SI Vault
 
BASEBALL
Peter Gammons
June 27, 1988
WANTED: A FEW GOOD MANAGERS
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
June 27, 1988

Baseball

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

WANTED: A FEW GOOD MANAGERS

In Seattle, the Mariners fired manager Dick Williams on June 6 and on Sunday were still looking for a full-time successor. In Anaheim, California Angels owner Gene Autry, whose current skipper, Cookie Rojas, doesn't seem likely to be around come October, was reported willing to trade shortstop Dick Schofield to Montreal at the end of the season to snare Expo manager Buck Rodgers. And in San Diego, Padres vice-president of baseball operations Jack McKeon had to leave the front office and take over for the fired Larry Bowa because the team couldn't find another suitable replacement. Why?

"Finding the right manager is more difficult than ever," says Oakland Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. "To fire someone for the sake of firing him often leads to an interim appointment that becomes a full-time hiring for sentimental reasons and further prolongs your leadership problems. So unless there's someone out there you know you want—as was the case with us and Tony La Russa when we let Jackie Moore go two years ago—it's usually better to wait until the end of the season."

The pool of prospects is so shallow that Boston Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman says, "Developing managerial candidates is unquestionably a big industrywide problem." There are three principal reasons for the dearth of prospects:

1) The way minor league skippers are perceived and paid. "It's hard to attract ambitious prospective leaders to a $20,000-a-year job," says New York Mets vice-president of baseball operations Joe McIlvaine, whose team is one of the few that hire minor league managers with the thought of moving them up the ladder. "There's too often the tendency to think of those guys as minor league instructors and nothing else."

2) Unlike other major sports, baseball doesn't draw heavily from the college coaching ranks. Bobby Winkles, who moved from Arizona State to the Angels, and Dick Howser, who worked at Florida State before taking over the New York Yankees, are among the few college coaches to become managers in the majors. "There's such antipathy between the college and professional ranks, and we're in such bitter competition for high school and junior college players, that it may be a while before there's peace," says Alderson.

3) Ambition, particularly in coaches, is considered a grievous sin in baseball. So managers tend to hire friends for those positions rather than potential leaders. As a result, only a few coaches are now mentioned as managerial prospects: Jim Lefebvre of the Athletics, Mel Stottlemyre of the Mets, Gene Lamont of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mike Roarke of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays, John Vukovich of the Philadelphia Phillies and Tommy Helms and Tony Perez of the Cincinnati Reds.

The only prospect who is on almost everybody's list is Jim Riggleman, who manages the Double A Arkansas Travelers in the Cardinals organization. But it may take a couple of years before he gets his first chance.

WHY IT MAY BE A NO-NAME ALL-STAR GAME

Fan loyalty is fine, but it can go too far. An Oakland rooter reportedly drove nails through a board in a precise pattern so that he could take a large stack of All-Star ballots and punch out the holes for all the A's players at once. In Cincinnati, press-box attendant Bob Caldwell punched out more than 10,000 ballots while passing time during games. "I wish I hadn't done the first 2,000," said Caldwell, who voted for a variety of players, not just Reds. "I made some picks I'm not making now."

Continue Story
1 2 3