Does it Take a Former MLB Player to be Successful as a Manager?

By Jessica Kleinschmidt

Those who cannot do, teach.

That saying is as old as time. For as long as baseball has been around, one of the things that has stayed constant is coaching. It may not be the style of coaching that has stayed the same, but since the beginning, a team has always needed a manager.

The question that surfaces is simple. Can you be a successful manager if you have never played professional baseball?”

The answer may not be as simple.

There have been many managers who have stepped foot on a Major League Baseball field as a skipper, but never as a player. Those skippers have also been among the most successful in their profession.

One such manager is Terry Collins of the New York Mets. It goes without saying that the young Mets are having an unexpectedly great campaign. Though, Collins himself is anything but young.

In his 11 year career, Collins has a 774-799 record (.492 winning percentage).

Joe Maddon of the Chicago Cubs is also a successful manager. The veteran has 12 years of experience in the Bigs, during which time his combined record is 806-749. While he never made it past Single-A ball as a player, anyone can see he has comfortably made himself known as a successful manager.

Former relief pitcher Bill Bray told me that he did not notice any difference between a coach who had prior experience and one who didn’t.

“I was with Frank Robinson when I was with the Nationals, Dusty Baker (with the Reds). And of course, Bryan Price was a minor league player.”

With Mike Redmond recently fired, I was curious to know Bray’s thoughts when he went through similar situations:

“Mike Redmond did not mesh well with the team,” Bray said. “The Marlins hadn’t been performing well. When you go out and spend that type of money, you tend to have higher expectations. I’m sure he will get other opportunities.”

Cody Decker, a utility player for the Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, also had some interesting comments to share regarding this:

“I have played for a good amount of managers,” says Decker. “Some with MLB experience, some without. I’m not sold that MLB experience is what will make a good manager. As long as he has played the game and can identify what his players are going through during their highs and lows.”

Decker Continued:

“At the AAA level, I’ve had two different managers in four years. One was a big league player, the other was not. I can say that my manager without big league time is the best manager I have ever played for. Being a manager is more about bringing the best out of your players, whether it’s how they’re used, or how the manager can inspire them. At the higher levels, it’s as much about handling personalities as much as it is handling in game decisions. Helping his players’ achieve being their best selves. I think the “big league time” comment is as much about ego than anything else.”

While the numbers could very well tell us something, the testimony from those who have experienced it first hand could tell us a lot more. At the end of the day, it’s safe to say your resume could get you the job. It’s what you do with your experience that helps you stay away from the unemployment line.

Photo: USA Today Sports