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Teams should stick with their managers longer

Nov 15, 2010, 9:44 AM EST

Ted Turner manager

Buster Olney sought a comment from Rockies’ GM Dan O’Dowd on the Pirates hiring of former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle:

“The Pirates are getting a leader who brings a positive, passionate energy everyday, and someone who handles every situation with honesty and integrity!”

Obviously O’Dowd is not gonna bury the guy in such a situation, but whenever I read something like that I can’t help but think “then why the hell did you fire him in the first place?”  The best of these ever — and it will never be topped — was when Ted Turner fired Bobby Cox during his first stint with the Braves. When asked who would be an ideal candidate to replace him, Turner said: “It would be Bobby Cox, if I hadn’t just fired him.” True story. Probably helps that Turner is as crazy as a peach orchard boar.

I know the dynamic: a team loses, and you can’t fire the players, so out goes the manager. It seems to me, however, that more teams would probably do themselves a favor if they acknowledged the limitations of a manager’s ability to make a team win by himself, found a guy who was really solid and smart and whom they could trust, and stick with him. Bruce Bochy is a good recent example. He was in San Diego a long time and has stuck in San Francisco through thick and thin too. How many organizations would have fired him after two 90-loss seasons right out of the gate? A lot, I’d wager.

My sense: fire a manager if he can no longer get along with the players or if he is failing to carry out the orders of the front office. Or, at a certain point, if the team just changes dramatically from one that is veteran-laden to one that is all kids, sure, there could be compatibility problems.  But if he was the right choice at the time you hired him, and nothing about him has changed apart from the quality of players he has to manage, stick with him.

  1. apbaguy - Nov 15, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    The EPL has the same dynamic, it’s why you see managers being recycled. It takes a long time to determine who is marginally more of “winner” in managerial circles. Guys like LaRussa, Torre, etc, are not automatic winners in every situation. But they are smart enough to capitalize on the good situations as they find them and can win the trust of management and/or the players and hold that trust, thereby gaining the time necessary to let their skills become evident.

  2. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Nov 15, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    I’ve wondered this myself for years, and simply couldn’t agree more.

  3. Roger Moore - Nov 15, 2010 at 3:27 PM

    I think you’re missing an important point that Bill James made in his book on managers. It’s wrong to think of a manager as being generically good or bad. Instead, he needs to be seen as having strengths and weaknesses that will come into play in different circumstances. A manager who likes playing veterans may be perfect for a team trying to squeeze one or two great seasons out of its veteran core but horribly wrong after the team collapses and it’s time to rebuild with rookies. A defense first manager may be great if your team strength is young pitching and terrible if it’s veteran sluggers.

    Hurdle’s problem wasn’t that he was a “bad manager”. His problem was that he was the wrong manager for the 2009 Rockies. He was a loyal manager who had been with many of his players for years. That was great, but it kept him from being willing to replace his declining players. Tracy didn’t have the same loyalties, so he was able to make the necessary moves Hurdle ran away from.

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