Managerial hiring

DMZ · November 14, 2004 at 4:43 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

A reader submitted this New York Times article on how managers are hired, focusing particularly on the sham interviews minority candidates receive due to Selig’s mandate that all teams interview at least one.

It has a lot of interesting information on the Mariners hiring of Hargrove, and how Jerry Manuel feels he wasn’t seriously considered, in particular because his lunch meeting wasn’t long enough.

And while I’m sympathetic to his concern generally… maybe it was that he wasn’t doing so well. If I was interviewing managerial candidates, it’s almost certain that the more suitable I found them, the more I’d want to talk to them and get their thoughts on other aspects of their philosophy and managerial approach.

If the team sat down with someone and said “how do you deal with difficult personalities?” and (say) Terry Collins responded “I’m an aggressive guy, I’ll ride them pretty hard in the dugout, I’ll fight them in the clubhouse before the press came in…” that’s when the team’s probably signalling for the check.

What that doesn’t address, though, is some of the larger issues, like “Is Selig’s mandate helping?”

It’s a worthy goal. Beyond baseball’s shameful racial legacy, even today front offices do not reflect the composition of its fan base or players. There are far fewer managers who aren’t white than is reasonable. It isn’t only the “people hire people they’re comfortable with, and people are comfortable with those with the same background, by which I mean race.” Part of the problem goes beyond that: because GM and managerial positions are so heavily composed of retreads, it keeps the same dudes in the canidate pool forever, and if that pool’s mostly white dudes, the managers that come from it will be mostly white dudes.

Selig’s mandate is certainly well-intentioned: by saying that teams must interview a minority candidate, he’s hoping that in consistently altering the candidate set, he’ll alter the result set. And that he’ll get these candidates experience interviewing, which will make them better candidates for the next job opening.

And yet… it’s not working. The result is that a small set of guys (which varies by position and changes by year) get interviewed and then passed up for every job that comes up, and return to the pool. When Dave Stewart was getting a lot of GM interviews, for instance, it must have been like a series of very short vacations. Fly somewhere, take someone with him, stay in a nice hotel, see the sights, spend a couple of hours talking to some people who have little interest in him — and probably already know who they want to hire — and then fly home.

That’s the problem with the state of things: if teams are convinced that they know who they want to hire before they talk to the Selig-mandated candidate, there’s no point to the process.

If MLB really wants to make the sport a better reflection of those who play in its uniform and those who watch it, there are more things they can do that might help:

Find more coaching and managing opportunities for interested minority applicants in the minor league systems. Teams should be more willing to take risks on unknown candidates at the lower levels of the minor leagues than at the top, and it’s in the actual managing where quality managers prove their worth. As teams have more diverse candidates internally, moving up in the system, they should have more diverse candidates they’re comfortable with, know well, and are organizationally happy to see succeed.

Expand the candidate pool, and alter the interview process. Many teams, faced with a vacancy, go through a process like this:
– We want Manager X
– Let’s interview some guys we kind of want
– Oh, and find some minority guy to interview too
– Interview Manager X
– Boy, he’s good, and his contract demands were quite reasonable, let’s hire him
– Oh yeah, send the mail boy out to interview those other three guys

It’s like the way the Mariners pursued players last year, and it means that someone other than Manager X has, as Manuel observes, pretty much blow them away with a song-and-dance routine that convinces the team that they were all wrong from the start. Once a team, or anyone, has made a decision, it’s extremely hard to talk them out of it. Sometimes the decision leaks before they’re through with the process, which makes it even more of a farce.

I’m against interfering with the hiring process of anyone in general, but there’s a change baseball can make here. Teams should submit a list of candidates they intend to interview to MLB, and MLB should return the list in random order. It’s lame, but it’s potentially a huge difference. If Manager X doesn’t go first, the interviews to those who go before him will open up their strengths and weaknesses for consideration. Instead of every other candidate being interviewed as not-Manager X, who already confirmed he was a dreamboat, the situation may be reversed. Manager X will face a much different interview, even if they’re still high on him. Hopefully, teams will think “We still like this guy a lot, but both the first guy had a great background working with pitchers, which we need, and the second guy’s done a lot of good work rebuilding, like we’re doing…” Manager X has to really interview for the job against the strengths of the other candidates, and maybe with the cartoon hearts out of their eyes, teams will make different decisions.

