On Tuesday, I voiced my support for Joe Torre. My reasoning, like many others, is that there simply isn’t anyone else better suited to manage this Yankees team. That remains my positio today, though as I read more I’m realizing that I’m succumbing to certain biases. Who knows? Another three days of mulling this issue might make me turn around. Bits of knowledge like this one, found at NoMaas (a site I’ve grown weary of this year), will do much to expedite a change in my thought process:
All managers, as a group are most effective in their early years on the job. I did a study of 103 managers who managed at least 600 major league games, a group basically including all twentieth-century managers who had significant careers and are now retired. The study documented something which is apparent if you just look at the records. A huge percentage of managers have their best seasons a) when they first get a chance to manage, and b) in their first years on the job.
Nonetheless, the most obvious fact about managers is that almost all managers become ineffective after two or three years in a position.
The most important question that a manager asks is “What needs to be changed around here?” Any manager, over time, loses the ability to see what needs to be changed.
There is the manager’s loyalty to his players. A new manager owes nobody anything. He can bench or release unproductive players without apology. An established manager can’t do that – not only because of his own reluctance to break faith with players who have given him their best efforts, but because of what it means to the rest of the team.
Another thing…the game of baseball changes, over time, much more extensively than most people realize. The way the game is played now is very different from the way it was played thirty years ago.
The older a manager is, the more likely he is to fight those changes. Older managers are trying to play the game the way it was played thirty years ago, usually without realizing it.
Of course, this not to say that managers always have their best seasons early on. Look at Bobby Cox. He managed the Braves, then was relegated to GM duties, and then returned as manager and went on the infamous division title streak. Many think that Cox is “losing it” today, but I don’t remember his job coming into question during his tenure, despite a lack of playoff success. Then again, I’m not a Braves fan, so I’m not always privy to what they’re saying about their manager.
The most eye-opening parts of that passage are the final four paragraphs. Joe is very loyal to his players, almost to a fault. In many instances, it worked out — Bobby Abreu is a good example of this. However, that’s not to say that Joe’s loyalty is the only way to get things back on track. Perhaps sitting Bobby for three or four games would have gotten him back on track faster. Who knows?
The point is, there are two sides to every story. Yes, many of us want Joe Torre back, and there is a valid argument for that. However, as I’m beginning to realize, there is a reason just as valid to can him. To me, this makes the decision that much more interesting.