Thursday, June 21, 2007

Smartest non coach in baseball

Joe Girardi did what every expert and armchair quarterback thought he should he turned down the Baltimore Oriols job.

It was the smart thing to do. Becoming a manager of a losing team is hard enough, trying to turn around a franchise with a decade of losing is even worse, turning one around in the AL East against Boston and the Yankees is damn near insane. I'm not even sure why the other teams in that division try. I think that the Devil Rays may have it right. Don't spend money, keep your team cheap and get fans to show up to watch the opponents more than the home team. Use your system to build good players, then trade them for almost nothing and cash. Live off of the shared income from the big market clubs that bring in the billions upon billions of dollars.

Then again, legends are made by facing insurmountable odds. It's those that are able to overcome and turn a team around in those kind of situations that are immediate legends and earn themselves a spot in the hall of fame almost instantly. Those are the managers that with only 2 or 3 winning years can coach for the rest of their lives because of that reputation of turning a team around. It's like Larry Brown in basketball. You just have to be good enough to turn a team around, you don't ever have to win it all.

Last year Girardi did amazing things on almost no budget in Florida. But the numbers are deceiving. Some of the players were still under their rookie contracts and will be very highly paid players in the next 5 years. They are already underpaid and overperforming and when it's time for their first free agent contract they'll make millions. He was lucky to get on a team with that much talent that just happened to not cost the owners those millions already.

That begs the question, "how good is Girardi?"

He was a great catcher, and has learned under the great Joe Torre in New York, as well as having played for some great managers in his career (even though he was a Cub). Maybe I'm biased, but I think that catchers seem to make better managers, they arleady are so in charge of a team while on the field. There's other catchers that I think will make good managers, like Sandy Alomar Jr. But is he a good coach? He took a very talented team to an almost winning record. The division that he was in last year appears to have been in a weakened state compared to this year and the year before last. So was it him or was it the circumstances?

I think it was both. I think he's a good coach who happened upon the right situation for his first job and was able to do really good things there. I think he also realized that Baltimore is not the right situation for him to have another quick success. The best thing he would have had going for him in Baltimore is one of the best pitching coaches in all of baseball. He was smart, he'll wait until the offseason when there will probably be a few more job openings and have his pick at that point. Smart man. After-all, Baltimore may still be open if they don't rush to fill the position now.