Thursday, November 8, 2012

New trends in the dugout

Mike Redmond served a
minor-league apprenticeship
before landing a big-league
managerial job.
When Mike Redmond landed the managerial job in Miami last month, he talked about the career advice he'd gotten from Jim Leyland, his first big-league skipper and now manager of the Tigers: Take a minor league job and learn the nuances of managing in the bushes. Redmond did so: Two seasons in the Toronto system managing in Class A.

Even Ryne Sandberg and Mike Schmidt, Hall of Fame players who harbor(ed) managerial ambitions, had to go to the minors first. Schmidt quit after a few weeks (he could make more money on the autograph circuit and didn't want to manage enough to put up with the minor league life); Sandberg is in the bigs as a coach now and reputedly the manager-in-waiting in Philadelphia.

There are a lot more minor league managers than major league managers, of course, and only a few get to ride the buses to one of the big-time jobs, as Redmond did. The odds are agin 'em.

And the odds are getting worse. Major league teams are increasingly hiring managers who haven't managed, or even coached, on any professional level.

Walt Weiss will be
the sixth manager
in Rockies history.
The most recent such move came late Wednesday, when the Colorado Rockies selected Walt Weiss, a former major league shortstop who had been coaching in high school.

Others of this ilk: Mike Matheny, who led the Cardinals to the seventh game of the NLCS in his first season managing anywhere; and Robin Ventura, who kept the White Sox in the playoff hunt.

Inexperienced and successful: Not a promising development for the dues-paying minor leaguers.

What's more, the Rockies had as one of their leading alternatives to Weiss the still-active Jason Giambi, and the White Sox were seriously considering making Paul Konerko player-manager before tabbing Ventura.

These selection were unusual. Most managers take the Redmond route of a minor league apprenticeship; others are at least coaches in the majors for a while, learning the job from a more experienced manager (Ozzie Guillen from Jack McKeon, for example).

What Weiss, Matheny and Ventura have had in lieu of experience coping with the issues of running a minor league team: Impressive major league playing resumes. Weiss was AL Rookie of the Year in 1988; Matheny caught in the majors for 13 years; Ventura was probably the greatest third baseman in White Sox history.

The single most important thing a manager has is the respect of his players. The pedigree of World Series rings and All-Star games is a good start. (The respect can dissolve quickly, however.)

All this has a certain amount of at least theoretical interest to Twins fans. Paul Molitor has never managed in the minor leagues and was last a full-time coach in 2001 under Tom Kelly. But he may be the manager-in-waiting. Matheny,Ventura and Weiss indicate that Molitor wouldn't be a unique selection.

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