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Thursday, October 06, 2022

Inside the MLB Culture Wars That Led to Joe Maddon’s Firing

The divide between old and new, manager and front office, data and art, Maddon and Minasian, reached a boiling point on May 9. The Angels had just scored five runs in the seventh inning against the Rays to turn a 6–3 lead into an 11–3 blowout. Ohtani hit a grand slam. The dugout was lively. Suddenly, head athletic trainer Mike Frostad walked up to Maddon at his usual perch on the top step of the dugout and said, “Perry just called down. He said get Trout out of the game.”

Earlier in the day Trout had complained about a bit of soreness in his groin. But later he told Maddon that the soreness dissipated, and he was fine.

To Maddon, Minasian broke a sacred code. The GM had called the dugout during a game to dictate strategy to the manager—a proven, veteran manager at that. To Minasian, he simply was deploying the power given to this generation of executives. Nothing was sacred. Nothing was out of bounds.

The next day Maddon blew up at Minasian in Maddon’s office. “Listen, don’t you ever f———call down to the dugout again!” Maddon said.

Twenty-six days later, he was gone. When Minasian fired him, Maddon offered him advice. He suggested that Minasian not bring Tamin on road trips. He did not tell Minasian to leave the coaches’ room to the coaches. “I was going to text him the next day to bring it up, but I chose not to,” Maddon says. “It was over.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 06, 2022 at 10:08 PM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, joe maddon

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   1. sotapop Posted: October 07, 2022 at 10:31 AM (#6099526)
Breathlessly overwritten and propped up by the tiresome data wonks vs. baseball men straw man argument, but beneath all that there's a lot of good detail about the GM level's seepage into daily clubhouse and dugout routines. While it's based on Maddon's book and is clearly sympathetic to him, the purely factual stuff reflects poorly on Minasian. (Granted, not all facts in evidence, either.)

I don't follow the Angels, but looks like they were roughly 27-30 (.474) at the time of the firing and they finished 74-88, so they went 47-58 (.448) afterward. FWIW.
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 07, 2022 at 10:37 AM (#6099527)
Maddon was also put off by some of the copycat processes implemented by Minasian. A certain intramural competition exists among baseball front offices, a kind of Silicon Valley cutting-edge war as to who can hire the smartest experts and install the latest technology, whether it’s $15,000 whole-body-vibration “power plates” for training or $24,000 air and surface purifiers that convert ambient oxygen and humidity into dry hydrogen peroxide to reduce the presence of microbes. Last season the Giants plowed new ground by employing 13 coaches—one for every two players—including three hitting coaches and three pitching coaches. That number does not include their “breathing coach.”

The Giants, Dodgers and Braves especially served as references for Minasian and his front office staff. In 2022 the GM instituted daily meetings with players, primarily the hitters, rather than just the traditional first-game-of-a-series meeting. “I just think it’s way too over the top,” Maddon says. “[Minasian] kept reminding me, ‘The Braves did it. The Braves did it.’ Fine. A lot of things were related to ‘We did it this way with the Braves,’ or ‘This is how the Giants did it.’ We were all over trying to do things like somebody else.”


I feel like a few teams are like this. Putting an analytics sticker on the car without really understanding what's under the hood so they can say they are keeping up with the Joneses.
   3. Starring Bradley Scotchman as RMc Posted: October 07, 2022 at 11:06 AM (#6099536)
Eventually, teams will hire so many coaches they'll have no money left over to pay the players!
   4. The Duke Posted: October 07, 2022 at 11:29 AM (#6099549)
I found this very interesting, if one-sided. There's a whole story that hasn't been written by any writer on where the dividing line on decision-making is. Cardinal fans are obsessing about the choice of starting pitchers for the playoffs and discussing what "oli is thinking". I don't think the manager does any of this anymore. I think their job is to provide color to the front office and then the front office makes the call.

In this article you have indications that the front office is dictating bullpen usage and player substitutions. It's my theory the managers are making almost no in-game decisions anymore and that the GM's office is in the clubhouse/dugout (either in person or electronically ) making most of the calls.

The deliberate use of "philosophical differences" is Maddons way of saying that Shildt was fired for the same set of reasons.

