Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Big Questions 

In the cosmic scheme of things, the big questions are those like:
1. Is there a God?
2. What does it mean to lead an ethical life?
3. [Insert very non-cosmic-scheme-of-thing question here -- any American Idol reference will do -- for comedic effect.]

The baseball scheme of things is considerably narrower, the Diamondbacks' scheme even more so, and the big questions have been reduced to one, and generally posited as the answer to the (unstated) question as:


Now, although it's unclear whether someone could start a firebrenly.com website (a search on whois/sedo gives conflicting information on whether firebrenly.com and firebobbrenly.com are available to disgruntled bloggers everywhere), plenty of people are happy to sound the call.

I'm not great at giving answers -- the other D-Backs blogs do a better job of that -- but I do think I'm not bad at asking questions. So in that vein, I want to ask three questions that I need answers to in order to make a proper decision on Mr. Brenly's future with the Diamondbacks.

1. Is the team performing poorly? I know what you're thinking -- are you nuts? The team is 8 1/2 games back in the worst division in baseball after a 10-game homestand against bad NL East teams. But I think it's a legitimate question for 2 reasons -- a) you have to look at the season as a whole, not just 3 bad games, and b) you may need to look at Brenly's entire career with the D-Backs. For a), I need to see statistical proof that the team is doing poorly beyond just the record. (If you look at Baseball Prospectus' adjusted standings column, for example, the D-Backs look much better.) As for b), I'm not saying that you have to look at prior seasons, but if you're making the argument that the team is doing worse than in previous seasons, you have to consider the plain fact that Brenly managed those teams, too.
2. Is the team's performance significantly attributable to Brenly? This basically gets down to Brenly's in-game and out-of-game management. Has he managed situations and lineups adequately? Has he managed personnel adequately? This is a harder question to answer because it is much easier to remember the foolish decisions that turned out poorly than the safe decisions that turned out well. And it's really hard to know what personnel decisions (e.g., trading of players) were made because of Brenly's ability or inability to manage particular players. In some sense, it's possible that a good manager for the short-term could be a bad manager in the long-term, or vice versa.
3. Would somebody else do a better job? If you don't like Brenly and want to fire him now, who do you hire? Last I checked, Jack McKeon's still got a job with the Marlins. If you fault Brenly for not teaching the team fundamentals, why would you hire anybody currently on the D-Backs coaching staff? Talk radio was filled with rumors yesterday saying that Robin Yount didn't want the job. I'm not saying that there aren't candidates available at the end of the season, but I'm not sure there's anybody who could do any better of a job right now.

So, I know people have given some concrete answers to these questions, but I haven't yet been convinced fully that the answer is "yes" to any of these questions, and even if I become convinced the answer to the first two questions is "yes", I think there are a number of reasons (beyond what I listed above) to not remove Brenly until season's end.

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