In my passionate appeal to the US World Baseball Classic team yesterday, I briefly touched upon some decisions made by manager Buck Martinez. Today, I want to revisit Martinez and second guess him into the ground.
Buck Martinez as a manager has had very limited success in Major League Baseball. He has managed for a total of 215 games, leading the Blue Jays to an overall record of 100-115. He was dismissed after just 53 games in 2002. The Blue Jays were 20-33.
Now, I can’t say why Major League Baseball picked Martinez to lead Team USA. As Brett Carow noted in a Baseball Musings discussion yesterday, the best managers are all in training camps, presiding over their teams. David Pinto threw out the name of Davey Johnson as the best manager not currently busy with a team. In my mind, Buck Martinez ranks fairly low on the list of available guys to manage a team in a tournament, and he’s living up to this assessment.
On Wednesday, Martinez’s biggest mistake was his lineup construction. From the get go, I wondered about Martinez’s thinking. Here was the lineup to start the game against Canada:
Micheal Young 2B
Derek Jeter SS
Ken Griffey CF
Derrick Lee DH
Chipper Jones 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Vernon Wells RF
Jason Varitek C
Matt Holliday LF
Without using any statistical analysis, it’s clear that this lineup is not the best, offensively or defensively, that Martinez could have put on the field. Without looking at the bench, Martinez did not even use his best centerfielder in centerfield. For some reason, he went with Ken Griffey, Jr., in center and Vernon Wells in right. While Griffey was once the best centerfielder in the game, those days are long behind him. It makes no sense to put him in center.
Adding to this oversight is the bench. On Team USA’s bench to start a key game in the World Baseball Classic tournament were Johnny Damon and Alex Rodriguez. Think what you will about A-Rod and Damon, but these two are the best at their respective positions on the USA team. It is inexcusable for Martinez to have these two players – one of them the reigning AL MVP – on the bench for most of the game.
While I understand that Martinez may have wanted to give Matt Holliday a start or allow Chipper Jones to ride his one home run hot streak from Tuesday, it is absurd to see these two players on the bench. Cuba doesn’t rest its best players during the tournament. David Ortiz isn’t sitting out a game for the Dominican. Martinez should manage this to win now. Had the US team won and secured a second round berth, then Martinez could have played the back-ups.
The next mistake Martinez made was bringing in Al Leiter in a key situation with two runners on and the game getting out of hand. As a Yankee fan, I saw my fair share of Al Leiter last season. Let me tell you: There is a reason why he announced he is retiring after the tournament is over. Leiter last year had a combined 6.12 ERA. As a reliever, he 21 hits in 16.1 innings. When he allowed the two inherited runners to score – two big runs in the game – I wondered if this was the best America had to offer.
So now Team USA has its back to the wall. While it is highly unlikely that the Republic of South Africa will be able to beat an energized Roger Clemens, I sure hope Buck Martinez doesn’t yank Clemens after 23 pitches as he did to Peavy in game 1. I hope Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon are in the lineup. I hope the US team, under guidance from its manager, can put its best face forward and win.
Buck Martinez ought to treat this tournament as an audition for a real managerial gig. He was tabbed by Major League brass to represent the nation. So far, he’s doing a poor job. Let’s hope we don’t have make the biggest second guess of all: MLB’s choice of Buck Martinez for manager.