There is a youth movement going on in baseball. Yes, teams are looking for the next young star shortstop or ace pitcher, but teams are going younger with their managers as well.
Rocco Baldelli, 37, just became the latest Gen Xer to man a major league bench as he was hired by the Minnesota Twins on Oct. 25.
If you look at the World Series, and you’ll see 43-year-old Alex Cora managing the Red Sox, just seven years removed from playing in the big leagues. There’s also 41-year-old Andy Green in San Diego and 43-year-old Gabe Kapler in Philadelphia.
But what’s maybe even more surprising than the ages of managers these days is their level of experience. The aforementioned four all have worked in some coaching or front office capacity, but none have managerial experience at any level. Becoming an MLB manager traditionally involves toiling in the minors and waiting for an opportunity with the big club.
Another background most of these new-age managers share is familiarity with player development and analytics. Even if they haven’t managed a game themselves, they are well-acquainted with the modern game and how to approach it. Plus they have their relatively recent playing careers to fall back on. They should, in theory, be able to relate to the players more as equals.
But is coaching really a job with no experience necessary? Sure, maybe if you’re coaching T-ball you don’t need to be familiar with how to manage a double-switch, but isn’t there a lot more to it than just having played the game or knowing advanced statistics? There are a lot of nuances to baseball, things that might not seem obvious until you’ve coached for a couple hundred games.
A new coach might know what the right thing to do in a situation is. But it is those grey area decisions that separate good coaches from average ones. When do you play a hunch? How do you evaluate a player’s body language? These are things gained from experience. Sure baseball has changed. But has it changed that much?
What’s your take?
Take 1: You can’t ignore experience
Baseball is a unique sport. It is not as scientific as a sport like football, which you can study and become an expert on with different schemes and plays. Baseball has a long season, and weird things happen. You often see something you’ve never seen before. Experienced managers can work their way around these problems. Less experienced ones could make it worse.
Take 2: Experience is overrated
Unless you’ve never seen baseball before, you can be an adequate coach. If you’ve watched the game, or better yet, played it a long time, you can be a good or great coach. There is no such thing as the proper amount of experience. Everyone is different. Not having coached before could even be an advantage. Maybe there’s some conventional wisdom that’s actually wrong. A new coach can bring a fresh perspective and new ideas. Mistakes will happen, but you learn from them.
So is coaching experience necessary to lead a ballclub? Or is there no such thing as proper experience?
Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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