Coach Meyer: Do NL Managers have IL Edge?
With Two-Time AFC Coach of the Year RON MEYER
DO NL "TACTICIANS" HOLD MORE CARDS IN INTERLEAGUE WARS?
I've heard this a lot over the years. When the Atlanta Braves squeezed home the eventual winning run over Minnesota this past Saturday night on a bunt play, the talk started up again.
The theory is that National League managers have a tactical edge over American League managers because of the style of play. Some of the possible reasons:
- Games in NL parks will have the pitcher's hitting. NL managers are used to doing "double switches" late in the game to maximize their lineup resources, which is something AL managers never have to do.
- Any "close" games will come down to the ability to "manufacture" a run, which is something NL teams are much more accustomed to because of their style of play. Minnesota probably wouldn't have tried to squeeze home a late run. That's just not done much in the AL. Only an NL team would have tried such a thing.
- The fact that NL games are "chess matches," while AL games are "slugfests" means that NL managers are smarter overall, and better able to win tactical battles.
Now, you should be questioning all of these right off the bat given the fact that the American League has been dominant in recent seasons. It's hard to believe that the AL could CRUSH the NL for so long if their 14 teams were run by morons, and the 16 NL teams were all led by Russian chessmasters. Also, it's not like the double switch is brain surgery. Kids do it when playing baseball board games or video games. Adult AL managers wouldn't faint at the prospect of having to deal with it.
And, let's not forget that the AL isn't entirely a league of sluggers. Tampa Bay had a great run two years ago playing what was basically an NL style with great young athletes and pitchers. The stereotype that the AL is where old sluggers go to collect their retirement income while swinging a few bats is very overrated. Teams learned to get creative with the DH, using it to rest regulars while keeping their bats in the lineup, using it to rotate many different guys in a way to keep them fresh.
In short...using a DH isn't as simple as everyone thinks in the modern-day game, and one-run strategies aren't as complicated.
I have to admit though that I do like what I'm seeing from National League teams so far in 2010 Interleague play. They're not rolling over and taking beatings. Far from it. With a few exceptions, you're seeing aggressive attitudes and high energy. If the AL gets complacent because things have been so easy in recent years, you could see those one-run strategies pay off just like they did for Atlanta Saturday Night. It won't be because AL managers are dumb...but because AL players got overconfident.
Okay, I have to admit of course that some managers are in over their heads. That's true in BOTH leagues. Over the long haul, you'll find more success taking the smart veterans over managers who are in over their heads regardless of what league you're talking about. It's better to look for THOSE edges than to assume that NL guys are smart and AL guys just sit back and wait for homers. Far too many Vegas bettors lost badly the past few years because they mistakenly thought the National League is where "real" baseball was played. The AL couldn't have crushed the NL the way it did if the AL was playing an inferior brand of baseball.
I love Interleague play...and I'm looking forward to another big week of handicapping these fascinating matchups. Among those I'm most interested in:
Philadelphia at the NY Yankees in a World Series rematch
Tampa Bay at Atlanta (two interesting veteran managers)
Oakland at the Chicago Cubs (Moneyball vs. money wasters)
Toronto at San Diego (two 2010 surprise teams)
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