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How Managing Has Changed


The Fake-Out (Or Was It?)

Lots to see here in this highlight reel from the under-appreciated 1972 World Series, which saw a competition between two very small market teams during some lean years for baseball. Yet in some ways this was the Series of the ’70s, matching the Big Red Machine (four appearances in the World Series during the decade) v.s. the Oakland A’s dynasty (three championships). 

Certainly by 1972, football had passed baseball as the nation’s most popular sport and had baseball reeling. Indeed, the NFL seems to exhibit a kind of ghostly presence during the games in Oakland as yard lines cross paths with both the diamond and the outfield — as can be seen from any angle above the field. 

Two memorable plays stand out from Game 3. As seen here, Tony Perez falls down rounding third, but is able to scamper home as Bert Campaneris has his back completely turned to home plate and holds the ball. Despite Campy’s explanation, the mistake was far more egregious than the famous “Pesky held the ball” play from the 1948 season. 

The second highlight is the infamous fake-out, in which manager Dick Williams had Rollie Fingers fake an intentional walk to Johnny Bench and then throw strike three. Despite the commentary on the highlight reel, I am not convinced that Bench was particularly fooled. The count was 3-2 and despite Bench’s prolific power and the Athletics’ acting, a full count intentional pass is rare. Bench appears to be ready in time, but Fingers delivers a slider on the black — the type of pitch Bench may well have taken away in that situation. And like many controversial pitches in the days before 21st Century technology, I’d like to see where that one was on KZone. Nevertheless, it made for quite a moment.

A few other 1972 notables: The A’s hat scheme in which coaches wore white hats and players wore green and Pete Rose’s violent fit after a strike three call that somehow did not get him ejected.

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Baseball players are great mimics.  Have you ever noticed how it seems almost every movement in baseball has been choreographed so that each and every player does it exactly the same way?  Take the situation in which a manager takes a pitcher out of the game. Manager walks slowly to mound, catcher and middle infielders join him.  On his way, manager points to his left or right arm signaling to the bullpen which reliever is next.  Pitcher speaks to catcher with frustrated look on his face, hands the ball to manager and walks off slowly to the dugout while manager rubs the ball as the next reliever trots out to the mound.  Depending on my mood I can find this either overly robotic or soothing.  An exercise in bland repetition or just baseball’s way.  But a funny thing happens watching these choreographed scenes in older games.  It seems the robotic dances were not quite so scripted not so long ago.  Not everything is as we are accustomed to seeing it today.   Watch here as Joe Torre, then a young manager for the Mets, takes the ball from an even younger Jesse Orosco. Jesse actually stands at the mound chatting after Torre takes the ball, and the two walk off together. Today’s baseball fan almost wants to shout at them: “That’s not how you do it!”

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The 4th Inning Hook

Between 1976 and 1986, the DH was used in the World Series in all games during even-numbered years. In odd-numbered years, pitchers hit, even in games held in the American League park. Here we see Manager Bob Lemon making a controversial decision in Game 6 of the 1981 World Series against the Dodgers in Yankee Stadium. He lifts Tommy John in a 1-1 game in the bottom of the 4th inning for pinch hitter — Bobby Murcer.

John is visibly upset in the dugout. Intriguingly, Howard Cosell puts forward the theory that Lemon is making the decision under pressure from “ornery” owner George Steinbrenner who had been critiquing Lemon’s slow hook. 

Reliever George Frazier would come into the game in the top of the 5th and give up three runs as the Dodgers were on their way to a 9-2 victory and a championship.

This was the end of the road for the 1980s Yankees, who would not return to the playoffs until 1995.

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The early 1980s were the golden age of base stealing in Major League baseball. For instance, take this past season: Jacoby Ellsbury led the American League with an admirable 52 steals. The 130 that Rickey Henderson collected in 1982 almost boggles the mind. Rickey also stole 100 in 1980 and 108 in the year we see here — 1983.  Meanwhile, Tim Raines swiped 90 in 1983 and Vince Coleman reached 100 three times in the mid-80s. Ron LeFlore of the Expos amassed 97 steals in 1980. 

Since 1988, no one has stolen over 78 bases in one year. Why is this? Is it due to bigger sluggers and a managerial philosophy change? Is it the reduction in the number of ball clubs playing on turf? Has there simply not been another runner to come along as fast as Coleman, Raines or Henderson?

I think it may have something to do with money. Watch Rickey Henderson swipe second base here against the Chicago White Sox in 1983. The “bellyflop” he takes into second would make a team’s front office cringe these days. Given the amount of money put into star players in this era, I wonder if management wants anyone to take the punishment to the body that is required to steal 100 bags.

Henderson goes into third hard too and then trots home on a Billy Almon single. Meanwhile the announcers are discussing the triumphant 1983 season for White Sox manager Tony La Russa who entered the year on the hot seat. Not yet a baseball legend, La Russa was fired by Chicago in the middle of the 1986 season.

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