Saturday, December 26, 2009

Remembering Billy

I already posted this link back on the Nov. 17th open thread, but with yesterday being the 20th anniversary of Billy Martin's tragic death I figured it was a good time to repost it. It's an excerpt from a book by Chris Jaffe titled "Evaluating Baseball's Managers" about Martin. Here's the beginning of the excerpt, the rest can be found at the link above.
Billy Martin was the most fearless manager in baseball history. In 20 years of managing, he never backed down from a challenge. As has been well documented by others, Martin consistently caused dramatic improvements to his squads immediately upon arrival by pushing them hard. The A’s went from losing 108 games to fighting for .500. The Rangers, who had posted back-to-back seasons in which they had played .350 ball, suddenly won half their games when Martin arrived. The Twins and Tigers improved by 18 and 12 games for him respectively. The Yankees won their first pennant in a dozen years under him. The Birnbaum Database gives him high scores for every stop along the way: +64 runs in Minnesota, +199 runs in Detroit, +91 runs in Texas, +142 runs with Oakland, and +219 runs in his various New York stops.

Martin’s approach had its downside. He pushed his teams so hard they could not keep up with his pressure. Hiring Martin was like pushing too much voltage through a light bulb: for a brief while it burns brighter than otherwise possible, but it soon shatters unless the excess electricity is removed. Despite his impressive starts, Martin never lasted longer than three years in any managerial stint.

Though Martin is most famous for piloting the Yankees, his first managerial stint running the 1969 Twins best reveals his method and madness. The gutsy bravado and intensity to win that highlighted his career amply demonstrated themselves that year. Martin approached his rookie managerial season the same way a tough convict handles his first day in prison—determined to prove himself immediately as the cellblock’s most dangerous man.

To continue reading click here.

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