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Is changing managers in the middle of the season a good idea?

Jun 9, 2011, 2:33 PM EDT

Image (1) Bob%20Melvin.jpeg for post 5337

In honor of the firing of Bob Geren, The Common Man updates and re-presents his study from a year ago in which he examined whether changing managerial horses in midstream actually helps teams.  The short version: eh, not really, at least from a won-loss perspective.  But it’s entirely possible — and in the case of Geren, probable, based on what we’re hearing — that not changing him would have been way worse due to the risk of even more clubhouse strife.

Oh, one other random note on Geren: John Shea of the Chronicle tweeted a little while ago that Billy Beane said that one of the reasons the move was made now was because Bob Melvin was available.

Hey, good luck to Melvin and the A’s and everything, but he’s been available for, like, two years now, and he hasn’t exactly made anyone jump at him.  And I’m sure that, had Beane waited three months to fire Geren, Melvin would have been available then too.  So, nice not to throw Geren under the bus here, Billy, but there was a reason why he was fired today, and it had little to do with the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to snag The Bob Melvin.

  1. halladaysbicepts - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    Actually, it can be a great benefit for a team to fire the manager at any point in the season. In 1983, the Phillies were a 1/2 game up in first place when they fired Pat Corales because the organization did not like him. The GM Paul “The Pope” Owens came in himself to manage the team and took them to the World Series.

    So, sometimes change is good, no matter what point of the season it is.

    • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      As usual, bicepts, you didn’t read carefully. As Craig points out, I clearly say that the move can be positive in the right circumstances. But every single GM who fires every single manager thinks that the circumstances warrant it, and that things will improve under the new guy. That simply isn’t the case. In general, though not in every case, a team is smart to hold on until the end of a season when they won’t have limited choices, to find a new manager.

      • halladaysbicepts - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:34 PM

        Where did I say in my comment that I disagreed with your study? I was just offering a personal memory that I can recall where the change of the manager probably helped the team. I never critiqued your study in any way.

        I always read pretty carefully. Don’t jump down my throat for something I didn’t say.

      • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:50 PM

        “Actually, it can be a great benefit…” implies that that was not conveyed in Craig’s summary or my article. And I usually assume the worst of you, based on past experience.

      • halladaysbicepts - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:56 PM

        Next time, Common Man, I will make sure to diagram my sentences like we did in 5th grade English class to get my point across better.

      • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 4:16 PM

        Indeed, I hope you will.

  2. natstowngreg - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:46 PM

    Changing managers to scapegoat for players’ (and GMs’) failures = useless.

    Changing managers to change team chemistry = can be useful in the short term. Ex., the improvements when Jim Riggleman took over the Nats and Buck Showalter, the Orioles.

    Long-term effect = Difficult to tell because often, the new manager isn’t expected to be there for the long term.

  3. SmackSaw - Jun 9, 2011 at 2:57 PM

    Works in the short term if it staves off a revolt. Chemistry matters in baseball.

    • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      I’d argue that chemistry doesn’t actually matter all that much until it really gets bad. Which, by all accounts, it seems to have gotten in Oakland. Then it’s simply too much of a distraction and can poison a team, erode its discipline, and hurt PR.

      • paperlions - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:47 PM

        This is a cause and effect issue, teams don’t win because they have good chemistry, they have good chemistry because they win. Similarly, teams don’t lose because they have bad chemistry, they have bad chemistry because they lose.

        Winning cures a lot of ills.

  4. Detroit Michael - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:12 PM

    While admittedly there is much more to managing than making proper tactical decisions during the game itself, one wonders whether Billy Beane saw the 2007 World Series. I and many observers were not impressed with Bob Melvin then.

  5. jhorton83 - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    It seems to work in baseball a lot more than in other sports. The Rockies looked like a different team a couple years ago after replacing Clint Hurdle with Jim Tracy. It obviously worked out pretty well for the Marlins when they replaced Jeff Torborg with Jack McKeon in 2003.

    • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:44 PM

      But did those teams improve because of the new managers? I don’t think that’s entirely clear. In the two cases you cite, the year after the mid-season changes, both teams regressed significantly. If the manager had magical powers to turn a team around, wouldn’t that carry over and be a factor the next season? Those clubs declined by 9 and 8 games respectively.

      • jhorton83 - Jun 9, 2011 at 4:56 PM

        Does it matter what happens the following season when you win the World Series as the Marlins did? Do you really think that would have happened if they had left Jeff Torborg as manager? Interim managers usually aren’t intended as long-term replacements anyway (although sometimes it ends up that way). Generally it’s because the team has underachieved badly, the players have tuned out the current manager, and they think a new voice might provide a spark for the rest of the year. And that has been shown to work at times in the past.

      • The Common Man/ - Jun 9, 2011 at 5:33 PM

        Not remembering clearly the exact circumstances of their firings at the time (I don’t believe Torborg, nor Hurdle was accused of losing the clubhouse), I don’t want to speculate. But I will say that we’ll never know whether the Marlins or the Rockies would have recovered under them. The Twins have had slow start after slow start under Gardenhire, though. And up until this year (when I don’t have much hope for them) they’ve come charging back more times than not.

  6. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 9, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    I think it depends on the manager. Last year Trey Hillman was fired during the season and Ned Yost did a pretty good job the rest of way. Granted Hillman is one of the worst managers in KC history (if not the worst), but the change proved a good move.

  7. patsandsox - Jun 9, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    I have to admit I am not a regular follower of the common mans, but it sure seems to me that he is overly sensitive and defensive.

    Everytime someone disagrees he is crying faster than Paris Hilton in jail. WTF grow a pair common man and learn to be able to take some differing opinions or get another job.

  8. Andrew - Jun 10, 2011 at 4:20 AM

    Different sport, but this reminds me of the Timberwolves (oh, how painful it has been to watch them lately). They had Dwane Casey a few years ago, and he was fired midway through one season when he had a 20-20 record. The Wolves have never come close to topping a .500 record since then, and they’ve gone through (at least) three coaches since then, in Randy Wittman, Kevin McHale, and Kurt Rambis.

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