There are three things the average man thinks he can do better then anyone else: build a fire, run a hotel and manage a baseball team.
As August comes and July leaves the pennant race heats up, scoreboard watching begins to become a more frequent event and second-guessing of the manager begins to take on a fevered pitch across the nation. You have to love summer, it has an ebb and flow, that the game settles into and the games ebb and flow is fraught with a bazillion moves that we all think we could navigate if given the chance, often with an ease that we can’t seem to find in the eyes of the current skipper we have chosen to belittle privately or publicly.
Who are these men?
Many folks have delved into the makeup of the manager, on the field in the clubhouse, with his players, with the fans etc… One interesting take was made in 1997 when Bill James tried to map the genealogy of the manager in his book “The Bill James Guide to Managers”
In the book James states that every manager is descended from one of three families, The Ned Hanlon family, Branch Rickey family or Connie Mack Family.
If we were to look at the “family” of managers in the context of the post war period what families would we have?
The Rickey based Dodger Family?
Rickey based Pirate, Reds family?
It’s clear that Rickey still influences the managerial and organizational background of few franchises. In the future will managers be described as being from the Herzog or Mauch family or Weaver family?
Other writers have explored the managerial makeup in-depth and on the surface, Thomas Boswell created one of my favorites and wrote in, “Why Time Begins on Opening Day” that all managers could be shoehorned into a specific family, or “types” of managers. They are as follows:
The Little Napoleon – Fiery, pugnacious and most often smart, they tend to burn out from their intensity and tend to alienate players on their own team quite often. Good examples are the Godfather John McGraw, Earl Weaver, Billy Martin and Lou Pinella.
The Peerless Leader – Quiet, folded arms and a stern gaze into the distance personify the peerless leader, they tend to be known for their no nonsense approach and fairness. The Godfather of this type would be Frank Chance. Recent types would be Frank Robinson, Jerry Narron, and Buck Showalter.
The Tall Tacticians – Similar to the above they tend to be quiet and stern, the difference lies in what Boswell called “Class” and the inability to ever get fired for something that they did, often living more on reputation then results. The Godfather of this would be Connie Mack. With recent examples being Gene Mauch, Davey Johnson, Tony LaRussa and Jim Leyland.
The Zeppo of this quartet would be the Uncle Robby, a necessary role in a world of intensity.
The Uncle Robby – The Uncle Robby is noted by a hangdog look on most occasions and possesses an affable demeanor that often puts everyone at ease and relaxes the clubhouse. Often after one of the above flame out the Uncle Robby is hired to smooth the corners out in the clubhouse. Uncle Robby’s are usually of the attitude that screams, “Let em play.” Of course Uncle Robby is Wilbert Robinson and some of his followers are Jack McKeon, Tom Lasorda, Don Zimmer and Dusty Baker
An interesting concept in my opinion and also a fun history exercise that helps you see the depth of the games past and how it all intermingles.
So with both of these aspects of the game out front we’re going to try and see where all the current managers in MLB stand, and maybe a few of our favorites from the past too.
Let’s start with AL West.
Buck Showalter (Texas)
Did he play MLB? – No
Position – 1st base – OF
Organization – Drafted by Yankees in 1977 – Gabe Paul and Al Rosen years.
Boswell Metric – Peerless Leader – Known for his intensity and insistence on the game being played the “Right Way” Buck was unlucky enough to lead both the Yankees and the Diamondbacks up to the season they actually won it all. Buck showed his seriousness in the 90’s by stating his displeasure with Ken Griffey Jr. and his backwards cap.
Ron Gardenhire (Minnesota)
Did he play MLB? – Yes
Position – SS and 2nd 1981-1985
Organization – Drafted by Mets and played under Joe Torre and George Bamberger and Davey Johnson (That’s some Paul Richards and Earl Weaver Families)
Boswell Metric – Peerless Leader, Ron doesn’t push many buttons and he’ll lean on vets like his GM Terry Ryan. He seems to have a style that can be seen in his first managers it is a mix of an Uncle (George Bamberger) and Peerless leader (Joe Torre) Ron finished his career under Davey Johnson however he is not known as a tactician as Johnson was.
Mike Hargrove (Seattle)
Did he play MLB? – Yes
Position – 1st base
Organization – Drafted by Texas and played under Billy Martin and Billy Hunter (Dodger & Yankee Family)
Boswell Metric – Peerless Leader, Hargrove stood strong in the Indians dugout while their hitting destroyed numerous staffs in the 90’s however he couldn’t get over the hump and figure out how to dock that baby into a World Championship.
Ken Macha (Oakland)
Did he play MLB? – Yes
Position – Catcher
Organization – Macha was drafted by the Pirates and later played for the Expos, where he began a long relationship with Buck Rodgers whose background was with the Angels in an era that isn’t known as the best in the Angels history.
Boswell Metric – Macha is one of the types that straddle the Peerless Leader and the Tall Tactician fence. He appears to be as stern as the other ex catchers who grimace in the dugouts of major league stadiums for six months a year. But his cooler demeanor and the influence of the A’s organizations puts him more in the Tall Tactician camp then the Peerless Leader camp.
Next — The rest of the American League.