A lot has been made of the Nationals’ inability to hit and score runs this year. For a preseason World Series favorite to be in the bottom five of all of baseball in categories like batting average, OBP, OPS, runs, and RBI is mindboggling to DC area fans.
During the first half of the season, a catastrophic mix of injuries and woeful slumps by key players were cited as the primary reasons why the team was having trouble pushing people across the plate. But, with the regulars at Davey Johnson’s disposal over the last few weeks, things on offense haven’t gotten any better. If not for Jayson Werth’s contributions to the lineup, the team would be averaging only about an earned run per game out of the All-Star break. When an entire team is scuffling to this degree, there has to be more to the equation.
Firing Rick Eckstein was long overdue (despite what experts and players will tell you about the effect a hitting coach has in-season). Yet the real answer might just lie in a more consistent application of addition by subtraction. Namely: having the manager subtract himself from the game on a regular basis.
Take a look at the list of most ejected managers in history. It reads like a who’s who of Hall of Famers. Since I am unfamiliar with the coaching styles of the men of the pre-DH era, I’m just going to focus on the guys who have piloted the dugout steps since then. From that group, you will find the following names of skippers who have been tossed over fifty times… Bobby Cox, Earl Weaver, Tony LaRussa, Jim Leyland, Joe Torre, Ron Gardenhire, Lou Pinella, Bruce Bochy, and Charlie Manuel. That’s the whole list. At least one World Series win for all of them (with the exception of a Twins manager who was forced to wage four short-series LDS battles against Torre on a severely unlevel talent playing field). It can’t be a coincidence that these nine individuals are the only people in the last forty years to reach this milestone.
The way I see it, there are two easy arguments against this line of thinking. First and foremost, you have to figure that they were allowed to rack up ejections thanks to the extended contracts they received for delivering title(s). This may be true, but, assuming it would take almost ten years at the helm to realistically approach the magical fifty heave-ho barrier, that still leaves a lot of Gene Mauchs and Dusty Bakers who never got a ring.
The other mitigating factor would be that the man who prompted this post, Davey Johnson, has hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy once in his career. I happened to be at that game in 1986, but as a Nationals fan, I could care less about anything he did before Brad Wilkerson stepped to the plate for the first time in 2005. More importantly, whatever he is doing in 2013 is not working. I would hope he would be willing to change course if it could possibly right the ship.
Davey has managed here for parts of three seasons. He has been ejected one time each year. I know he is a “players’ manager”, but his laid-back nature seems to be sapping the life out of the ballclub. They need a spark. Perhaps the airing out of the clubhouse following Drew Storen’s demotion yesterday is that spark. I hope it is, but it wouldn’t hurt to consider this ejection strategy as a Plan B to ignite that Natitude we all so desperately want to feel again. Heck, it worked on Thursday against the Pirates!
Of course, the data I just presented requires taking a leap of faith by ignoring numerous other circumstances. But, for a team that seemingly has everything you could ask for to compete, faith might be the one thing the Nats need to reach the promised land known as the postseason.