Frediball: The Art of Fairly Winning a Fair Game
In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote an acclaimed book called Moneyball. It was praised for its witty, satisfying description of how a broke ballclub found value in new places under the leadership of GM Billy Beane. Well, Fredi Gonzalez is working on publishing his book of how he can lead a team to success. Naturally, it's called Frediball.
Descriptions for each chapter:
Chapter One: The Curse of Legacy
Replacing Bobby Cox means I could be susceptible to scrutiny. The best way to avoid this is to make every safe decision possible, as if it were 1978 -- Bobby's first year of managing. No one can blame a button-pusher. Whenever two men have been walked to lead off an inning on 8 straight balls, I'll be there to push the bunt button. Whenever it's a 3-2 count with the catcher running and down by 3, I'll hit the hit-and-run button. No one can fault you for manufacturing gritty runs.
Chapter Two: How To Find A Bunter
Before a player can be written into my lineup, I have to be confident in his bunting skills. My players have to be fundamentally sound in the fundamentals. This starts with bunting. Throughout my tenure as manager, I've had several great bunters on my teams. Good speed, great speed, no speed... it doesn't matter. (Of course, you'd prefer to have a speedy bunter at the top of the lineup) Brooks Conrad? They guy on the roster only because of an ability to hit home runs? Yes, he's a bunter. Everyone has to learn the fundamentals of baseball.
Chapter Three: The Enlightenment
After my fallout with Hanley Ramirez, I had an enlightenment -- teach my infielders to never kick the ball. If the infielders have excellent footwork, they won't kick the ball and won't waddle after it, and I won't have to make an informed decision on how to discipline my best player. There's no button to push on how to punish Chipper Jones or Dan Uggla, so I've made sure to drill in footwork exercises before every game. Just one more surefire way to never be in the limelight and face scrutiny over the decisions I'm paid to make.
Chapter Four: The Field of Fairness
If there's one thing about managing a baseball team that stands out, it's the fairness. If you're a button-pusher, you're guaranteed at least a couple of years of scrutiny-free leadership. The disadvantage, of course, is the lack of opportunity to stand out from the crowd because most managers have the same button-handbook that I do. Well, that's exactly why I went to one SABR convention. Since I went to one of those things, not even the blog bloggers can scrutinize my decisions. I've found the fair-mindedness edge. If you have one foot in every camp, no one can possibly criticize you. Take the preseason hooplah over delaying naming Kimbrel or Venters "closer." I said, I'd use the plantoon advantage in each situational leverage in order to ensure the highest probability to get the best results... and what did I do? I never game that lip service an ounce of credence! At least I gave up all liability on my part, fairly.
Chapter Five: The Joe Mather Blue Plate Special
The date was April 29th 2011. 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth against the Cardinals. Nate McLouth just drew a leadoff walk. Naturally, I pinch hit for one of the best relievers in baseball. I summon out of the dugout 6'4" Joe Mather who's earned his way up to majors after being drafted in 2001. What do I have him do in his first at bat as a Brave? Bunt! Yes, bunt. I don't remember the results exactly, but I'm sure nobody else does either. I do remember congratulating him earning his way up to big leagues and then being sure not to swing at a ball. There's no room for selfishness on this team.
Chapter Six: The Science of Fairly Winning a Fair Game
Johnny Venters is a lefty. Craig Kimbrel is a righty. Both pitchers are approximately equally effective. Unfortunately, this pitching surplus meant I had to make an informed decision of when and how to utilize these pitchers. I spent minutes doing my research and I noted that Venters was repeatedly used in the 8th inning last year under Bobby. If Bobby did that, it forgoes all liability on my part. Venters is the "Eighth Inning Guy" and Kimbrel is "The Closer." I've advised each of them to tattoo that on their biceps to further illustrate that point. If you define a player's role for the rest of the season by March, you've got it down to a science.
Chapter Seven: Filling Bobby's Hole
The Guys at Peachtree TV, FSS, and SS have advised me to audibly encourage the players from the Dugout in front of the cameras to be more like Bobby Cox. People seemed to like that. I thought long and hard about it. I knew that I could even encourage players in Spanish if I wanted to. But, after much deliberation, I thought that it would be too much of an attention grabbing move. No thank you.
