What Effect Will New MLB Mangers Have On Wagers?
by Robert Ferringo - 07/04/2007
It's tough being the manager of a Major League Baseball team. If you're Joe Torre you have to worry about squeezing in naps while your bullpen blows another lead. If you're Tony LaRussa you have to worry about the ice melting in your mixed drink during a St. Louis heat wave. If you're Jim Leyland you have to worry about running out of Newport Menthols in extra innings. And if you're Lou Pinella you just worry about the police finding the bodies buried in your backyard.
Stress, I tell you, stress. It's not just setting lineups and sunflower seeds. It's work, dreadful work. So I can understand why Mike Hargrove "walked away" from one of the most underrated teams in the country over the weekend claiming he was burnt out. Nor was I shocked when the axe fell on Jerry Narron after his club fell even deeper into the depths of one of the worst divisions in recent baseball memory.
Hargrove and Narron joined Sam Perlozzo on the list of managers that have abandoned their posts - forcibly or otherwise - in the past 30 days. While we've had time to gauge the effect of Perlozzo's firing on the Baltimore Orioles it will likely be a few weeks before bettors can accurately assess how the Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds respond to losing Hargrove and Narron, respectively. However, in a couple of weeks it will be a bit too late. The savvy bettor is the one who can predict how these teams will perform over the next few weeks and bet them proactively, instead of reactively.
In the case of the Orioles, ditching Perlozzo and allowing bullpen coach Dave Trembley to take the reigns may have been the best thing that's happened to the O's this season. Since Trembley has ruled as interim bench coach Baltimore has been one of the best bets on the board. They've gone 7-4 since June 20, cashing as an underdog in all seven victories. They look like a completely different team, achieving their recent surge against three teams that have a winning record and the Yankees. Also, the majority of those wins have come without All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada, who is out with a fractured wrist.
Trembley has brought a laid back attitude to the clubhouse and an aggressive style to the dugout. The Orioles are about accountability and production, and his quiet, yet daring, approach has clearly resonated. The results have been most apparent offensively. In the 16 games between June 1 and June 17 the Orioles mustered over four runs just twice while going 2-14. They've cracked five or more runs in eight of their past 13 games since Perlozzo's ousting.
Baltimore has gone from a simple "bet against" to a strong underdog play. And anyone with the foresight to anticipate this run of success would have banked nearly +400 over the past couple of weeks. But will we be able to say the same thing about the Mariners and the Reds in two weeks?
Seattle was one of my sleeper teams from the outset of the season and to this point they've lived up to expectations. They entered Monday just one game out of the Wild Card and have been baseball's most profitable team - by far -this year. But now without Hargrove the Mariners are left to wonder if the delicate house of cards is going to crumble in the Emerald City. The answer is yes and no.
The problem is that Hargrove's departure was such a shock - he became the first manager in MLB history to leave a team in the midst of a winning streak of seven games or longer - that it's only natural for a bit of an adjustment period to blunt Seattle's profitable ways. They lost their first game with new skipper John McLaren at the helm, which may or may not have been a coincidence. Regardless, Seattle closes the first half of the season on a seven-game road trip and I wouldn't be shocked if they dropped four or five of those outings.
But after that, I think that the Mariners might be better off. Hargrove's laid-back style may have helped get Seattle to this point, but he has really never proven himself to be a master tactician. If the Mariners do manage to hang in through a pennant run then not having him on the bench could be the best thing for them. Seattle is a veteran team, with a solid core of experienced players. They can motivate themselves and I don't expect a large drop-off in the production of guys like Jose Vidro and Raul Ibanez.
The trick for McLaren is going to be handling a pitching staff that is severely back loaded. The starters are all shaky, and not overworking the bullpen is going to be a key to keeping them in the race. If there is one thing that I'm going to be keeping my eye on over the next month or so that would be it: how he handles his starters.
Speaking of pitching staffs, I think it's safe to say that Narron probably didn't invite many of his hurlers to his going away party. The Reds became the worst team in baseball on the strength, or, er, weakness, of the worst bullpen in the league. His relievers had taken 18 losses, most in the National League, and the bullpen E.R.A. of 4.83 was ranked 25th in the Majors. The starters weren't much better, with Kyle Lohse, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Belisle only surpassed in incompetence by guys named Larry, Moe and Curly. The trio has a combined 11-24 record and 4.91 E.R.A. If Narron is involved in a shopping mall shooting spree over the next few weeks, these guys are at least partially to blame.
Advanced scout Pete Mackanin, who managed in Triple-A from 1990-1992 and was Pittsburgh's interim manager for the final 26 games of 2005, will take over the Reds. Unfortunately for him, he could have Sparky Anderson, Casey Stengel and Whitey Herzog on the bench next to him and it still wouldn't make a difference. The Reds have holes throughout their lineup and will soon be selling off spare parts for 70 cents on the dollar. They're nearly an automatic "play against' versus left-handed pitching and Cincy starts the second half of the season on an 11-game road swing that includes stops in New York and Atlanta. Not good. And it doesn't look like it will be getting any better.
In conclusion, the impact of a manager on a baseball team can be debated. I feel like they set the tempo for a club and that you can't be a successful, reliable squad without a top shelf manager. But in the end, it's the guys between the lines that win and lose games. Talent pays the bills. Seattle's got some of it, and Baltimore and Cincinnati are a bit light. The O's will cool off, but for now I'm either playing on them or staying away from them. Seattle is still a team to follow - especially against left-handed pitching - and I'll be monitoring the Mariners closely if they hang in there for a fall stretch run. And as for Cincinnati, they'll be a solid "bet against' team for the rest of the season.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out his Insider Page here.