Also on Monday, I heard Tim Kurkjian of ESPN say that by the start of next season, as many as 10 teams could have new managers.
These are not mutually exclusive thoughts. I specified "good organizations," which was meant to exclude the operations on the sub-.500 treadmill. And Kurkjian wasn't talking about firings exclusively, but also accounting for the pending retirement of Bobby Cox (photo above) in Atlanta and the speculation that Lou Piniella (Cubs) and Joe Torre (Dodgers) will walk away at the end of the season.
There is a certain self-destructive pattern to be seen in the fallen-and-can't-get-up operations:
- New general manager takes helm, brings in his own manager (and other front office and coaching personnel) within a year.
- Three years later, team continues to lose — no surprise, since even if the new organization is now drafting and developing players better than the previous regime, that's seldom going to be a quick fix.
- The GM, now under pressure for immediate results, fires his handpicked manager, brings in a new guy.
- A year or two later, the GM gets the ax, and his replacement tears up the organization and restarts the cycle.
Thus the Mets, for example. Omar Minaya hired Willie Randolph to manage, only to can him in a particularly messy way. The team continues to struggle, and Jerry Manuel, Randolph's successor, is almost certainly one of the managers on Kurkjian's at-risk list — and Minaya's grasp on his job is none too strong either.
The Twins, to the credit of the Pohlads (and particularly Carl) have avoided this treadmill. Even in the ugly days of the mid-to-late 90s, the organization remained stable, and when changes came, there weren't violent upheavals. Tom Kelly retired, and his third base coach was promoted to manager. Terry Ryan stepped aside, and his assistant GM took the helm.
It may not be a perfectly run operation, but it remains a coherent one, one with a notion of what it's about that everybody involved, including the fans, can grasp. That would seem an obvious thing, but it has long eluded the likes of the Royals and Pirates.