Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 12:51PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 1:25PM
Bud Black is the first former pitcher to be hired as a manager in five years.
Current managers' playing positions
Tony La Russa
Current managers' playing positions
Billy Beane, Brian Sabean and Kevin Towers all had the same question for Bud Black this winter when the general managers of the A's, Giants and Padres, respectively, interviewed the Angels pitching coach for their managerial openings: Being an ex-pitcher and pitching coach, why do you feel you're capable of being a manager? Might as well get it out in the open: The idea of letting a former pitcher manage your team remains one of the strongest institutional biases in baseball, and even the three who considered Black this winter still felt the need to bring it up with him.
Mention former pitchers as managers around baseball people and you're likely to hear horror stories about Joe Kerrigan, Marcel Lachemann, Phil Regan and Larry Rothschild, all of whom had losing records and have never again been rehired as a manager. If not, you're likely to get the same puzzled looks as if you had mentioned special teams coaches as NFL head coaches, mailroom supervisors as CEOs, or Texas Republicans as rap impresarios.
Since the end of the 2001 season, a year when pitchers-turned-managers Kerrigan, Rothschild and Larry Dierker were fired, major-league clubs have changed managers 50 times. Black, who was hired by the Padres in November, is the only one of the 50 hires to be a former pitcher.
"Being a former pitcher and ex-pitching coach, the job of running a pitching staff comes more naturally to me than it would a position player," Black says. "Growing up I played first base and was never the best pitcher on any amateur team I played on. I always considered myself a student of the entire game. Having played with and been friends with a lot of great [major league] players, I feel I have a good knowledge of the other side of the ball."
It might seem odd that Black has to defend himself as a former pitcher because pitching is considered the bedrock of championships, and pitchers generally take a cerebral approach to succeed at their craft. Rare is the team, however, that thinks a former pitcher is suited to manage. Consider these numbers:
No former big league pitcher has won a playoff series as manager since Roger Craig and San Francisco beat the Cubs in the 1989 NLCS. Since then, the ex-pitchers are 0-7 in playoff series, 2-19 in playoff games.
Of the 100 winningest managers in baseball history, only four were major league pitchers: Tommy Lasorda (16th), Clark Griffith (19), Fred Hutchinson (66) and Craig (72). The same four also are the only former big league pitchers to show up in the top 100 managers as ranked by winning percentage (minimum: 1,000 games).
Of the 102 teams to win a World Series, only five were managed by a former big league pitcher: the 1946 Cardinals (Eddie Dyer), the '78 Yankees (Bob Lemon), the '80 Phillies (Dallas Green) and the '81 and '88 Dodgers (Lasorda).
Since 1900, only 11 former big league pitchers have a winning record as a manager (minimum: 10 games).
Such apparently limited success, combined with the 2001 firings and the subsequent five-year period in which not a single ex-pitcher was judged fit enough to manage, has strengthened the bias against former pitchers. The bias is then supported with hearsay evidence, such as "they can't understand when to hit-and-run and bunt'' or "they can't relate to the everyday player."
It's all baloney. The truth is, former pitchers crash and burn at the same rate as former positional players; it's just that they get far fewer opportunities. For instance, does it sound awful that only 11 former big league pitchers have a winning record as manager over more than 100 years? It's not so bad when you consider only 33 former pitchers have even had the chance to manage 10 games or more in the big leagues since 1900. The same success rate is roughly true of the positional players-turned-managers; only about one-third of them wind up with winning records.