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About Jon
Thank You For Not ...

1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
2) personally attacking other commenters
3) baiting other commenters
4) arguing for the sake of arguing
5) discussing politics
6) using hyperbole when something less will suffice
7) using sarcasm in a way that can be misinterpreted negatively
8) making the same point over and over again
9) typing "no-hitter" or "perfect game" to describe either in progress
10) being annoyed by the existence of this list
11) commenting under the obvious influence
12) claiming your opinion isn't allowed when it's just being disagreed with

Tracy and Me
2005-06-06 09:08
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Jim Tracy came into our Dodger lives a little more than four years ago, and for many of us, he seemed to be just about everything we would want from of a significant other.

We weren't the most impressive bunch of guys on the dating scene - we were Maserati-driving, gold chain-wearing brainlessly shallow, deeply flawed in places, seemingly always falling short of our dubious potential. Wayward.

In many ways, Tracy cleaned up our act, taught us, focused us. With Tracy by our sides, we were better than we had been in quite some time. After years of bumbling about, wasting our lives, we were someone to respect again. He ... completed us. Almost, anyway. Not quite, but he pushed us toward completion.

Tracy wasn't perfect, but who is? And I don't mean for that question to be glib. Really, nobody's perfect. Bobby Cox isn't perfect. Joe Torre isn't. Phil Jackson isn't. Abraham Lincoln? Jefferson Smith? Mother Theresa? Superman? Everyone makes mistakes. Not only that, everyone has blind spots, some more damaging than others, but they're everywhere. If you spend your life looking for the perfect guy or girl, you're going to end up alone.

What you hope for, to put it in brief, is a preponderance of goodness. You hope for someone to love. And then, as you mature, you hope - for the sake of the relationship, at least - you don't grow apart.

It happens to good couples, and it happens to good people. It happens even when times past were simply grand, and it happens without warning.

But Tracy and I are growing apart.

He owes me no apologies for causing me to say this, and I owe him no apologies for saying it.

I value the (relative) success of the past four years. Tracy has been the manager of a contending team each of those years, reaching the playoffs in one of them. At no point from 2001-2004 did I think Tracy was anything but an asset. With only rare exceptions, he kept the atmosphere around the team positive and focused on winning. He navigated major personnel changes below him and above.

His philosophy of using his entire roster - even if it meant a weaker player was in the lineup for one given game - I believe in, and it was fun to see a guy off the end of the bench knock two hits in a rare start, or see that guy contribute a key pinch-hit late in the season and imagine it was because he got in a game relatively recently, even if it was an 0 for 4. Tracy engineered effective platoons. He gave us Game Over. And more. It was a good four years.

When Tracy arrived, I was coming off a series of bad managerial relationships. By the mid-1990s, Tommy Lasorda seemed the reactionary cheerleader from Evil High, the quintessential rah-rah who nevertheless would smite you to hell with a look or an off-mic curse, and who wasn't above putting the small girl with the sore arm at the bottom of the pyramid and expecting her to support the whole tower. Bill Russell replaced Lasorda, and disappointed - looking at first like the nice, smart gal down the block for whom we were waiting until the time was right, he proved way more brittle with less up top than those fantasies suggested. I'm probably being too judgmental, but that was the feeling.

Glenn Hoffman, we dallied with for a while - since the breakup, we've even stayed platonic friends on a coaching level - but it was never became serious. Davey Johnson, the hottie with the reputation, seemed to have developed some issues by the time he reached us. We missed the best years of his life. That's how it goes sometimes.

Tracy was a breath of fresh air. Not someone from our neighborhood, not someone with a past, not someone we had particularly high expectations for, yet it led to something very meaningful. Our relationship with Tracy is our longest with anyone since Lasorda - does it shock any of you to realize this is already Year 5? - which means that for anyone under the age of about 50, it's the second longest Dodger managerial relationship of our lives. It almost qualifies as a marriage.

It gives me no glee, none whatsoever, to say that in this marriage, for me, the thrill is gone. He's not a bad person, and I'm not a bad person. But the thrill is gone.

Some of this is subjective, and therein likes room for debate. But I no longer believe Tracy is making us better than we would be without him. Our makeup - the makeup of the Dodgers - has changed, and I don't think Tracy is recognizing those changes for what they are. I don't think he really understands us anymore. (Again, as much as this turn of phrase works in both the dating world and in this discussion, I'm not saying this to be cute or clever. I think it's real.) With their walk-heavy offense and strikeout-deficient pitching, the Dodgers now have different strengths and weaknesses than they have ever had under Tracy, and he hasn't shown a clear ability to manage them effectively - even taking the team's injuries into account. Misjudgments, in my meager opinion, have occured with enough frequency to raise questions about Tracy's overall approach.

If he were willing to learn - explore the equivalent of counseling - then I'd be encouraged. For all I know, he might be learning as we speak, and could put the lessons into play starting tonight. But he comes across rather defiant. He has said that his record speaks for itself. Unless he means that his record implies an ability to learn as he goes, I don't think that's a healthy attitude to bring to a relationship or a team. You are never too old or too experienced to learn. I'm willing to listen to what Tracy has to say, as I'm sure are most of the Dodgers. If he can show me something new and insightful, I crave the lesson. But that isn't happening. In the meantime, his eyes seem closed to the new realities.

And so what was once charming or harmless or both with Tracy now becomes grating and aggravating. Without the bedrock of believing he is making our big picture being better, little moments like failing to remove or pinch-hit for a tiring pitcher before the damage is done, picking the wrong reliever for a given situation when the right one did not need further rest, or greeting a baserunner in a tight game by having your No. 3 hitter - a man with plate discipline, batting skill, power and speed, a man who has grounded into a double play only 37 times in a 3,103 plate-apperance career (once every 83.9!), someone who does strike out but otherwise is almost all dividend with no risk - having that player bunt - you don't want to go to bed with that manager anymore. You'd rather shut out the light, roll over and go to sleep.

The path I am on now with Jim Tracy can lead to irrational behavior, especially if you don't know to take a step back from it. Today, I think still of my girlfriend from college, the second meaningful relationship of my personal life. We connected right away, were in bliss for quite some time. And then, she just started getting to me. And I couldn't help wondering what else was out there. I became interested in another person, though I had no strong reason to believe that that person was interested in me (turns out, she did spurn.) In any case, my patience for my girlfriend, and my appreciation for the goodness she did possess, wore out.

The last straw presaged Seinfeld in its idiosyncrasy. We were driving home, listening to "Don't Stand So Close to Me" by the Police on the car stereo. She was singing along with the song. And as we got to the final chorus, I began saying to myself, "She's gonna sing the harmony. She isn't just going to just sing the normal part. She's gonna show off that she can do the harmony."

And she did. And I decided at that moment to break up with her.

Isn't that silly? The girl was just singing, happily. But whether it was her other actions in the relationship, or my own search for something more, that precipitated the moment, the moment signaled something clear - one of us, if not both of us, had to change.

I don't know that Jim Tracy is going to change enough, and I don't know that I'm going to change enough.

If you're Jim Tracy, of course, you can dismiss this whole conversation as nonsensical. Who the hell is Jon Weisman? He's nobody. But I might not be alone in how I feel - not alone at all. My opinions might be worthwhile, even if my identity is a mystery. I really try not to speak out of a place of arrogance or superiority, but simply as someone who thinks he has something valid to contribute, something worth hearing.

So the thrill is gone. What now? Does this site become FJT II?

Most of the time, when you break up with someone, it's best to be single for a little while. Take stock of what you need, what's important to you. That, obviously, isn't an option with a baseball team in the middle of a pennant race. An interim manager, as rebound girl Hoffman has shown us, isn't the same as being single.

Throughout the year, you've seen me write about things that I think are important with regards to managing the game. These are the kinds of things I'd like to see the Dodger manager do. In a better world, these little things wouldn't matter - life and baseball would be completely rosy, and it would be all about the big picture again.

You've also seen me point out things I don't care about. For example, in a batting order, I like to see alternating left- and right-hand hitters as much as possible, to complicate the other team's use of its bullpen. But I don't particularly care about the order beyond that. The guy batting first is likely to get one more at-bat than the guy batting eighth - it could make a difference, but in most cases, it won't.

On the other hand, when one of your best hitters has been sitting most of the week, and stands before you in need of anything but a rest, yet you still find a way to keep him out of the lineup to start one of your worst hitters - as happened Sunday with Hee Seop Choi and Oscar Robles - add it to the list of reasons I don't want to be with you anymore.

It should go without saying that I want a manager who will either manage the team the way I think it should be managed, or transcends in such a manner that my beliefs don't matter. It should also go without saying that neither I, nor any other baseball writer, is right all the time.

If Jim Tracy told me he didn't think I was the right person to write about the Dodgers, I would respectfully disagree with him, and I think some of you would too, even though together we could make our own laundry list of Weisman woes, or Woesmans. I believe in myself. I expect Tracy to believe in himself.

I don't pretend that Jim Tracy hasn't forgotten more about baseball than I have ever known, though it's possible that I still might have some good ideas that he lacks.

The Dodgers can certainly win with Jim Tracy as their manager.