And once they’ve had honest discussions with the other candidates, those other canidates will be given more consideration for coaching opportunities or managerial positions elsewhere in the organization, which then helps them expand their experience, and changes the candidate pool for the better.


18 Responses to “Managerial hiring”

  1. David J Corcoran on November 14th, 2004 5:24 pm


  2. tvwxman on November 14th, 2004 5:32 pm

    Does anyone know the percentage of minority coaches currently in the minor/major leagues, and the difference over, say, the past 10 years?

    I ask this because we seem to be having a similar conversation that football went through 15 years ago. Unfortunately, the old boys club still lives and breathes in football and baseball. And just like football is starting to do, time is basically the only cure for this problem. Most coaches have to start off small, and work their way up to the big name coaching positions. And that takes time — decades, in some instances. Of course, that doesn’t seem to apply if you’re a catcher, but again, how many minority catchers were around in the 80s and early 90s?

  3. Will on November 14th, 2004 6:59 pm

    I don’t agree with this post at all. Why does the race of upper level management or managers matter at all? The canidate pool for managers should be based entirely on the ability of that manager to lead a team. I’m shocked that you, DMZ, a man who loves to use numbers and many times very complex statistical analysis to value a player or a manager or whatever would resort to valuing the right that any managerial canidate has to be interviewed by the color of his skin. Isn’t this a huge contradiction? Canidates should be judged entirely on their past performance and probability of future performance. I am not just spouting the latest anti-affirmative bullsh#t rhetoric. I have read this website nearly everyday for a year now and the one major theme that runs throughout it is, LOOK AT THE NUMBERS!!!! LOOK AT THE NUMBERS!!! Analyze a player based on his stats OPS, OBP whatever. Now you think baseball should look at managerial candidates based on skin color. How shallow and rascist, my friend.
    I’d also like to point out that I think that minority managers and players overrepresent their respective races compared to the baseball fan base. Of course, I don’t have statistics, but very few blacks seem to follow baseball nowadays. It seems more like a White and Hispanic sport.

  4. Jon Wells on November 14th, 2004 7:07 pm

    In theory that might work, but in practice, I’m not so sure. The problem is that there’s typically other teams also looking to hire a new manager (unless it’s an in-season fire and hire). If Manager X is such a hotshot property, other teams with a vacancy may want to talk to him too. A delay in getting to talk to Manager X might well result in another team getting in on Manager X and either hiring him or making it more difficult (and possibly more costly) for you to hire him.

    I liked the way Seattle went about their managerial search this off-season. They conducted a pretty quick search and hired Hargrove before other teams hired their new manager. Hargrove was mentioned in the Philadelphia media as a possibility for the Phillies job before the M’s hired him and it’s very possible he’d have been interviewed there or in AZ or NY. But the M’s were decisive on this, acted quickly and got their man — before he could talk to other clubs.

    Bottom line is I think that of the four teams hiring new managers this off-season, I believe Seattle came out with the best one. I would not have been as pleased if we’d hired Charlie Manuel, Willie Randolph, Wally Backman (or his successor in AZ…)

    I’ts too bad that Jerry Manuel he feels he didn’t get a fair shake. He was a terrible manager with the White Sox and I was stunned he lasted six full seasons there. What the NYT article means to me is that we can rule Manuel out for one of the M’s open coaching positions that he had been mentioned as a top candidate for.

  5. DMZ on November 14th, 2004 7:10 pm

    Now you think baseball should look at managerial candidates based on skin color. How shallow and rascist, my friend.

    I’m not your friend.

    As for the rest of your post, I think it does as good a job refuting itself as I could.

