There are 30 teams in the majors. As of yesterday, 20 percent are changing managers. As of yesterday, 30 percent of the 2017 playoff teams will have different managers next year.
The Yankees’ Joe Girardi will not return to the Bronx. He has been the skipper the past 10 years, averaging 91 wins per season and finishing first or second seven times. His teams made the playoffs six times, won the World Series in 2009 and lost in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series this year.
By most standards, Girardi was successful. Maybe the real surprise was that he lasted 10 years in that pressure cooker. The future will tell us whether the Yankees made the right move here or overreacted to something they deemed an issue or concern. Heck, maybe there were perfectly legit reasons for them to not retain Girardi - but short of them telling us that (which they didn’t do), reporters can only truly speculate.
So with three playoff managers losing their jobs this month, what makes a good manager in 2018 and moving forward?
That person must be able to relate to, work with and lead veteran players while also being able to nurture and get the most out of young talent. They must deal with the changing face of media and the Twitter age, where everything is a big deal and everything is covered at all times. They must deal with fans who have more of a public voice than ever before through social media. They must deal with their own front office and balance old-school scouting approaches with current trends and analytics. They must adapt to changing trends in the game. They must answer to ownership. They must handle a pitching staff, knowing when to coddle and/or push their pitchers while keeping their bullpen fresh over 162 games. They must present a confident front and always appear in complete control to players, fans and reporters alike. They must win. But other than that ...
Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci wrote this excellent story on Girardi leaving New York. He wrote that, “The top priorities in hiring a manager had changed. Now here are the two most important ones:
“1) Force of personality: a catch-all phrase for the ability to connect and communicate with young players and to represent the team’s image and brand on a daily basis in front of the media.
“2) Fluency in analytics: the belief in data-based decision-making deep enough to serve as an efficient conduit between the front office and the players.”
The job of manager is changing and is very different than it was even five years ago. It is very, very different than the job that guys like Earl Weaver and Billy Martin once did well.
Is time of game important?: Game 1 of the World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers lasted just 2 hours, 28 minutes. It was the fastest World Series game since 1992. It was a fantastic pitchers’ duel.
Game 2 of the World Series lasted 11 innings and took 4 hours, 19 minutes. Both games were great to watch and prove that if the baseball is good, the time it takes to play it doesn’t matter that much. We’ll watch and enjoy every minute.
But baseball officials continue to have concerns over what they call “pace of play” rather than time of game. They continue to make changes. According to a stat noted this week on MASN’s “The Mid-Atlantic Sports Report,” the average time of game in the regular season was 3:05 this season - the longest ever. Heading into the World Series, the average time of a postseason game in 2017 was 3:31.
And yes, that makes it challenging for younger fans - the very fans the Major League Baseball brass says it wants to attract - to stay up until the end of the biggest games of the year. At least in the East Coast time zone. Games that last three and a half hours can challenge anyone to remain interested from start to finish.
So how can the game improve pace of play and time of games? Is it really that important? Is reducing the time of games by 10 minutes going to make an impact? Would 20 minutes make one?
Baseball is a great game and those of us that love it have the start of this World Series as the two latest examples. Short of making significant changes, are there things MLB can do to create more interest among younger fans?
The first two games of the World Series were great and fantastic to watch - no matter how quickly or how long they took to play.