What I'm saying today, for the first time, is that I'm no longer committed to Jim Tracy as the Dodger manager. That doesn't mean I'm saying he should be fired. As readers of this site know, I don't believe in the "anyone's better than this" theory of personnel decisions. Especially if we can't be single, I want to know who's out there. And even when you know who's out there, as previous Dodger managers have shown, you never really do know who they are until after you've entered the relationship with them.

When I broke up with my college girlfriend, I was single for two years. (She found someone new right away, of course.) It was a depressing time. Eventually backslid with her a couple of times, knowing all the while that it wasn't right. Finding the right person is hard - and I was 30 before I found the one that I'm sticking with for the rest of my life.

But I am saying that right now, the spark I felt for Tracy is gone. I think the Dodgers can do better. Or I think Tracy and I can do better. Not perfect - never perfect - but better. The question for me is not whether something better is out there, either within this relationship or without it, but how long it will take to find it.

Comments (141)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2005-06-06 11:36:24
1.   JSN
Once again you take something we've been talking about for a while and seem to sum it up perfectly, at least from my point of view. Well done. I would pay good money to open the newspaper and read something as thoughtful as that, instead of the blather that I've become used to.

Although I do have to ask, isn't this kind of a moot point? Does anyone really think DePo will even think about Tracy's job before the season is over. Actually I guess that may be the answer to your last sentence...

2005-06-06 11:49:26
2.   Xeifrank
wow! Another great article and a wonderful analogy. To keep with the analogy, it sounds like it will be singles bars and perhaps a trip to the Philippines for you.
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 12:01:32
3.   Fearing Blue
I'm really glad you're getting healthy, Jon. It certainly shows. Your threads the past week have been incredibly good.

This was mentioned in jest in another thread, but it does seem possible. We may be able to trade Jim Tracy to the Reds, though I'm not sure if managers have no-trade clauses :). Here's a couple points in favor of it.

1) The Reds managerial situation is tenuous at best. John Allen, the Reds COO, has been on the record with many critical quotes about the team recently. Sunday, Allen flew to Denver to speak with Dave Miley.

2) Jim Tracy would be a home-town boy in Cincinnati and would get to spend more time with his father who I believe has terminal cancer.

3) Based on Tracy's managerial reputation throughout baseball, we should be able to get something of value in return.

4) DePodesta would be able to turn to a newer, more SABR-savvy, manager while slightly minimizing the media firestorm.

Obviously, this would be a bizzare scenario, but it's the only way I could see a change occurring prior the offseason.

I'm not familiar with the market for managerial candidates. Some have suggested Tim Wallach, due to his reasonable, though limited quotes in the paper. He seems like he would be a decent place to start a search. Beyond that, like with dating, it's difficult to see if there's something better before you end your current relationship.

2005-06-06 12:03:02
4.   Bob Timmermann
I'm never getting Jon a CD of the Police's Greatest Hits.
2005-06-06 12:09:51
5.   jasonungar05
Don't stand so
Don't stand so
Don't stand so

Please....Don't..... stand... so... close to me

2005-06-06 12:10:26
6.   Bob Timmermann
Fire Andy Summers!
2005-06-06 12:12:05
7.   Jon Weisman
No, buy me all the CDs, just don't sing along when I'm in a bad mood.
2005-06-06 12:13:37
8.   Bob Timmermann
I'm sure Steve has already dubbed Jim Tracy "The King of Pain."
2005-06-06 12:17:15
9.   Jon Weisman
In high school I once wrote a short story using every song title and album title from the Police's first five albums. It was a masterpiece.

Yes, every title.

2005-06-06 12:23:12
10.   Fearing Blue
A comment about lineup ordering, based on recent studies:

Optimal lineup orderings on average can lead to approximately a 15 run improvement over standard MLB lineups during the course of a season. Optimal lineups compared to the worst MLB lineup orderings can lead to a 30-50 run improvement. I have to imagine batting Robles leadoff is closer to the worst case than the average case. These run numbers may not seem like much, but based on Pythagorean, it's a couple extra wins vs. the average case and 4 or 5 extra wins vs. the worst case over the course of a season.

2005-06-06 12:29:35
11.   Fearing Blue
Bob, is there any precedent to "trading" a manager during the season?

Lou Piniella was essentially traded during the offseason in 2002. He and Antonio Perez went to the Devil Rays from Seattle for Randy Winn. It wasn't officially a trade in the sense that Seattle released him from his contract and Tampa Bay resigned him. Thus, it suggests that all three parties need to agree to such a scheme.

2005-06-06 12:32:12
12.   Jon Weisman
10 - right, but Robles isn't leading off every day. It's once in 56 games. And Izturis, despite his fine year, isn't an ideal leadoff man to begin with. So I don't think too much should be made of it.
2005-06-06 12:34:12
13.   Marty
Excellent work again Jon. I wonder, is there someone out there that this group would endorse for manager? I can't think of anyone off the top of my head that I would go "yeah, get him!" Which currently-working managers would we consider good managers? Any unemployed managers we would like? Anybody managing in the minors?
I seem to remember a lot of talk about Scoscia being a good candidate, but now I see more complaints about his small-ball strategy than compliments. Alou was another one a lot of people (not necessarily on this board) were hot on before Johnson got the job.

Or do we want the one that does the least damage?

2005-06-06 12:38:33
14.   untitled instrumental demo
I think we should find out if Bobby Valentine is seeing anyone...or is he even in the country right now?
2005-06-06 12:42:42
15.   Bob Timmermann
Jimmy Dykes and Joe Gordon were traded for each other during the 1960 season. Dykes started out in Detroit and ended up in Cleveland and Gordon was the opposite.

It wasn't much of a success.

2005-06-06 12:46:23
16.   Bob Timmermann
Valentine has piloted the Chiba Lotte Marines to first place in Japan's Pacific League. They were playing .700 ball the last time I checked.

And that is one sorry franchise. I should be seeing the Marines play on July 4 at the Tokyo Dome.

2005-06-06 12:55:57
17.   scareduck
Without any direct conversations with Mr. DePodesta, I think it safe to say that DePo's late and tenuous re-hiring process for Tracy may well have been an exhibition of that same sense of "we can do better".
2005-06-06 12:57:30
18.   scareduck
13: Scioscia is making up for the deficiencies of the team his GM handed him. It's one thing to play smallball because you like doing it, but another because you have to. Once the Angels unloaded Guillen and Glaus in the offseason, the Angels' offensive strategy became even more wedded to smallball.
2005-06-06 13:07:42
19.   Big Larry
Great article, Jon.

OK, I know this may sound like I'm trying to re-live 1988, but should Kirk Gibson get any serious consideration to manage here?

2005-06-06 13:07:48
20.   Woody
A couple of years back, my wife and I were at Vero watching the Dodgers and Mets. Bobby V. was at the the gate near the outfield fence after the game and my wife practically swooned as we walked past. If he were to somehow become our manager, I'd never be able to watch a game in peace again and would be singing "Don't Stand So Close to Me" to her.
2005-06-06 13:15:04
21.   goodman64
OK, so I'll play devil's advocate and start with wondering about the great rush to fire -- or in Jon's case, question -- a manager who has never won fewer than 85 games in a season. Did I miss something or did this team make the playoffs last year after an 8-year drought? Now, he isn't good enough for us?

You don't like how he orders the lineup, you say? OK, maybe Trace can be quirky, but isn't the purpose of the batting order to score runs? And the Dodgers ARE THIRD IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE!!! Certainly, no Dodger fan needs an explanation of how completely stellar that ranking is for a team playing in Chavez Ravine. (I'm not sure what Oscar Robles does at any point of the season will have more impact than that of Drew, Kent, or Izturis).

Conversely, don't we all as Dodger fans know that this team will not win anything resembling a post-season slot with an ERA ranking 13th in league? In fact, I'm not sure they've ever made the playoffs ranking below 3rd or 4th (I could be wrong here).

So, who are the main culprits? Well, how about Jeff Weaver and Scott Erickson throwing about 115 innings of a 6.00 ERA. And that's all Tracy's fault? OK, you could make a case that Erickson was the wrong guy to take to the big leagues from spring training, but remember that this move was made with assumptions of a healthy Odalis and a Weaver resembling his 2004 self (which wasn't so bad).

Seems to me with Odalis taking every fifth start and Weaver pitching like he meant it (despite the grand slam, he's been OK in his last 2 starts, no?), the Dodgers would be at least easily leading the wild card race. As it stands now, they're down 4 in the loss column in the NL West on June 6. Is that really so bad?

I'm not trying to make Tracy out to be [fill in your Hall of Fame manager here]. However, you could probably take the text from Jon's article and insert the name Joe Torre to make the case for his slide into "mediocrity" this year. Wonder how many Yankee fans would trade Torre for Tracy.

Or put another way: the last three Dodger managers to go to the playoffs: Walter Alston, Tommy LaSorda and Jim Tracy. (Russell gets half-credit).

