In 1974, when I was managing the Kansas City Royals, I had a lefthanded-hitting first baseman named Tony Solaita. He was in my starting lineup one night in Detroit, but right before the game the trainer came to me and said Solaita had a real bad eye infection. He could hardly see out of that eye. I was ready to scratch him from the lineup.
"Tony," I said, "I don't want to take a chance of you getting hurt because you can't see."
Well, the guy pitching for the Tigers that night was Fred Holdsworth, a fringe pitcher. Tony said to me, "Skip, it's O.K. I can hit this guy with one eye. Every time I face him, I hit one out of the park."
So he stayed in the lineup. First time up, two men on, bingo! He hits one up on the roof. I said, "O.K., you told me."
That's why knowing your players and how they think and how they feel is so important in managing. These days we have a lot of statistics that we can use to help make decisions. Computers are everywhere. Me? I don't use a computer at all. We do have one at home. That's because my wife uses it.
It's not that I don't use stats—I do. I use a lot of the same kind of stuff that I used back with the Royals 30 years ago: matchups between batters and pitchers, how guys hit lefthanders and righthanders, that sort of thing. Has it worked? About 50% of the time. See, there's no guarantee you're going to get outstanding results when you do go by the stats. And don't show me stats that go back seven, eight years. I like up-to-date information. Give me the last year or so.
So I do think stats are good to a degree. But for people to say, "This is the ultimate"? Bull! When it comes to managing, there's a lot to what you see and what your instincts tell you. You're not going to run the game by stats. If that were the case, you might as well put some computer guy in the dugout and let him do it.
I'm not knocking the people who believe in them 100%. Stats do play a part. It's just up to each individual as to how much faith they put in them. Others may use them more than I do.
Here's an example: Last year we were playing the Mets, and Tom Glavine was pitching. The writers told me that Mike Redmond, our backup catcher, hits Glavine real good, something like .484. I knew that. They asked me who was catching that day. I said, " Pudge Rodriguez." Pudge was hitting .240, .250 against Glavine. What happens? Pudge hits a home run in the eighth and we win 1-0. I was putting the guy out there who I thought was the best. I wasn't worried about the stats.
A manager has to know more than the numbers. He has to know the status of his players on that particular day. Did someone have a bad night the night before? Does someone have a cold? A problem at home? Psychological factors come into play. A lot of what a manager does is gut instinct.