Last year the Baltimore Orioles tapped former Chicago Cubs’ assistant Brandon Hyde to be their new manager. Whatever you think of year one, Hyde is firmly planted as the Orioles’ skipper now. And he had experience in the sense that he had coached for some time at the big league level, and even managed at the minor league level.
This was the equivalent of an NFL team hiring an Offensive or Defensive Coordinator as their new head coach. It’s giving an opportunity to a young guy who’s worked his way up the food chain in the coaching fraternity, and who’s deserving of his first opportunity to be the head guy in the dugout. This is part of the food chain in the coaching ranks in any sport.
However news broke yesterday that the Chicago Cubs were planning on hiring former catcher David Ross as their next manager. (Expect a formal announcement sometime after the conclusion of the World Series.) This follows in the footsteps of the New York Yankees, who following the 2017 season hired Aaron Boone, who had never coached a day in his life following his big league career. The same is true of Ross. Both men worked for ESPN between the ends of their careers, and the beginning of their managerial careers.
I see this as a disturbing trend in baseball. Obviously Boone’s hiring worked out well for New York. Boone was also gifted with a championship-caliber team, but I digress. Both Boone and Ross are good baseball men. They’ve been involved in the game their entire lives, and odds are they know what they’re doing – to a degree. Or as much as a novice could know.
But whether they know what they’re doing or not, there’s a difference between knowing the sport and knowing how to manage. It takes a lot of charisma, and it takes knowing how to position a lot of moving parts. I would never say that I could walk into a dugout and know how to manage a big league game simply because I know a thing or two about baseball. Why, you ask? Because I would never walk into an office building and say that I know how to be the CEO of that company. In my world, you have to grow into the role.
Yet it appears that the new and fashionable thing is to give the reins over to someone who’s literally never coached in his life. That’s a scary proposition in my view. In my opinion it’s saying one of two things. Either the position of manager really isn’t that important, or that anyone can do it. Again, scary proposition.
Manager or Head Coach isn’t important in some sports. I would argue that in the NBA Head Coaches are simply figureheads. It means marginally more in the NHL, but nowhere near as much as it means in the NFL, college sports, or MLB. Are we really willing to start turning these jobs over to inexperienced people en masse?
Incidentally, this isn’t an indictment on David Ross (or Aaron Boone) in terms of being a baseball guy. The instincts and savoir faire of the game is certainly there. It’s just a matter of experience and having been in certain situations. Or seeing other people in certain situations from the perspective of a base coach or bench coach, and seeing how they handled it. That’s all part of managing.
I feel badly for people such as Ryne Sandberg. He gave his entire life as a player to the Chicago Cubs’ organization. After his playing days he started working his way up the coaching ranks – again in the Cubs’ organization. He coached at various levels, rode buses, stayed in garbage motels – the whole deal in the minors. In hopes of becoming a manager someday.
When the Cubs had that position open, they went in another direction. Sandberg later got an opportunity to manage the Philadelphia Phillies, but was fired a few years ago. It has to be a bitter pill to swallow to see someone who’s never coached at any level waltz in and get the gig, whereas you put in your time and appears will not be getting the opportunity that you felt was due to you at one point.
And that right there is becoming one of the problems in our society. When people are denied positions that they deserve or have worked to obtain, only to have a novice waltz in and take it…needless to say there’s just something intrinsically unfair about that. And it happens in almost every Fortune 500 corporation in America.