  6. Chris Begley on November 14th, 2004 7:12 pm

    Peter King has gone ove rthis quite extensively, talking about football, and he always contends that it is ALWAYS a good idea to go on the interviews, because the people doing the hiring are in the Old Boys network. Say a team has settled, more or less, on Manager X, and candidate Y does well on his interview. Well, Y might not get the job, but when someone else is looking for a manager, the team that hired X might say – you should go look at Y. (wow this is like an algebra equation)

  7. John on November 14th, 2004 7:25 pm

    Re: 11/14/2004 @ 6:59 pm

    “The canidate pool for managers should be based entirely on the ability of that manager to lead a team.”

    And how do you know their ability if they are never given the chance?

    “Canidates should be judged entirely on their past performance and probability of future performance.”

    Do you see the problem yet? DMZ was being polite to you, but I think you may not see it on your own…

    Your entire rant was based on paste experience… if one can’t get the past experience… you see where this is going?

    “Now you think baseball should look at managerial candidates based on skin color. How shallow and rascist, my friend.”

    1 – I think you severly misread his post.

    2 – The ad hominems and the labels are really not needed. And wildly inaccurate.

    “I’d also like to point out that I think that minority managers and players overrepresent their respective races compared to the baseball fan base”

    Even assuming this is valid… what’s the point? THe fan base is the litmus test? How do you consider that a more valid test than the make-up of the players?

    The point isn’t about representation of people watching the game… it’s about representing the people that management is leading.

    Can you see how it’s a bad image to project that minorities are good enough to play baseball, but they need to be led by a white guy?

    Look, there are many reasons that it’s the way it is, it does not mean, in any way that all of these teams are racist. (your post seems to be the only one using that label).

    But the system perpetuates itself, and it will not self-correct any time soon.

    You can do things to help the situation without blatant quotas. But to balk at even the smallest measures with cries of reverse racism is just silly.

  8. DMZ on November 14th, 2004 7:26 pm

    That’s a entirely reasonable conclusion, but part of the problem is that we’ve seen that it tends to be an extremely limited set of canidates that are given token interviews. If that set of candidates contains some bad ones, and it does — I wouldn’t hire Don Baylor to manage a bake sale — then that interview opportunity is denied other interesting candidates.

  9. Steve on November 14th, 2004 7:37 pm

    I think the familiarity factor continues to play a big roll. It starts when a players career ends. A scrappy white guy (think Willie Bloomquist) is more likely to be offered an organizational position, whereas his scrappy non-white counterpart is more likely to be sent home. The screening occurs at the entry level. The legacy appears now at the managerial level.

  10. tvwxman on November 14th, 2004 7:41 pm

    re #8:

    I think that’s exactly the problem. It seems to me this rule is the classic example of unintended consequences. When a team is making a managerial hire, and they have a pool of, say, 3 or 4 that they really really want, they’ll go ahead and interview Manuel or Baylor or Randolph, even if they aren’t on the list. Instead of opening the candidate pool, it’s actually shrinking it in a way.

    The only way to increase minority participation in baseball (or football) is to start from the bottom and go up. Give minority managers a chance to move up the ranks in the minors or as assistants, and time will eventually work its magic. Is it the ideal solution? No, but it’s probably the only feasable one.

  11. Will on November 14th, 2004 8:11 pm

    Okay, I obviously shouldn’t have used the word racist to descirbe DMZ. How would I know that? I am evidently NOT his friend. I realize that my post doesn’t do a very good job of saying what I wanted to and I have disgraced myself and will never post again-to all of your liking, I’m sure.

    Finally, to load another brilliant comment on you: 7 out of the 30 MLB teams currently have minority mangers. That’s 23.3%. That doesn’t seem to me to be a major disparity.

  12. tyler on November 14th, 2004 9:52 pm


    Your initial comment was certainly… inflammatory. I’m willing to move past that though, and go comment on two seperate points that you make, valid or not. The only way to alter skewed world-views is through communication. (Or really really big guns, but I don’t have any of those.)

    You have to admit that it is curious that, a Bob Melvin gets rehired shortly after getting fired for losing 99 games, and yet say Cito Gaston, who has won a World Series, isn’t even seriously interviewed anywhere. Oh, and wasn’t Melvin was basically hired twice before Willie Randolph was once. And yet, Randolph is a member of “brilliant” Joe Torre’s staff. And if Randolph loses 99 games, will he get quickly rehired next year? Will he even get interviewed?

