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Thursday, October 15, 2009
Fear made Francona do it ... but of what?

Yes, it now seems crazy to walk the bases loaded to face Vladimir Guerrero. And yes, the move seemed particularly odd, coming as it did from the manager of the most sabermetrically oriented team in the history of ever. So why did Terry Francona do it? We already know that his explanations make little sense. Well, MGL thinks he knows (with maybe a bit of hyperbole tucked in somewhere). Money quote:
I can't claim to know more about human nature than the estimable MGL but I do think he's missing something here. Yes, it's true that nobody wants to look bad and everyone wants to be a hero. There's a deeper human impulse, though: the desire for control. Terry Francona is a baseball manager, and his job for nine innings almost every night for six or seven months is to control, to the limited degree that he can, what happens within those white lines. He's got a professional obligation to control those events and he's got that basic human impulse to control the world around him; to avoid that desperate feeling of helplessness with which we're all only too familiar.

Mickey is right: managers can be educated and incentivized away from making foolish moves, and in fact that's happening at this very moment. Today's managers, I'm virtually certain, make fewer foolish moves than ever before. But I suspect that managers will always do foolish things, and it's not because they're afraid of looking bad. More than that, it's the fear of something much deeper and far scarier: merely awaiting one's fate.