Every year about this time when Major League Baseball managers start dropping like flies, bad starts compounded by lack of confidence usually adds up to a coaching change in any sport. It seems especially prevalent in MLB circles.
There are possible five or six coaches in the entirety of baseball that seem to make a difference to their teams. Mike Scoscia, Joe Torre, Terry Francona, Lou Piniella and Tony LaRussa are the first names that come to mind over another.
The truth is though, but unless you have some cache with your players, managers just sit on the bench and occasionally send in a signal, even make a scene with the umpire.
You'll notice the names above have at least one World Series championship ring on their fingers, and long tenures with their franchise.
Some are known for being able to resist the slings and arrows of outrageous media, some for their even-kiel with the players, some for their fiery, hands-on nature on the field, but ultimately, they’re known for coaching MLB’s greatest players.
Francona and Torre are known for handling big egos and being darlings of the media. Piniella likes to use his bombastic nature to light fires under his players, and LaRussa may be the most technically brilliant baseball strategist in years.
As for the rest of the coaches in the League, they have some big shoes to fill, high expectations to live up to.
John McClaren of the Mariners was a few games from the playoffs last year, this year they are abhorrent with pretty much the same team plus another ace pitcher.
Willie Randolph was a paragon two seasons ago, now he's apparently on the short list of early firing candidates. The only similarity between the two teams is under performance of the players. The veterans are starting to fall off and the young guns of the team are not performing to expectations, either.
Fans of individual Major League teams need to stop calling for coaches' heads, it does not matter who is sitting on the bench. The lack of success in teams can be traced to a few factors:
1. General Managing:It all starts at the top. From this position the entire personality of the organization is set up. Great GM's like Billy Beane start their players in the Minor Leagues on basic fundamentals they expect when they get to the big show; the same goes for teams like the Angels and Cardinals, they know how they want to play, and they get the guys who do it that way.
With an organizational ethos that permeates from low-A ball all the way to the Big Club, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have probably one of the best farm team systems in the league.
2. Scouting: If a team has a sub-par scouting system, they’re doomed with overpayment for veterans on the downside of their careers and releasing good talent.
3. Players: The people who actually have to make it happen. Players have to play, hands down. It's all well and good to assemble an All-Star, multiple MVP lineups, but if they play like dogs, they will look like dogs— failure. Ask the Yankees a few years ago, the Tigers of this year or the aforementioned Mariners how much their high payrolls are buying them. All three teams are in last place in their divisions and spend more than any other team.
Anybody could take the Boston Red Sox lineup and sit in a dugout and do just as good a job as Terry Francona, same with Joe Girardi in New York. Right? You just don't see that much actual “hands-on” managing in the game anymore.
When was the last time you saw an American League team try the squeeze bunt? Double steal? If it was anything, but an Angel’s game, you probably were watching an Inter-league match up. The average beach bum knows enough about the game to indicate "swing away" or "bunt" in most situations, and most players have such an ego that they ignore signals anyways.
The old saying goes: "Managers are hired to be fired." This adage has shown its truth over the years, but recently it has become the trend to fire managers at even the slightest hint of underachievement. Who really thinks Willie Randolph is that bad of a manager? Why is he viewed as a bad manager when Joe Girardi, who learned at the heels of the same man, Joe Torre, considered Jesus in Pinstripes?