If you’re looking for a way to lose faith in the human race, gain a sudden desire to abandon all your belongings and loved ones, become a forest hermit and never trust another person’s opinions again, I encourage you to listen to sports radio call in shows. I’ve made the mistake of doing it from time to time and I’ve come to the conclusion that while most baseball fans are not idiots – there are too many of them for that to be true – the ones that ARE idiots love calling sports talk radio.
The jist (gist? I’m not sure) of all calls to the Fan590, the local sports radio problem, are one of two things:
1. The Jays should trade someone.
2. It’s all the manager’s fault and he should do different things.
Topic 1 is always insane; the caller always wants to team to trade a good player on whom they inexplicably blame the team’s problems (which is stupid) or they want to trade a terrible player (so why would anyone else want him?) So whatever, but I’d like to deal with point 2 today.
The Jays’ manager is John Gibbons. If you don’t follow baseball closely, Gibbons is an old Texas boy who, to be perfectly honest, sounds like Boomhouer from “King of the Hill,” a voice that does not inspire faith in his smarts.
It’s unfair but true. The criticism of his management of the team is essentially that he must be an idiot because the Blue Jays are losing. Of course, they won last year and the year before and Gibbons was the manager then, but I guess the frustration has to go somewhere.
So people call the radio show and complain that Gibby has to “do something.” “Doing something” usually amounts to either the sort of in game decisions a manager can make, like bunting or stealing bases and whatnot, or playing different players.
As a Blue Jays fan I do understand frustration at the fact the team is in last place and looks really terrible out there, but there is nothing, at all, John Gibbons can do about it. If you replaced him with any other manager in the entire world the Jays would have the same record.
Here’s the thing:
1. “Doing stuff” does not work in the major leagues. Bunting and shit like that doesn’t work. The American League team that has scored the most runs is Houston, and Houston has the fewest sacrifice bunts in the league. Scoring runs in the majors is a matter of getting on base and hitting home runs. Two years ago, when the Blue Jays were one of the greatest offensive teams in baseball history, they led the league in getting on base and hitting home runs. Last year, when they were not incredible but were pretty good, they did not league the league in those things, but they were pretty good. This year, when they’re the worst scoring team in the league, they happen to be the worst team in the league at getting on base. You cannot bunt or hit-and-run your way out of being bad at hitting.
2. In terms of monkeying around with the players he has… well, Gibbons isn’t the guy who hired the players. That simply isn’t his job, and there isn’t anyone handy who’s better than what he has.
Russell Martin, the catcher, is hurt, and the team has no one to back him up who’s any good.
Troy Tulowitzki is hurt, and no one who can hit is around to replace him.
Devon Travis is hurt. Aaron Sanchez is hurt. Jason Grilli fell apart. Marco Estrada fell apart. Josh Donaldson, by far the team’s best player, was out for six weeks. Jose Bautista has fallen apart. None of these things are Gibbons’s fault – and, critically, there is no one else to put in there. Edwin Encarnacion, a terrific hitter, was replaced by Kendrys Morales, who isn’t worth having on the team. The Blue Jays had no one capable to replace these guys; they have very little talent in triple-A. There have been some nice surprises – Justin Smoak has been great, and Marcus Stroman came back nicely – but overall, the team has gotten worse at almost every position, which isn’t that surprising; it was an old team.
What I don’t think a lot of people fully appreciate is that all Major League managers manage the same way. The set their lineups more or less the same way, manage their pitching staffs the same way. If you switched Gibbons and the manager of any other team, they would manage their new teams the same way and get pretty much the same results.
If you want the Blue Jays to be better, you need different players. And that’s a scary proposition, because I honestly don’t know what they could do about that.
Please comment and tell me how I’m wrong; sports fans love that!