If I was feeling ambitious, I might try to assemble some intriguing stats that somehow evaluate (or at least describe) the way Narron managed. But I'm not. So instead I'll just refer to what I wrote in the Hardball Times 2007 Season Preview:
The Manager Is Known for: Being old school. That's what he claims, but I don't agree. Jerry Narron is something of an enigma. On one hand, he shows a modern appreciation for on-base percentage and stolen base success rate. But he gets bent out of shape about errors while apparently ignoring range as a measure of fielder performance. He’ll talk up young players like Encarnacion and Chris Denorfia, yet have a hard time actually letting them play if they compete with an aging veteran. He will talk about operating his bullpen by committee, but then, almost overnight, tap someone as closer. Narron tends to keep his starters in the game a long time—though that could be the result of playing with a sub-par bullpen much of last year.I pretty much still agree with everything I wrote. His biggest fault, at least as I'll remember it, is a general lack of consistency. He certainly did things that bothered the heck out of me, like using Juan Castro and Chad Moeller as pinch hitters an inordinate number of times, putting too much stock into small sample size-matchups or lefty/righty platoons, playing favorites among players, etc.
But in the end, while I'm sure many will disagree with me, I don't think he was all that bad of a manager. He seemed to have good control over the clubhouse and seemed to be a good communicator, something that was in stark contrast to his predecessor, Dave Miley (though I'm sure we'll see some criticism from players and media in the coming days). He was an advocate for his players in the media. He seemed good about trying to keep certain players rested (particularly Junior), and keeping his bench players "fresh." And he did understand at least some of the key lessons from statistical research (particularly OBP and SB%), even as he ignored others...
When it comes down to it, though, the problem this season is that the the players just haven't performed well. I'm sure you can blame some of that on the manager, but how much? Maybe a new guy in charge will help, but as Chris said, more than likely any improvement we see will just be regression toward these players' true performance levels. Of course, if the Reds start to attribute some of their success to the new guy and gain some confidence to help them through the second half, maybe the placebo effect is worth it.
Could the Reds do better than Narron? Of course. But they could do a lot worse too, and I'm fearful that we'll actually take a step backward with the next selection. ... We'll see. I wish Jerry well and hope he can get the helm of another team someday. Hopefully he'll check out my recommended reading list in the meantime.
As for his replacement, Pete Mackanin... who knows? He was apparently an all-field, no-hit middle-infielder who was memorable enough to get his page sponsored at B-R, but I doubt that tells us much. I'll be watching him fairly closely this next month, however, as his managerial philosophies may tell us something about the sort of manager Wayne Krivsky is looking for. I'd love to see a manager hired who has read and understands The Book, but I'll settle for someone who can give the players confidence and put the right guys on the field each day. I also really hope that the next official manager, whoever he is, can bring some stability to this organization and keep his job for a half-decade or so.
P.S. 'Grats to Junior on the All-Star game, and leading the NL in votes. That's pretty awesome.
Photo by AP/David Kohl