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Thread: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

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    Smells Like Teen Spirit jmcclain19's Avatar
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    Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    http://www.baseballprospectus.com/ar...articleid=6371

    Getting the Manager Right
    by Joe Sheehan

    The Orioles shuffled a deck chair or two Monday, firing manager Sam Perlozzo and replacing him with bench coach Dave Tremblay. The move will have no impact at all on the Orioles' 2007 season, which is now all about positioning for the 2008 draft. Perlozzo didnít bring a whole lot to the table, and his mismanagement of a rebuilt bullpen certainly contributed to the Oriolesí 6-15 record in one-run games this year.

    That's not to say that Perlozzo stood in the way of a great story. While the Oriolesí pitching staff has been essentially average, the offense is simply offensive. The Orioles have no adequate corner players, so the above-average production they get from their middle infield goes to waste. This has been a problem for the Orioles for years, as theyíve suffered through mediocre veteran pickups while overvaluing the likes of Jay Gibbons. The farm system hasn't generated real solutions; Nick Markakis has been a disappointment this year, and Val Majewski hasn't developed as hoped. The talent level here simply won't support contending in the AL East, so dumping Perlozzo, while arguably warranted, isnít going to change the Oriolesí fortunes.

    Should we expect it to? The practice of changing managers in midseason is fairly well-established, but it's hard to argue that it's the best way to run a ship. Firing a manager midseason is reactive and necessarily done in haste, often to relieve outside pressure. It is, in other words, a decision made under the worst possible circumstances. Choosing what amounts to a VP for a $200-million enterprise should be done with the utmost care. There should be interviews and second interviews and headhunters and background checks.

    When you replace a manager in-season, you donít get any of that. You get a process that consists of looking around the room and picking the least offensive of the seven guys hanging around, all of whom have been associated with the current failure. If youíre just going to judge an organization by its processes, whether it makes managerial changes at midseason is arguably a bright-line test of its competence.

    From 1997-2006, there were 27 managers replaced during the season. (I'm disregarding two final weekend changes, Cito Gaston with the 1997 Blue Jays and Larry Bowa with the 2004 Phillies.) Thirteen times, the team doing so did it just once in that time frame. Six other teams did it at least twice.

    Reds 3
    Royals 3
    Blue Jays 2
    Marlins 2
    Tigers 2
    Brewers 2

    Take in that list for a second. Now, take a look at the following list, which is teams that have only made managerial changes in the offseason in that timeframe:

    Mets
    Mariners
    White Sox
    Athletics
    Giants
    Twins
    Phillies

    If you knew nothing else but those two lists, which group would you prefer to be associated with? Root for? Work for? Sign with? The Reds and Royals are two of the game's worst-run franchises over the last decade, and the Blue Jays, Tigers and Brewers have mostly failed over that period as well. The seven teams on the latter list are largely stable, well-run organizations with many seasons as contenders among them.

    It amounts to this: firing your manager at midseason is a sign that youíre going in the wrong direction.

    This is especially true if you decide to retain the interim manager. Itís one thing to decide that you have to get rid of the guy whoís currently in charge. It's another to fall in love with the new guy, so much so that you forego a diligent, careful search for the right candidate in the offseason. Look again at the first list above. The last two Reds managers, Dave Miley and Jerry Narron, were midseason replacements held over into the following year. The Reds havenít finished above .500 under either man. The Royals' last three managers have all been hired in this manner; their best season since 1993 is a fluky 83-79 in 2003. I wrote about J.P. Ricciardiís disastrous decisionmaking on Monday. He's made two managerial changes during his tenure, in both cases replacing the incumbent with a coach on staff, then retaining him beyond the current season.

    The counterexample, and itís a strong one, is the case where you replace a manager with a staffer who has considerable managerial experience. In 1997, the Reds swapped out Ray Knight for Jack McKeon. McKeon guided the Reds to a 96-win season in '99, missing the postseason by one game, and to another second-place finish in 2000. In 2003, McKeon replaced Jeff Torborg in Florida, and managed the Marlins to a World Championship. In 2004, the Astros fired Jimy Williams and plugged in Phil Garner in July; Garner presided over a 48-26 run that got them into the playoffs, then managed a pennant winner in 2005.

    You could, I guess, boil this exception down to the idea that Jack McKeon is a hell of a manager, and you should hire him whenever you can. I have no real explanation for Phil Garner and the Astros. I may not be smart enough to figure that one out.

    Twenty-seven managers have been hired as midseason replacements in the 10 seasons covered, and those two are the only ones to go on to helm that team into the postseason. Looking at the bigger picture, making a change at midseason doesnít seem to change the teamís fortunes much: of the 19 franchises to have made midseason managerial changes, just six have made a postseason appearance in one of the next three seasons after the change. (In addition to the two above, the 1999 Angels, 2001 Red Sox, 2001 Marlins and 2002 Cubs. None of these four were run by the immediate replacement.)

    Feeling like you have to do something is the quickest path to making a rash decision. Firing a manager during the season is as rash a decision as there is in baseball, and the track record of such moves is terrible. Unless a manager is taking a crowbar to the starting rotation or organizing craps games during the seventh-inning stretch, suffering through the current lost season and undergoing a thorough search for his replacement is a better choice than firing him and making a poor selection.

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    Resident optimist OldRightHander's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Firing a manager mid season is only a bad idea if after the interim replacement inevitably has a slightly better record you go ahead and sign that guy to a contract and remove the interim tag, only to replace him in a couple years with another interim guy who will start out winning a few games and get rewarded with the job. Rinse and repeat. I'm getting sick of that cycle.

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    Vampire Weekend @Bernie's camisadelgolf's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    So firing your manager mid-season hints that your franchise is heading in the wrong direction? That reminds me of a comic I love reading . . .



