clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Comiskey and the Proto-Cardinals

Our look at the dominant St. Louis Browns of the 1880s could not have been better timed, apparently; up today at the Hardball Times is an excerpt from Chris Jaffe's monumental work on evaluating baseball's managers, Evaluating Baseball's Managers, that posits as an explanation for their success Charlie Comiskey's early focus on defense. It's worth reading if you're interested in managers in general; this is, as far as I can tell, the first serious, book-length attempt to understand managerial value since Bill James's more than a decade ago, and it looks extremely promising.

Pull-quote, chosen for maximum present-day relevance: 

Control pitching plus great defense equaled a dynasty for St. Louis in the 1880s.

The question arises how much credit Comiskey should be given for devising this strategy. Looking at the historical record, this philosophy originated in St. Louis in the 1880s. There were virtually no deep strategic concerns for the game prior to this period. As late as the 1890s, elemental bits of baseball fundamentals such as the cutoff play had not been worked out. [...] Other teams may have contained control pitchers and good fielders before, but none intentionally built their game around these twin pillars of run prevention until St. Louis.

Pitching to contact, defensive competence... Dave Duncan, whose out-of-office message on Outlook said he was "[...] questing for the palace of this 'Silver King'", could not be reached for comment.