Here in the Loge Level the seat is quite pricey this week, as the end of the road on Hwy 2014 is within view. From our perch, with our colored mini towels waving in the air, we ponder….
Managers. The World Series. Intriguing study. The Boston Herald headline reads “Bruce Bochy has the Postseason Touch with the Giants.” USA Today tells us, in bold-typed top billing, “Oft-criticized Manager Ned Yost Keeps Royals Winning.” We are told in many narratives how lucky the Giants players are to have Bochy and, on the other hand, how fortunate Yost is to have the Royals players.
Over the years, many working members of the media have said that their favorite study is the baseball manager. I know it's one of mine. With that in mind, I’ve sewn together a quilt from the patches of conversations I've been fortunate to have with six managers.
As you read parts below, you can also listen to several answers from each skipper in the longer version of this unique managerial mix by clicking here.
Angels Mike Scioscia (1,331 wins) on his evolution as a manager from 2000-14: "Well, you can't help but change I think. It's easy to say everything's the same and your thought process is the same. I do think the process stays the same but certainly the way information's gathered has changed. The nuts and bolts of this game as far as I'm concerned haven't changed and haven't changed in a century as far as the fundamentals and what you need to do. The way players are evaluated keeps evolving daily and I think to be in tune with that helps you with some cleaner decisions. I'd say there's been some growth in myself as a manager over that time and I think you would expect that."
Athletics Bob Melvin (818 wins) on his trade to Baltimore prior to the 1989 season and how Frank Robinson started molding him into who he is as a baseball man: "When I came to Baltimore, Frank made me grow up and grow up in a hurry. We went through spring training and Frank didn't really implement anything with the catchers, he let them go out there and run the game and understand his staff and learn his team that much quicker. Then when the season started, I went to Frank and I said, 'Okay so now that the season's started, what are your signs going to be to me.' He said, 'What do you mean?' I said, 'You know throw-overs, pitchouts, calling a pitch every now and then.' He kind of looked at me and he goes, 'Well why would I do that?' I said, 'Because you're the manager and that's what they do, no?' He said, 'Listen, do you want to run this team? Do you want to be the quarterback of this team?' I said, 'Yeah I'd love that. I really appreciate the reins that you took off and let me, in spring training, be the quarterback of the pitching staff and run a game. I really appreciate that, I feel like I've grown up some and understand the game a little bit more complexly.' He said, 'Who understands being behind the plate? Who understands what goes on during a game at certain times of a game? When people are making adjustments at the plate, if a guy's moving up looking for a breaking ball. Your checklist is to watch the baserunner, to watch the first base coach to see what's going on between them and really run the game on the fly. That's what I expect you to do here. I don't expect you to come in here and have me run a game for you. I've always been an advocate of the catcher being the quarterback and running a game. That's why I brought you in here. That's why we traded for you because we think that you have the ability to do that and I expect you to go back there and do that.' That was really an eye-opening conversation for me, that a guy like this who is so highly regarded in baseball and a Hall of Famer and a guy who is known to be one of the tougher guys in all of baseball and understands all of the intricacies and so forth, was allowing me to do that and giving me that kind of accountability for the team. I think that made really grow up as a player and a person. To this day I thank him for it every time that I see him."
Rays Joe Maddon (781 wins) on staying young and current in order to communicate with the new generation of athlete: "I find it fascinating. I've always thought that the best coaches I've had in my past have remained contemporary. Bob Clear is an example. 'Bobaloo.’ Even though he was like 20 years older than us, he was always a contemporary coach and was always able to relate to the group. With our guys here, for me everyday is about growth. The term 'old-school' to me is a wonderful term but sometimes I think we get stuck with that. This year I had a t-shirt (that read) 'Tell me what you think, not what you've heard.' In other words, don't repeat what you've heard in the past, tell me what you think, not what you've heard. Give me some original stuff. We are all plagiarists to some degree in everything that we do. We had to have heard it somewhere before, but that doesn't mean that you can't take it and re-spin it to your advantage or in a different light. So for me it's a constant daily enterprise regarding communicating to our guys in other words and if you could say it in other words, maybe somebody else could understand it."
Braves Fredi Gonzalez (634 wins) on being bilingual as a major-league manager: "I think it's big, Sut. I can bring a player in and speak to them in their own language and nothing gets lost in translation. I think it's big that a player feels comfortable speaking in his own language instead of bringing in an interpreter, you know stuff gets lost. I tell my kids all the time to learn how to speak both languages. It really is a plus."
Astros A.J. Hinch (89 wins), while he was running Arizona's minor leagues prior to his first managerial job: "We can't assume that these kids are equipped with how to be a professional when they sign. Whether they have signed as a 17-year-old kid in,the Dominican Republic, whether they have graduated high school, whether they've gone to a four-year college, whenever we get out hands on them we don't assume anything. One of things that I am big on is, if the percentage of players that are going to reach the majors is low, the success rate of us producing those major leaguers we think is going to be one of the best in baseball. But in that, regardless if you make it to the major leagues and you report to Bob Melvin, whether you stay in the minor leagues for six years and report to myself or Jack Howell, or whether you get released and you end up going into the quote-unquote real world, you're going to have a boss. You're going to have standards. You're going to have an expectation for yourself of how to carry yourself when you're in the world. In this adolescent stage of 18 to 25, it's our obligation to provide that environment for them. Believe me I want to talk about the baseball. I want to talk about cutoffs and relays. I want to talk about infield. I want to talk about batting practice. That's our job, to develop players. What I don't want to lose is the notion that the other part of our job is to develop people. It's important. Trust me, our number one priority is to find as many major leaguers that can play on a major-league baseball field. What I hope happens is whatever players do reach the major leagues are major-league people, and carry themselves with a certain level of professionalism that we expect."
Diamondbacks Chip Hale (new MLB manager) prior to his new role, on a few of the keys of being a successful manager: "My biggest thing, I believe, is relationships you have with your players, I and the other coaches in there. But you really have to develop with those 25 guys in there and know to get them going, to get them out of slumps and to help them mentally more than just physically. The other thing that really makes a manager good, and I learned this when I played for Tom Kelly, is how you handle your bullpen. The bullpen to me can make and break you as a manager. The starters are going to give you what they can, but you have to know when to go to certain guys, how often, not to blow em' out. I think that's one of the big things of being a real good manager."
Now enjoy watching the players and discussing the managers in this 2014 Fall Classic.
Thank you for reading
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