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News Flash!-Managers Overly Conservative
2003-07-31 18:38
by Mike Carminati

The once-vaunted New York Times reports that there is a study -surprise!-"that managers, coaches and players are often far too cautious for their own good 'Teams are averse to going for all or none.'" In a related story, researchers are investigating claims that professional football are actually larger than the average American male and that the average heterosexual male is attracted to Anna Kournikova. Imagine that!

And you thought our government was the only ones getting a nice boondoggle on someone else's dime. Professors get to watch a ton of sports, call it research, and report findings of the obvious. This all goes back to Bill James, the man of whom the academics are said in the article to be jealous. James in-I believe-the 1983 Abstract proposed his law of competitive balance that found that winning teams and losing teams develop separate and distinct strategies that favor the losing teams. Winning teams try to hold on to what they've got. Losing teams take risks.

So how is that analogous? Replace "winning teams" with "employed managers". If a manger is employed, the most important thing is retain that cushy salary, which means not going so far out on a limb that Bobby V. and Harold Reynolds roast your managerial peccadilloes. Managers bunted when bunting was in vogue. They played small ball when the book was to play small ball. Slowly as offenses went berserk managers climbed out of the primordial sludge and walked upright-that is, they changed the strategy and were successful.

Mangers walk Bonds so that they don't "Let him beat us". They'd rather have Benito Santiago or J.T. Snow beat them. Bless them. But at least everyone will nod in ascent when you pitch around Bonds, and the manger can accept the loss with honor. Like Nuke LaLoosh the manager has studied and knows his cliches-i.e., cliched approaches-well. They're his friends. As the story illustrates with the story of Yankee third base coach Mike Ferraro, who lost his assignment because he sent a runner home on a close play in the 1980 ALCS, going out on a limb can be ill-advised career-wise (though Ferraro did end up managing within two years).

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