“I do not feel that in-game strategy is the biggest thing as a manager”. – Dave Dombrowski – October 11, 2016.
Just one day after the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs, this quote by Dave Dombrowski struck a nerve with a lot of fans in Red Sox Nation. It took less than 24 hours for the Red Sox front office to decide that John Farrell and his entire staff would be returning for the 2017 season. A team that had the best roster in the American League lost eight of the their final nine games, handed over home field to the Indians, and bowed out with virtually no fight. Despite the Red Sox manager making countless in-game decisions during the season which left many fans scratching their heads, the Red Sox apparently do not feel that in-game strategy is a priority.
Do you think that the Cleveland Indians don’t think that in-game strategy is the biggest thing as a manager after watching their team for the past month? Terry Francona has managed the team brilliantly. He has pushed all the right buttons. Granted, he has two weapons in the bullpen in Andrew Miller and Cody Allen who have been lights out. What Miller has done is really unprecedented. He’s been unhittable and his flexibility and durability has been a major reason for the Indians playoff success. But, let’s make it clear. Francona has been excellent in these games.
So, the Red Sox don’t prioritize an in-game manager. Yet, in the playoffs, in-game management is what can decide big games. Let’s take a look at Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. John Farrell batted Brandon Workman in a tie game. He had the option of executing the double switch. Apparently, he didn’t understand that rule? It ended up being a key at bat and the Red Sox went on to lose that game. It was almost as if Farrell didn’t understand that National League rules. Francona, on the other hand, has executed the same type of moves repeatedly. It’s as if he’s always been one step ahead.
Hypothetical question: Would the Indians be where they are right now if John Farrell was their manager? Would he be able to think “outside the box” and bring Miller into a game in the 5th inning? Or, would he play it by the book and just use him for one inning over and over? Would he be able to execute the double switch in multiple situations? Would he use his bench perfectly? Would the opposing manager be thinking about Farrell’s next move?
The 2016 MLB Playoffs have proven how important in-game management is. The Indians are on the verge of the championship and in-game management is a big reason why.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, are content with just being OK when it comes to in-game management. You heard it on October 11th. It’s not the priority. The Red Sox appear to be alright with falling short in this area.
An elite roster on a team where in-game management is not “the biggest thing”. In other words, if the Red Sox make the playoffs again, you had better hope the bats are alive and the pitchers are slinging it because the Red Sox manager is not going to win you a game like that Indians manager has.