What better time than now, after a series of games in which bullpen management has proved crucial. Let us consider the case of the People vs. Ken Macha, in which the defendant is faced with multiple charges: 1) One count of Heinous Bullpen Mismanagement; 2) One count of Failure to Create Offense; 3) One count of Uninspiring On-Field Demeanor; and 4) One count of Debilitating Lack of Faith in Certain Players.
Macha has merely, thus far, been indicted; we now consider whether to convict on the above four counts. We take up the indictments one at a time, starting with ...
- Heinous Bullpen Mismanagement: Cases of HBM are alleged all throughout baseball, especially toward the end of the season when the games achieve a playoff atmosphere. Every call to the bullpen can be second-guessed, and so can every decision NOT to go to the bullpen. Thus, to convict a manager for HBM, the accusers must have an AIR-TIGHT CASE ... or else every manager would immediately be convicted. I remain unconvinced that such a case exists against Macha--even though I hated his replacement of Sarloos against Cleveland on Tuesday. The occasional mistake is insufficient for a conviction: the defendant is INNOCENT.
- Failure to Create Offense: Macha accusers note that not only does Macha continually use the hitting-averse bat of Jason Kendall in the top of the lineup, but he also fails to hit-and-run with men on first in front of Kendall and in front of fellow double-play-threat Scott Hatteberg. The case against Macha on this count is better than the one against him for HBM, as here we have a failure by Macha to pursue a strategy that even he, the defendant admitted would probably be a good idea. Still, again, every two-run game should not generally be blamed on the manager. A light-hitting lineup is a light-hitting lineup, and managerial fiddling can only work so much magic. Thus, Macha's failure to avoid the occasional double play is insufficient given the high standard of proof required for a conviction (to be guilty, he would have to be guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT). INNOCENT.
- Uninspiring On-Field Demeanor: The defendant's calm and placid on-field demeanor is cited as a strength by his defenders, a source of calm and stoicism counted-on by his players. But his accusers claim that it invites complacency into the clubhouse, depriving the team of needed energy. Some even claim that Macha is himself complacent, that his calm is indicative of his own lack of passion.
Nor is there much in the way of evidence to show that outwardly-energetic managers are better than calm-and-stoic types like Macha. Both types of managers can be found throughout baseball, and the latter are sometimes considered better-fit for young teams like the A's. Earl Weaver and Tommy Lasorda may have provided us with countless amusing video clips, but the passion they showed in arguing with umpires did not make them the greatest--or most inspirational--managers ever. INNOCENT
4) Debilitating Lack of Faith in Certain Players: "Certain Players" being the players taking up the 22nd-25th spots on the roster. Macha's faith in certain OTHER players is all-too-evident. His faith in Kendall alone might be reason for a fifth indictment here. However, his lack of faith in certain other players has been evident.
Keith Ginter, for example, started the season as part of a second-base platoon with Mark Ellis. He lost his spot on the major-league roster fair and square, but got it back last month when Bobby Crosby got injured. Still, Macha has failed to give him a single start (correct me if I'm wrong) since then, going with Marco Scutaro game after game, despite evidence that Scoot does better with the occasional off-day. His insistence on playing Kendall 14 games out of 15 might imply a lack of faith in backup catcher Adam Melhuse--which would be inexplicable, given Melhuse's performance over the past three years.
On the pitching side of the equation, Macha's crisis of faith w.r.t. Juan Cruz had disastrous results in Friday night's Red Sox game. If he was going to go to Cruz, he had to stick with him, have faith in him. Instead he pulled him and inserted Yabu, a guy he hasn't had faith in for months. In the aftermath of that game, I doubt there's two more-pissed-off individuals than Cruz and Yabu; Macha's poor use of them, due to his lack of faith in them, will undermine their performances for the rest of the year.
So on this final indictment, the defendant is GUILTY AS CHARGED.