the Nationals reduction in teams wins. These are undefined and not quantifiable, so I understand the reluctance of many to go there. Before posting this I did a quick survey of online articles pertaining to managerial influence. I found this short article and the comments that followed enlightening: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=391382
  4. For those who are sensitive to hearing negative opinions regarding Davey for 2013, I apologize for any and all remarks that were, or seemed to be, personal to Davey or demeaning to his illustrious career. For some, comments against Davey’s 2013 managerial performance seems to hit a sensitive spot, possibly much like how I feel when some voice negative feelings about bunting, seemingly without qualification, as an exercise that is just "giving away outs", as if the possible benefit is not even worthy of discussion.
  5. In any of this forum's discussions it is best to view those who are opposite in opinion to ones own as informed, and those opposite opinions as worthy of consideration. And I repeat a plea I made in an earlier Fanpost that when a statistic is presented in a comment, that the source of that information (i.e., the link) be listed.


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