Manager of the Decade

Anyone remember Jerry Manuel? No, of course you don’t, thanks in no small part to the man who stepped in once “Gandhi” was escorted to the unemployment line.

Now, in all fairness we should probably not be so hard on Manuel, even though he couldn’t do much with one of the best teams in recent memory, had no authority over his best hitter and the best anyone will say about him is “At least he never called for a reliever when none were warming up, Bevington-style.”

But people also forget this more important measure: Manuel’s South Side teams went .515 over six season, with only one club (1999) finishing with a losing record – a losing record one could reasonably argue was solely the fault of Jaime Navarro.

So why has Manuel been left for dead? Because of stories like this, excerpted from the forthcoming Evaluating Baseball’s Managers, 1876-2008 by Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times:

Veteran reliever Mike Jackson was unhappy with how Guillen used him. When an irked Guillen reported to Williams that one of his pitchers was causing problems, the GM had a simple solution. He did not want to know the man’s name. Instead, Williams said Guillen should inform the pitcher to clean out his locker – he was through with the club. Then Williams wanted Guillen to tell the entire team what Williams had just told him, including how Williams did not even know the man’s name in order to make sure they got the message not to complain about the manager. Only then did Williams learn the newly unemployed’s identity.

Make no mistake: Jackson specifically was not a very good pitcher and no one missed him when he left. But more importantly, this is typical of the reasons people both like and dislike Ozzie Guillen; he’s willing to be mean, but in a way that helps his guys and his team – emphasis on his.

With Manuel, Bevington, really all the way back to Tony LaRussa, there have been almost zero instances of the team being so obviously molded, for better or for worse, in the image of its skipper. Scrappy but not flashy; not that great, but not really that bad, either. Where Manuel failed with a good team, Guillen turned a good team into the ultimate success. Where Manuel sat back and let the chips fall where they may, Guillen got in guys’ faces. Where Manuel put up with Frank Thomas’ pouting, Guillen (and Williams) said good riddance in spectacular fashion worthy of the most petulant child on the world’s highest-paid playground.

And in the end, for the things he did and the things he didn’t, the decade will ultimately belong to Guillen. People will forget his unwillingness to admit his players’ shortcomings until it’s too late; they will forget his insistence on insanely specific righty/left matchups; they will look past his questionable handling of prospect after prospect after prospect. But they will most certainly remember that he won, and that he ultimately accomplished the things his predecessors could not.

4 thoughts on “Manager of the Decade”

  1. i always though manuel got a bad rap. was it his fault the best pitchers we could get were sirotka and danny wright? no. did he go out and sign all these slow dudes to play the outfield (poorly) and clog the bases? no. but i guess you gotta blame someone…..sorry jerry.

  2. That’s true Joneser, but it’s not like Jerry Manuel knew what to do even with the players Ron Shuler and Ken Williams did get him. Some of those lineups made me laugh out loud, but most just made me swear a lot. I swear, he must be the only person on Earth who thought Paul Konerko batting in the high .280’s should be demoted to the #7 spot in the lineup.

  3. It didn’t seem like it, but Manuel managed the White Sox for six full seasons (which is a lot when you look at White Sox history). The moment that best represents his tenure is starting Neal Cotts instead of Mark Buehrle in that game against the Yankees in late 2003.

  4. It seems to me like the same thing is happening for Manuel with the N.Y.M. that did here: some very good players, but some bad-luck injuries too, and some really boneheaded player moves by the front office. Could it be that after what happened here, the Mets saw Manuel as a good stop-gap and fall guy while they got their act together (and hopefully fire Minaya soon)?

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