2005-06-06 13:23:04
22.   scareduck
... and, yeah, damn fine column, Jon. I'm wondering why you couldn't swing a relationship with the Times or the Daily News, like the one DMZ and the Seattle Press-Intelligencer has.
2005-06-06 13:26:18
23.   Nagman
Every little thing he does has not been magic but I tend to agree with #21. We all tend to get on whoever is slumping at the moment, or whoever gets called up and doesn't fulfill expectations, JT is no different. Sure I have been questioning moves lately (more than I can ever remember) but I assume (what happens when you assume?) he has a good reason for doing what he's doing.

It was questioned here yesterday, the shuffle of starting positions for Kent, Perez, and Saenz that defied normal logic. Obviously JT knows what we pointed out, but unless he comes out and says he did it for the fun of it or he made a mistake, there is some kind of reasoning for it which I hope makes sense and goes beyond what we know.

2005-06-06 13:28:02
24.   al bundy
Hilarious analogies. Great column. Thank you so much for that!
2005-06-06 13:33:59
25.   Sam NYC
It was only a matter of time before you guys turned on Tracy.

I have an idea for a new manager. His name is Harry Patterson. He should be right up your alley: he's a CPA at H & R Block. He did a real bang-up job with my taxes this year. I got a big refund. Clearly, Harry can do wonders for the Dodgers.

2005-06-06 13:36:29
26.   Xeifrank
10. Fearing Blue, do you have any links to those optimal lineup studies. I have done some work on this. I wrote a program that goes through every permutation of possible lineups, then simulates thousands of games with each lineup and then keeps track of the lineups that generated the most runs. Of course there is a little more to it than that, and some more things I needed to add to the sim program. I'd also be curious as to the 15 additional runs that you state an optimal lineup can bring is enough standard deviations away from the mean to be statistically significant, or just noise.
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 13:38:09
27.   Sam NYC
Xeifrank,

Where did you get the time to write those programs between all those Star Trek conventions?

2005-06-06 13:39:15
28.   GoBears
Great work, Jon. This is why I read DodgerThoughts several times a day, and haven't looked at an LA Times in months.

#21 and #23 are right to point out that some of the failings on this team (particularly among pitchers) are beyond a manager's control. But so are many of the successes (particularly among hitters). Managers affect the game on the margins. The question isn't "how good is the team," but "how much better could it be with someone else making those marginal decisions?"

Tracy is partly responsible for Erickson's and Weaver's failings (among others). It'd be interesting to see what their ERAs (and WHIPs) are over their last 20-30 pitches, compared to the league. Is Tracy systematically worse than average (or even "than some") in terms of leaving guys in to die? Similarly, JT is partly responsible for Olmedo's success, and probably Cesar's (albeit not in SB attempts). But would they (or Choi, or Drew) be even better with someone else making the decisions about when to play them and when to ask them to do things like bunt?

There's no current MLB manager that I'd rather have than Tracy who is moveable. More likely, his replacement will have to come from the minors or from the non-manager coaching ranks. My blueprint would be someone young enough, and happy enough to get what might be an early opportunity, to be willing to implement the GM's philosophy. At the same time, you need someone the players will respect enough between games to buy into what might seem to them to be unconventional ideas. I have no clue as to who that person is. I hope DePodesta does.

But I agree with those who opine that there is no way short of an August elimination that Tracy gets the axe before the season is over. At this point, we can't break up with him, and hope someone better comes along. We have to get through the holidays one more time.

2005-06-06 13:44:40
29.   Sam NYC
A question from an outsider:

What EXACTLY has Tracy done that you guys think is so bad? I would like a specific list because I can't see how their current record is Tracy's fault. Or is it just that the more this team falters, the more likely it is that the stat-heads are wrong?

2005-06-06 13:48:58
30.   Sam DC
I'd have to bet that "Behind My Camel" was part of the big finish.
2005-06-06 13:53:09
31.   Xeifrank
A couple of poitns.

1) Managers shouldn't have slumps, so comparing bad managing to a player who is slumping doesn't cut it for me.

2) Yes, there are tough decisions that managers have to make and many times the result comes down to luck, I do not and would not fault any manager for picking curtain #3, when the new car and Hawaiian vacation was behind current #1.

3) It's true that many managers are just as bad as Tracy. But this is not a reason NOT to fire a manager. That's just like the little kid who gets scolded by the teacher for talking in class, saying that he shouldn't get in trouble because there were other kids who were chewing gum. If you are a bad manager, you are a bad manager and just because other teams may or may not have bad managers doesn't mean you should settle for one Mr Depo.

4) Yes, JT's teams have done fairly well. Is JT to receive credit for this? I don't know, I would imagine he should receive some. I really haven't followed JT's in game strategies all that closely until this year. From what I've seen they have won a few games inspite of JT, and have no maximized their chances for winning a few others. It's not easy to measure if a manager won or lost a game, but it's easy to measure if they've maximized their chances for winning a game. I think JT let Weaver and Erickson throw too many innings in some of their previous starts when it was obvious (many of us saw it) that they needed to be taken out. Then there was bunting fiasco game a week or so ago. Then to top it all off, we have to listen to some of the most absurd post-game comments from JT as he tries to explain his moves, or why the team didn't win.

In summary, atleast from a strategic standpoint I think JT is a poor manager, but might not rate poorly vs some of the other managers, but this is not a good excuse to put up with him. There are other non strategic things that a manager can bring to the team, leadership, heart... I'll save that for Plashke and Simers to report on though.
vr, Xei

2005-06-06 13:53:49
32.   Fearing Blue
#26: They're both academic papers, so you may have to visit your local library to read them.

Bukiet, B., Harold, E.R. and Palacios, J.L. (1997). "A Markov Chain Approach to Baseball". Operations Research. Vol. 45, No. 1, Pgs. 14 - 23.

Sokol, Joel S. "A Robust Heuristic for Batting Order Optimization Under Uncertainty" (2003). Journal of Heuristics. Vol. 9, Issue 4, Sep 2003, Pgs. 353 – 370.

2005-06-06 13:56:39
33.   Bob Timmermann
Summary of the case against Tracy:
1) Fails to take out starters when they're showing signs of tiring
2) Relying on using relievers who aren't as good as Gagne or Brazoban just because it's not the 8th or 9th inning
3) Not wanting to start Choi very much
4) Weird lineup construction
5) Incorrect of use of littleball strategies

I think those are the four principal ones and I think I put them in order of what the FJT crowd believes, but I don't speak for them. They will certainly speak for themselves.

The case for Tracy
1) Has had winning teams all the time
2) Has respect of the team
3) Tries to use all of his bench to keep players fresh and bring in reserves in situations best suited for them
4) Hesitant to overwork relievers
5) Won a postseason game!

2005-06-06 13:58:14
34.   Bob Timmermann
#32,
Don't visit my public library to find those. We don't have either of those journals.

Find a friend who has university connections and try to see if you can get an ILL or have them get off of a database like Factiva.

2005-06-06 14:00:24
35.   db1022
#31-4) I read this, or something like it, a lot:

"I really haven't followed JT's in game strategies all that closely until this year"

Is everyone following games a lot more closely this year? I, for one, have never followed the Dodgers as close as I am this year and I have been, for as long as I can remember, the most dedicated Dodger fan I know. This year, I feel like I've taken it to a whole new level.

Is it the blogs, the internet in general, the Depodesta/SABR approach, the "nerds vs. jocks" rivalry the media has positioned the Dodgers as?

2005-06-06 14:00:55
36.   Xeifrank
I can add a few more for "The Case FOR Tracy"

6) Has never been in my kitchen.
7) Has never thrown a water bottle at a fan.
8) Looks like a nice guy.
9) Always very polite with the media.
10) Has a clear complexion.

... in other words, none of the reasons given for keeping him will help you win a game. :)
vr, Xei

2005-06-06 14:02:19
37.   GoBears
31: I agree with you, but ask you to think harder about pt 3. Sure, "everyone does it" is not an excuse. But Tracy would have to be replaced by someone. So we (you, Jon, DePo) would need to make an affirmative case for someone else. If anyone DePo could find would be just as old-school and "bad" as JT, then what's the point of firing JT? Just to punish him and signal his ilk that there's a new sherriff in town (wait, didn't we hear that somewhere before)? Tracy undoubtedly has harder-to-see positives. Why jettison those for an alternative manager who will make the same dumb "by-the-book" mistakes as JT seems to be making?

I've already admitted that I have no ideas as to who would be better, and Jon is correct that "anyone else would be better" is a non-sensical argument. So until someone has a better idea and can make a cogent argument as to why that person would represent an improvement, I'd say we're stuck with JT, and just have to hope he'll learn from his mistakes, despite his inability (or unwillingness) to do so up until now.

2005-06-06 14:03:30
38.   Xeifrank
32. Thanks FB, love the bibliography you left. My biblioteca prolly doesn't carry those papers, but nice to know they are out there for somebody else to read. Any chance we could get a synopsis??? Cliff notes? Markov Chains & Baseball Lineups For Dummies anywhere?
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 14:06:50
39.   Xeifrank
37. How hard could it be to find someone that will implement Depo's and the FJT crowd's strategical management philosophy? You tell all applicants up front what you want and what you expect and if they don't like it, they can continue to manage in the minor leagues. I'm sure there are plenty of minor league managers, former players or whoever that would give their left tit to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers even if it meant implementing Moneyball, Sabermetric or whatever you want to call it strategies.
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 14:06:58
40.   the OZ
Sam -

This is a public Internet forum, I'd like to think that none of us are outsiders regardless of how our perspectives may differ from a perceived 'norm.' So, if you're posting here, I think that means you aren't an 'outsider.'

