Is It Hard To Manage Big-Market Teams?
I’ve always been fascinated with the managing side of Major League Baseball. Whether it was Torre of Girardi at the helm, I imagined myself in their shoes, and how difficult a job it would be. Or, would it be?
Something I’ve come to think of over the past few years, is that I don’t know if it really is a difficult job to manage a big-market team like the Yankees or Phillies. Perennial contenders and annual spenders in free agency, who restock and retool their roster to the best of their ability year after year. The manager doesn’t need to lift a finger in building the team, and when it does come together, it seems he doesn’t need to say or do much for the team to perform.
We’ve all talked about Joe Torre’s incredible-turned-ugly tenure with the Yankees, and how he went down as one of the best skippers of the 20th Century. But in reality – and I am a Torre fan – his success was because of what was given to him, not for what he did. Buck Showalter and Gene Michael had already set the Yanks up for glory before Torre even got a phone call from George Steinbrenner. The Core Four, which at the time was much larger including guys like Bernie, O’Neill, and David Cone, were already on the team. Tino Martinez would be signed to a big contract to replace Don Mattingly, and New York was already coming off a playoff appearance in 1995.
And what do you know, Torre led the Yankees to the World Series championship in ’96, ending an 18-year title drought. “Clueless Joe” was now the talk of the town, and a well-respected skipper. Add three more titles to his resume, and some, maybe most people now think of him as a sure-bet Hall of Famer.
The thing that I am really stumped about, is was it really hard for Torre to manage one of the best dynasties in sports history? Think about how great the Yankees were in the 90’s. Who really built the team? Showalter, Michael, and eventually Cashman who re-tooled for the 98, 99, and 2000 championships. Is it a stretch to say regardless of the skipper, the Yanks would have had similar success? I don’t think so.
And then think about the guy who replaced him – Joe Girardi. By no means is he respected and admired the same way Torre was, but he hasn’t skipped a beat in continuing the Yankees’ dynasty into another decade. Missing the playoffs in ’08 due to having to deal with the remains of Torre’s crumbled operation, Girardi got three huge presents the next winter. CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira, and over $400 million spent later, the Yanks were back on top as the favorites in 2009. Sure enough, they’d stroll right through the regular season and postseason, winning their 27th title. To say it was Girardi’s genius handling of the bullpen (yeah right) is foolish. It was all thanks to Cash and his cash. No matter who managed the Yankees in ’09, to me they were so stacked a similar finish probably would have happened.
To me, it really seems that to manage teams who constantly spend money and have a talented roster is not so hard to do. Terry Francona, Charlie Manuel, and the former skip Bobby Cox all inherited young and productive players that grew into the superstars and legends (for some) they have become in the game. Again, don’t forget the free agent splashes and trades each of the five managers have graciously been given by ownership.
I know managing is not an easy job by any stretch. However, it’s clear to me and it should be to everyone, that when you have a perennial postseason contender that is constantly spending money, it should be expected to win, and win often.
Basically – next time you scream and kick over your TV about a decision, or one not made by Joe Girardi, you have the absolute right to. Even he somehow manages to make managing the Yankees seem difficult and tense.