April 6th: the filibuster.
From the day he began to the day he resigned, we'd long suspected Mike Hargrove's bad decision-making of having cost us a few wins. But on a frigid April evening inside a wintry Jacobs Field, Hargrove calmly walked to home plate and saved us a loss.
That the game even got that far in the first place is a bit of a joke. Prior to the opening pitch, conditions were bad enough that fans and players alike were passing the time by building snowmen, and things hardly improved over the course of the first few innings. Paul Byrd had three walks. Horacio Ramirez had six. Victor Martinez got hurt. Adrian Beltre made three errors. Fly balls were dying in the outfield. And my MLB.tv screen was almost entirely white, to the point at which I had to take the announcer at his word. These weren't appropriate conditions for a baseball game. At one point Raul Ibanez took a strike, rode out a delay in the dugout for 22 minutes, took strike two, and sat for another 17. Why continue? Why try to force a game that some higher power very clearly didn't want to take place?
These were our concerns, but as valid as they were, as we approached the fifth inning one got the sense that the umpiring crew had glued its hands over its ears in a concerted effort to get in an official game before sending everyone home. With more snow in the forecast for the weekend, and with this being Cleveland's home opener and all, the crew wanted to do everything possible to come out with a winner and a loser, and if that meant sticking the Mariners with a 4-0 loss they didn't deserve, then so be it. Better than running the risk of having an entire series wiped out.
Mike Hargrove disagreed. And with two outs and two strikes in the top of the fifth, he made the best managerial play of the season.
Mike Hargrove stopped the game.
For as long as I can remember, people have been arguing over whether or not you can quantify a manager's impact, and - if you can - how you do it. Me, I do think that some managers can make a significant difference, but I find the attempt to isolate his influence from everything else an impossible task. There are just way too many variables involved, and at no point do I think anyone will ever perform an analysis such that he can look at the results and say with absolute certainty that Manager X cost his team Y runs in a season. In theory it's possible, but in reality, it cannot be done.
On this particular Friday, though, none of that applied. On this particular Friday, Mike Hargrove's impact was abundantly clear. Without him, Jose Lopez probably makes an out, after which they call the game in Cleveland's favor. With him, the at bat never resumes and the game is postponed.
It was that simple. There were no other factors in play - this was all Hargrove. In WPA terms, Hargrove earned something like +0.490. But if you prefer speaking like a normal person, Hargrove singlehandedly managed to keep his team above .500 by simply having an on-field argument at the best possible time. Eric Wedge, Paul Byrd, and the rest of the Indians were incensed, as they were robbed of almost certain victory, but the victory would've been tainted, and we have only Hargrove to thank for sparing us the indignity of losing what would've been one of the most bullshit official games ever recorded.
Mike, we were never big fans, but thanks to this brilliant maneuver, you may be the only manager in Major League history to ever actually prevent his team from losing by himself. And for this, your memory should be celebrated.
Here's to you.