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  • Nugent wasn’t alone among owners in finding his finances unequal to the expenditures required to maintain a major league team.Not surprisingly, this was not a particularly successful period for the Braves, who went 38–115 in 1935, but it wasn’t their worst.Other perennial losers on our list were handicapped by equally onerous ownership situations.The Red Sox lost more often than they won for 15 straight seasons from 1919 to 1933, and the primary culprit was infamous owner Harry Frazee.The end of the Red Sox’ streak coincided with Tom Yawkey’s purchase of the team, which wasn’t a coincidence.Elsewhere, the stories were similar.Louis market and ultimately relocated to Baltimore in order to corner a market of their own.Clearly, the first key to avoiding a decade of failure is having an owner who wants to win and puts his money where his mouth is, as well as a market that can comfortably support a team.While financial disparities among teams are hardly a thing of the past, an environment in which teams are often underwritten by large conglomerates or a multitude of investors makes men like Mack, whose sole business was baseball, seem hopelessly quaint.Today’s owners are expected to put capable people with baseball experience in place to administer their investments, rather than pull the strings themselves.Thus, while declining to ante up in the payroll department still results in a competitive disadvantage and recrimination from fans, meddling in baseball operations directly or installing incompetent leadership can be perceived as even more serious sins.Of course, running a successful team was always about more than signing sizeable checks.All of today’s teams have farm systems, but that doesn’t make them immune to mismanagement.Worse still, he was making over $10 million, with another season at the same rate to come.The Pirates are an object lesson in how not to run a franchise.They would win just 72 games.How much you spend matters, but how you spend it is also a significant factor.Over the course of their 19 consecutive seasons with records in the red, the Pirates have spent it as poorly as any team.The acquisition of Morris may have been the organization’s most baffling move, but backing the wrong horse had been par for the course in Pittsburgh since the early 1990s, even before the team fell apart on the field.Van Slyke was a good player, but rarely a great one, and unlike Bonds, he was already over 30 by the time he hit the market.He had a fine season for the Pirates in 1992, but he contributed under two wins in 1993 and 1994 combined while Bonds wrought havoc on the West Coast.Morris was just one in a long line of Pirates trade targets or signees whose bubbles had already burst or were in the process of bursting by the time they donned the black and orange.Littlefield, too, got in on this act, bringing in the likes of Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Randa, each of whom predictably cratered.As we wrote in Baseball Prospectus 2007, It’s one thing to bring in a player at the top of his game and have him take an uncharacteristic powder.Those investments might take time to pay dividends, but for the first time in years, there is some hope on the horizon.Unlike the Pirates and Brewers, the Orioles have at times spent lavishly with little return, and even as their payrolls have diminished in recent seasons, they’ve remained above the level of the league’s true skinflints.The Royals passed up a similar opportunity to restock their system when they traded Jermaine Dye, a player whom they’d stolen from the Braves after his 1996 rookie season but who by 2001 was about to get expensive, for Neifi Perez, who could charitably be described as a waste of a perfectly good roster spot.They got nothing but headaches in return, as Guillen provided negative value over the life of the deal.Unsuccessful seasons result in high draft picks, which can turn a team around quickly if judiciously employed.With the reserve clause no longer binding players to the teams they came up with, stars often become available to the highest bidder, and role players can easily be acquired to plug holes a farm system hasn’t been able to fill.Still, today’s system encourages creativity, and the potential is there for such sustained losing streaks to be consigned to the past.Just make sure you think twice before making a move for the next Matt Morris.How Can We Evaluate Managers?Our specialty, this thing that we do with numbers, it’s applicable to many, many things.It’s applicable to most things, but it’s not applicable to everything.The mission of sabermetrics should be to ask of each aspect of baseball that we encounter, What is it?How does it truly work?We have many tools at our disposal, and sometimes wisdom does not come with a decimal place.The real value of a manager to the winning effort is one of those soft areas of baseball analysis where only some of the answer is approachable via the statistics.Managers can control their own intentions, but not execution or outcomes.As Orioles Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver wrote, If I send Terry Crowley in with the bases loaded to hit for Mark Belanger and Crowley strikes out, that’s not a mistake.Or if I bring in Tippy Martinez to face Graig Nettles and Nettles homers, that’s not a mistake.Those are moves that didn’t work.Lee issued a command to Lieutenant.Whatever subsequent decisions Lee made during the course of the battle, they took place under conditions determined by Ewell’s failure to take Cemetery Hill.There is no record of Lee anticipating Weaver and saying, Those are moves that didn’t work.There is nothing to apologize about. In fact, he tendered his resignation.However, the same decisions and failures of execution take place in every baseball game, except the manager’s orders are far less ambiguous than Lee’s were.Scioscia, too, had three strong starters and question marks in the bullpen.In the short term, however, such tactics are often a reaction to available personnel.In