This is written in response to John Peterson's poll of what the worst flaw of Omar Minaya's thinking is. I answered "none of the above" because in my view, the poll misses the bigger picture of the problem with Met management's procedural thinking.
So what does this bigger picture consist of What is the central problem of the Mets Organization philosophy? What is Omar thinking?
Are you ready?
People of normal to above-average intellect greatly overestimate not just the capacity, but--more pertinently in this case--the inclination of deficient minds like Omar Minaya's or Jerry Manuel's to think at all. When Jerry directs Luis Castillo to bunt with a position player on the mound, he does so out of an unthinking mental reflex, like a dog responding to a high-pitched whistle. It is not that he is thinking something stupid, but that he is stupid, which makes him less inclined to think at all. The spark of neuron activity that would be necessary for the thought to enter Jerry's mind that perhaps bunting might not be the best idea in this particular situation--a non-pitcher on the mound who cannot throw a strike-- does not activate in the mind of a Jerry Manuel the way it would in a normally functioning brain.
Thus, you can imagine how such a mind would react to challenges of the conventional wisdom held by grizzled veterans: in a way very similar to the way the denizens of a certain society would react if you tried to tell them that Brawndo was not in fact what plants crave. Very stupid people are not aware of their own incompetence, and actively distrust any sort of reasoned argument. The more reasonable you are, the more evidence you give, the more they distrust you. This is especially true when they rise to prominent social positions, as the those who are conspicuously ill-equipped intellectually use status as a proxy for correctness or incorrectness, especially when they can appeal to their own status. They do so because it gratifies their egos while relieving them of the responsibility of doing something they are disinclined to do: judge arguments by their merits.
The disinclination is a heavier factor than questions of ability. If someone were to bring up the subject to Manuel that it might be a good idea to abstain from the bunt with a position player who cannot throw strikes pitching, he would probably understand the basics of the argument. If he were in a classroom, being exposed to a similar subject in which he was not emotionally invested, and simply approaching it as a neutral academic exercise, he'd understand the concept. What he does not do is instinctively approach the problem as something to be reasoned out through analysis. It does not occur to him that this can be thought through and that a conclusion can be arrived at through a reasoning process. Once the problem were raised to him, his immediate reaction would be to consult his gut. A dialogue then occurs between the mind and gut that plays out as a morbid parody of a Tevye monologue from Fiddler on the Roof.
Hmmm, it's true that when there's a man on first and no outs, you bunt him over, because that's kinda what's done, so it's therefore the thing to do. You do what's done, because what's done is what you do.
On the other hand, this is an exceptional situation. You've got a non-pitcher who can't throw strikes on the mound. In such a case, it might not be the best idea to give up an out.
Hmmmm.....Hmmmm....what to do? Do I do what you do? Or is what to do in this case not really what to do? Hmmm...I feel in this case that....the way to go would be...
And that would be the process through which the decision would be made, regardless of what decision it is. Note the immediate and exclusive appeal to feeling and intuition. Reasoning this out analytically would not enter into consideration. In fact, Manuel would only recognize the special circumstance of a position player pitching if it were told to him. Otherwise, the process would have been limited to the first part of the syllogism.
Omar Minaya's situation is similar. It's not that he thinks of his responsibility as primarily consisting of filling pre-determined roles, it's that he rarely thinks at all and operates under the prevailing dogmas. While he is not as stupid as Jerry, in that he does from time to time make a decision based on consideration of facts on hand and goals to be pursued, he does not have either the capacity or the inclination to develop a strategy and orient his movements in the pursuance of that strategy. He does not have a plan for 2012 and a contingency plan. He just fluctuates and meanders from move to move.
To such a mind, all realities are fixed. Pitchers cost a certain amount of money. Some pitchers are aces, some are closers. Some players are shortstops. Some are good clubhouse guys. And on and on. It does not enter into his consciousness to play around with pre-determined roles because he cannot see beyond or behind the labels. The discrepancy between the word and the thing is permanently obscured. So while Omar knows that on-base-percentage is valuable, he does not proceed further to assess how much a certain increase in OBP would compensate for a marginal loss in slugging. He would see the "On-base-guy" and the "slugger". And when in need of a slugging first baseman, his mind says "get a slugger", and that is how we get Mike Jacobs.
It rarely enters Omar's mind that all realities are constantly changing and highly contingent. Players develop and decline. Some "aces" are smoke-and-mirrors illusions that are propped up by luck and defense, while others are underrated for similar reasons. If Omar sees an aging player, he sees only an aging player. He does not consider that players do not all age in the same way or at the same rate, based on factors that are observable. He does not see that all players are basically, at the performance level, bundles of risk and reward, and that a crucial part of his job is maximizing the risk reward ratio at the lowest cost. These are abstractions into which Omar does not venture. He sees only what is in front of him. Imagine what Omar would say if you told him that his job was to allocate costs efficiently based on considerations of risk, reward and expense. he would look at you as if you had three heads. His job is to get a first-baseman, a second baseman, a third baseman...