In this edition of Deep Thoughts I bring in Mr. Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs fame to discuss Joe Maddon, the art of managing, and the Rays slim chances at the wild card.
Erik: The Rays are trying to accomplish something very few other teams have been able to do. They're lucky enough to have Joe Maddon guiding them through the journey. He's established himself as one of the best managers in the game -- his job this year may be the most impressive of the bunch. I've seen a few sites talking about the Manger of the Year award and nary a mention of Maddon was made. As an outsider to our Rays community what are your impressions of the Rays's skipper?
Carson: It's very possible that someone, somewhere knows how many runs or wins a manager is worth per season. Carson Cistulli is definitely not that person. Still, as any person who's ever had a job knows, one's working environment at least feels like it has an effect on one's production.
This American Life, an NPR show to which I'll admit to listening of my own volition, had an episode recently dedicated to amusement parks. Part of that episode is dedicated to one of the managers at World of Fun in Kansas City, this guy Cole Lindbergh. Lindbergh is somehow able to make working at a terrible, Midwestern amusement park seem palatable -- fun, even.
Maddon appears to be the baseball analog of Cole Lindbergh -- what with all the spectacle-wearing and dress-upping. He seems to have some interest in making life not terrible for his players -- which, there are managers for whom that doesn't appear to be a priority. Is it worth wins? No idea. But were I a major leaguer, I'd prefer playing for Maddon, as opposed to, say, Tony LaRussa.
But, hmm, you know him better. What do you think? Is it merely a comfort thing? Or does it make a difference, ultimately, in terms of wins?
Follow-up: have you ever had a particularly crap/excellent boss? Did it affect your performance?
Erik: Maddon has such a unique relationship with his players, one that I haven't seen or heard of before or since. I'm sure playing for him brings out a little something extra in a person. How much? No clue. He's not all costumed road trips and funny quips, though. He's an excellent in game manager; I don't think anyone handles a bullpen better than he does. Also, his close relationship with Andrew Friedman cannot be taken for granted.
I think being at a good job with a terrible boss can make that job seem much worse. On the flip side, a crap job with a really cool boss makes all the difference in the world. For Maddon's first two years this was a crap job for most players. He's been a big part of that transformation. I know you're not a <i/>normal<i/> person, but what have your experiences been? And where would you currently rank Maddon in the hierarchy of managers?
Carson: Two managers about whom I'd care to learn more -- and would have <i>already</i> learned more if "reading" weren't so "difficult" -- are Earl Weaver and Chuck Tanner. Weaver had a filthy mouth, had affection for three-run homers, and was good at developing young pitchers. Tanner -- I know less about him, but he famously allowed Dick Allen to operate at the top of his (i.e. Allen's) game, and allowing him (i.e. still Allen) to win the MVP award in 1972. Tanner also coached that excellent Pirates team in 1979 that scored a lot of (a) runs and (b) cocaine.
In terms of modern managers, I'm inclined to say Terry Francona, but that's very likely because I've had the most exposure to him. Of course, I've had quite a bit of exposure to Ron Roenicke this season, and he doesn't seem quite so dynamic as Francona. Other managers? Hmm. Not sure. I like how Manny Acta almost WWF'd Joe Girardi that one time, but I'm not sure one single act of aggression -- no matter how inspired -- an excellent manager makes.
As for me, I've had bosses before -- and have two now in Davids Appelman and Cameron. Appelman is a shadowy specter who leads merely by the pain he could inflict. Cameron's a big nerdbone, as you've probably ascertained.
I had a boss once when I was working at this indie-ish video store in Missoula, MT. She was a fine lady, but probably not boss material, in that she would routinely fire and then immediately re-hire employees (myself included) for trifling errors. I also worked at a hotel restaurant in Kennebunkport, ME, once. If ever there were a time when I considered stabbing myself in my own face, that was it. My boss told me I acted like a black person -- and he didn't mean it as a compliment.
But wait, you didn't answer my question, Hahmann: you ever had a crap boss before? I. Want. Details.
Erik: I worked at a bowling alley for two years. Suffice it to say being ordered to attend to the acne riddled teenager's problem at the ski-ball machine didn't endear my manager to me. Let's change topics and focus on the wild card race. Rays are 3 games back with not much time left, what say you of their chances?
Carson: I'm going to answer a slightly different question than that, Hahmann -- just to mess with you. In terms of what their chances are, I'll say something between the 13.2% that Cool Standings suggest and the 3.6% that Baseball Prospectus suggests.
The more interesting question -- for me, at least -- is what's more interesting, objectively speaking: the Red Sox or the Rays winning the wild card. Scientifically speaking, it turns out, people like underdogs -- like, 90% of people, I think it is. That would seem to suggest that the Rays coming back to win the wild card would please the greatest number of people (non-Red Sox division, at least). On the other hand, the Rays winning would make Carson Cistulli upset, and when Carson Cistulli is upset, the whole world is upset.
Deep Thought of the day:
Instead of a trap door, what about a trap window? The guy looks out it, and if he leans too far, he falls out. Wait. I guess that's like a regular window.