A Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever

(Mike Frohwirth presents an eyewitness report on the final phase of Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel's contract negotiations.)


(Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. sits at his desk in his Carpenter Complex office, attention focused on his laptop. Amaro's cell phone rests on an otherwise-bare desk. Amaro is dressed casually, wearing a Phillies polo shirt, and a Phillies cap with the names of all of his free agent acquisitions on the interior. The name "Danys Baez" is discolored, as if it had been affected by some sort of a chemical reaction. Assistant GM Scott Proefrock sits in a chair opposite Amaro, dressed identically, but bareheaded. Manager Charlie Manuel enters, in full Phillies uniform, and sits next to Proefrock.)

AMARO (turns to face Manuel): Thanks for coming in, Charlie. We'd like to wrap up your contract today.

MANUEL (nods his head): I figured you'd want to do something to take attention away from the Utley injury.

AMARO (ignores Manuel's response): We've obviously experienced a lot of success as an organization, and you have certainly been integral to that success.

MANUEL (nods, unsmiling): Thank you.

AMARO: We've been particularly pleased with your consistent portrayal of the persona we chose for you.

MANUEL: I do my best to support the organization. Even if it makes me look uneducated in the process.

AMARO: Trust me, your demeanor has proven quite advantageous. However, we do have some concerns about your game management skills. I'm going to have Scott review a few of those concerns with you. You may wish to use your notepad.

(Manuel stands, pulls a notepad from his back pocket, and flips it at Amaro. The pad knocks Amaro's cell phone off the desk, but the GM reaches across his body with his left-hand, deftly picking the phone out of the air. Amaro places the phone back on the desk, glares briefly at Manuel, and then turns his attention to the laptop on his desk.)

PROEFROCK (facing Manuel): Do you know what the number 197 is?

(Amaro beams in appreciation of his apprentice's approach, but does not remove his gaze from the computer screen.)

MANUEL: If it's the proposed annual value of my next contract, this is going to be a short meeting.

PROEFROCK: It is the number of plate appearances by Ben Francisco last season. One of the objectives of our Shared Vision for 2010 was to evaluate Francisco's viability for an increased role in 2011. You failed to support that objective.

MANUEL: My top objective is to win ballgames. When Francisco is better-able to support my top objective, as an outfielder and a baserunner, he will receive additional plate appearances.

PROEFROCK: Do you feel that giving Wilson Valdez 363 plate appearances helped win ballgames? Shouldn't a portion of those plate appearances have been allocated to Francisco?

MANUEL: Valdez' number of plate appearances was a function of his positional flexibility. Perhaps you should have provided me with a superior option in the utility role?

PROEFROCK: Our Optimal Deployment Plan called for Valdez to be utilized in the late innings of games, in order to provide extra rest for the aging players populating the infield. Allocating that many plate appearances to a sub-.670 OPS player is far from optimal.

MANUEL: Agreed. I will try to work on that concern, going forward.

(Amaro's cellphone springs to life, playing "My Eyes." Amaro picks up Cardinals GM John Mozeliak's call.)

AMARO (to Mozeliak): Hello, John. Thanks for returning my call. (pauses to listen) I just wanted to give you a heads-up about some comments I'll be making in the next week. We're not really tapped out on funds, and we are willing and able to deal. (pauses, listens) Yes, the deal we have in place is still on. (pauses, listens) This deal is going to be huge, John. We're already printing the #5 jerseys. Biggest trade in decades. Best of all, it's going to help both of our organizations. (pauses, listens) The timetable for the announcement stays the same. It's all about news cycle optimization, John. (pauses, listens) Thanks, John, take care. (Amaro ends call, and returns attention to laptop.)

PROEFROCK (to Manuel): Do you realize that J. C. Romero faced 74 right-handed batters in 2010? That's exactly 74 more than his Optimal Deployment Plan called for. Can you explain how such an egregious error could occur? 74 times?

MANUEL: In my season re-examination, I identified this as an area of opportunity. Romero will be more LOOGYfied this season.

(Amaro's phone vibrates. He picks it up, and speaks to Astros GM Ed Wade.)

AMARO (to Wade): Ed, how are you, sir? (pause, listens) Ed, I appreciate everything you've done for me. But you still need to watch the waiver wire like everyone else. (pauses, listens) I've already told you what it will cost to get Ruiz. (pauses, listens) Fried eggs? You know I gotta have my bowl of cereal in the morning. (pauses, listens) I'll check my e-mail. I gotta go, time is goin', tickin' on and on. I'll talk to you later, Ed. (Amaro ends call, opens e-mail account on laptop, and empties spam folder.)

PROEFROCK (to Manuel): Finally, we have grave concerns about your unwillingness to clear the bench, when the game's outcome has likely been determined. We can cite numerous examples of games where Halladay was extended, or Madson and/or Lidge were used, despite the fact that the Win Probability dictated otherwise. If merely looking at the scoreboard isn't sufficient to determine your player usage, you should be using your Win Probability charts to inform your personnel decisions.

MANUEL: Your point is well-taken, but you have to realize that I'm managing competitive athletes. Win Probability isn't the only factor that I must consider.

(Amaro's phone vibrates. He notices that Royals GM Dayton Moore is calling. Amaro ignores the call.)

AMARO (to Manuel and Proefrock, smugly): Dayton Moore. Brian Bocock will become a worthwhile hitter, before Moore becomes worth my time.

AMARO (to Manuel): This was a productive meeting. We have decided that your contract demands are acceptable, and we agree to the figure you proposed in our last meeting. However, we acknowledge that you do have some areas of opportunity, particularly in the area of in-game management. As a result, we will be providing you with a new resource, to assist you with decisions that are strategic in nature.

(Amaro stands, walks to the corner of the room, and opens what appears to be a closet door. The door opens into an extremely large room, filled with numerous racks of IBM servers.)

AMARO (to Manuel): I'd like to introduce you to your new co-Manager. His name is Watson.