Chapter Eight: Freddy Freeman - Pickin' Machine
Freddie Freeman is my 6'5" 1st baseman. He can pick the ball out of the dirt like no one else. Even though he bats left-handed, he plays 1st right-handed. Now, I've always heard that a lefty 1st baseman gives you an advantage and you should always go for a lefty 1st baseman. In Spring Training, I encouraged Freddie to try to play the field left-handed. After the one day experiment he said it wasn't going to work out. I broached the idea of being the first 1st baseman to wear two gloves and be an even better pickin' machine, but I ultimately decided against it. Maybe next year...maybe.
Chapter Nine: The Trading Desk
Frank Wren and I keep in touch a lot. So much so, that I may be given an honorary "Special Assistant to the GM" tag next year. Dan Uggla? I told him to go for it. Anyone one who runs that hard all the time can never be at fault. The other day I looked up the leaders in bunts for 2011 in the NL. Guess who it is? Nate McLouth! I sure hope his option is picked up. I told Frank I've got my eye on the guys leading the AL in bunts -- Juan Pierre and Chris Getz. These guys would make excellent additions to this team.
Chapter Ten: The Anatomy of An Undervalued Reliever
Everybody is now familiar with terms like "Closer", "8th inning-guy" "LOOGy" and "Long-Man" for the bullpen. This season, I've outdone myself. There has been an underutilized role in the bullpen in this day and age. I call this new role the Pitcher-Out-Only-Guy, or "POOGy." Manning this position is George Sherrill. Now that I've single handedly found a market inefficiency, this trend is bound to catch on. Decades from now, when managers are in the middle innings and have the opposing pitcher due up, they'll want to take all possible scrutiny away from the manager and instead put all the blame on the POOGy, they'll have me to thank.
Chapter Eleven: The Human Element - aka Everything
They say the most important part of being a manager is actually just running the clubhouse personalities and egos and creating a amiable clubhouse in order to function as a team -- And They're right! One day the public will realize I'm the best at this unquantifiable fact of the game - the human element.
Chapter Twelve: The Speed of My Ideas
When I retire, I want my body of work to set a precedent that the key to holding a job managing a major league baseball team is actually really easy. Just replace a legend and try to forgo all liability by making all the safest possible decisions circa 1968. Also, be bilingual, have a 1000 watt smile, pay your dues as a 3rd base coach for a couple of years, and bunt.
Epilogue: Johnny Manager
It's April 21st 2011, in the 12th inning, Christhian "The Lisp" Martinez is on the mound. Johnny Venters is in the bullpen, but since it's not the 8th inning he's not going to pitch. "The Lisp" pitched yesterday as well, but he's shown to have my upmost amount of confidence after earning his spot as the "long-man" in the bullpen. The long-man pitches multiple innings in relief. If this game goes several more innings, I'll be set no matter what. He is the guy to get multiple innings. No questions about it. I really don't care how long this goes as long as we're on the road trying to salvage a split in a four-game series in a tough road trip, the long-man is on the hill eating up those extra innings. I know Venters is the "8th inning guy" but if we have a lead between 1 and 3 runs he can earn the save on the road. Just wait till we get a 1-3 run lead, then I'll bring in Venters. There's 1 out and a runner on 2nd after just hitting a double off "The Lisp." At the plate is Matt Kemp, whose hitting .411. The next two spots are Juan Uribe and the pitcher. Sure, those guys are scrubs and "The Lisp" is working his 2nd frame, and you're "supposed" to give your team a statistical edge by walking the NL leader in batting average to face two scrubs. No. Kemp has only 3 hits in the four game series! Pitch to him not Uribe, who has several hits in the series. Pitch to the guy who's had an off couple of days instead of the hot scrubs behind him. As long as you can defend you're actions in one sentence, you'll never face scrutiny. I don't quite remember how that game turned out, but the press after the game weren't that concerned after I gave an interview. "Johnny Manager" some of them called me. Yeah, I like that title.
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