10/09/07 10:08 AM ET
From lower-tier player to top skipper
Francona, Hurdle, Melvin, Wedge prove the historic belief
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
There are nearly as many reasons for lesser lights becoming great managers (bench-time education, empathy with struggling players, patience) as there are for greats failing at the job -- they're too demanding for players to play up to their expected levels, a lack of understanding about the game beyond the style they had played, impatience.Nowhere on the field does one get as well rounded a baseball education as behind the plate, which explains why former catchers have always comprised the prevalent group of successful skippers -- contemporaries John Gibbons of the Blue Jays, Ned Yost of the Brewers, Bruce Bochy of the Giants, Bob Geren of the A's, Melvin, Scioscia, Torre and Hurdle all played the position. Ex-catchers are exempt from one of the sure downfalls of other former position players -- the inability to manage pitching staffs. "You have to pay attention and know the subtleties of the game," Yost recently said. "A lot of it as a catcher is being able to stay positive with your pitcher. Get them through an inning ... through the game. It's psychological. Managing is a lot like that. That's a big part of it, getting [players] to feel comfortable in their environment." The LCS leaders are hardly exceptions when it comes to the Majors' current managerial roster. Of the 30 skippers, 16 had what can be called marginal playing careers, and seven never even played in the bigs. Nor does the quartet signal any dramatic shift in historic trends. For every Mike Hargrove, a career .290 hitter and 1975 All-Star who managed the Indians to five consecutive AL Central championships, there have been several Gene Mauchs. Mauch's nine-year playing career consisted of 737 at-bats, after which he embarked on a respected managerial career that resulted in 1,902 wins, No. 12 on the all-time list. The end-all in such discussions will always be the Brooklyn-Los Angeles Dodgers, who for 43 consecutive seasons were managed by Walter Alston (1954-76), who had one Major League at-bat, and Tom Lasorda (1976-96), who pitched a total of 58 1/3 big-league innings.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.