Winning Managers in Baseball Act a Little Like Good Editors

Here’s sports columnist Tom Boswell telling Washington Post readers why Washington Nationals manager Dave Martinez made the right move in last night’s Nats game against the Pittsburgh Pirates:

The third Nationals player who may be of potential importance was one of the latest and least-expensive additions—veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson who pitched ­5 2/ scoreless innings Thursday in a 3-1 win over the Pirates. In four turns in the rotation, Hellickson has been uniformly useful and given a super-quick hook every time.

The result has been an effective, if sometimes slightly miffed, Hellickson. He has a 3.00 ERA and only 22 men allowed on base in 21 innings. Since Hellickson has gotten little run support, Martinez has relieved him early in his third time through the batting order to give the Nats their best chance.

Pitchers despised this long before 2018. It’s the mark of a manager’s backbone if he can look a man with 201 career starts in the eye and say: I’m taking you out after only 61 pitches because I’ve got to think about the other 24 guys.

That’s what Martinez told Hellickson in a 0-0 game with two outs and a man on first in the sixth inning; he didn’t like the matchup with Gregory Polanco. Maybe 20 percent of managers I have covered would have made that move with a man pitching a two-hit shutout. A manager can learn all his players and, in the broad Joe Maddon sense, love ’em all, too, but a manager can’t care whether his players love him. You “manage for the 25,” or sooner or later, you sink your own ship.

Editors sometimes face the same challenge with writers: Do I make the writer happy or do I make the readers happy? When working with writers, I always thought an editor had to be 51 percent warm-blooded—I love and appreciate your work—and 49 percent cold-blooded—you’re not going to like this but the answer is no.

The worst decisions I made as an editor were saying yes when it should have been a no.  Caroline Miller, once editor of New York, told me she was most vulnerable in the late afternoon when she was tired and it was tempting to say yes to avoid another of the day’s battles.

As Madden said, you can’t care if the players love you.

Or as editor Anthea Disney once told fellow editors, “If you want to be loved, get a dog.”

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