   5. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 07, 2022 at 12:06 PM (#6099564)
in this article you have indications that the front office is dictating bullpen usage and player substitutions. It's my theory the managers are making almost no in-game decisions anymore


I was criticized in an earlier thread for saying exactly this - that managers aren't making any of these decisions anymore. I would think the manager as a powerless figurehead is going to become less than useless - someone who has no power is not going to be respected by the players, and at some point that is actually going to be counterproductive. It may be getting to the point where the manager's job is like that of Sigourney Weaver in Galaxy Quest, where she just repeats what the computer says to the captain, with the memorable line "Look, I have one job on this lousy ship. It's stupid, but I'm going to do it, okay?".

Corporate America goes through these cycles where the middle-management layer explodes with a whole lot of specialists, vice-presidents of such-and-such, and then someone else comes in and says "I'm going to streamline operations" and gets rid of all that stuff. When the attendance collapse really starts to take hold, one is going to see that in baseball too. Then I would bet that some team like the Athletics will just have the GM sit in the dugout, like he/she really should if they are making all the decisions.
   6. sanny manguillen Posted: October 07, 2022 at 12:09 PM (#6099567)
If you go to Pirate fan sites, there's real contempt for Derek Shelton's player usage. I don't see any sign that he has any input into who plays where, or how much.
   7. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 07, 2022 at 12:26 PM (#6099570)
Late in the season Mike Matheny talked about "spreadsheets" they had to determine playing time for the young players but it kinda sounded like he wasn't the one putting them together.
   8. jmurph Posted: October 07, 2022 at 12:27 PM (#6099571)
To me the obvious tension is that the culture of baseball is such that the players seem to mostly demand a former high level player as their manager when it in fact doesn't make any sense for ownership/management to limit the delegation of their decision-making powers strictly to a pool of former high level players. The NBA and NFL have all kinds of very successful coaches who didn't play in either league, and it doesn't seem to be a problem (the NBA also has a lot of ex-players who are successful coaches, my point is it's not as limited).

So baseball teams respond by filling the seat with an ex-player but not actually giving him all of the decision-making authority, and a lot of people seem to dislike this arrangement.
   9. Infinite Yost (Voxter) Posted: October 07, 2022 at 01:19 PM (#6099582)
I feel like a few teams are like this. Putting an analytics sticker on the car without really understanding what's under the hood so they can say they are keeping up with the Joneses.


It's funny, I came away with a different thought: if you're going to emulate anybody, it might as well be the Dodgers and the Braves.
   10. cardsfanboy Posted: October 07, 2022 at 01:33 PM (#6099588)
The managers are making in game decisions still, even Oli. The difference is that most of the decisions to be made are made before the game started and the manager is expected to follow the game plan, unless there is a reason not to.

I find it hard to believe that if a GM was dictating lineup construction, that anybody would have a lineup with Harrison Bader batting directly behind Molina. If so, then the Cardinals need to fire their analytic crew because that is basically blocking one of the few offensive tools Bader brings to the table.

Shildt got fired because he was given a game plan and would choose to ignore it, over and over, especially when it came to bullpen usage. Managers get final say on lineup construction, but the front office has a heavy hand in determining it, but considering the aches and pains of a long season, the manager gets to decide the final lineup because he's in the room with the players. Managers still control which pitch to throw during the game, again the front office produces the scouting reports and give them the data to use for that selection. Same with tactics etc. Managers are going to have to deviate from the written plan all the time, but if they want to keep their job, they need to justify that deviation and show that they understand what the reports they are being given mean and how to use them.


Oli is probably one of the first of the new wave of managers, those who do have limited decision making capability, but he won't be the last. But they still have to earn the clubhouse respect, they have to still be managers, they just don't have to carry the entire load any more.
   11. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: October 07, 2022 at 01:46 PM (#6099593)
Suddenly, head athletic trainer Mike Frostad walked up to Maddon at his usual perch on the top step of the dugout and said, “Perry just called down. He said get Trout out of the game.”

Earlier in the day Trout had complained about a bit of soreness in his groin. But later he told Maddon that the soreness dissipated, and he was fine.