From reading comment over the last month or so, the frustration some people have with JT is that he has failed to make the 'obvious' move and has exhibited inconsistency with decision-making pronciples.

Here are the 'Big Three' Examples:

(1) Sticking with starting pitcher 'X' in mid-to-late innings when it is clear that the pitcher is struggling mightily, only to have X give up a ton of runs and effectively end what had previously been a close game.

(2) Using below-average reliever 'Y' in a high-leverage situation instead of a better pitcher, who is then forced to pitch in a lower-leverage situation after Y allows a run or three.

(3) Having irrational overconfidence in player 'Z' - Z may be Grabowski, Robles, Saenz, Cararra, whatever. Tracy seems to think that each of these guys is much better than they really are. Saenz is good for sure, but reading Tracy's quotes about him, you'd think Saenz was the league MVP. This happened with Nomo last year.

During a game, these are the only things managers really can control - who is pitching, who is hitting, and when. A good manager must be expected to get these things right almost every time. A manager that can't is average at best.

This post isn't intened to express my own opinion about JT, but to serve as a very general summary of opinions I've read here the past month.

2005-06-06 14:07:07
41.   Bob Timmermann
People just don't ask about heuristics in the library as much as they used to.
2005-06-06 14:09:49
42.   Mark
Anyone who can put in "Regatta de Blanc" into a short story deserves respect.

I haven't soured on Tracy yet, because I don't think anyone can definitively say the Dodgers would have been better in the past couple of years without him.

2005-06-06 14:11:01
43.   Fearing Blue
#37: I've been reading a little about Grady Fuson. He was recently hired as a special assistant to Towers in the Padres front office. He's already shown some willingness to challenge orthodoxy in his short tenure. Here's what he's doing with minor league rotations, from www.beyondtheboxscore:

"We have already seen at least one influential baseball man, Grady Fuson, take a different tack. In order to get his charges as much work as possible while keeping them healthy, Fuson has experimented with a modified version of the four-man rotation. In his system, eight pitchers are split into four pairs, working every fourth game, with one member of the pair starting, and the other relieving after the starter has reached a very conservative pitch limit, somewhere around 80 pitches. The two pitchers then switch places the next time through the rotation. Two or three pitchers are made permanent relievers to fill in the gaps along the way."

I have no idea if a guy like this would have any desire to manage a team. He seems more likely headed towards a GM role. But, his seems like an interesting profile. Maybe an innovative, respected baseball scout, who hasn't had years of exposure to "The Book" as a minor or major league manager.

2005-06-06 14:12:58
44.   the OZ
Xei, try these Prospectus link regarding lineup construction by James Click...

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3766

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=3779

2005-06-06 14:14:05
45.   Sam NYC
Bob,

Allow me to retort:

1) Could it be a combination of two factors: a) a banged-up pitching staff needed starters to eat innings until Alvarez, Penny, Dessens and Gagne were all back and b) a need to get Weaver to learn how to pitch his way out of trouble. Bear with me on (b).

2) Valid point, but no manager will be around long if he starts using guys like Gagne in non-save situations. That's just politics. Not to condone it, but that's reality.

3) The fascination with Choi has got to stop. The guy is on pace to get 400 ABs this year. He's batting .250 with an OBP of .333. Saenz has been giving the team a chance to win. Just because Tracy doesn't automatically put Choi in every game does not make him a bad manager.

4) Wierd lineup construction? I'm not sure how specific that is, but hasn't the problem been the pitching? If the staff ERA was 3.50 instead of 4.50, wouldn't the Dodgers be in first place? Hasn't their hitting actually come through this year? And that's with 1) Werth and Valentin being out 2) no real option at third 3) Drew starting slow 4) Kent's abysmal May.
And "wierd" isn't exactly bad, is it? I'm not suggesting that the line-up has succeeded BECAUSE of Tracy. But no one can say that the line-up has been worse because of him either.

5) I'm not sure I know exactly what you mean by this. Care to elaborate?

2005-06-06 14:16:05
46.   Bob Timmermann
When it comes to sacrifices, the Dodgers don't really have all that many. They are 10th in the NL (and majors) with 22.

The two teams with the most play in hitter's paradises: AZ (30) and CO (29).

Even the "NL style" Angels have only 12.

The lowest total of sacrifices of any NL team is Cincinnati with 11.

The Texas Rangers have 2 and the Boston Red Sox have 3.

The Rangers do have 87 homers, so that may have something to do with the dearth of sacrifices by "NL style manager" Buck Showalter.

When it comes to other outs on the bases, the Dodgers have been caught stealing 12 times. The White Sox lead the majors with 27.

The first place Nationals have stolen 15 and been caught 18. Blech!

2005-06-06 14:16:44
47.   LAT
Jon, I'd like to know how you worked Zenyatta Mondatta into a college essay. That is quite a feat. Nice article today. Made me think back to some old girlfriends I hadn't thought of in a while.

As for Tracy, I think we are also to blame. I love my wife and most of the time I think her "quirks" are cute and endearing, but after a bad day at the office, when the kids are screaming and the bills are due, those same "quirks" send me over the edge. Is it her or is it me? My point is this, Tracy is not managing much diffrent than he has for the last four years. But our tolorance seems to be at an all time low. Why? Is it becasue we tasted success last year and fear we won't get there again? Is it becasue some of us (not me) think Depo has put together a great team and Tracy is not utilizing that talent? Is it becasue we think we are better than we are after an unrealistic start? I think more has changed for us than for JT. I don't know why but we are puckered tighter than any other time in recent memory.

I believe the following is taking its collective toll on us: (1) new owner which most of us have been leary of; (2) new GM which many of us have been leary of; (3) favorite and/or hated players traded away for a nearly complete new team; (4) Effed-up stadium renovations; (5) unbelievable number of injuries; (6) LA Times coverage. Other than the Expos/Nats no franchise has come close to this much upheaval in the last 5 years. Not to mention unlike everyone else we have been living with this upheaval since last year. Let's not throw the manager out with the bathwater becasue we have been in the eye of the perfect storm.

He is not my style of manager but what do I know I was sure Davey Johnson was the answer. (Thought he was the Bill Fitch of the baseball.) But he was an unstable headcase whose players hated him. JT is stable and his players like him. Sure he makes mistakes but overall his singing harmony has not gotten on my nerves to the point I'd jettison him.

One last thing, when you backslid with the college girlfriend, was she still with that someone she found right away? Take the Fifth.

2005-06-06 14:18:34
48.   Linkmeister
Bob, you could argue that it wasn't the Dykes-Gordon trade that was damaging; it was the Kuenn-Colavito trade the same year that really hurt each team.

I still work with a guy who hated Lasorda with a passion, even in the 1980s. Mike honestly believed he (and his Columbia MBA) could manage the team better. I've not gotten that far with Tracy, but I do confess to puzzlement about some of his personnel decisions in-game.

2005-06-06 14:18:44
49.   GoBears
43: Interesting. I agree with your last sentence, and hold it up against Xei's surmise that there are plenty of minor league managers, former players or whoever that would give their left tit to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers even if it meant implementing Moneyball, Sabermetric or whatever you want to call it strategies.

I bet the overlap of "well-respected" (i.e., would not be thought of as a SABR-nerd by the players, who are not chosen for their open-mindedness) and "innovative" or "willing to change" is pretty small. That's the kind of guy DePo needs. I don't think they grow on trees. I also think that a mid-season change would be much harder to sell to the players and the media unless the team were to tank completely. The off-season is long - plenty of time to build the groundwork if such a person could be found.

2005-06-06 14:19:07
50.   Bob Timmermann
#45,
I don't think I'm best the best person to respond because I'm just repeating what I perceive to be the general sentiment of people who want Tracy cashiered.

I will let the FJT crowd explain themselves.

Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2005-06-06 14:20:08
51.   Steve
This is interesting.
2005-06-06 14:23:21
52.   Bob Timmermann
I feel like I'm in a moot court competition having to defend a position I don't agree with.

And I didn't even go to law school.

Here's a piece from a member of the Jim Tracy Marching and Chowder Society.

http://tinyurl.com/dkhbr

2005-06-06 14:23:30
53.   Sam DC
Sam NYC -- I sorta think that the valid points you're making on the Whither Tracey Issue are getting drowned out by your argumentative/personal tone. And I don't really get it. Lots of folks have admitted there's room to disagree/debate this issue. Why make it a fight?
2005-06-06 14:24:31
54.   Xeifrank
43. I can't find that beyondtheboxscore article and would like to read it. Do you have any other link that further pinpoints the article, it doesn't seem to be anywhere on the front page, but I could've missed it as the front page is flooded with entries.
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 14:25:32
55.   Bob Timmermann
In unrelated Jim Tracy news, Cesar Izturis's chances for making the All-Star team got worse.

Clint Barmes broke his collarbone in a fall at his home and will be out three months.

