After 162 games, I came up one game short of my goal. If I had beaten Ken one more time in twenty-one games, I would be headed for the playoffs. If I had not blown two late-inning leads in my final three games, I would be headed for the playoffs. In 162 games, the margin between reaching my goal and falling short came down to little more than two at bats. Maybe that is why I feel so terrible about coming up short. I want to blame it all on bad luck.
With respect to luck, Chris Klein wrote the following in a letter to his fellow SL managers in October of 1997: "Quit your bitching! ... The computer generates random numbers producing a dice roll, then producing a corresponding number on that player's card. You may have three popouts to the catcher in a row one inning. What are the odds of that happening, I don't know, but the point is that it does have potential to happen. (In fact it happened to the Atlanta Braves vs. Al Leiter on 10-8-97). If one of your favorite little power hitters doesn't homer every at bat like he's "supposed to," my response would be look at one your backups who has 100 at bats and 15 homers already. It all evens out somewhere over the course of the season. Another example might be your guy not getting a clutch hit in a close game, but he goes 5-5 in a 14-2 win. Now we are coming to the real problem, it's not that big hits don't happen, they just don't happen when you want them. My response here would be either get a better manager, or a get a better general manager."
Chris makes an excellent point here, one that certainly rings true with the 2001 Griswold Rust. For all of Todd Pearl*'s shortcomings, Scott Strickland and Steve Karsay pitched over their heads. I got 69 games of inconsistency from Pearl*, but 103 games of steady quality from Strickland and Karsay. However, the conclusion that Chris reaches is one that I have a little problem with. Chris suggests: "Having bad luck? Get a better manager or a better general manager."
What exactly does this statement imply? That a good manager or general manager knows in advance whether his players will perform according to statistical probability in any given situation? Doesn't being a good manager involve putting yourself in the best position to succeed, and then letting the dice decide the rest? Should I have benched Pearl*, a 17ZH(+3), in favor of Karsay, an 11XZG(+1)? The answer should clearly be no. The good manager runs his best guy out there every time he can and lives with the results. In other words, I like to believe I am not a fool for letting Pearl* burn me more than once.
Now, I clearly am not the best manager in the SL. It is quite possible that I am the worst. In a league where the talent is so evenly distributed, the difference between success and failure is quite small. It is possible that botched managerial calls cost me the playoffs. It is possible that two or three small errors in a 27 round draft cost me the playoffs. It is even possible that bad luck cost me the playoffs, although if any of these factors has a chance of correcting itself over the course of 162 games, it is luck.
With respect to my GM skills, I think I drafted a decent team. My first nine position players drafted finished in the following order in my team OPS: 1, 2, 4, 3, 7, 9, 5, 8, 6. The outliers relate primarily to draft considerations other than OPS, such as defense, position and speed. The 9 suggests I took Furcal too early, the 6 suggests that Cruz wasn't as bad a pick as I thought. In the draft I made some sacrifices to get what I felt was the best starting rotation in the league, and that left my team slightly out of balance. So I didn't score enough. Which meant I came up short at the end, despite leading the league in ERA.
Ultimately, it may be best for me if luck has nothing to do with it. I can study harder for the draft next year. Play more practice games. Work on understanding the subtleties of the hit and run and how good pitching affects good hitting. What I can't do is control the division I draw or the roll of the dice.
I will be back next year, ready for my third season as an SL manager. I still love the league, love the guys in it. I will work even harder to reach my goals. Guess I can start scouting Sunday night. I know some of you will be doing the same thing.