The Atlanta Braves fired Manager Fredi Gonzalez this week, as the team was floundering with a 9-29 record. Of course, this is the same guy who led the team to an average of 93 Wins in his first three seasons at the helm (2011-13). This leads to the endless debate about how much difference a Manager can make in the Win-Loss outcome of a team. The Braves front office essentially gave Gonzalez a AAA level team in 2016, while they makes plans for their new stadium next year. To underscore how bad this team is, their total of 13 Home Runs is the exact amount hit so far this year by Nolan Arenado of the Rockies. Their run differential is minus 70!! The pitching staff has an ERA of 4.70!! And yet, Fredi takes the fall for this performance.
Most baseball fans give some credit to Managers and if you owned a team, you’d probably rather have Joe Maddon or Bruce Bochy leading the way. Let’s not forget, however, that Hall-of-Fame Manager Joe Torre was over 100 games below .500 in 15 seasons as a big-league skipper before he got to Yankee Stadium. Let’s be honest…if you don’t have the players, you’re not going to win.
Sometimes, even having the players isn’t enough. Detroit Tigers Manager Brad Ausmus appears to be on the hot seat as the team only won 15 of its first 36 games…with a payroll figure of $196 Million! In addition to our religious background, Brad & I have something else in common…we’re losing sleep over Justin Upton!
The most challenging type of Fantasy Baseball is a keeper-league, auction format played with the rosters of only one league (known as “AL or NL Only”). It forces you to know the depth of rosters, line-ups and organizations while still managing your salary cap at the Draft and during the season. This isn’t Fantasy Football, where you’re making the “difficult” decision of picking Tom Brady as opposed to Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers. This is where you lose Andrelton Simmons to an extended DL stint and you get to choose Chris Coghlan or Steve Pearce to take his place. I chose Coghlan on Sunday and, of course, Pearce hit a HR the next day.
The Fusco Brothers (named after the incredibly funny comic strip) have been playing in the same AL-Only league since 1987. My partner & I have had great success over the years but 2016 finds us in last place in mid-May. On paper, the team looked like a definite contender but the roster hasn’t performed and the poster boy is Upton. While the Tigers are paying him $22 Million this year in the first season of a 6-year deal, the Fuscos paid $30 for him at the draft table just before the season began. With the league’s $260 budget for our roster, it’s an incredible coincidence that both the Fuscos and the Tigers are spending 11% of their payroll on the same player.
Upton has been a productive major-league player for nine seasons and at age 28, should still be in his prime years. In addition, he is surrounded by a solid line-up including Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and others. So, this isn’t a situation where an expensive free agent is expected to carry a team…he can just be a $22 Million complimentary piece (sic). Looking at the stats through May 17th (24% of the season), it appears that he has lost his skills completely or has caved in to the pressure of the big contract. In 156 AB’s, his BA is .218 and he’s struck out 62 times while getting only 8 walks. His OPS of .575 is 250 points lower than his lifetime mark and watching him in the batter’s box causes you to turn away from the TV. No plate discipline, no pitch recognition, no attempt to make a productive out, no putting the ball in play with two strikes and no change in his approach.
There are certainly other reasons for the Fuscos to be floundering…slow starts from Kyle Seager, Jose Abreu, Ian Desmond and others. A few horrendous outings from Carlos Rodon & Derek Holland and the 30-day wait for Aroldis Chapman hasn’t helped. The bad news for Ausmus is that Upton (and the pitching staff’s 4.54 ERA) could cost him his job. I can’t get fired as Manager of the Fusco Brothers because my partner has no interest in taking over the job. And, being optimistic, I still think the team can be a “contendah”. Things could always be worse…another team in the league paid $33 for Carlos Gomez.