One can assume that All-Star voters will flock to vote for yet another guy who is injured.

2005-06-06 14:25:48
56.   Fearing Blue
#42: Mark, I think you're right about the last two years, but there are still reasons to be concerned. Over the last couple years, I do believe Tracy did as well anyone could have. The problem that I've pointed out before and Jon noted as well is that the 2003 / 2004 Dodgers are very different from the 2005 Dodgers. The team has changed, but Tracy has not shown the ability to adjust to the changes.
2005-06-06 14:26:22
57.   Linkmeister
"One can assume that All-Star voters will flock to vote for yet another guy who is injured."

NOMAH!

2005-06-06 14:27:15
58.   Jon Weisman
#45 - Sam, for what it's worth, I don't see any evidence for your second point - particularly in Los Angeles and under DePodesta. Given all that has happened in Dodgerville in recent times, using Gagne in more non-save situations (keep in mind he is already used in some non-save situations) is hardly going to make waves.

#47 - No, she wasn't.

#49 - Worth noting that since 1954, the Dodgers have had only one manager who had previous managerial experience in the majors.

2005-06-06 14:27:28
59.   Fearing Blue
#54: It's in the post on "Colorado Rockies Pen Rotation" from Friday. Just search for Fuson on the front page and you should find it.
2005-06-06 14:28:31
60.   Langhorne
For me the most disheartening thing was Tracy's explaination of yesterday's line-up. He said that right handed hitters did better against the Brewers starter so he wanted as many right handers as possible. But, of course, Robles and Choi are both lefties so he didn't gain anything. Don't lie to me Jim. Have more respect for me than to offer a transparent excuse. Tell me you thought Oscar was a better matchup than Choi. I'd rather think you are insane than know you are lying to me.

I'll take Jefferson Smith. I'll accept a little naivete in exchange for his honesty and stamina.

2005-06-06 14:29:22
61.   Xeifrank
47. I think there has been a recent enlightenment in baseball, and we are frustrated that our beloved team (atleast the manager) is not a part of it. Especially, when we got excited that they finally hired a GM that was part of the enlightenment, I guess some of us got our hopes up too high.

On a sidenote, if I didn't care whether the Dodgers won or lost, then I'd probably be for keeping Jim Tracy for another 10 years, he seems like a likeable guy.
vr, Xei

2005-06-06 14:40:48
62.   Bob Timmermann
Prior to Alston, the Dodgers manager was Charlie (or Chuck) Dressen and he had managed in the 1930s before taking over the Dodgers in 1951.

I shudder to think how much a guy like Dressen would be hated today. Dressen believed that he could win any game with his brilliant strategy. He didn't seem to believe that his Dodger teams of 1951-53 were among the most fearsome offensive forces in baseball. He thought it was all him.
And when he asked O'Malley for a 2-year contract, O'Malley showed him the door.

Apparently Dressen's brilliance didn't help him when he took charge of the Senators in 1955 and went 53-101. But the next year they were 59-95!

2005-06-06 14:41:41
63.   Fearing Blue
#49: Absolutely agreed. It's not just a matter of finding an automoton minor league manager who will blindly follow DePodesta's law. What would be best is someone who a) is a good leader and would be well-respected by the team, b) has a lot of baseball experience (duh), c) is inherently innovative, and d) understands and accepts analytical principles, in that order. I am confident that this is very small set of people. And even worse, there doesn't seem to be a good way to go about finding the ones who may exist.

The discussion of the profile of a good managerial alternative is very interesting. On the other hand, I'm not currently calling for Tracy's dismissal. You have to catch me after a bad game for that :).

2005-06-06 14:43:58
64.   GoBears
I believe the following is taking its collective toll on us: (1) new owner which most of us have been leary of; (2) new GM which many of us have been leary of; (3) favorite and/or hated players traded away for a nearly complete new team; (4) Effed-up stadium renovations; (5) unbelievable number of injuries; (6) LA Times coverage.

I dunno, LAT. Some of these might be contributing factors for some, but not for me. (1) I had and have no opinion about McCourt, other than I was glad to see Fox out of the picture. (2) I liked the DePo hiring as soon as I heard about it. (3) I agreed with every personnel move at the time, except (ironically) for the acquisition of Finley who is NOW showing that he is done, tho he was terrific last year. (4) I don't care one little bit about the stadium renovations, since I sit in the cheap seats. (5) I'm not sure our injury problem is worse than those of other teams. The Giants? The Padres? The DBax have been pretty fortunate thus far, but their time will come. (6) I stopped reading the LA Times a long time ago - now the only time I even hear about it is from the FJT site, or from commenters here.

So none of the reasons you cite apply to me. Yet I think Tracy is hurting this team on the margin, and I would endorse his replacement if someone better comes along. But as I've said above, I don't see that happening before December or so.

2005-06-06 14:44:00
65.   Midwest Blue
I know the spirit of this site is to debate all things Blue, but debating JT's ouster is just too premature to waste keystrokes.

I happen to agree with Bob's delineation of JT's faults (understood that it's not your argument). But the reality to glean from Depo's recent remarks is that JT is here to stay and unless we end up miserably out of the playoffs (like 20 games under .500, which I don't think will happen), JT will end up fulfilling his contract.

So maybe we should save this conversation for next season? Just save all the arguments so that we can e-mail them to Depo next year when he is debating JT's contract extension.

I would be in favor of somehow deluging JT with managerial tips. Can we hire a plane to fly a "tips" banner over Dodger Stadium during key game situations?

2005-06-06 14:46:09
66.   Bob Timmermann
Other Dodger managers with no previous MLB managerial experience:
Burleigh Grimes (Blech)
Casey Stengel (Blech with the Dodgers)
Max Carey (Yawn)
Bill Dahlen (hoo boy, were those teams bad)
Harry Lumley (just for one year)
2005-06-06 14:47:45
67.   Bob Timmermann
I would be in favor of somehow deluging JT with managerial tips. Can we hire a plane to fly a "tips" banner over Dodger Stadium during key game situations?

Using a blimp with a rotating advertising screen would be more efficient.

2005-06-06 14:49:41
68.   LAT
#61 Frank, Are you suggesting that those of us who would not fire JT are inferior Dodger fans? Becasue that is what it sounds like. Especially when combined with your "enlightenment" statement.
2005-06-06 14:51:46
69.   Bob Timmermann
#68,
I think he was just referring to Tracy reading Voltaire and Rousseau.
2005-06-06 14:54:11
70.   Fearing Blue
#69: Keep up the good work, Bob. I'm hoping your quick wit will keep us from the mess we got into last time :).
2005-06-06 14:54:36
71.   Steve
52--But Bob, you're doing a fine job. I'm naming you an honorary FJT Marching and Chowder Society Member. Congratulations! :)
2005-06-06 14:56:20
72.   Sam NYC
Sam DC,

I don't mean to sound argumentative, believe it or not. I've had a rough day and I'm a little punchy. I apologize. I happen to really like Tracy and think he's been one of the best things to happen to the franchise in years, for reasons stated below. And I am now worried that if the organization (read: DePo) finds itself getting dragged down by a mediocre team, their first response is going to be to blame the manager (i.e. "If he were more Sabermetrically inclined, then he would get it. But he doesn't and that's why we're losing")

Jon,

I might not have made myself clear. Gagne may pitch in a non-save situation, but it will rarely, if ever, be earlier than the ninth. He may pitch in the ninth but the circumstances are always the same: (a) at home (b) down by one run OR (a) tie game.
And that's pretty much it because of contract issues and money issues. It's not DePo, it's ownership.

2005-06-06 14:56:26
73.   Rick
You guys make Tracy sound like he's the butt of every conspiracy theory alive. Dissecting quotes. Just waiting for the next move so you can put some sort of anti-DePodesta, "I'm rebelling you!" scheme on it.

If the pitching staff pitched like it did last season, the Dodgers would be 36-20 and we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

That said, I enjoy reading your work Jon, and I understand your want to "let go" ... but sometimes it's healthy to take a break in a relationship. My bet is that you come back with open arms around August.

2005-06-06 14:58:09
74.   Dodgerkid
Who cares. There have probably been times where Tracy was more aware of a reliever's condition than we were and had to make a move that from a statistical standpoint looked bad. DePodesta says he has no problem with Tracy, DePodesta's knowledge I respect, so I'm ok with Tracy.
2005-06-06 14:58:37
75.   Sam NYC
The case FOR Tracy

1) He has shown an eye for talent where others have not, to wit: (a) He stuck with Izturis when everyone wanted to throw him overboard (b) he went with LoDuca when everyone said he was too small (c) He played Dave Roberts, a 30 year old journeyman (d) He brought Lima from camp last year

2) He has shown an ability to put players in situations where they will be successful , to wit: (a) He made Gagne a closer (b) He put Izturis in the leadoff spot (c) His Olmedo Saenz-Hee Seop Choi platoon has yielded 13 HRs and 47 RBI one-third through the season

3) His loyalty to players, far from being irrational, has allowed him to gain the trust of his players and allowed his players to play without fearing failure will lead to demotion.

4) Unlike Dodger teams in the past, his teams do not quit. It used to be that you stopped watching when the Dodgers were down late in the game. No longer. They won over 50 games last year in which they trailed.

