Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images
What’s the point of firing the manager right at the end of a rebuild?
I’m no biblical scholar, but the Padres firing manager Andy Green reminds me of the story of Moses. After leading the Israelites through the desert for forty years, Joshua takes over just as they’re about to enter the Promised Land, and Moses cannot enter. The Padres haven’t had a winning season since 2010, but when they hired Green four years ago, their rebuild at least had a destination in mind. Now that they stand on the precipice of the Promised Land, he got the ax.
San Diego has gone 274-366 under Green, and they’ll probably finish somewhere around 72-90 this season. Despite the win-loss record, this will be one of the most attractive managerial jobs to open up in recent memory. With Fernando Tatís, Jr., Manny Machado, Chris Paddack, and about 527 other super talented young players above and below deck, the Padres are poised to become the next Astros or Cubs. Naturally, there’s no shortage of candidates to play the role of Joshua:
The #Padres will hardly wait for the grass to grow. A list has been formed.
Among those on it:
Bruce Bochy, Mike Scioscia, Moises Alou, Ron Washington, Mark Loretta.
— Kevin Acee (@sdutKevinAcee) September 21, 2019
Names you will hear mentioned as potential replacements for Green, all of which hold water for various reasons: Moises Alou, Rod Barajas, Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi
— AJ Cassavell (@AJCassavell) September 21, 2019
Green undeniably got a raw deal. Presumably, he was hired with the intention that the franchise would be awful for a few years, then pull-up and dominate the league. He must have been on board with this plan, or he wouldn’t have gotten the gig in the first place. Somewhere along the way, General Manager A.J. Preller wasn’t straight with him that he wouldn’t stick around for the good times.
Sacking the skipper is far from an unusual practice for clubs pulling out of a rebuild. In fact, it’s practically tradition!
- The Astros fired Bo Porter, who went 110-190 in 2013 and 2014. They hired A.J. Hinch the next season, and haven’t had a losing record since. They have since won a World Series and have three consecutive seasons of 100+ wins.
- Dale Sveum (2012-2013) and Rick Renteria (2014) combined for a 200-286 record for the Cubs. In the five years since, Joe Maddon is 469-333 with a championship ring.
- The Tigers hired franchise icon Alan Trammell to take one for the team, limping to a 186-300 record from 2003-05. They replaced him with Jim Leyland the next season and immediately won the ALCS.
- Terry Francona managed the Phillies to a 285-363 record from 1997-2000. They replaced him with Larry Bowa (and a few years later Charlie Manuel), and finished no worse than 80-81 in each of the next 12 seasons.
The list could go on and on, but I don’t think I need to detail John McGraw’s 1903 Giants for you to get the point.
No doubt, some of these teams replaced their manager because the new guy was simply better, and that could have contributed to the increased win totals. That’s quite a stretch— most managers make very little difference in wins and losses. It’s almost impossible for a managerial change alone to transform a losing team into a winning one.
No, it’s all about the talent on the roster. Great players make managers look good, not vice versa. That’s been the case since the beginning of organized baseball, and it remains true for the present-day Padres.
San Diego knew all along that 2020 would be the season they go for glory (give or take a year). They tanked the past several seasons— including the entirety of Green’s reign— so that they could follow the Astros’ path. The plan is working, as the prospects are maturing, and everything is aligning for them to ascend towards regular playoff pushes.
If everything is going according to plan, why fire Green? Why hire someone with the intent of a rebuild unless you want them around at the end? Wouldn’t it make more sense to hire the guy you want to manage a winning club before you actually get there? One would think Green would be more familiar than anyone with the players at his disposal for the upcoming season.
Perhaps there is an actual, tangible difference between winning managers and
losing rebuilding ones. Maybe there is a trait or skill that allows some skippers to lead successful clubs better than others. Conversely, maybe there’s something about folks like Green that make them better at developing talent.
If these characteristics of different types of managers really exist, I’m not sure what they are. Smarter people than me have looked for rhyme or reason behind these kinds of managerial changes, and they’ve mostly come up empty.
For all we know, Green and Preller just had a falling-out. Maybe there was some unseen reason he got canned that the public will never know. Most likely, it seems that Green is just getting hosed. For what it’s worth, whoever replaces him gets my early vote for 2020 Manager of the Year. It’s good to be Joshua.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. Tweets @depstein1983.