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I Pay Little Attention to Managerial Quotes

Why would you trust what he says anyways? Look at his mustache! The guys with mustaches are always the evil characters in Disney movies. QED
Why would you trust what he says anyways? Look at his mustache! The guys with mustaches are always the evil characters in Disney movies. QED

Eric Wedge has made some comments that have stuck with people on this site and in some cases spawned probably overstated beliefs. Two that I am thinking of specifically are his oft-misrepresented hatred of walks and his love of Carlos Peguero due to Peguero's batting practice displays.

I try not to assign weight to statements like these for a couple reasons. I don't know how glib they are for one. Or often know what tone of voice they were said in. Body language and other not explicitly verbal clues contain much of our meaning when we communicate and reading later on dead tree or via electrons can strip that meaning away.

Probably my most frequently stated cause for largely ignoring these is that I have little expectation for the manager to actually be forthright with his statements. I wish he would be because then I could more accurately judge how I feel about his decisions if I knew -- and could trust -- his reasons for making them. Talking to the press presents certain risks and benefits and unfortunately for me, enlightening me to his truthful reasoning offers no benefit and carries sizable risk.

We know that unconventional managerial practices are easy fodder when they backfire for armchair analysts. Offering a concrete evaluation merely opens the manager up to criticism. Additionally, he risks alienating his players. The manager's goal is to win baseball games, and that does not dovetail with being exceptionally and brutally honest on his feelings about certain players. So why should he? Furthermore, there's no recourse if he doesn't. He's not a public employee. I cannot freedom of information act my way into discovering why he called a hit and run in the fourth inning or why Dustin Ackley isn't hitting second.

Basically, all that boils down to, "what do you expect him to say?" as I move on and ignore it. But reading through a link Jeff tweeted reminded me of another important reason not to take these to heart too often. We rarely have anywhere close to the complete context. We don't know the goings on in the clubhouse. We don't know how certain players respond to encouragement versus disapproval. And we also rarely know the question being asked! We get the response from Wedge or whomever, but how often do we get a full transcript? If that doesn't sound important, consider this quote from Sam Miller who writes for the Orange County Register and occasionally works the Angels' beat.

PO: Angels' manager Mike Scioscia seems to be a difficult guy to get much depth out of in interviews, as he tends to rely on a lot of baseball clichés to keep from giving away too much information. Have you found an effective way to get more out of him? Is he as difficult to crack as he seems?

SM: The important revelation was that the clichés aren't for Scioscia's benefit. They're for the reporters. In a lot of cases, those clichés are what reporters need: A quick quote, a concise quote, something predictable. A lot of times as a reporter, you're asking questions for a story that you've already mostly written, either actually written or at least written in your head. So you call your sources and ask them leading questions until they say the thing that you had them saying in your head all along.

Wouldn't it be silly to get all bothered about a quote that even the quote giver himself didn't actually put stock in, but was simply trying his best to provide filler copy for an overworked beat writer? I think it's fine to speculate on, critique or applaud statements from the manager. I just also think that while doing so, the possibility that you might not have anywhere near the full truth should stay ever present in your mind. As with everything, it's probably more complicated.