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The Revolving Door Closes
The age of the recycled manager is over. Teams are no longer hiring from an old-boy network of candidates who have already managed several other teams. When Tom Runnells replaced Buck Rodgers as skipper of the Expos on June 3, Runnells became the fourth rookie manager to be hired this year. Of the last 10 managerial openings, seven went to men who had never before managed in the majors. In fact, 16 of the 26 current skippers are managing their first big league team. Only four managers—Bobby Cox, Jim Fregosi, John McNamara and Joe Torre—have managed three or more teams.
Go back five years, to June 3, 1986: Twelve managers were with their first team, while seven were with at least their third team. Go back 10 years, to June 3, 1981: Fourteen managers were with their first team, while nine were with at least their third team. "Everyone is looking for a Jim Leyland, a Tony La Russa, young guys not from the old school," says Montreal pitcher Rick Mahler. "If a team hires, say, Don Zimmer or Dick Williams, he's set in his ways. Old-school guys don't have much patience with young guys."
Rookie managers don't make much money, either. The four hired this year—Runnells, Johnny Oates of the Orioles, Jim Essian of the Cubs and Hal McRae of the Royals (page 54)—together make about $800,000. Veteran skippers Whitey Herzog and Davey Johnson, whose names are often mentioned whenever a manager is fired, each would command a salary almost that high.
Dave Dombrowski, 34, the Montreal general manager who fired Rodgers, says young, organization-bred skippers like the 36-year-old Runnells are being hired partly because "general managers are younger; they can relate more to a younger guy." Runnells is now the youngest manager in baseball; Rodgers is 52. Right now, only seven managers are 50 or older. On June 3, 1981, 12 were. There were also 12 on June 3, 1986.
Rodgers was one of the game's best and most popular managers. If he had a flaw, it was being too soft on his players. "Runnells won't be happy when we lose," says Dombrowski. "It was too comfortable here. We weren't down as most clubs would be after going through what we went through [10 losses in 11 games before the firing]. After a win or a loss, you couldn't tell much of a difference."
On Monday, the National League expansion committee recommended to the baseball owners that Miami and Denver be awarded new franchises. That put an end to a strange week on the expansion front. The expansion committee had been scheduled to make its recommendations on Wednesday, and a vote of the owners was to have decided the matter later that day. But then the 10-man owners' committee, which is supposed to review the expansion committee's choices, requested—and got—a delay for further study of the expansion cities' qualifications.
One owner said the delay, which could have been as long as a month, was requested because the owners' committee didn't want to just rubber-stamp the findings of the expansion committee: "We don't want the expansion committee to come in at 9 a.m. and say, 'Hey, these are the cities, now decide.' "
Last weekend, however, some members of the owners' committee apparently began to feel that the delay was unnecessary, and they asked to have the matter put back on the agenda for the owners' meeting this week in Los Angeles. So in a letter to all 26 teams the expansion committee made its endorsement of Denver and Miami on Monday. The owners are expected to accept eventually the expansion committee's recommendations when they vote, but one owner said Monday that he was annoyed that the expansion committee had made its recommendations public before getting the approval of the ownership committee.