November 7, 2003

Numbers Are Our Friends. Ed Cossette of the Bambino's Curse blog snips some of Howard Bryant's pay column in the Herald: "The Sox might have a master list of candidates to run the ship, but they don't seem properly energetic about whom to call. ... maybe it [this lack of vitality] is because, as is the case in Oakland and Toronto, the manager isn't nearly as important as with other cities. For everything, pro and con, that is discussed about this supposed new era of statistical analysis and quantitative thinking, the one aspect that is rarely discussed but is the most important is this: The manager is less vital in these structures."

I think (and Cossette does too) that Bryant is one of the few writers who truly understands what is going on Yawkey Way. The Red Sox "seem uncertain about the process because they will hire a person under the rare circumstance of evaluating criteria other than wins and losses. The club is not in search of a winning manager, per se, because it already had one." He adds: "[T]he true managers of the club are already in place, they just don't wear the uniform." That's one of the biggest reasons I'm excited about 2004. If all goes well, and there's no reason to think it won't, both the manager and GM will be working together, open-minded and in agreement and eager to learn.

When Bryant talks of "this supposed new era of statistical analysis and quantitative thinking," I'm pretty sure he believes this type of thinking has been part of baseball for decades, albeit known by different names. There has been many derisive columns (in the Boston and national media) about the next Sox manager having a laptop in the dugout and wrestling with reams of paper telling him what Player X hit on cloudy Tuesday nights in May, but all that does is demonstrate that the writer feels the need to ridicule what he doesn't or can't understand.

If a manager starts a .350 hitter over a .200 hitter, he's using stats. If he brings in a relief pitcher who shuts down lefties to face lefties, that's using stats. Or if a starting pitcher weakens considerably after 100 pitches, and the manager keeps him on a short leash, that's using stats (and common sense). Batting average and ERA have been around for decades, but they are numbers nonetheless. So what's this really all about? Are traditional stats okay, but new-fangled ones like Runs Created or using Park Factors are not? If the argument comes down to "old is good and new is bad," then the discussion is not about stats at all, but about how scary new ideas are.

John Tomase believes Francona has passed Hoffman as the top managerial candidate. ... The search for a 2B will be one of the top jobs this winter. Some of the options mentioned to date are Luis Castillo, Fernando Vina and Rich Aurilia (all free agents) and Adam Kennedy (who may be non-tendered by the Angels). ... John Burkett will not pitch for the 2004 Sox. ... The bullpen fight hearing was rescheduled for December 12 because Karim Garcia's lawyer asked for more prep time. ... Bruce Hurst is the pitching coach of the Chinese national baseball team.

Reginald Riddle, 19, of Harvey, IL, was arrested Thursday night in the murder of Dernell Stenson. He's being charged with homicide, armed robbery and kidnapping. Riddle's half-brother, Kevin Riddle, was charged with possession of stolen property after being stopped driving Stenson's car. ... Shock over the death in the AFL, Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds.

How to become a Stathead. ... Toronto's new Eastern League (AA) team (in Manchester, NH) will be nicknamed the Primaries.

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