Buck Showalter of the Texas Rangers and Frank Robinson of the Washington Nationals are the two worst managers in major league baseball, according to a poll of 450 players conducted by Sports Illustrated during spring training.
That would be the same Buck Showalter who was named American League manager of the year in 2004 — he also won the award in 1994 with the Yankees — and who has the Rangers in contention in the American League West. And that’s the same Frank Robinson who has Washington atop the National League East in defiance of all those last-place predictions.
“A popularity contest,” Robinson said.
True, neither man could be called beloved. Showalter is regarded by many as a micromanager who once criticized Ken Griffey Jr. for wearing his cap backward. Robinson, during his Hall of Fame playing career, was abrasive and a fierce competitor. Now, approaching 70, he can come across as a curmudgeon.
“I rub players the wrong way,” Robinson conceded. “I get under their skin. That doesn’t bother me. I know for a fact Buck Showalter and I are not the two worst managers in baseball.”
Robinson’s capacity to irk extends beyond players. He angered Angels manager Mike Scioscia by blowing the whistle on a pitcher hiding pine tar in his glove. On Sunday, Robinson publicly criticized Toronto catcher Gregg Zaun for the way he blocked the plate on a play that resulted in an injury to Nationals first baseman Nick Johnson.
But isn’t a manager supposed to do everything it takes to win and stand up for his players? And what about results? Robinson and Showalter are getting results. Colorado Rockies manager Clint Hurdle, among others, questioned the validity of polling athletes who carry their own agendas.
“If you’re gonna buy a car, do you talk to players?” he asked. “They’re gonna tell you to buy a car that you can’t afford.”
Everyone from the talking heads on TV to the fans in the upper deck wearing peanut shells on their shirts has an opinion about managers. The pilot of any team in any sport is going to be scrutinized, analyzed and criticized. But managers are out there every day for six months. And it looks so easy. Anyone can fill out a lineup card, right? Even Little League coaches know how to pull a double-switch.
Yet a manager’s job is done more subtly than his basketball and football counterparts, who are more hands-on. You can see Detroit Pistons coach Larry Brown scribbling plays on a greaseboard and hear him screaming or telling his team that he loves them. Meanwhile, Robinson leans against the top rail of the dugout, stone-faced.
Much of a coach’s work — preparing, strategizing, dealing with players and their egos — occurs behind the scenes. It is more so with managers. Their’s is a unique title in sports.
“What a manager does is manage,” Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said. “He manages a group of 25 guys who are all different, who come at him from different perspectives. Veterans who believe they should play ahead of rookies. Rookies who believe they should play ahead of veterans. Guys who need to be reassured. Guys who need to be talked to a little more sternly.
“And the manager has to take this group of guys and get them ready to play every night. He has to figure out ways to make guys not in the starting lineup understand they are valuable.”
Communication, honesty and a mastery of tactics are oft-cited attributes of a good manager. But talent usually prevails.View Entire Story
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