    Just a thought to ponder racially.

    As far past performance, think about this:

    People hire those who they know or those who are known is not a surprise. People fear the unknown. In my last (failed) job interview for a head coaching position, I was going up against a guy who was roughly 60-20 or so as a head coach. I have no (head) coaching experience.

    Admittedly he has a pretty good record, but does that record reflect his ability to coach or the talent that he had? Now, let’s just say his record was 20-60. Does that make a difference? Perhaps. But, they know that he has an established record as a head coach. Good or Bad. They know I didn’t.

    The potential for growth is something most teams don’t want to take a chance on. They would rather have “safe” average than a chance for improvement that could start poorly. Therefore they hire the “known commodity” and not someone w/o prior experience but a potentially higher ceiling.

    And whether you chose to admit it or not, there are not that many minority candidates who have “past experience” because there haven’t been that many minorities hired. And those that win get to stay, further reducing the rehire pool’s legitimate minority candidates.

    just thoughts to ponder, my friends.

  13. Jason on November 15th, 2004 8:09 am

    I’m not sure your “Submit list to MLB to be randomized” idea would change anything. You still go in thinking “I want to hire Manager X, so these other interviews are just going through the motions until we can interview him.” That’s no different than now if, say, you interview your internal candidates before you get to the Manager X interview. Did I maybe miss something in your idea?

  14. Jordan on November 15th, 2004 12:00 pm

    Personally I think that interfering with the hiring of team personnel is short-sighted.

    If teams are truly being partial to majority candidates or are not giving minority candidates the experience they deserve, then what is being created is an inefficiency in the market, waiting for some team to exploit.

    Teams’ number one priority when hiring is to make the hire that has the highest reward for their team. If there is any unnecssary bias in their decision making (towards race or experience or whatever criteria), then sooner or later some team will take advantage of this misevaluation.

    Eventually teams will better understand what makes a good managerial hire and make that hire.

    Thus there is no need for such legislation. Progress may be slow, but obviously there is some turnover in the market as managers do retire, which forces teams to eventually open up the job pool. Part of the reason the turnover is so slow is that there is only one major league consisting of only 30 teams, and that makes it difficult for more than a small group to gain any modest amount of experience in managing. Teams naturally feel safer hiring a candidate with experience.

    What I expect to happen is a bottom-up gradual change with regards to race and ethnicity in managers. Perhaps right now there are more candidates that are of a minority status at the lower levels than at the higher levels. I’m not too sure.

    Another thing I expect to see is high quality candidates coming from other countries much like players. You might see an Ichiro of sorts who has managed with success in the Japanese leagues come to the majors or a Cuban defectee. Obviously they would have to understand and speak English, but it still could happen.

    Bottom line: Plans that attempt to change the makeup of the managers that get hired will ultimately fail because their focus does not match the team’s focus (to hire the best possible candidate), or they attempt to force this point, which ultimately does not succeed.

    Teams may not always hire the optimal candidate, but because of competition, the trend of hiring managerial candidates will continually tend to optimize over time.

  15. tvwxman on November 15th, 2004 2:04 pm

    Jordan — You just wrote exactly what I was thinking, just much more eloquently.

    I think you’ll see this deficiency if you pay attention to Mississippi State and the rest of the SEC over the next 5 years. Sylvester Croom is the first African-American coach in the history of the conference, and he’s also well-qualified to do so. Alabama will regret passing him over in the long run.

  16. Bela Txadux on November 16th, 2004 3:21 am

    Boy, this is a loaded topic, but I think it’s one that any baseball fan genuinely interested in the game and in performance has to take a position on, and to keep their eye on year in and year out, absolutely.

