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Anyone new to watching Major League Baseball games must wonder about the managers. How could you not? Why do they wear uniforms like the players on the field? How can they get right in the face of umpires while arguing? No other major sport does the former, nor allows the latter.
Compared with any other professional team sport, the top coach in baseball is like no other, primarily due to tradition. Baseball is the oldest major professional league in the United States, dating back to 1869.
The position, uniform, and even demeanor of the MLB manager developed before football, hockey and basketball (in order) even established their top pro leagues. The structure of MLB teams as (gentlemen’s) “clubs,” developed in the late 19th century, resulting in things like the “manager” title as opposed to head coach in other sports.
Baseball has a manager for game strategy and on-field play, which differs from the general manager who oversees player signings, the team roster, dealings with the league, and more. Below the manager on baseball fields are “coaches,” basically assistant managers.
Let’s examine some insider information about being a MLB manager.
Those guys you see making the big decisions on TV or live in the dugout can do some questionable things, which might make those not savvy to the game scratch their heads. To try to help answer some common questions, consider the following.
The answer is yes, managers can play in MLB games. However, they need to be officially part of the team roster to be eligible. Because MLB rosters are capped (at the moment it’s 26 players until Sept. 1, when it bumps to 28 through the end of the regular season).
A playing manager means taking a spot that could otherwise be used for a valuable player. On the flip side, teams could save money by paying only 1 person to do 2 jobs. Another attraction for teams is if the player is very popular, keeping him around late in his career as a player-manager could help boost attendance.
Because being a Major League manager requires years of knowledge, typically they are not very young, even when they begin managing. The ones who become what are called player-managers usually can still bring something to the table, like Frank Robinson when he managed the Cleveland Indians in the 1970s. Robinson himself provided power off the bench ~ which he did in his very first game with the Tribe by homering.
Usually player-managers are part-time on the field, to not deter from the mentally straining job of managing a pro baseball game in progress. Many well-known names in MLB history are on the list of player-managers, including Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Joe Cronin, Pete Rose (who was the last player-manager, in 1986), Connie Mack, Christy Mathewson, Charles Comiskey, Leo Durocher, Nap Lajoie, Mel Ott, Tris Speaker, Albert Spalding, Joe Torre, Honus Wagner, and Branch Rickey.
Major League Baseball managers now wear the same uniform as the players they command, so it’s hard to tell who’s in charge looking into a full dugout. Yet, head coaches in the other major sports (pro football, basketball and hockey) wear either suits, dress jackets, or casual sporting-wear attire with team logos/colors.
In the early 20th century, as the concept of baseball’s field manager evolved, Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics became known for wearing a full dress suit in the dugout. Mack was different from other managers, because he owned the club, and was field manager as well as general manager. He never did wear a team uniform in the dugout; but it never caught on.
Over the years some managers followed suit ~ namely Burt Shotton of the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1950 ~ but overall, managers just preferred wearing comfy game uniforms like the players they commanded.
It also might seem goofy for the manager to have a number on the back of his shirt, like the players. For the players, we get it, it helps fans from a distance identify and separate them. The Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees introduced that in 1929.
Baseball managers have a number on their back to also be recognized from afar, and to just be more part of the overall team. Same for the coaches. The only ones you might see at a Major League game wearing jerseys without numbers are batboys or batgirls.
Don’t they wish they could, right? Managers in baseball get tossed from games much, much more often than head coaches do likewise in other sports. Of course, touching an official in any game can cause an ejection. But baseball for the most part allows managers to pretty much verbally assault umpires on the field.
But they cannot eject umpires from a game. There are options to voice displeasure, like petitioning the league office for removal of a certain umpire (after games, not during), or to prevent him from umpiring their own games. However, this is rarely pursued. The bottom line is, managers fear reprisal. They don’t know when they will get that umpire again in the future, and want to ensure fair judgement later.
It’s akin to why few lawyers go after the seat of sitting judges in elections. If they lose, their livelihood could very well depend on the person they just challenged professionally.
They must leave the field and dugout, and not have any control over the actions of his team for the remainder of that game. Some managers have tried to skirt this rule over the years, most notably Bobby Valentine when he donned a fake mustache to sit on the bench in the dugout for a New York Mets game he had been ejected from.
With today’s electronic communications gadgets, managers could communicate with whichever coach took control of the game, maybe by text messaging, or relaying orders using a passerby in the locker room hallway. It happens, and there’s not much the umpire can do about that. He just wants the ejected manager off the field to cool off.
Post-game, managers can be fined or even suspended, depending on their encounter with the umpire.
Yes, Major League Baseball managers can be traded, it just doesn’t happen often. Sometimes they are part of a package deal with other players, sometimes they have been traded for another manager straight-up (as if new scenery would make either better). Sometimes teams even trade away a manager for cash!
The number of MLB managers who have been fired is too long for this space. Usually at the end of the season, several managers are fired by different teams, over the course of weeks. More could follow during the off-season, through spring training. They are just easier scapegoats when things go wrong than the players, who get paid a lot more and some of whom have fan followings to consider.
Probably the most famous baseball manager to get fired repeatedly was Billy Martin, namely with the New York Yankees in the late 1970s. To get an idea of the person constantly firing and rehiring him, search for “Seinfeld” television show episodes featuring George Steinbrenner and series character George Castanza.
A lot. It seems an inordinate percent of baseball managers were catchers in their playing days. This is mainly because catchers must be involved with decisions on every single pitch of a game; and good catchers are a conduit from the manager to the pitcher. Because of this, he begins to understand in-game strategy better than other defensive players. Many active catchers sit near managers, to be able to ask questions and maybe learn tips to help once geared up behind the plate.
Essentially they are on-field managers while they are playing. In the modern era, notable examples include Joe Torre, Joe Girardi, Mike Scioscia, Ned Yost, A.J. Hinch, David Ross, and Kevin Cash of the Tampa Bay Rays. The last 4 there are currently MLB managers.
Because it’s like they are steering a boat ~ the skipper who leads a crew on a ship. How that started, and continued, who knows? Nicknames in baseball are an amazing thing; a single player using a new term for another player (or manager) can spread like wildfire and stick forever. Kind of like why many, many baseball players and coaches call umpires “Blue.”
Officially, at home plate in the pre-game meeting by the umpire with representatives for both teams. Unofficially, some managers will have their lineup set well in advance, and allow them to be “leaked” to the media, so everyone is aware who’s to start the game that day, or just to make it easier for the home stadium to set up electronic displays. But the last moment to solidify a lineup is by the pre-game meeting.
Yes, Dusty Baker of the Houston Astros and Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Frank Robinson became the first (as player-manager of the Cleveland Indians) starting with the 1975 season.
Today, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts as noted above.
For regular-season games, 1 at the start of each game. It’s 2 for the All Star Game and all postseason games.
See above for how many they get per game. If they lose a challenge, that challenge goes against the maximum number above (meaning, it’s subtracted from 1 or 2 depending on the type of game). If they win a challenge, they retain that challenge to use later.
Sometimes both managers use a challenge on the very same play ~ putting a lot of pressure on the people reviewing replays of the play behind the scenes.
All 3 members of the famous Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance double-play combo were, at one point, and separately, player-managers.