The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

McKeon Blows Up at Reporter - Finally

It finally happened. After being second-guessed after nearly every decision for more than a year now, Jack McKeon finally let a “Mickey Mouse” reporter have it after last night’s 8 – 1 defeat at the hands of the Indians. I haven’t been able to find anything about this online so far today, but it was a hot topic on Miami radio this morning. Apparently, some reporter (apparently a radio personality, but I don’t know who), asked McKeon why he decided to not play the infield in with a runner on 3rd base in the first inning of last night’s game. McKeon took issue with this question, and rightfully so, as the Fish lost the game 8 – 1 and having a little bit more offense would obviously have had more impact on last night’s game than the positioning of the infielders for one at bat in the first inning last night. So Jack went off, and told the reporter that he was sick of “Mickey Mouse second-guessing” of decisions.

Most managers are second-guessed regularly, and it’s not like Miami is harder than many (maybe any) other cities on their coaches (Dolphins staff excluded of course). McKeon has been the exception though. Possibly because of his advanced age, nearly every questionable decision that McKeon has made has been doubted and fussed over in the media, even the ones that go right.

For example, McKeon started Beckett on 3-days rest for Game 6 of the World Series. That worked out and people quickly stopped talking about it. Throughout this season, McKeon has flipped Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo between the first and second positions in the lineup. Although this doesn’t make much sense from a sabermetric perspective, it does seem to be working so far in the sense that sometimes change is good for the sake of change – as the Marlins have tended to respond to these types of tweaks. During Saturday’s game against the Mets, Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, Fox’s national broadcasters, questioned McKeon’s decision to have pitcher Dontrelle Willis pinch-hit for starting pitcher Tommy Phelps in the 5th inning. McCarver worried that Willis might injure himself (he didn’t) and both announcers commented that it was unusual to remove your starter so early in the contest, particularly when he was doing relatively well. While the move was unusual, it worked out all around – Willis got a hit (although he was later part of a double play) and the Marlins eventually won the game.

Like many other managers, McKeon is also regularly second-guessed about how he uses his bullpen. Typically, McKeon’s style does not fit in with conventional thinking. To the typical eye, McKeon’s removal of starters is sometimes too quick, other times too slow. The same holds true with relievers. The issue really, for the pundits, is that McKeon is not predictable, and thus this makes him an easy target for criticsm. Last night’s issue was really a non-issue though. However McKeon decided to play the infield in the 9th inning of a one-run game could be debated, but that’s not what happened. Hopefully we’ll see some coverage of this from the mainstream media – particularly so the rube who asked the question can be exposed for what he is.

On an unrelated note, McKeon’s suggestion that during interleague play the home team adopt the visiting team’s rules (i.e. to use the designated hitter or not) is a very interesting one. It would be fun to see a Marlins game at Pro Player Stadium where the DH was used or a Marlins – Tigers game in Detroit where the pitchers hit. That would really offer something different for the fans, and would have no net effect on the game (since the home and road interleague games balance out). I doubt we’ll see that happen for awhile though, if ever.

If you find a reference to this incident somewhere, let me know and I'll post a link.


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