At Home Plate: Teams trending toward rookie managers

The manager of a professional baseball team is supposed to command the utmost respect from his players, which most of the time translates into success on the field. That’s the old school way of thinking.

Baseball is going through a trend of seeing managers with no previous experience getting their shot in leading teams.

Just look at the recent past. Last year, Robin Ventura (White Sox) and Mike Matheny (Cardinals) both had successful seasons in their first stints as professional managers. Ventura had never managed at any level, while Matheny served as a special adviser in the Cardinals’ organization.

This year, Mike Redmond (Marlins) and Walt Weiss (Rockies) will get their chance to manage without much experience. Redmond managed in Single-A, while Weiss last managed a high school team.

Mike Redmond (Photo by Stephanie Smith, used under Creative Commons License)

Mike Redmond (Photo by Stephanie Smith, used under Creative Commons License)

The typical path to become a Major League manager is to serve as either a minor league manager or a coach at the professional level. Of course, previous managing experience usually helps a candidate as well.

Of the 29 teams that have managers under contract, 15 managers had professional managing experience before taking their new job: Buck Showalter (Orioles), John Farrell (Red Sox), Fredi Gonzalez (Braves), Terry Francona (Indians), Dusty Baker (Reds), Jim Leyland (Tigers), Ned Yost (Royals), Terry Collins (Mets), Joe Girardi (Yankees), Charlie Manuel (Phillies), Bob Melvin (Athletics), Clint Hurdle (Pirates), Eric Wedge (Mariners), Bruce Bochy (Giants) and Davey Johnson (Nationals).

The majority of these managers have been with their respective teams for a few seasons, before the recent trend of first-year managers kicked in. If the new managers continue their string of success, maybe these teams will go that route when searching for a new manager.

Sometimes bringing in a guy with no experience leads to low expectations for that team, meaning there’s not much pressure. Managers can thrive in an environment in which not every single move in scrutinized.

Nine current managers served as a coach at the Major League level before earning their first managerial jobs: Bo Porter (Astros), Kirk Gibson (Diamondbacks), Dale Sveum (Cubs), Don Mattingly (Dodgers), Ron Roenicke (Brewers), Ron Gardenhire (Twins), Bud Black (Padres), Joe Maddon (Rays) and Ron Washington (Rangers).

Joining Weiss, Redmond, Ventura and Matheny as managers to get a job without professional coaching experience is Mike Scioscia (Angels). He managed in Angels’ minor league system before being promoted, and that’s worked out pretty well since he’s the longest tenured manager in baseball.

The Blue Jays are the only team currently searching for a manager, and veteran managers Ken Macha, Art Howe and Jim Tracy are rumored to be candidates for the position. However, maybe a dark horse who has no previous experience will emerge.

Many organizations will feel more comfortable entrusting their teams in the hands of someone who has been there before. But if rookie managers keep turning heads, this new trend may soon become the norm.

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