Mets’ Harrison Bader raised an interesting question -- we can answer it

When Mets center fielder Harrison Bader shared his feelings this week about his playing time, and the occasional lack thereof, he also pulled on a deeper thread.

“I want to win, but I want to play,” Bader told Mike Puma of the New York Post. “We all want to play, but it’s hard. We have got a lot of guys and I respect the position that everyone is in. … I don’t know who makes the lineup, but whatever we have got going on I respect that position.”

In the final sentence of that quote, Bader sounded a note prevalent among many fans, too. For some reason, a belief has arisen that general managers or analytics departments -- someone other than the manager -- hand down lineups.

This is odd, because it does not seem to be true around the league. And I can tell you with complete confidence that it is not true in New York.

On Thursday, I asked Yankees skipper Aaron Boone if he knew why people thought that he didn’t write his own lineups, and how he felt about it [I was not asking Boone to comment on Bader and the Mets specifically].

“I don't know anyone else's experience, so I guess I can't really speak on [that],” Boone said. “But that's never been my experience here.

“Sometimes you hear somebody say something about ‘Well they made him do whatever,’ and you just kind of think, ‘That's not true. That's not my experience.’ But whatever. That exists. But you understand that it's part of the narrative that exists in today's game. So, what are you going to do?”

And why might that narrative exist?

“Probably because front offices are more involved with on-field things now, and certainly have more of a presence in the day-to-day, but I don't know," Boone said. "Maybe some places there is a level of that, where the lineup comes down from [above], so I don't know that. That's never been my experience.”

For what it’s worth, I have yet to hear of an organization in which it is a proven fact that the front office imposes a lineup. The Los Angeles Dodgers are sometimes rumored to function this way, but people involved in that team’s process strongly deny it.

Sources in both the Yankees and Mets organizations explain how it works for those teams. This info has been cross-checked with enough people to make me confident that it is not spin, but an accurate description of a process that makes it far less complex than many seem to assume.

Like most teams, the Yankees embed analysts in nearly all baseball operations departments. Boone and the coaching staff are plugged into all of the information that the analysts provide, and weigh it in most decisions.

That information includes data on matchups, much of it confirming what experienced baseball people can determine with their well-trained eyes.

When it comes time to make a lineup, Boone and his bench coach, Brad Ausmus, discuss their options. Until this season, former bench coach and current Mets manager Carlos Mendoza served as the sounding board. GM Brian Cashman is “really hands off” in this area, according to one field staffer, and does not try to influence lineups.

In fact, it is Boone who will sometimes reach out to Cashman to solicit an opinion over a lineup decision that he is weighing. He will also talk to hitting coaches, analysts, trainers --  whoever he feels can provide a meaningful perspective. Ultimately, though, the process comes down to a manager and bench coach filling out the lineup card, as it has for many decades.

The Mets’ process is similar, though even a bit more old school. If anything, the Mets could use more data to work with for help with in-game decisions. This is an area in which they remain behind the Yankees, though they are working to rapidly catch up.

For a recent column about Mendoza’s autonomy in in-game moves, I asked president of baseball operations David Stearns if he viewed lineups as a manager’s purview. Without hesitation, he answered with a firm “yes.”

Others involved in the process confirm this.

“There are so many decisions to make in an organization,” Stearns said in that interview. “It is futile for one person to try to make all those decisions. It is my job to allow the individual who is best informed [in a given situation] to make the best decision possible.”

Mendoza, along with bench coach John Gibbons and other coaches and staffers, talk about lineups similar to the way that Boone and Ausmus do. They weigh matchups, injuries, the need for rest days, and gut feelings about who is hot and who might need a day.

There is a widespread insistence among the Mets’ field staff that Stearns does not meddle in this area. He and Mendoza do engage in near-constant dialogue; during these conversations, Mendoza is sure to learn what Stearns believes.

Could there be ways for GMs to order lineup decisions without doing so explicitly? Sure. Any employee can feel subtle pressure from their boss to do what the boss prefers. But Boone and Mendoza -- and those who work around them -- insist that the baseball culture in New York does not include that type of pressure.

So, while Bader’s question of “I don’t know who makes the lineup” is hardly uncommon around the game, it’s one for which we can provide a clear answer: the manager does.