Emerging youngsters or proven veterans. Sticking with the hot hand or going with the chosen 9th man? All are vital decisions Bell must make once again.
Once again, in 2007, Buddy Bell will have very little margin for error in his in-game decisions and leadership off the field. Although Bell has, thus far, demonstrated he can handle the somewhat offbeat personalities of players like Zack Greinke, Jose Lima, and, yes, Angel Berroa, and by all accounts the players generally enjoy playing for him, he has made more than a handful of questionable in-game decisions that have undoubtedly led to a handful of Royals losses since he took the managing job in 2005.
Bell needs to learn that the future of the ballclub does not coincide with his tenure as manager. He needs to capitalize off of, and prove, his "old-school" mentality by playing rookies, youngsters, and players entering their prime, because they are who deserves to play for the 2007 Kansas City Royals. It's consensus among sports writers, fans, scouts, and the franchise itself that we are building for winning championships in the future. The only way to build for future championships is by playing legitimate young players (those who have proven worthy of an everyday MLB spot). I can understand giving Shealy one off-day every two and a half weeks, but I simply cannot accept benching him because Ross Gload is simply the better player. Like it or not, simply playing the most talented nine players in a lineup isn't part of the game anymore, and it never should have been. Bell has made too many mindnumbing decisions in the past for me to feel comfortable with who he decides to play and not play.
We all remember the Justin Huber fiasco of the early summer 2006. Benching the #100 prospect in baseball for Doug Mientkiewicz simply cannot be accepted. I realize only five games of 2006 have surpassed, but I'm worried. I'm very worried. Dayton Moore has proved that he has a reasonable (at the surface) philosophy intact. It's his duty 24/7 to communicate that philosophy to his staff and, perhaps more importantly, his manager. If Bell continues to sit players like Teahen and Shealy for Sanders or Gload, I'll be even more worried.
Are there other examples of Bell's refusal to play emerging young studs, you ask? Why, yes, I reply. Using Tony Graffanino as designated hitter and third base instead of Esteban German. Continuously playing Angel Berroa, defending him, and telling him shortstop is his job to lose two weeks before Opening Day. (While refusing to acknowledge his .259 OBP and -19 VORP was downright terrible on historical levels). Refusing to play Shane Costa or Reggie over-the-hill Sanders. Letting Jose Lima pitch the entire 2005 season (although I wonder how much of that could be attributed to..*gasp*...Allard Baird). There are many more examples, but should I continue? OK, maybe I will.
Another continuous Bell faux-pas these past two years has been managing by the book, and, sometimes, yes, overmanaging baseball games. I definitely do not agree with the moves to pull the young Joakim Soria in games two and four. In game two, Joakim Soria threw 19 effective pitches to bail Odalis Perez out of a jam in the sixth inning. Bell then immediately proceeded to pull the young talent for a pitcher who, by all means, should be excommunicated from entering a 40-man roster. That man is Todd Wellemeyer, who recorded all three outs in the seventh inning at the warning track. There were some doubles and even a towering 420-foot blast thrown in-between. In the fourth game, David Riske entered in the ninth inning. Sure, Riske recorded the save, but was it wise to pull Soria after he worked ahead of hitters and entered into no trouble in the 8th? Much like my father, I prescribe to the "stick to the hot hand" theory. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it's workin', why mess with it? No time for excuses, just keep on doin' whatcha doin'. (OK, putting cliched phrases on hold for now).
There, I think I've beaten this dead horse for a time or two.
What will I whine about next?