Managers & Playing Experience

added 11/25/2004 by Trevor Williams

In fourteen seasons Bagwell and Biggio have played together, the Astros have seen five managers. Astros managers have been hired for different reasons such as being able to relate to players or providing a spark in the clubhouse. How were these men able to become managers? All five of these Astros managers were once former players. Art Howe played second and third. Terry Collins was a minor league shortstop. Larry Dierker was a pitcher. Jimy Williams was a shortstop. Phil Garner played second and third.

Does a manager’s former playing position influence success? Looking at all MLB managers of the 2003 and 2004 season, their former playing positions are:

C                  10
1B                  3
2B/Infield          5
SS                  5
3B                  3
OF                  8
Minor League C      3
Minor League 1B     1
No Experience       1

Position of 2003-2004 Playoff Managers:

C                   2
1B                  1
2B/Infield          2
SS                  1
3B                  2
OF                  3
Minor League C      2

Position of 1995-2004 World Series Winners:

C                   3
1B                  1
3B                  1
Minor League C      2

The data shows that catchers are the most likely position to end up managing. Catchers have experience with every aspect of the game. Besides hitting and fielding, catchers “quarterback” the infield. They call pitch selection and bunt defenses. Catchers have to anticipate whether a runner will steal. Catchers work with pitchers and can tell when something is wrong with a pitcher’s mechanics. They are usually the only non-pitchers who become pitching coaches.

While a mix of infielders and outfielders can make the playoffs, catchers are more likely to win the World Series. Their experience can payoff in crucial playoff situations. When Bobby Cox, a former third baseman won the World Series, he won it against Mike Hargrove, a former first baseman. When Terry Francona, a former first baseman, won the World Series, he defeated Tony LaRussa, a former second baseman. Since 1995 former catchers that have made it to the World Series have always won.

In the 2003 and 2004 seasons, not a single manager was a pitcher. Pitchers usually know only one thing – how to pitch. As pitchers advance in their careers into college baseball and the minors, pitchers aren’t exposed to others areas of the games. As a result, they don’t develop the managerial skills enjoyed by catchers. Former Astros manager Larry Dierker however was able to break the mold. Former pitcher Bud Black could be a possible major league manager in the future.

In Astros history, the team has never hired a former catcher. There have been infielders, outfielders, and pitchers. However with the current trends showing one-third of managers as former catchers and recent World Series rings being won by catchers more than any other position, don’t be surprised when the time comes, the next manager after Phil Garner isn't a former catcher.

2003-2004 Managers and their Positions:

Team                         Manager                Position
Anaheim Angels                  Mike Scioscia                 C
Arizona Diamondbacks            Bob Brenly                    C
Arizona Diamondbacks            Al Pedrique                  SS
Atlanta Braves                  Bobby Cox                    3B
Baltimore Orioles               Mike Hargrove                1B
Baltimore Orioles               Lee Mazzilli                 OF
Boston Red Sox                  Grady Little     Minor League C
Boston Red Sox                  Terry Francona               1B
Chicago Cubs                    Dusty Baker                  OF
Chicago White Sox               Jerry Manuel              2B/SS
Chicago White Sox               Ozzie Guillen                SS
Cincinnati Reds                 Bob Boone                     C
Cincinnati Reds                 Ray Knight                   3B
Cincinnati Reds                 Dave Miley       Minor League C
Cleveland Indians               Eric Wedge                 C/DH
Colorado Rockies                Clint Hurdle                 OF
Detroit Tigers                  Alan Trammell                SS
Florida Marlins                 Jack McKeon      Minor League C
Houston Astros                  Jimy Williams             2B/SS
Houston Astros                  Phil Garner               2B/3B
Kansas City Royals              Tony Pena                     C
Los Angeles Dodgers             Jim Tracy                    OF
Milwaukee Brewers               Ned Yost                      C
Minnesota Twins                 Ron Gardenhire               SS
Montreal Expos                  Frank Robinson               OF
New York Mets                   Art Howe                  2B/3B
New York Yankees                Joe Torre               C/1B/3B
Oakland Athletics               Ken Macha                    3B
Philadelphia Phillies           Larry Bowa                   SS
Philadelphia Phillies           Gary Varsho                  OF
Pittsburgh Pirates              Lloyd McClendon           1B/OF 
San Diego Padres                Bruce Bochy                   C
San Francisco Giants            Felipe Alou                  OF
Seattle Mariners                Bob Melvin                    C
St. Louis Cardinals             Tony LaRussa                 2B
Tampa Bay Devil Rays            Lou Piniella                 OF
Texas Rangers                   Buck Showalter  Minor League 1B
Toronto Blue Jays               Carlos Tosca               None*
Toronto Blue Jays               John Gibbons                  C

*According to Rob Neyer of ESPN, Carlos Tosca is only the sixth manager since 1900 to have no professional baseball experience as a player. Another manager to have no experience as a player – Ted Turner. You can view Neyer’s article here: http://espn.go.com/mlb/columns/neyer_rob/1390462.html