Was a decision made the right decision?
This seems straight forward but it can be a confusing question to answer because there are actually two reasonable points of evaluation where the standards for deciding if it was right are decidedly different; before the event and after the event. Before the event what is "right" is based on whether the best decision was made at that time using the information available. After the event what is "right" is based on whether or not the event went the way desired.
Also, how definitive you can be about a decision being right changes. Before the event, you are evaluating everything with the same amount of information and trying to predict what will happen. There is subjectivity to be sure, but all decisions are on a level playing field. Often, at this juncture, you can feel pretty good about saying something is THE right decision. After the event, you are evaluating the results of one decision, which is now known, versus the potential results of other decisions, which are unknown. Because of that most of the time you can really only say something is A right or wrong decision. Other decisions may have worked, or they may not have.
Really they should be two separate questions, but our minds tend not to work that way.
Often the after evaluation serves to validate the before one. You pinch hit Bryce Harper and he hits a home run. You bring in Aroldis Chapman and he gets the guy out. The decisions made before, presumably the right decisions at the time, give you the right results, making them also the right decisions after the event based on the results. Failing that, the after evaluation usually only serves as a mild rebuke to the before one. Bryce lines out. Chapman gives up a broken bat looper. While they were presumably the right decisions at the time, they weren't right decisions based on the result. However, because the results of any other decisions are unknown, you can't say definitively that the other decisions would have turned out better. In fact you can easily come up with situations where things turn out worse. Steve Lombardozzi strikes out, not even allowing the opportunity for a sac fly or error. Kirby Yates gives up an extra base hit. The decisions made were likely one of many decisions that would have ended up with the wrong result. This thinking doesn't really change what we think of the evaluation made before the event.
Yet there are so many decisions made that every once in a while the after evaluation makes you want to re-examine the before evaluation. The results are so one-sidedly positive or negative that you are forced to look again at the before decision to see if you made an error. And even if you go back and decide that no, the correct decision was made at the time, you have to concede that the results conclude that the decision made was almost definitively THE right or wrong one.
Let me give you an example.
Two-out, bottom of the ninth, bases-loaded Nats down by 3. Fireballing righty closer on the mound. You have two choices for a pinch hitter; the red-hot healthy Bryce Harper and the ice-cold gimpy Steve Lombardozzi. The right decision at this time is obvious. Bryce should pinch hit. But let's say you choose Lombardozzi and he hits a game winning grand slam. The best possible thing happened. There is no way that Bryce Harper batting could have improved on those results. Were we wrong in our before decision? In this case the re-evaluation is extremely quick. Yes, pinch-hitting with Bryce was best decision at the time. But the after evaluation is also clear. The after evaluation is that batting Steve Lombardozzi was pretty much THE right decision.
We can flip it. No-outs, bottom of the ninth, bases-loaded Nats down by 1.
Fireballing righty closer on the mound. You have two choices for a
pinch hitter; the red-hot healthy Bryce Harper and the ice-cold gimpy
Steve Lombardozzi. The right decision at this time is the same as before. Bryce
should pinch hit. But let's say you choose Bryce and he lines into a game ending triple play. The worst possible thing happened. There is no
way that Lombardozzi batting could have made those results any worse. Again
we were not wrong in our before decision, but the after evaluation is also clear. The after evaluation is that batting Bryce Harper was pretty much THE wrong decision.
A lot of people with time and energy invested in coming up with the best before decisions hate the fact that after evaluations exist. In part, because after evaluations that conflict with the properly made before decisions (1) will happen - it's a long season and there's a lot of luck and variability involved, (2) should not effect decisions going forward, and (3) should not effect your evaluation of the person make the before decisions*. But like I said our minds don't work that way. You put in the wrong guy and get the right result and even if it's just one event, we tend to assume you knew something we didn't and actually made the right decision at the time. You put in the right guy and he gets the wrong result, if it's not an obvious situation like Bryce vs Lombo described above, we assume you made the wrong decision at the time. It's totally not fair. But organizations tend to understand this, so it's not a work issue. It's a public issue. And with the public a lot of times these people tend to ignore the results and try to solely focus on the before decision, as if their work will somehow be invalidated by admitting that things turned out against what was assumed to be a good decision at the time. But we can't ignore results because life is not decided by hypothetically what should have happened, it's decided by what actually did happen.
I'm talking about this mostly because of the Danny Espinosa / Trea Turner situation. Specifically, the twitter exchange yesterday some Nats fans had with Keith Law about Danny Espinosa, but also some other ones along the way. Kill-Gore poked at Keith Law by re-tweeting an old tweet of his that basically called for Trea Turner to replace Danny Espinosa. It wasn't a crazy thought at all. Many Nats fans felt the same way a month ago. But it looks stupid today because Espinosa hit so well, he might end up player of the month in the NL in June. All Law, or anyone that wanted Turner to play full-time, has to do is respond by saying "Yeah, Danny has had a great month but I still like Trea Turner going forward"** This lets you keep the before evaluation you stand by, but it doesn't deny the results that have happened. Communications probably end or morph into a discussion of why you like Turner going forward. But, in Law's case, that would be taking away focus from what he clearly feels was the right decision made at the time. So instead we get a lot of defensive tweets about why the initial tweet holds up.
I guess my point is when this happens there ceases to be discussion going on. It's people talking past eachother. One side is arguing that the after evaluation shows X, the other person is arguing that the before evaluation shows Y. Both may very well be right because they aren't talking about the same thing. But we end up with just people eventually getting angry and snippy and then completely closed down. It's not constructive and it's kind of sad because I don't think most people are really obstinate jerks. Most people are willing to listen and are looking to talk things through. But twitter and comment fields, etc. is a bad place to do it because it doesn't lend itself to long thoughts that allow positions to be fully explained.
As for the past month, while it was never Bryce v Lombo clear, I still think that if the Nats ultimate goal at the time was to win the NL East this year that bringing up Trea and letting him play full-time would have been the right decision at the time. I also clearly admit in hindsight there's almost no way Turner would have been better than Danny this past month. So letting Danny continue to play shortstop ended up being the right decision based on the results. Going forward? I never had Turner as being a huge plus over Danny so at this point I'd have to say I'd like Danny going forward. I might end up being wrong. Espinosa has had plenty of terrible months of baseball. But I think as of today, with the information we have now, that continuing to play Espinosa daily for the next several weeks is the right decision. We'll see if what the results say come August 1st.
*Well if it keeps happening that the wrong results are gotten then you can question someone who seems to be making sound decisions. Like Matt Williams with the pen last year. A manager has more information that us, so his before evaluations won't always agree with ours but they should be better. If you are always bringing in the guy who gets wrong results then maybe you are not reading all that information correctly. It's only a maybe but it's something that in cases like that, must be investigated.
**Assuming they still believe that