Rookie skipper Matt Williams, who led the Nationals to a first-place finish in the NL East, got 18 of the 30 first-place votes to claim NL Manager of the Year honors in balloting released Tuesday.
Williams topped Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle (eight first-place votes) and San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy (three first-place votes) for the award. He was named on 25 of the 30 ballots, compared to 24 for Hurdle and just 12 for Bochy. Marlins manager Mike Redmond got the other first-place vote, that coming from a Miami writer (Luis E. Rangel).
Voting, of course, took place for Williams made a mess of the NLDS in a loss to the Giants. The Nationals improved from 86-76 in their final year under Davey Johnson to 96-66 with Williams at the helm. Still, expectations were plenty high going in, with most predicting the Nationals would win the NL East. Williams is likely being credited for his handling of the clubhouse, in particular his benching of Bryce Harper for not running out a groundout in April. He did a fine job of handling the closer switch in September when Rafael Soriano fell apart.
Still, it’s hard to believe any of the writers who voted for Williams would currently say anyone except Bochy is the NL’s best manager. His Giants won their third World Series in five years last month, doing so with less frontline talent than the Nationals possessed. Voting was done before the postseason, but it’s bizarre that 60 percent of the voters couldn’t find room for him on their ballots.
The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.
Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.
Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.
Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.
Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.
There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.
Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.