5) He is adaptable. Only Odalis Perez, Eric Gagne, and Cesar Izturis remain from the 2003 team.

6) He understands that players need clearly defined roles to be successful, to wit: His practice of defining the bullpen roles. As much as some here don't like it, his penchant to establishing one guy as the seventh innning guy, one guy as the eighth and one as the ninth has been successful. In 2003, it was Shuey, Quantrill, Gagne. In 2004, it was Dreifort, Mota, Gagne.

7) Players have played to their potential under him. Some have blossomed and others have established themselves as big-leaguers under him, to wit: Beltre, Cora, Izturis, Gagne, LoDuca, Werth, Roberts, Antonio Perez, etc.

8) No player has been better outside of Los Angeles than he was under Tracy, to wit: LoDuca, Martin, Roberts, Quantrill, Brown, Jordan, Green, Beltre, Finley. Sheffield is the closest but hasn't put up the numbers he did in L.A.

2005-06-06 14:59:05
76.   Fearing Blue
#52: Good article and here's my favorite line from it:

"Lately I have been receiving e-mails from fans, who want to impress me with their baseball knowledge, criticizing Tracy. I just ignore those e-mails."

I don't think Sarah would like me :).

2005-06-06 15:00:30
77.   LAT
#64 Bears - You may be right, these may not be relevant factors. I'm just tring to figure out why we seem to be living and dying with each game this year--more so than in the past.
2005-06-06 15:00:51
78.   jtshoe
What about this?

"I have heard some people blame Jim Tracy for the Dodgers' recent woes. I have never heard such an absurd idea."

Jon, is Sarah another one of your X's, maybe with a grudge?

2005-06-06 15:00:52
79.   db1022
#73 - But if the organization has made a commitment to a new style of roster and play, and the manager makes decisions in direct contrast to those decisions, doesn't a change have to be made?
2005-06-06 15:01:35
80.   Sam DC
You know Sam, I just logged on to write that I've had a rough day and was probably being a bit schoolmarmish with comments above. Anyhow, Go Dodgers.

May be offline a few days. Go Dodgers.

2005-06-06 15:03:52
81.   Sam DC
I'm a fan and all, but had actually only planned for one Go Dodgers in #80 above.
2005-06-06 15:04:33
82.   Bob Timmermann
Various guys named Sam,
I was the same way last week. I learned that I wasn't really angry at anyone here. I was angry at someone else.

But since I don't speak to that person anymore, I think I'm in better spirits.

2005-06-06 15:05:28
83.   the OZ
It would be HILARIOUS if the Dodgers had an intern program the in-game Jumbo-tron screen with reasons why Jim Tracy were making 'bad' moves.

When Drew is asked to bunt, he/she could type:
"JD has grounded into only 50 double plays in 3,000 ML ABs and leads the Dodgers in OBP. He shouldn't be bunting."

When Jeff Weaver is left in to pitch the 7th innings despite having thrown 114 pitches and walked three consecutive batters with no out in a tie game:
"Tracy has Brazoban warmed up in the bullpen. He should make a substitution."

I can't image a team ever second-guessing its manager in the stadium in front off all the fans, but it would give the manager an incentive to pay better attention. Or quit.

It's a Win-Win situation for the FJT crowd!

2005-06-06 15:06:07
84.   GoBears
75: Well, I guess some of us had that coming. If the tendency of some is to blame almost everything negative on the manager, whether or not a case can be made that it was the manager's doing, then this post does the oppposite. I would argue that every single one of those 8 pts either assigns Tracy credit for something he did not control, or assumes that the counterfactual (Izzy not leading off, Choi playing more, less rigid roles for pitchers) would have been worse than what Tracy did, without evidence. This is not SamNYC's fault - you can't have evidence for what didn't happen. But you also shouldn't assume that it would have been worse. By the same token, we shouldn't assume that every move that blows up in JT's face would have worked out better had he done something different. We can't know. I think Sarah is wrong that baseball is subjective. It isn't. It's objective, but there's a TON of uncertainty.
2005-06-06 15:08:29
85.   Steve
83 -- I have always wanted to break into baseball. I think I've found my calling.
2005-06-06 15:09:31
86.   db1022
#82 - I don't know if you are referring to "someone else" as in another part of your life, but I went to the Cubs game last week (the Derek Lowe / Derek Lee game) and had a "Serenity Now" moment afterwards. The Dodgers were killing me. Watching Neifi's homer sail over the wall, I almost left I was upset. I couldn't take it. It was taking over my life. After that game, I made a conscious decision to just kick back and enjoy the season - let things play out as they may.

Serenity Now.

2005-06-06 15:12:42
87.   Bob Timmermann
Hoochie Mama!
2005-06-06 15:13:00
88.   Rick
#79 - and at the same time, maybe we should give him a chance to learn the new system, based on his success in the past? So far he has had 56 games of in-game schooling.
2005-06-06 15:17:15
89.   GoBears
77: I guess that's the difference. I don't live and die with every game. I believe this team is good enough to win the division, and will let winning and losing streaks (ours and our rivals') play themselves out without too much angst. I can't remember if I read this in something Bill James wrote, or maybe Rob Neyer before his column became pay-per-view, but I paraphrase:

The beauty of baseball is that while there is a lot that is predictable in the long run (say, over a season), it is completely unpredictable in the short run (each week, game, inning, plate appearance, pitch). And while SABR-style analysis helps us to understand better the long run, it's useless in the short run. End paraphrase.

So, while I agree that a SABR-savvy manager would have more success in the long run than a Luddite, that doesn't mean that he'd do a better job in every game, or every series. And, in fact, it MUST be the case that even the old-school manager understands a lot of what the analysts take great pains to point out and quantify, even if he is not able to articulate it, and even if he believes that he disagrees with it. Even in a market as imperfect and cartelized as major league baseball, ultimately, a better understanding of what produces more wins and fewer losses will evolve, partly through "doing the math," and partly through trial and error and natural selection. The Luddites will hang around longer than they "should" because of the market imperfections, but if there really is a better way, they'll become extinct eventually.

2005-06-06 15:18:44
90.   bigcpa
Re: 84
Well said. This logic leaves wiggle room for having a team win 95 games AND have a replaceable manager. Let's say we had last year's ERA and were 36-20 as Rick threw out. I for one would still be frazzled by Tracy's by-the-book guide to managing. Heck we'd still have playoff series to win right?
2005-06-06 15:21:24
91.   Nagman
#86, I was in exactly the same boat as you. Ironically, I recently saw the "Serenity Now" episode but never related it to my situation (I will now). However, I did tell myself that the "agony" I was going through should be a fun agony and is what baseball and fandom is all about (although I might be a bit on the extreme side with the fandom).

Anyway, fire him, look what the Astros did last year after Garner took over. Oh wait, Beltran might've had something to do with it.

2005-06-06 15:21:47
92.   Midwest Blue
83 -- Would be nice, but the guy would be hauled out by LAPD in the bleachers before the inning was over.

That's why I like a plane -- or a blimp.

Maybe we can write our suggestions on beachballs and toss them toward the dugout?

2005-06-06 15:25:25
93.   LAT
#89 and #86 Bears you raise a good point. It's the diffrence between being a day trader and a long term investor. I have lost my ass too many time trying to time the market. I'm taking a deep breath as I type. . .
2005-06-06 15:25:54
94.   Jon Weisman
One of the things I fell in love with about Tracy in the past is that he wasn't predictable. He would not always make the same move in the same situation, and I always felt that kept the opposing team off guard. This didn't mean he was flipping a coin - he definitely had tendencies - just that he wasn't a robot.

Sam NYC makes many of the points I have made to support Tracy in the past. Something is different about this year, however, and I really do think it has to do with the personnel - which is certainly no worse than it's been in previous years, just different. Tracy has had losing months in past years, but this year it just looks different. The number of brain-cramps has been frustrating, and doesn't seem adequately explained by him having inside information about his players.

Hopefully, better times ahead.

2005-06-06 15:32:13
95.   Xeifrank
68. Nope! Ass-u-me
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 15:33:32
96.   Langhorne
Hey, do you think Joe Morgan would be interested in managing?
2005-06-06 15:34:02
97.   Sam NYC
Jon,

I agree that it's the personnel. Either it's not enough, or Tracy is still figuring it out.

As for your feeling that this year is different, allow me to make you feel a little better:

2004 (Thru 56 games): 30-26
2005 (Thru 56 games): 29-27

To have had the injuries and poor performances so far this year and still be only one game behind last year's pace is a minor miracle. Perhaps after four playoff games everyone got a little giddy or greedy, or both.

2005-06-06 15:34:47
98.   Langhorne
I'll hide now.
2005-06-06 15:35:56
99.   Berkeley Doug
First off, great article Jon. Let me echo the sentiments of some of the other posters in saying that your writing on the Dodgers is better than anything I read anywhere else.