    *Sigh* Minority preference interview-and-hiring mandates never work well, so much is patent. But sometimes a situation is so egregious that they are necessary, if only to break the ice, and get some folks to actually, seriously talk to some guys (and gals) they wouldn’t have paid any attention to whatsoever otherwise. Baseball management positions is one of those intstances. I think that Selig’s mandate was necessary. I think it’s one of the best things he has done in his tenure. And I do think that it is working. But these things never work _well_; they never work decisively; they never, ever work quickly. Willie Randolph just got hired. Now, it’s easy to brush that off as either desperation or a gesture. But consider how many guys have been hired as managers since Willie started interviewing. I have no real take on how good a manager Randolph will be; probably middle of the pack at best, but he could be a good man-manager and buy himself some time to get good at other things in his new job. But I am quite certain that Randolph is at least as good a _candidate_ in the way that baseball currently looks at candidate-managers as many, many people who have been hired since he started. Randolph is a _better_ candidate than at least a dozen guys who were hired during that time; you pick your list, but it’s easy to do. —But nobody would take the move. Without the mandate, they wouldn’t have bothered with the interview, either. Many guys of color don’t want to put themselves through what Willie had to do to get the chance that should have come five years earlier, but the next comparable guy will get hired in four years of trying, or three. Because Willie is _not_ so outstanding, he’s only just as good as the other guys. Outstanding guys like Robinson and Dusty Baker have gotten the nod, but the key is for a guy who is good enough to get real consideration, just like innumerable non-minority guys who are ‘good enough’ get a chance.

    Selig had MLB give the Montreal job to Robinson. I’m not saying that the results were excellent, but it was an excruciating and thankless job, and you know what: Frank did at least half decent, better really than in either of his other stints as a manager. Some of the guys in MLBs offices like Bob Watson are going to get interviews for FO jobs that they would not otherwise have gotten, and some of them are likely to get hired for GM jobs, or GM track jobs. Take a look at a guy like Arte Moreno [spelling?] down in SoCal: believe me, he understands the issue, and don’t be surprised when he hires and promotes Hispanics to management positions. Things like this work slowly, but first you have to break the ice, make a move, give a guy a chance so that you see he’s got pretty much what everybody else has got. That is the virtue of Selig’s approach. If a guy like Hicks in Texas ‘doesn’t get it,’ and keeps hiring Old Pale Males, then that’s what he gets, but the world will turn an eighth of a spend everytime another Omar Minaya gets the hire. And for that to happen, someone has to get out there and push.

    Hiring minorities in the low minors won’t do it, Dave: there’s a glass ceiling for minor league managers now, and many qualified non-minority guys aren’t crossing that barrier anymore either. Rohn in Tacoma is the perfect example. Somebody telling me he’s not a better candidate _on performance_ than Charlie Manuel, BoMel, and Wally Backman? How many interviews did he get? That’s right, and that’s all he’ll get until he has a major league coaching position for a couple of years, since that is now effectively essential to the hire. Oh, Cleveland hired out of the minors—but so did Arizona, and that was a catastrophe, and the kind of thing that makes everyone think, I’m only hiring a guy vetted at the ML level for several years. And think about it: minorities have been getting a solid share of _coaching_ hires for a dozen years and more, but their shares of managerial and FO hires have remained frozen, or at least had until this year.

    No mandate will solve this issue, and you cannot make people fill key organizational hires with people they don’t want in those roles, so no complicated interviewing mandate will improve anything; it will only make the process longer, and probably increase resentment. What it takes is rubbing shoulders with people you wouldn’t otherwise, raising the profile of guys outside of ones normal ‘acceptable’ pool (like non-whites), and getting people to do more than token interviews to individuals who get a bit of a name for themselves. I can’t see any other way, myself, and the only other thing I can say is, You guys on the outside looking in, just keep on going for it. Each year it’ll be a little more there for you. It’s not fair, but it is what it is, so just keep after it: nobody’s promised anything—but that works for _you_ in its way, too. : )

  17. msb on November 16th, 2004 12:11 pm

    Having finally gotten to read Manuel’s comments, that he felt the lunch interview wasn’t a ‘real’ interview– have we heard that any of the other gentlemen had more than that, as a beginning step? Didn’t Bavasi say before the process began that unlike last time when management held day-long interviews that he planned to do most of the process before he talked to any one, as he didn’t feel you got a true read out of an interview?

  18. msb on November 16th, 2004 12:48 pm

    #17. and I see Dave Andriesen said pretty much the same thing this morning. oh, well.