Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thoughts on Hiring Managers

How much difference managers make in the success or failure of a ballclub is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify as is what differentiates a good manager from a not so good one.  I will say, although I cannot prove it, I firmly believe that the Giants probably would not have won any championships in the last 6 years without Bruce Bochy in the dugout, let alone 3.  He was that much of a difference maker, especially in the postseason.  On the other side of the spectrum would be Matt Williams, who clearly contributed to the failure of a Washington Nationals team that many had projected to win it all this year.  By the end of the season, Williams was not only making bad decisions in game management, he also lost control of the dugout and clubhouse.  Which brings us to the Nationals hiring of Dusty Baker after the near merciful firing of Williams.

I am not going to get deep into whether Dusty Baker is a good manager or bad one.  There are people on both sides of that argument, and I do not intend to try to settle it here.  Dusty is not the greatest game tactician in the history of the game, but also is probably not the worst.  He does seem to have a knack for managing superstars with big egos.  He also seems to have a knack for keeping players motivated and playing hard while simultaneously running a laid back and relaxed dugout and clubhouse.  Those are qualities that may well be exactly what the Washington Nationals need.

The problem with Dusty's hiring is what went on just before he was offered the job and accepted.  The Nationals first choice was apparently Bud Black, but the offer they made to him was so low-ball he was insulted and turned it down flat.  OK, hear me out on this.  When it comes to spending on players, the Nationals are the polar opposite of penny-pinchers.  When it comes to salary inflators in MLB, the Nationals are as responsible as any, probably more than most.  A few years ago they redefined the value of a second tier OF with the Jayson Werth signing.  Just last year, they made an obvious attempt to buy a championship with a contract for Max Scherzer that will pay him $15 M in the year 2029!    Now, with that much money on the line, why on Earth would you low ball your first choice for manager to the point of insulting him?  I mean, they have just experienced the meltdown of a very expensive team that was expected to be one of the top 3 teams in all of MLB because of bad management.   And if they don't believe the manager is that much of a difference maker, why-the-heck did they fire Williams?

Look, I don't know if Bud Black is a better manager than Dusty Baker or not.  Black's teams in San Diego never did much, but he was never given a competitive team to manage, so it's impossible to know.  Baker might be a better manager for all I know.  The point, though, is that the upper management of the Washington Nationals apparently THOUGHT Bud Black would be a better manager, because they offered him the job first.  They ended up giving Baker more than they offered Bud Black but Baker's deal is still a paltry sum as MLB maangers go.  It might have cost them more than they gave Dusty to get Black signed, but no matter what it would have cost, the difference between their offer to Black and what it would have taken to not only sign him, but make him feel good about it, is clearly not going to make or break the team's financial bottom line.

In short, why spend all that money on a team you clearly think has a chance to win a championship and then settle for less than your number one choice to manage it?  It makes you think that maybe the Nationals problems run a lot deeper than whatever Matt Williams did or didn't do out of the Manager's Office last year.


  1. My feeling is that managers, on a tactical basis, have little influence that's not countered by the other manager. I think the real difference is getting a manager who makes the fewest mistakes over the long-haul. I think that is why Bochy, and a few others, are cut-above. That's why I think Dusty Baker, Donny-Two-Times and a few others, are/were a cut below.

    Where it really matters (to me) is with people management. And, from what I've read Black is good at it. And I can't help but note that while he was fired because the Padres were 1 game under .500 and 6 games back, they ended up 14 games under .500 and 18 games back. So, I think he was probably doing a good job with (what I thought was) a poor roster.

  2. I actually like Dusty Baker as the better hire for the reasons you mention. Maybe he'll be a good influence on B Harper. It's odd though how they low balled an established manager like Black.


  3. What I remember from the Dusty Baker era was that he handled a lot of strong personalities (Bonds, Kent, etc) very well. I also remember a lot of relief pitchers having to bat. Not to mention, I remember yelling a the TV screen in 2002 for him to take Russ Ortiz out.

    I think Bochy is about the best manager in baseball right now because the atmosphere in the Giants clubhouse has never been an issue under his watch. He is also a good strategist who uses the strengths of each player well.