other words, in his ideal world, Buck Showalter might have preferred to let his starters throw more than 92 pitches a start, but they were so often thrashed that he didn’t have any choice but to make a move.One key skill for a manager is having some insight into when to remove a starting pitcher from the game.One way we can track this is by noting how often a manager not only received a quality start from his pitcher, but kept it.The quality start is a statistic conceived of by Bill James as a shorthand way of counting how many times a starting pitcher did an acceptably adequate job.In order to be credited with a quality start, a pitcher must throw at least six innings and allow three or fewer earned runs.Sometimes, a manager guesses wrong.He gives the pitcher an extra batter when he should be waving in a fresh arm from the pen.In those instances, a pitcher who had already qualified for a quality start can quickly lose that status by allowing more runs.The manager has allowed his starter to blow his quality start.Three years earlier, Leyland had endured 13 blown quality starts, more than any other manager in the league.That year, his pitchers blew 13 percent of their possible quality start opportunities.All of his other Tigers teams have been roughly in harmony with the league average.Was Leyland simply less intuitive in 2008, or was he hamstrung by a Tigers staff that was among the worst in the league?Similarly, was Guillen’s tolerance of a miserable stolen base percentage by his players the mark of a manager who was not willing to acknowledge his club’s shortcomings, or another attempt to create offense where none might have existed regardless?Even when recent events are concerned, these evaluations are difficult to make from a great height, and all but impossible to make when we are talking about the distant past.They are collections of hundreds or thousands of discrete events that are then converted into averages and other numbers that are easier for us to manage intellectually.In statistics like these, we have captured the results of managerial decision making and perhaps infer some of the thinking behind it, but we are a long distance from being able to assign credit and blame for outcomes.To do that, we need history, biography, a granular view of game conditions, and the wisdom to understand that a failure of execution does not always imply a similar failure of conception.Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel described managing as getting paid for home runs someone else hits. This is, in a nutshell, why it is very difficult to evaluate managers.Even when a manager does push a button for a bunt or call for a particular reliever, just because it worked out doesn’t mean he was right, and if it a given move doesn’t pay off it doesn’t mean he was wrong.After therefore because is a logical fallacy.The actual execution is up to the player, but the manager gets the credit or the blame.In the end, we may be forced to concede that the evaluation of managers is one area of analysis in which the numbers cannot provide any useful insight.Through a slew of different analytical techniques, no evidence of managerial influence has been found.We have seen that most managers overuse strategies like sacrifice bunts, stolen bases, and intentional walks, but it’s unclear if they are the instigators or if the personnel involved escape the analysis of the Win Expectancy framework.Managers show no consistent ability to exceed their team’s projected record based on runs scored and runs allowed.There is, as yet, no viable way to evaluate on a macro level how a manager distributes playing time, nor does there appear to be any consistent ability to improve a team’s batting performance over the course of the season.Finally, managers show no consistent ability to improve batter performance.The singular problem with statistical analysis of managerial ability is that there are too many factors in play that are not measured by any available numbers.The analysis of managers may instead be best undertaken through a more historical approach, as opposed to an analytic tack.While this methodology is filled with nearly as many pitfalls as the ones already undertaken, it does allow many more factors to be explored in terms of actually contributing wins on the field, the influence of managers remains clouded by auxiliary factors, hidden somewhere beneath the numbers.Though this was the correct answer, it did not sit well with us at the time.Dismissing the existence of coaching requires a bit more time than that.I believe managers matter.To convince me otherwise would take more than an equation, no matter how brilliant its math.I need a clear and coherent argument based on ideas and thoughts instead of double regression studies and metrics.It takes words, not numbers, to convince me otherwise.Paragraphs make better arguments about human interactions than equations.I reject his approach.Jaffe has badly misunderstood both Click’s methodology and his point.The key to making an argument about any subject, be it managers or murderers, is to present evidence.In the case of managers, a skipper who possessed the skill to consistently alter some attribute of his clubs would manifest that ability consistently and in a way we could document.This is distinct from how a manager might positively influence a club through the way he shapes the work environment or psychologically affects certain players, but these are impossible to pin down statistically.Ironically, there is stronger statistical evidence that shows a manager can have a negative impact on his team’s fortunes.It doesn’t take much in the way of formulas to see it.In the days of John McGraw and Connie Mack, the manager was a unitary executive, functioning as both coach and general manager, and so his sway over personnel and playing time was absolute.In addition, the game’s strategies and tactics were still being felt out, and so there was room for bold experimentation and quick thinking to swing a few decisions.

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