Excuse my ignorance in some of these matters, but as I understand the whole Moneyball/Beane/Depo approach, it has more to do with how to evaluate players, what kind of players to draft, and how to allocate your financial resources in building a team. Other than a low opinion of stealing bases, I don't recall ever reading much about how to actually manage a game. Based on all this, I just don't understand all the criticism about Tracy just not being with "Depo's system" or "applying the SABR/Moneyball" rules to managing. Perhaps I'm missing something, but what is that system and what are those rules when it comes to managing? Granted, I agree with some of the criticism about Tracy's pitching changes or pinch hitting decisions, but no manager is perfect. Was Bruce Bochy suddenly a better manager when the Padres were in the WS as compared when they were a lousy team? I guess, I just fail to understand how a manager enlightened in SABR ways would be managing any differently or better.

2005-06-06 15:37:41
100.   Xeifrank
75. 8) No player has been better outside of Los Angeles than he was under Tracy, to wit: LoDuca, Martin, Roberts, Quantrill, Brown, Jordan, Green, Beltre, Finley. Sheffield is the closest but hasn't put up the numbers he did in L.A.

Sounds like something out of a Star Trek convention.
Xei

Show/Hide Comments 101-150
2005-06-06 15:37:48
101.   Midwest Blue
Is Harold Reynolds available? How about that John Kruk? He'd be kinda of a throwback manager, don't you think?
2005-06-06 15:39:55
102.   Sam NYC
Xei,

What does that even mean?

2005-06-06 15:40:41
103.   Jon Weisman
Doug, I think part of the answer would be that just as some conventional wisdom about player acquisition was worth debunking for different strategies, some conventional wisdom about game strategy is worth reexamining as well. This doesn't mean that all stolen base attempts are bad or anything like that, but that some we previously thought were sensible might not be. Different managers are going to react differently to this.

Your Bochy question is a different question, but still a relevant one. I'll ask you this - do you ever have good and bad years in your life, professionally for example? I know I do. Some of it is circumstance-related, but some of it isn't.

2005-06-06 15:41:06
104.   Xeifrank
84. Great post. Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm serious, definitely couldn't have. :)
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 15:41:07
105.   GoBears
102: Yeah - I was confused too.
2005-06-06 15:43:31
106.   Steve
Of the many charges levelled at the FJT Marching and Chowder Society, among the weakest is that this is simply a reaction to 29-27.
2005-06-06 15:45:10
107.   db1022
#75 - 8) No player has been better outside of Los Angeles than he was under Tracy, to wit: LoDuca, Martin, Roberts, Quantrill, Brown, Jordan, Green, Beltre, Finley. Sheffield is the closest but hasn't put up the numbers he did in L.A.

This is just wrong. Many of these players were much better before they came to LA too. The fact that they've come down since leaving has more to do with age than anything.

I don't think Kevin Brown's ERA and WHIP have anything to do with him "missing" Jim Tracy.

2005-06-06 15:45:11
108.   Xeifrank
203. What does Sam mean? :)
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 15:45:31
109.   Xeifrank
102. What does Sam mean? :)
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 15:47:42
110.   Xeifrank
So far the two best arguments I've seen for keeping Jim Tracy are that he's a very likeable person and that Shawn Green got worse after he stopped playing for Jim Tracy. Hardly a vote of confidence in my book. Hey! Where did I put that book at anyways. Must be under the "Cookie Monster Eats the Letter C" book.
vr, Xei
2005-06-06 15:48:34
111.   Bob Timmermann
Is there any manager in baseball who has been around as long as Bochy who has no real attribute that you can put on him?

He's just sort of there.

He was a bit daring during the 1998 playoffs when he aggressively used Kevin Brown in Games 1 and 3 to gain an edge over the Astros.

Then he tried to use Brown to close out the NLCS against the Braves in Game 5 and Brown blew the lead, and Sterling Hitchcock saved his bacon.

2005-06-06 15:50:08
112.   db1022
Xei - Cocktails at lunch today?
2005-06-06 15:50:16
113.   the OZ
This is pure speculation on my part:

Those displeased with Tracy tacitly agree that it's because he has made more mind-numbing decisions this year than in the past. Ne need to rehash them, but as Jon alluded to in his post, there is something different in 2005 than in 2002, 2003, 2004, etc.

Could it be a simple case of Mr. Tracy worrying about his ailing father more than in the past? I'm certain that we've all dealt with varying degrees of emotional distress at the chance of losing someone we care about. In my case, it affected everything about my body and mind - clouding judgement and causing fatige.

Occam's Razor - it could be that simple.

2005-06-06 15:51:13
114.   Jim Hitchcock
And now for something completely different:

http://tinyurl.com/32t53

2005-06-06 15:54:08
115.   the OZ
114:

I think Devastiatin' Dave the Turntable Slave's Zip Zap Rap is my favorite.

2005-06-06 15:55:52
116.   regfairfield
My beefs with Jim Tracy can probably be broken down in to a few categories-

Inability to learn from mistakes - The most aggravating of these is probably his insistance on sending runners 3-2 with less than two outs. I don't have any actual stats on this, but it seems like 2/3rds of the time, it ends in a strike 'em out-throw 'em out double play.

Bizzare loyalities to certain players - See Grabowski, but it appears to a lesser extent in guys like Carrara and Tom Martin.

Inability to use the bullpen - I get upset at this a lot, but most managers would do exactly the same thing, so it's hard to fault Tracy for this.

Insistance on small ball - This can be filed under inability to adapt. The Dodgers simply aren't built to play for one run, yet Tracy still tries to by having Izturis steal, and hit and running with Repko on a 2-0 pitch.

Just straight up unexplainable behavior - Yesterday's lineup was a perfect example of this. Why did we shift everyone out of their proper defensive position? Why wouldn't you put Saenz at first, Kent at second, Perez at short and Robles at third? He ended up having to do this anyway when we had to pinch hit for our leadoff hitter, so why not go with the stronger defense from the start.

There are a few other minor ones that aren't worth getting into.

As for no player being better outside of Tracy, that simply isn't true.

Grudzielanek has had a resurgence since he left, Dave Roberts is having a carrer year right now, Marquis Grissom has been as good, if not better than he was when he was on the Dodgers, and Burnitz has been quite successful, even in Chicago.

While less players have excelled than declined once they left the Dodgers (and I think age is a factor in most of those players), to say that no player has gotten better when they left the Dodgers is simply untrue.

2005-06-06 15:56:11
117.   Steve
What? No "Jim Tracy sings Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds"
2005-06-06 15:58:50
118.   jtshoe
Players performances after they leave an organization says much more about the GM than the manager.
2005-06-06 15:59:03
119.   Berkeley Doug
Jon,

I agree that some game strategy is worth re-examing, but I'm just not convinced that Tracy is showing any obvious reluctance to embrace a different approach to managing or even if a different approach would really make that much difference in wins and losses. I really appreciate all the sabermatic advances to evaluating players, but I'm just not that convinced that it makes much difference when it comes to managing games. I don't mean to sound flippant, but it still comes down to the players executing and performing up to their potential. Moneyball theories can be great when it comes to how you construct your team and identifying undervalued/overvalued players, but ultimately the manager can't control how well they play. The manager can put them in the best positions for them and the team to succeed and I can fully endorse some criticism of Tracy in this respect (asking Drew to bunt?????), but overall I think the Dodgers have been consistently competitive with Tracy and based on the reasons outlined by Sam in #75, all this talk of firing Tracy just doesn't make any sense to me.

2005-06-06 15:59:04
120.   Xeifrank
Statement: To a certain extent, Managing a baseball game is much like playing blackjack, craps or even poker. There are certain strategies you can use to maximize your chances of winning. Do I hit my 16 with the dealer showing a face card, or do I let take Weaver out and bring in Carrara. Either way it's most likely a lose/lose situation but there are many things a manager can do to maximize the chances of winning. Many times it won't affect the outcome of a game, but it does enough times to make a big enough difference in the outcome of a couple of games which could make or break a season. How many times has a team finished one game out of first and said to themselves, if only we could've had that one game back where we (FJT mode) tried to bunt Choi with a 2-0 count, runner on first, Rose and Saenz to follow, down by one run in the 10th (just as an example).

Secondary comment: Firing Jim Tracy of course is not the most pertinent problem at the moment. Teams that pitch and hit well, or pitch and hit better than their opponents, win ball games no matter of how bad the manager is. But when your team is struggling to win games then in game management is more magnified. Under this magnifying glass JTs flaws have been exposed. Are they worthy of him being fired? I would hope not. I would hope for a better solution. I would hope that Jim Tracy would be more flexible and open to the Moneyball/Sabermetric style of play. A problem I see is that he does not seem flexible, he in fact seems clueless. I base this on some of the absurd comments he has made analyzing his strategies or why the team lost in post game comments. If he's just trying to play dumb, then he's doing a good job, had me fooled. If he's really this dumb, then Houston we have a problem.
(end of ramble).
vr, Xei

2005-06-06 16:03:58
121.   Berkeley Doug
#120

Can someone please explain to me discreetly what the Moneyball syle of play is and how it runs counter to what Tracy is actually doing?

Also, to everyone who is criticizing all these Tracy flaws, can they name a manager with whom they always agree?

