Thursday, April 14, 2005

Congrats Mike Hargrove . . .

. . . on your 1001st major-league win today, which coincides with the Mariners' first above-.500 appearance in the standings since sometime in late 2003, I think.

Mike Hargrove's achievement is noteworthy. With 1001 wins (as of 4/14/2005), he stands in 50th place all-time and seems a pretty sure bet to finish the season somewhere around #45 all-time. That is pretty impressive, particularly considering Hargrive doesn't appear to be anywhere close to the end of his career.

However, I found it slightly amusing how the local media tripped over themselves to find a way to put it in persepctive (and, really, failed). In many ways, this showed just how far away the mainstream media is from understanding or properly reporting statistical achievements.

For instance, over at the P-I, John Hickey compared the feat to hitting 400 homers (38 players have done this), getting 3,000 hits (25 players), or stealing 500 bases (36), or a pitcher winning 250 games (43), getting 2,000 strikeouts, or 200 saves. Uhhh, no.

There is a major difference in those achievements and Hargrove's climb up the managerail wins ladder. It's called opportunity. I saw Sean Forman (the founder of the incomparable Baseball-Reference.com) quoted as saying that just over 16,200 players appear in the Baseball-Reference.com database. On the other hand, there have been only just over 600 managers in baseball history. So, ranking 50th on a list of 600 is akin to ranking about 700th on a list of about 8900 hitters who've had the opportuntiy to play (assuming that about 55% of the 16,200 are hitters, and 45% are pitchers -- which is just a guesstimate but the point is still valid), or close to 600th of some 7300 pitchers. Hargrove's achievement, however impressive it may be, is not comparable to those Hickey listed -- particularly when after 1001 wins you're still only 34 wins over .500 (which is tied for 98th all-time, far lower than the win total), and several of your contemporaries (Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, Art Howe) have anywhere from 100 to 1100 more wins than you do.

Hargrove's achievement is all about opportunity. I don't say that to denigrate what Hargrove has done, because the real achievement is just getting and keeping a major league job long enough to manage almost 2,000 games. There are only 30 of these jobs, and half of them are going to be losing jobs that won't be turned around even by a good manager in the short term (see Piniella, Lou in early managerial years in Seattle and Tampa Bay, or even Hargrove himself in the early Cleveland years). Perhaps it isn't even fair to judge a manager by wins -- except that in the end, that's how their employers judge them, so . . . fair enough.

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