Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Why Frank Robinson Must Go

We've said repeatedly over the last few days that we've concluded that Frank Robinson isn't the right manager for this team. We've reached this conclusion reluctantly because we think that Robinson brings a lot to the party; how many other managers can say they were one of the best players ever to play the game? That's got to be worth a lot in winning the players' respect. And we don't think it's a coincidence that Robinson was the manager when the Nationals overachieved in the first half.

But we still think that Frank Robinson must go. Why?

1. Most importantly, Robinson refuses to put the best team on the field. As we've said repeatedly, had the Nationals put a replacement level player at shortstop instead of Cristian Guzman, they would be leading the Wild Card Race. We don't want to hear about Guzman's last 50 at bats--for virtually the entire season Guzman was historically bad and Robinson didn't do anything about it. Robinson also refuses to play young players at the end of the season such as Ryan Zimmerman and Rick Short who are putting up better numbers than the players (including those who seem to be mailing in their performance) Robinson continues to pencil into the lineup. There is no excuse for that, and Robinson's only justification--that veterans deserve playing time--shows that he is more concerned with a commitment to particular players than with winning baseball games.

2. Robinson doesn't have the right temperament for this team. Robinson doesn't have the ability to moderate his fiery competitiveness when the situation calls for it. He has materially undermined the Nationals' playoff chances by pursuing a personal vendetta against pitchers he thinks have slighted him, and he seems incapable of being supportive of young players trying to find their way in the major leagues.

3. He seemingly can't moderate disputes or tensions between players. Although the full story hasn't been told, it appears clear that the Nationals' clubhouse is torn by internal conflict. One of the most important jobs for a manager is to moderate those tensions through the course of the season and keep the players focused on winning.

4. Robinson willfully ignores a substantial body of learning he could use to manage more effectively. He is fond of saying that he doesn't manage according to the numbers. That's fine, but ignoring the numbers is nonsensical. Why not at least consider all of the data other managers are using against you?

To be clear, we would not fire Robinson for his in-game moves. Some of those moves have driven us nuts at various times of the season, but that would be true of almost any manager. If Robinson hadn't been guilty of the offenses we detail above, we wouldn't lift a finger because of his in-game moves.


El Gran Color Naranja said...

I agree with 2 and 3 (and 4 but don't really think it's that big a deal) but the wording on 1 is a little too harsh for me.

It's not that he thinks there is a better lineup possible and undermines the team for the sake his loyalty. I think Frank truly believes that veteran players day in and day out will win more games than young players unless the young players are substantially better than the vets. In his mind somehow a veteran team that hits .250 will have enough baseball acumen to win more games than a young team hitting .280. (The Indians hurt his head) I'd say Frank just can't recognize the best lineup for the team. (not that it's not a fireable offense)

Leiv & Erik said...

Good points, but how about this: would you reconsider your view on 4 if you assume that paying attention to the stats would help Frank understand his problem on 1?

El Gran Color Naranja said...

I don't know. Frank strikes me as one of those "little knowledge is a dangerous thing" type of people. He'd know just enough to mess up things even more.

Like right now "Base Frank" may pinch hit Ryan Church against say...Braden Looper, because "Base Frank" knows lefties should bat against righties. But after finding out Bennett is hitting 0.500 against Looper, "Improved Frank" would hit Bennett instead, ignoring the fact that he's only 2-4 against Braden.


"Base Frank" brings in Chad Cordero to close a game. That's what a closer is for. "Improved Frank" might start off the inning with Mike Stanton because the lead-off hitter is 0-5 with 3Ks against Stanton (all back before 2002).

Basic baseball knowledge, as flawed as it can be, at least uses a lot of game and time-tested theories. When you go away from that you better be sure you know what you're doing and I don't think Frank has the ability or interest to learn statistics to that depth. So unless you can promise me Frank will essentially do a 180 about stats, I prefer him to keep ignorant.

Leiv & Erik said...

You've convinced us.