April 27, 2010

Manager Job Description: Part 2 of 5

Before I get into my second requirement for team manager, I’d like to give some props to Dusty Baker for switching up the line-up today. I’m sure that was really hard for him, and I’m so happy that the universe has rewarded his risk so kindly.

Now on to the second in my series of five qualities of a good manager.

These requirements are generic and are not intended to endorse or condemn any particular candidate. Any resemblance to the opposite of any current special adviser is purely coincidental.

Requirement #2: Understanding How the Game is Played Nowadays
I think that a good manager has to have an in-depth understanding not only of the game of baseball, but of how it’s played in these modern times. Tough to find in an organization such as MLB that wants to pretend the digital age has never happened.

via http://miscellanea.wellingtongrey.net

For my day job, I manage a group of technical writers at a software company, a job I got after 10 years as a technical writer for software companies. Wo when my people come to me with problems getting information out of SMEs or questions about information structure, I am in a better place to speak from my own experience than if their manager were, say, a fighter pilot.

Along those same lines, I think that a baseball manager who was a player or otherwise worked closely to the game is in a good position to identify with the players and help them excel.

That being said, I don’t think that just any ex-player can take over a team and lead it to greatness. This a may be the opportunity for the formerly crappy player to shine, since a hotshot, superstar player wouldn’t have necessarily acquired the “hard work” and “grit” type skills that he’ll need to counsel some of the 25 to apply. Especially a superstar from an earlier era may have a particularly hard time relating to players today.

Which leads to an important point. As Slyde over at Red Reporter said, some managers today “manage like it is still the 1980s. One run isn’t as valuable as it was back then because teams score a lot more runs now. If the game changes in a decade, the management strategy should change with it.” If the Reds want to turn over a new leaf, they’ll need to find that special someone who understands how the game has changed since the good ol’ days and leverage those changes to their advantage.

Which leads to yet another important point. The Reds used to be the team of innovation. They brought beer sales and night games to the sport. But they haven’t been that team in a long time. They’ll need to rediscover that innovation to find the guy who knows how to capitalize on the team and help them perform to their potential.

Interview questions to ask to check for Understanding How the Game Is Played Nowadays:

Question: What would you tell a young guy who lost his stroke and can’t seem to find it again?

Good answer: I’d let him know that everyone goes through slumps, drop him in the order, and maybe suggest he break up his routine to get a fresh perspective.

Bad answer: I’d tell him to have more talent.

Question: You’re down by four in the bottom of the eighth. What do you do?

Good answer: Send the guys up to work the count and be ready to jump on a mistake. We need baserunners.

Bad answer: Hope the lead-off hitter gets on base, then lay down two sacrifices to move him over to third. Small ball will win the day!

For part 3, I’ll explore the importance of having a plan. You’ll love it when it comes together.

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