Thanks to a fever, I’ve had a day and a half to nap and watch crappy television. Enter Major League II, which I had last seen on a bus in college en route to a game in suburban St. Louis. It was somehow worse than I’d remembered. But that’s not what sticks in my craw. After all, you can’t have high expectations for a movie that lists the All State insurance spokesman as a co-star. No, what bothered me was a series of inexplicably horrible but ultimately successful decisions made by interim Tribe skipper Jake Taylor. You may recall that Taylor took the reins from Lou Brown following Brown’s heart attack mid-season. What did Taylor do wrong?
1. He had no control of his team, Part 1
At one point, a war of words between CF Willie Hayes and RHP Rick Vaughn escalated into a fight between the two during a crushing loss to the Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader. By itself, this isn’t so bad. But it quickly devolved into a team-wide brawl involving Taylor. Even the Don Baylors of the world, MLB’s worst managers, don’t have this happen to them.
2. He had no control of his team, Part 2
In the very next game, RF Pedro Cerrano (the future insurance spokesman) walks up to Taylor, in the 9th inning of a tie game, and tells him that he wants to pinch hit. Without even batting an eyelash, Taylor sends him in. Cerrano had clearly been in a season long slump. There was no reason at all to expect a successful outcome there. But more importantly, it wasn’t Cerrano’s decision to make. The fact that he hit a walk-off pinch hit homerun is moot.
3. He had no control of his team, Part 3
Going back to that fight for a second, what were the repercussions for Hayes? Apparently nothing because he pinch-ran as a prelude to Cerrano’s game-winner. All was forgiven. This isn’t ‘Nam, Jake Taylor. There are rules here.
4. He turned Isuro Tanaka into the everyday LF
Tanaka was a fine defensive outfielder. He had great range, a good arm, and was a max effort player. But he clearly lacked the power to be an everyday LF. It’s a power position. You simply must get extra base pop out of certain key positions. LF is chief among them.
5. He consistently set up Rick Vaughn to fail
Removing Vaughn from the rotation was a shrewd move, one that was probably unpopular with all the fans except for Randy Quaid. But Taylor wiped away any gain from that move by running Vaughn out to pitch in high-leverage situations, further damaging Vaughn’s fragile psyche. When pitchers are missing 10 mph off of their queso, you don’t use them down the stretch with games on the line.
6. Walking Beck to pitch to Parkman
I don’t care how much mojo you think Vaughn recovered by shaving a bolt into the back of his head or putting on a leather vest. He’d been throwing pus all year and the Tribe’s first World Series trip since 1954 was on the line. Parkman was a beast. It should’ve gone down with leaving Pedro in after 100 pitches in the ’03 ALCS as one of the dumbest moves in the annals of Major League history.
And yet, it worked, just like all of those things. In summation, Jake Taylor, you are no Lou Brown.