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Best of the Bosses
Peter Gammons
May 02, 1988
Managing a baseball team requires diligence, diplomacy and dynamism. Here's our ranking of the most skillful skippers
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May 02, 1988

Best Of The Bosses

Managing a baseball team requires diligence, diplomacy and dynamism. Here's our ranking of the most skillful skippers

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HANDLING PITCHERS

Bringing out the best in a pitching staff involves keeping starters on schedules, giving everyone a share of the work, knowing what each pitcher can and cannot do and building and protecting arms. A bad manager reacts nervously to game situations by constantly ordering pitchers up and down in the bullpen and by prematurely yanking starters. He doesn't set up his bullpen in a predictable manner, with a long man for early inning relief, a solid middle reliever and a strong closer.

Handling pitchers is especially trying for inexperienced managers. San Diego's Larry Bowa is earning himself a reputation for calling in false alarms to his bullpen and has yet to learn to spread the work among his relievers. Critics of Toronto Blue Jays skipper Jimy Williams believe he overtaxed his bullpen last season, although the Toronto staff did have the best ERA in the American League.

Pete Rose of the Cincinnati Reds responds to those who accuse him of overworking his bullpen by saying, "In one stretch when Rob Murphy pitched in 10 games, he threw only 10 innings." But most pitching coaches would point out that Rose doesn't understand the strain of warming up. A pitcher can be worn out as much by the pitches he throws in the bullpen as by the pitches he throws in games.

HANDLING THE MEDIA

"If you can't do it, you're in trouble," says Anderson, a master at fencing with journalists. "You've got to make it clear to the players that this is fun. You can't be afraid, either."

During the final week of last season, with their teams locked in a seesaw battle for the American League East title, Anderson and Williams presented two quite different faces to the world. Anderson was, as always, accessible, loose and seemingly unfazed by the pressure, and his Tigers played that way. Williams became short-tempered, uptight and prickly, and his Blue Jays slipped into a funk on the field. Detroit finished two games ahead of Toronto.

When Felske was managing in Triple A, a successful career in the majors seemed to be assured. But when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1985, Felske withdrew from the press, which he hadn't had to deal with much in the minors. His team ended up playing in his image—defensively—and he was fired last June. Players and sportswriters alike thought that Boston's John McNamara hurt himself and his club by withdrawing into his office for hours at a time last season, although Mac has been somewhat more gracious this season. Davey Johnson of the Mets has handled the Big Apple's media hordes—and baseball's biggest egos—with equal aplomb.

When these five key factors are taken into account, it's easy to see why Herzog and Anderson sit atop a rarefied group whose reputations transcend the yearly fortunes of their clubs. If the Tigers begin to slide backward, Anderson's star will remain bright. Herzog's magic will be wasted if the Cardinals front office lets any more Jack Clarks get away, but his talent will keep him employed. Roger Craig of the San Francisco Giants and Buck Rodgers of the Montreal Expos are on this lofty plateau as well. If the Athletics win their division, La Russa may find himself there. On the other hand, some veteran managers, like Tanner and McNamara, have failed to maintain the respect of baseball insiders.

Leyland is regarded as the best young manager in the game, with Trebelhorn close behind. The hot-tempered Bobby Valentine of Texas makes a lot of enemies, but he's fast becoming one of the game's most respected field generals. Valentine is also excellent with the press, and he has so much confidence he never manages out of fear, which is why he may end up as one of the best ever. Equally fiery Jim Fregosi of the White Sox may be the least appreciated, but other skippers, like Bowa and Jimy Williams, must make big changes in their attitude if they're ever to move into the first rank of managers.

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