Sunday, January 23, 2011

Managerial transition points

I mentioned earlier this month that I was nibbling my way through Chris Jaffe's book on managers. I've finished now, and if you're interested in the history of baseball, you will be interested in the book, although it's not a particularly easy read.

One point he made -- keeping in mind that it was published a bit less than a year ago -- concerns his notion that there have been three significant "waves" of managerial retirements, each of which coincided with significant changes in the job.

The first came in 1920, when Hughie Jennings, Clark Griffith and George Stallings left the job. The second was in 1950-51 (Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, Billy Southworth and Frankie Frisch, among others). And the third was in 1976-77 (Walter Alston, Bill Rigney, Paul Richards, Danny Murtaugh and Red Schoendienst).

The first wave came with the banning of the spitball and the coming of the lively ball era. The second came with the societal shifts of the post-war era, including the breaking of the color bar, night ball and the rise of personal autonomy -- managers were less able to police the off -field activities of their players. The third came with the advent of free agency.

Jaffe, I think, somewhat overstates this contention. Mack's "retirement" wasn't because of the social shifts so much as because he was 87; elsewhere, Jaffe notes that he was merely a figurehead for the last 10 years of so of his career. Richards' 1976 stint as manager came 15 years after his previous dugout job. Schoendienst returned for two interim stints after 1976. Stallings didn't retire at all; he continued to manage in the minors.
Does Bobby Cox's
departure indicate a
change in the job of

But there remains truth to the thesis, which makes me wonder: Is there a similar shift under way now?

Lou Piniella, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre all left the profession in recent months. That's at least as significant a departure of managerial experience as any of Jaffe's identified waves.

I don't know right now what the big shift in the job would be if there is one. It's something I hope to keep in mind the next year or so, to see if there's something happening behind the scenes that changes the job.

More likely, we simply had a whole lot of really old managers decide at once that they could be happier without the headaches. (And we have more old guys -- Tony LaRussa, Dusty Baker, Jim Leyland -- still around.)

Poll results: We had 51 responses to last week's question, which Twins starter would you be willing to trade for Joba Chamberlain?

The plurality went for Nick Blackburn (19 votes, 37 percent). Fifteen (29 percent) said Kevin Slowey, 11 (21 percent) none of the abover, six (11 percent) picked Scott Baker and zero wanted Brian Duensing to go in such a trade.

New poll up.

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