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What happens when you interview for a managerial job?

Nov 1, 2011, 9:13 AM EDT

Pete Mackanin Getty

Interesting story over at the Globe about Pete Mackanin’s day interviewing for the Red Sox managerial job yesterday.

If you’re unaware of Mackanin’s history — current bench coach for the Phillies, former interim manager for Cincy and Pittsburgh, and loooong time minor league manager and coach — it’s worth a read just for that. Sounds like an interesting dude who, in a just world, would have gotten a shot before now. Plus he’s a natty dresser and rocks the silver fox look like a boss.

I was struck midway through the article when it said that he spent nine hours — nine! — at Fenway with the brass.  On what planet do job interviews last nine hours? At the law firm we’d put candidates through a good six hours including lunch and that was for someone who we really didn’t know from Adam. Professionally speaking Mackanin’s past is well-known to the Sox. This is all cut-of-his-jib stuff. I suppose the job is a tad more important than that of a paper-pushing baby lawyer, so I get it.

But what do you do in a nine hour interview? This kind of thing:

Mackanin’s interview included a test of his managerial acumen as he was presented with tricky in-game scenarios and asked how he would handle them.

“It’s like I was laboratory-tested by the Boston Red Sox,’’ he said. “It’s kind of an interesting little scenario they put you through, going over strategy in games. A lot of good questions, a lot of different questions, a lot of outside-the-box questions, a lot of inside-the-box questions.’’

One would hope and assume that every team does this sort of thing. Of course, if so, then one would have to explain how certain managers got their jobs.

That snark notwithstanding, I think it would be interesting to put smarty pants bloggers, tweeters and mid-game manager second guessers through that kind of little exercise. I’m guessing we’d have way more trouble with it than even the worst real manager at whom we’ve ever snarked.

  1. kellyb9 - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:28 AM

    First question… What is your beer of choice for the 7th inning stretch?

    • kellyb9 - Nov 1, 2011 at 1:34 PM

      Person who thumbed be down must be a wine guy.

    • natstowngreg - Nov 1, 2011 at 2:12 PM

      And which has better chicken and biscuits — Popeye’s or KFC?

      [Note: Don't hire anyone who says KFC,]

      • foreverchipper10 - Nov 1, 2011 at 3:23 PM

        I don’t have a Popeye’s near me. In fact, I have never had Popeye’s chicken in my life. This makes me a sad panda.

  2. kirkmack - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:36 AM

    I think it would be fun to be put through that in-game scenario exercise. Kind of sounds like something a lot of teams should do to prove that managing is a lot more than sitting around, eating sunflower seeds, and walking to and from the mound…

    • Kyle - Nov 1, 2011 at 12:43 PM

      No doubt, it sounds pretty fun, actually. Get on it, internet!

  3. yankeesgameday - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Great moment like that in the movie “Little Big League” where a kid takes over as manager for the Twins because he inherits the team. When he says he wants to manage his gm runs this insanely complex scenario by him about what kind of pitching move he’d make in a specific situation he laid out. The kid knew all the numbers and personal tendencies of his players, and those of the opposing team and started asking things like who was available off the other team’s bench for that particular fictional game…

    He not only answered the first question, he took the problem to a whole other level that the gm realized he’d be fine with the nuts and bolts of managing but winning over the players would be the kid’s real hurdle. And isn’t that everyone’s hurdle as a coach/manager?

    Anyway, I have always thought that scene was pretty much how manager interviews went.

    “little big league” is way under rated as a baseball movie. Check it out.

  4. professorperry - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM

    When the Red Sox interviewed Francona, and hired him, they talked about the process. They put him through “nine interesting innings” from the previous A’s season, and asked him what he would do in each situation, and why. Epstein said that they hired him because he was always thinking not only about the next move, but about the sequence of implications for each move down the stretch.

    When Francona was at his best, especially “playoff-Tito,” as Red Sox fans called the manager who was more active than his “regular-season Tito,” we definitely saw this kind of acuity play out.

    So I’m glad they are keeping the exercise as part of the process. MacKanin is definitely the kind of guy I’d like to see hired.

  5. yankeesgameday - Nov 1, 2011 at 10:57 AM

    Here is a scenario for all of you:

    Game 6 of the World Series. Red Sox can be eliminated tonight and you are in the National League park. Adrian Gonzalez is healthy but 2 for 14 in the series and your best hitter has been David ortiz at DH. He has played first base four times this year and the sox are 1-3 in those games and you pulled him in after 6 innings in each of them.

    A righty is starting for the other team tonight.

    Who do you start at First Base tonight knowing the series, and your job,are both on the line?

    • presidentmiraflores - Nov 1, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Awfully quiet in here.

    • Alex K - Nov 1, 2011 at 5:03 PM

      Gonzalez. He’s a much better defender and that counts too. Also, 2 for 14 is a tiny sample size, it’s silly to put much stock in that. Gonzalez is a very good hitter and is just as likely to go 8 for his next 14.

      • kirkmack - Nov 2, 2011 at 9:29 AM

        Agreed- nobody was talking about benching Pujols when he was something like 0-12 in the WS other than his monster game. You don’t bench a stud. That will get you fired just as easily.

  6. paperlions - Nov 1, 2011 at 12:34 PM

    When interviewing for a tenure track faculty position, interviews generally last 2-3 days, all day long, including meetings/discussion over breakfast, lunch, and dinner….you meet with everyone from the Dean to Graduate students.

  7. hank10 - Nov 1, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    As long as the interview did not start with this: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.

  8. natstowngreg - Nov 1, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    Fascinating, though it reflects the usual obsession with in-game decisions, and left out the other important part of managing, dealing with people. The players, the GM, the owner, the media, the fans. I’m sure the Sox’ brass spent a fair amount of time on that as well.

    I’d love to take a test on managerial situations, though. After half a centurey of following baseball, I might even get a few right.

  9. aaronmoreno - Nov 1, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Even though the detail and concern is great, it must be hard to make managerial calls in an interview with only the information they give you.

    I’d be more interested if the candidate got flustered or frustrated during a 9 hour interview. If you can’t handle it then, and so on.

    Also, Mack has the smallest eyeglasses ever.

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