Former big leaguer and current CBS columnist Rico Brogna has a thought. This wouldn’t normally be worth mentioning on its own, but after wading through his more than 1,200 words on business, baseball and management, I believe this fact might escape most readers.
According to Brogna, after about seven redundant, poorly copy-edited paragraphs, Major League Baseball would be better off if its organizations mimicked the way that National Football League teams operate using an all powerful head coach.
Just about every critical decision is made by or at least run by the head coach. The owner of a club gives the head coach the power to lead the entire organization because the head coach knows in his mind what he is after. The head coach should have a short-term and long-term vision/plan for the team and their franchise.
In many ways, the modern baseball manager can be seen as little more than a figure head. Yes, he decides when a pitcher gets turned over and what lineup to write in, but even the best/worst managers aren’t responsible for too many wins or losses in a season. So, why, I wonder, would it matter to Brogna at all whether a manager and general manager are one or two different positions.
From what I can discern, his first reason is:
It’s an intelligent and efficient way to do things, believe me, it works!
Might I counter this argument by suggesting that NFL teams would do well to adopt the organizational hierarchy of MLB organizations because it’s an intelligent and efficient way to do things? And also, I’d like to add that you can also believe me when I say that it works.
In baseball, there are too many levels of leadership that always seems to lead to a breakdown at some point. People within an organization do not always know what their jobs are and therefore under perform or they step on other people’s toes because they try to do too much. Again, leadership is the key! If at the end of the day the team is struggling mightily and the vision is not taking hold after a period of time (often too well too short nowadays), the team’s owner may decide to make a change at the head coaching position. General managers, one’s that really do a dynamic and super job, understand that the head coach, or field manager in MLB, has the pulse of what needs to be done and how to execute the entire operation.
Translation: Vagueness, vaguely, vaguer, vague. General managers know managers could do their job.
Again, there’s no evidence being offered up here to actually support his claim that putting all authority at the field manager’s level would result in increased competitiveness.
One may ask, how will an MLB team’s field manager know who to draft, when to draft him and all the like. There are many areas of operation outside of the manager’s arena that he cannot see every day. This again to me is very easy to answer, simple in fact. Allow the manager to lead, design, develop and ultimately execute his overall business plan.
Oh, I see. Maybe the “manager,” as part of his organizational design, could also delegate his on field responsibilities and game time decisions to someone else, because you know, there are 162 games in baseball compared to 16 in football. If only there was a name for the person in this role.
If the person being interviewed for a field managerial position does not have this type of overall plan and scheme to work this method, than don’t hire him. If a person is given a description of what the company (team) is looking for in a field manager and/or leader, they should most certainly come to the dance prepared. Or they don’t land the gig, right? C’mon man! Get some knowledge here!!
Have you ever started talking to someone and out of nowhere they begin speaking in general terms about a very specific incident?
Me: Haha. Oh, the server took my drink before I was done.
Other person: That’s why people shouldn’t trust women. They’ll always take what little you have, even if it’s just your two kids and then they’ll never let you see them again, all while claiming that you’re not capable as a father.
Me: [Awkward silence]
Brogna’s claims are ridiculous because his idea of what a manager should be already exists in the role of a general manager. What completely escapes his grasp is that football and baseball are two wildly different sports, and it would be incredibly difficult in the modern game to run both an organization (and its farm teams) as well as the actual in-game decisions 162 times a year.
He offers no comparison and no reasoning to further his point other than merely spouting off vague generalities about business and sports, and the supposed greatness of Bill Belichick, who as an NFL head coach has far more in common with an MLB General Manager, just as an NFL GM has more in common with an MLB President and NFL offensive and defensive coordinators share the most traits with an actual field manager in baseball.
Brogna’s thought drowns in labels and his inability to differentiate the titles of professionals in different sports. The only thing that the writer proves is that he’s equally ignorant to how an organization in either sport is actually run. This is a scary thought considering what Brogna boasts at the halfway point of his column.
I have been a major league player, a minor league player, a pro scout, a minor league field manager, and I’ve also been a front office baseball operations person (most recent).
Brogna’s experience in a Major League front office consisted of one month as the director of player development for the Arizona Diamondbacks under Kevin Towers before he resigned for unspecified reasons.
*Please consider all quotations heavily sic’d.