2005-06-06 16:05:57
122.   Berkeley Doug
"discretely", since nothing in this forum is discreet. :-)
2005-06-06 16:07:09
123.   Steve
Most managers should be replaced. Personally, I just happen to be a Dodger fan, so it's FJT. But as a subclass of Homo Sapiens, they tend to have little common sense in general.
2005-06-06 16:13:00
124.   Steve
By the way, understanding that JT is probably inoculated by his two-year contract and the media, could we settle for Glenn "Dale Sveum of the West Coast" Hoffman?
2005-06-06 16:15:16
125.   db1022
#121 - "Moneyball" is about maximizing your team's financial resources by exploiting undervalued, yet important, stats.

This is too often confused with a style of play promoted by Beane and disciples. Depodesta heavies up on OBP and slugging, de-emphasizes stolen bases and "productive outs" and will favor offense to defense.

Other things like a preference for college players over high school players seem to be a trend for Depo as well.

2005-06-06 16:17:01
126.   GoBears
121: It has nothing to do with Moneyball. That's a misnomer. But to call it a "sabermetric" style isn't too far off. And here, it's not leaving starters in too long. It's things like sitting Choi too often because you obsess about his batting average or self-fulfilling-prophecy L-R splits and don't really understand his strengths as a hitter; it's things like bunting when it lowers, not raises, your chances of scoring even one run, to say nothing of killing your chances at a big inning; it's things like running your team into outs through counterproductive "aggressiveness." It's ignoring (or being ignorant of) studies that tell us that the conventional wisdom is wrong (or anachronistic, or misguided). Most managers would do the same thing as JT does, most of the time. How many times have DT commenters "thanked" opposing managers or mangers of our divisional rivals in other games for being just as conventional and dumb? But the overlap with need of the manager to adapt to his personnel matters here too. It was dumb to have Choi and Drew attempt to BUNT. It was REALLY DUMB to have CHOI and DREW attempt to bunt. And it's dumb to have Robles make an out while Saenz sits, in the vain hope that Saenz can be used with Robles on base. The use of inferior relievers in higher-leverage situations, to save better relievers for the next game, or for lower-leverage situations that never arise. And so on.
2005-06-06 16:22:16
127.   GoBears
I think it was db who put it well, above. Tracy has a style that he likes. It actually played to the few strengths of the lousy offenses he managed before this year, and was compatible with (hidden by?) the terrific pitching he was given. But it doesn't match this group of players. To ask Cora to bunt is one thing. To ask Drew to is something else. Either he doesn't realize that this team is best deployed in pursuit of big innings, or he stubbornly believes that there is one way to win ballgames, and damnit, these guys will play the right way! To be honest, I'm a little surprised. Before this season, I really had pegged Tracy as conventional, but basically a "do no harm" kind of guy, and one who is modest enough to be willing to try new things. This year, I'm not so sure.
2005-06-06 16:27:00
128.   db1022
#127 - Yes, in previous years the personnel fit his style of play. And there is no denying that the Dodgers took on a different attitude with Tracy at the helm. He was a breath of fresh air after Davey Johnson; and after growing up watching the Eric Karros-led Dodgers sleep walk through April and May, and go in order through the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings of close games, his spirit was much appreciated.

However, he is now counterproductive to winning. He no longer maximizes his player's performances, which makes his bad in-game management more pronounced.

2005-06-06 16:28:30
129.   Bob Timmermann
Just an observation, Tracy's principal detractors complain about short-term, in-game decisions.

But other managers who have sizeable amounts of fan enmity, like Dusty Baker, focus more on the the manager's lack of long-term planning. Such as Baker's penchant for overworking his starters and not using young players.

If Dusty Baker were managing the Dodgers, I'd bet we'd be seeing a lot more of Oscar Robles. And probably less of Olmedo Saenz. But fortunatelym the Dodger starters aren't good enough to stay in long enough to get overworked.

2005-06-06 16:47:18
130.   Steve
I agree with that. Jim Tracy loses tonight's game. Dusty Baker loses games five years from now.
2005-06-06 16:49:11
131.   Dodgerkid
Moneyball managing would say to never have a pinch hitter in because you think he's "clutch". They would also say that it is a waste of an out to sacrifice bunt from a position player in order to move a runner to second or third. Also sending Izturis, or a low percentage of success base runner to steal is against Moneyball. Tracy used, it seems to me, never or rarely to do these things. He seems to do them more now. Also his use of relievers especially to get Gagne a save stat seems to be a waste of Gagne. But like another poster said, are there any managers out there who would do differently?
2005-06-06 16:55:57
132.   db1022
#131 - The process of arbitration now dictates bullpen management. Teams get raked over the coals by agents when they dare interfere with a player's individual stats, even when it improves the team's success.

Also, I don't think what you are describing is "moneyball", rather it's the style of play favored by Depodesta, etc. Most journalists call this "moneyball" (OPS, etc) but the term is actually economic.

2005-06-06 16:58:05
133.   Dodgerkid
It's the way they say they do things in the book called Moneyball. Call it whatever you like, economics whatever. I'm just answering a question. I'm not saying if I even agree with it.
2005-06-06 16:58:18
134.   Doug N
I seem to remember from Moneyball that the manager was treated as an extension of the GM in the dugout. What does that say about the Dodgers? Well, several possibilities: (1) Tracy's managing decisions are not his, they're DePo's; (2) DePo's fixin' to move Tracy out for a manager that will field the team according to DePo's preferences; (3) DePo figures that a manager's impact is statistically negligble and is more worried about the pitching staff. I personally root for the third option, and would like to conclude by suggesting that if I were a manager, I would rely on my pitching coach to tell me what my bullpen options are and to keep tabs on my rotation's health and state of mind. If Colburn isn't doing his job anymore, how can Tracy do his effectively?
2005-06-06 16:59:59
135.   Dodgerkid
134--I agree completely. The Hardballtimes I believe did a study on how many wins difference a manager makes a year, and it's rarely higher than 3. A bad manager can have more impact.
2005-06-06 17:03:30
136.   jasonungar05
114 LOL

This album cover was made because not enough people in Tino's hometown hated him.

--

My overall opinion. Trace drives me nuts at times too. However, we are what, one game off last years record as of now?

We have had our closer, starting left fielder, starting 3b, starting CF and others on the DL.

We have a bunch of new faces to get to know.

We have had crappy starting pitching.

so its hard to complain about the guy, even though I still do.

Serenity Now.

2005-06-06 17:03:44
137.   db1022
#133 - Sorry, I'm being overly picky.

I guess the point is, "Moneyball" would dictate that when OBP starts to become the stat of choice and player's are paid way above market value because they are strong in this statistic, teams like the Oakland A's need to find a "new stat" to pay minimum wage for and still make the playoffs.

With the payroll that LA potentially has, the Dodgers may be able to keep up with shifting market trends. If Depo really thinks that OBP/OPS is the way to win, he doesn't need to subscribe to "Moneyball" beliefs and find a new way to win with a payroll of $50M. He can just pay out the nose, knowing that his team has the best players.

2005-06-06 17:08:54
138.   db1022
Add #137 - ...provided his lame brain manager doesn't get in the way.
2005-06-06 17:33:28
139.   Mark
HOOOOOCHIE MAMAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

http://tinyurl.com/a9uul

One needs to look no further than the Dodgers' Support-Neutral Value Added stats before one realizes that it ain't Jim Tracy's fault that we suck.

2005-06-06 18:09:04
140.   Fearing Blue
#38: Hi Xei, here's the detailed synopsis of "A Robust Heuristic for Batting Order Optimization".

A Markov chain process is a way to model initial states (i.e. the 25 possible game states) along with a probabilistic transition matrix (i.e. all the results of an PA and how they change the game state). Using this model, you can quickly determine run expectancies for a game or situation.

Instead of considering the total run value of each offensive event like Linear Weights (i.e. .47 runs for a single, .76 runs for a double, etc.), the author splits the value into two parts, potential value (P) and realization value (R). Potential value is the weighted value of the base-runners created by the event across all game situations. Realization value is the weighted value of the actual runs scored by the event across all game situations.

Using these values, players are split into four buckets Table-Setters (R-,P+), All-Around Contributers (R+,P+), Run Producers (R+,P-), and Weak Hitters (R-,P-) by comparing their R and P values to the league (- for below, + for above). The paper also provides rules to ensure that a certain numbers of players are placed in each bucket.

The heuristic for the lineup order is first the Table-Setters by increasing P, second the All-Around Contributors by decreasing P, third the Run-Producers by decreasing P, and last the Weak Hitters by increasing P. The idea is to create a peak of high-potential when the All-Around Contributors and Run-Producers are up.

Using the Markov chain model, they compared their heuristic to the "optimal" and "standard" lineups based on real seasons and found that the heuristic was always optimal or near optimal (within a run).

The only thing I found intuitively strange about the results are that they typically have the pitcher bat before 9th. But, the theory is your Run-Producers have created a valley in run potential, so it's best to waste the pitcher's AB there, rather than later after your 8 hitter starts building up potential again. It also makes sense in the context of maximizing the run potential, since the 9th hitter sets the table for the top of the lineup.

2005-06-06 18:32:24
141.   Fearing Blue
#134: My impression was that this was a Billy Beane thing because he is a control freak, not necessarily any extension of the philosophy.

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