With the All-Star Game approaching, we obviously have entered that silliest of seasons when major league teams start unceremoniously whacking the manager as an ostensible means of jump-starting their particular moribund and presumably under-performing ball club.
I’ve been annoyed by this ridiculous kabuki dance since long before I was old enough to articulate my dismay. There no doubt are times when offing the skipper is something that is required by circumstances, but I’d venture to say that only the tiniest of percentages of the annual firings would fall under that legitimate category.
I guess what riles me most is all of the group participation that goes on to support this. Agitated readers froth in letters to the editor – or more precisely nowadays in online venues, and the ham sandwich brigade of sportswriters fulminate right along with them, everyone alternately retching and mewling about how the skipper can’t perform even the most rudimentary of tactical maneuvers.
And so the manager gets fired and a new guy brought in and the cliches and platitudes get rolled out once again the same way your Uncle Ned and Aunt Louise go to the attic every year in early December and rustle up all the Christmas crap for the holiday season. The analogy is sound as far as it goes, but it could be noted that gathering up the ornaments and such is a more useful – even rational – undertaking than firing your baseball team’s manager is.
Hardly anyone ever seems to bother to point out that all the swell things the GM is saying about the new guy are almost word-for-word what he said three years ago about the poor sap about to be kicked in the rump.
Ultimately, I think the process is demeaning and embarrassing for everyone involved. If indeed the manager has turned out to be something less than originally advertised – it happens – then shouldn’t the guy who hired him get spanked in some fashion as well? That guy is getting paid to make those kinds of decisions.
The merry-go-round approach to managerial hiring diminishes the genuine accomplishments of some of the truly great managers who somehow avoid the silliness for longer periods than the rest of the mere mortals.
So the club is 18 games under .500 as the Home Run Derby festivities get underway, the manager gets dumped two days after the All-Star Game and the club suddenly responds by winning 11 of the next 14 games. Whoopee.
In a game so exquisitely constructed to reward the application of long-term, sustained consistency and often excellence, firing the manager for shabby public relations reasons becomes the MLB equivalent of trying to teach a pig to dance.
It doesn’t work and it supremely annoys the pig. And me, too.