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Don't Believe the Hype: Managers Won't Decide Series

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Don't Believe the Hype: Managers Won't Decide Series

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Anyone who has ever watched sports on television is well aware of the fact that there's little broadcasters like to do more than establish narratives and pound them into the ground over the course of a series.

It doesn't matter if the games actually play out in a way that supports that narrative. Announcers have a special knack for ignoring everything that contradicts them while shoehorning things that don't begin to fit in to fit their worldview. It's highly aggravating business.

Most aggravating is that those narratives often center on the managers or coaches. The same is true of a lot of columnists, perhaps because the guys doing the storytelling have more in common with those guys than they do with the guys playing the games. And there's no one that broadcasters and writers love to focus on more than Tony La Russa.

The king of playing hunches and making three moves when one or none will suffice, La Russa will be praised early and often during the World Series. His bullpen management will be lauded, his choice to send up Pinch Hitter X will make him a bold tactician and you'll probably hear his disdain for the almost always misunderstood Moneyball will be used as a sign of his genius.

We won't make an argument that La Russa isn't a good manager, because he's won far too much for such an argument to hold any water. But we will say that his effort to have his hands in every single thing that happens is just as apt to blow up in his face as it is to work out as well as it did in the NLCS. He takes big risks, but the fact that those risks don't pay off 100 percent of the time is always ignored when his supporters sing his praises. As is the fact that there are actual players performing on the field, but you get the point.

Ron Washington won't get the same treatment. Oh, you'll hear some nice things about Wash and  his ability to keep the clubhouse in good spirits now and then, but the hushed tones will all be reserved for La Russa. Never mind that Washington navigated his way around pathetic starting pitching in the LCS just as well as La Russa or that he juggled his lineup awfully well all season to maximize output from just about everyone, the narrative will be that La Russa is the manager who controls everything from his perch in the dugout.

The fact is that neither one of these guys is likely to have much impact on the outcome of the series. There are too many good players on both sides for an entire seven-game series to come down to a decision to bunt or pull a pitcher.

Remember, if La Russa summons Marc Rzepczynski to face Josh Hamilton with two on and two out in the eighth of a tie game and Hamilton strikes out, that's a win for the pitcher too. The flip side is just as true. If Hamilton wins the game with a double, that's because he hit a pitch not because La Russa made some massive blunder.

It's a big soup with a lot of ingredients, so don't fall for the attempts to tell you otherwise once the Series gets under way.

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