    In all seriousness, every great manager had a first gig. For the Reds, none of the recent guys in their first attempt at being a MLB manager has worked out, but you have to hope that will change eventually. However, if you have an inexperienced manager and a successful manager is interested in the position, I think you have to jump on it.

    In the Reds' case, they're obviously under-performing this year, IMHO. If the Reds were to hire an interim manager, and winning shortly followed (and the law of averages says it will), the Reds can have a feeling of confidence that could carry to the next season. The players might think to themselves, "Well, under this new manager, he may not have much experience, but for whatever reason, we perform much better with him as manager. I'm feeling pretty good about this team right now." In other words, it can give the team a fresh feeling, and all those feelings of under-performing can be associated with the old manager.

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by camisadelgolf View Post
    If the Reds were to hire an interim manager, and winning shortly followed (and the law of averages says it will), the Reds can have a feeling of confidence that could carry to the next season. The players might think to themselves, "Well, under this new manager, he may not have much experience, but for whatever reason, we perform much better with him as manager. I'm feeling pretty good about this team right now." In other words, it can give the team a fresh feeling, and all those feelings of under-performing can be associated with the old manager.
    The problem with that is, there appears to be a natural bounce that results from a managerial change. Maybe it's the release of pressure that comes with admitting the season is over, maybe it's something else, but the reason guys like Miley and Narron moved from interim to permanent is because the club showed life after they became manager.

    Problem is, it wears off.
    Last edited by IslandRed; 06-21-2007 at 12:09 AM.
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    Vampire Weekend @Bernie's camisadelgolf's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by IslandRed View Post
    The problem with that is, there appears to be a natural bounce that results from a managerial change. Maybe it's the release of pressure that comes with admitting the season is over, maybe it's something else, but the reason guys like Miley and Narron moved from interim to permanent is because the club showed life after they became manager.

    Problem is, it wears off.
    Yes, that's true. That's why I would hope that A.) the new manager turns out to be a diamond in the rough and worth retaining or B.) an experienced, successful manager becomes available in the offseason. If there is no option B, then I would stick with option A until it does.

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Firing a manager in mid-season sounds like a good idea to me, if the manager is Bob Boone, or Dave Miley, or Jerry Narron. The key is not to replace that manager with another Boone, Miley or Narron.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

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    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron View Post
    Firing a manager in mid-season sounds like a good idea to me, if the manager is Bob Boone, or Dave Miley, or Jerry Narron. The key is not to replace that manager with another Boone, Miley or Narron.
    Firing Narron, as much as I think he probably deserves it, isn't going to save the 2007 Reds. We're out of it, and if the Griffey and Dunn trades happen, it'll only get worse in the short term. So we have to balance the pleasure of sacrificing Narron now versus the head start it gives Bucky Dent on auditioning for the 2008 job. If we're going to do a real manager search, it needs to happen in the offseason, when our choices are not limited to Reds employees and the unemployed -- and that might be easier if there's not an incumbent.

    The exception would be if Narron isn't just flailing ineffectively but actually doing damage to the club's long-term outlook. Pinch-hitting Castro for Hamilton doesn't qualify; mis-using or over-using pitchers would.
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    Rally Onion! Chip R's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Feeling like you have to do something is the quickest path to making a rash decision. Firing a manager during the season is as rash a decision as there is in baseball, and the track record of such moves is terrible. Unless a manager is taking a crowbar to the starting rotation or organizing craps games during the seventh-inning stretch, suffering through the current lost season and undergoing a thorough search for his replacement is a better choice than firing him and making a poor selection.
    I'd say that would make a good case alone for firing Narron. If Narron is allowed to continue, he's going to make Dusty look like Sparky. Of course the problem is that the GM doesn't think that's a problem.
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    RZ Chamber of Commerce Unassisted's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron View Post
    Firing a manager in mid-season sounds like a good idea to me, if the manager is Bob Boone, or Dave Miley, or Jerry Narron. The key is not to replace that manager with another Boone, Miley or Narron.
    Hasty firing begats hasty hiring.

    IMO, the key to a midseason hire is to pick an interim that openly denies wanting the job permanently, so that the interim is just a bridge to the offseason. That's likely to be a coach who is on the verge of retirement or a position coach who has never done anything else. I don't know if the Reds have anyone like that on the staff.
    /r/reds

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Managers tend to get fired mid-season when everything is going wrong. It only stands to reason that there will be some regression to the mean, regardless of who the new manager is or what he does.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    My clutch is broken RichRed's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    The Orioles' situation is eerily similar to the Reds': a rotten bullpen made even worse by a manager who doesn't know how to manage them.

    They even have a Majewski! Maybe they'd like another?
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    Tired of talk. Win! Joseph's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Chip R View Post
    Of course the problem is that the GM doesn't think.
    Sometimes I wonder if THATS not the problem.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Unassisted View Post
    Hasty firing begats hasty hiring.

    IMO, the key to a midseason hire is to pick an interim that openly denies wanting the job permanently, so that the interim is just a bridge to the offseason.
    Yep. The problem wasn't canning Boone and Miley. It was hiring Miley and Narron.
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    ZCTRMTP!!!!! texasdave's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    I always thought that hiring a talent evaluator as an interim manager was a good idea. Bucky Dent could make all the in-games decisions, while the person hired to evaluate the talent would do just that. That person could also report back on any or all coaches that might be worth keeping around, clubhouse dynamics, the work ethic of players, etc.

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    He has the Evil Eye! flyer85's Avatar
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    Re: Joe Sheehan: Firing a Manager Midseason is a bad idea

    It is not necessarily a bad idea. It is a symptom of a larger problem.
    What are you, people? On dope? - Mr Hand


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