To Maddon, Minasian broke a sacred code.
thank maddon, the miami dolphins didn't have anyone in their organization who could have considered doing this for tua.



the villain in this anecdote is frostad, imo. if he thought removing trout was a good idea, he should have endorsed it himself when he talked to madden; if he didn't, then he should have said as much to "perry" and hashed out the difference before going to maddin.
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: October 07, 2022 at 01:57 PM (#6099597)
not sure why the trainer would be the bad guy, he's probably the only person that was inside to receive the phone call, no electronic devices are allowed in the dugout, so if the gm wanted to talk to someone he would have to call inside the locker room, the trainer is probably one guy that might actually be in there, or at least the senior person.
   13. Walt Davis Posted: October 07, 2022 at 02:08 PM (#6099601)
Of course (from the excerpt), Minasian was right and was just telling Joe something he should have already have thought of or his bench coach should have reminded him of. If I was Maddon I'd have been more upset that Minasian thought I needed reminding of something so obvious ... but then with a 9-2 lead in game 6, Maddon forgot to get a reliever warmed up and Chapman had to go out there to start a 3rd inning of relief.

Still, agree. Unless Maddon had previously ignored pre-game decisions on stuff like this, there's no need to call down to the dugout until it becomes clear Maddon has left Trout in the game.
   14. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: October 07, 2022 at 02:11 PM (#6099603)
not sure why the trainer would be the bad guy, he's probably the only person that was inside to receive the phone call, no electronic devices are allowed in the dugout, so if the gm wanted to talk to someone he would have to call inside the locker room, the trainer is probably one guy that might actually be in there, or at least the senior person.


option A:
“Perry just called down. He said get Trout out of the game.”

option B:
“Perry just called down. He thinks we should get Trout out of the game, and I agree.”
   15. The Duke Posted: October 07, 2022 at 02:56 PM (#6099631)
10. You wire as if you know what's going on. Unless you are Mo himself, I doubt you have any idea what role Oli plays. That's one of the big open questions here is what decisions is the manager being allowed to make.

I'm biased to believe they make lots of decisions because that's how it's always been done but it's become clearer to me that the front office

1. Builds the lineup (with manager input)
2. Decides the rotation
3. Makes all the calls on 26 man roster (this wasn't always true )
4. Determines which relievers are eligible to play today

Does the front office decide timing of pitching changes, pinch hitting assignments, specific bullpen changes - these are really the only things left (correct me if I am wrong )? I'm beginning to think they are giving the manager specific matchups they want them to utlilize but leaving some discretion to the manager. It's not that hard to game out the 100+ likely scenarios that might happen and fife the bench coach a card for his back pocket so he can inform the manager what the GM wants.

If this is all a manager is doing, then I'm not sure players need to respect the manager that much. In this situation you need to find a way to get your GM/analytics team on board with your capabilities and health. Coaches do some of that but I'd be trying to open a line to them myself. It's no different than a business. If you know your manager just executes decisions made by someone else, your immediate response is "how do I get in front of the real decision-maker" as much as possible while not turning off your direct manager.

   16. cardsfanboy Posted: October 07, 2022 at 03:23 PM (#6099649)
2. Decides the rotation


That part is obvious, Mo has said as much, they plan the rotation 3 weeks out, and have meetings to make adjustments.

3. Makes all the calls on 26 man roster (this wasn't always true )

Maybe not, but even in Moneyball the movie, Beane made those decisions.

1. Builds the lineup (with manager input)


Agree mostly, I think the batting order is still left ultimately to the manager, but days off and player availability are all determined in advance with the front office input, with day of game scratches being left to the manager. I remember one time there was a late scratch and one of the MVP was supposed to have a day off, and ended up playing, but was pulled early and Oli had to tell the press it was a planned day off.


Does the front office decide timing of pitching changes, pinch hitting assignments, specific bullpen changes - these are really the only things left (correct me if I am wrong )? I'm beginning to think they are giving the manager specific matchups they want them to utlilize but leaving some discretion to the manager. It's not that hard to game out the 100+ likely scenarios that might happen and fife the bench coach a card for his back pocket so he can inform the manager what the GM wants.


As a reminder there isn't really a great way for the front office to communicate without violating the rules of mlb, so you imagine that the manager has control over this, they probably have a weekly or so discussion where they go over certain decisions etc. The issue with Shildt was that he wasn't listening to the front office suggestions frequently enough.
   17. The Gary DiSarcina Fan Club (JAHV) Posted: October 07, 2022 at 03:24 PM (#6099650)
It's funny, I came away with a different thought: if you're going to emulate anybody, it might as well be the Dodgers and the Braves


I have no problem with the Angels taking that approach. But Royals made a good analogy to a car in comment #2 above and that's true - without the player development and scouting departments that those organizations have, using analytics to dictate game management is simply putting a nice paint job on a clunker.

I don't know whose side I ultimately fall on - I appreciate Maddon's position and I don't really want to see the manager reduced to a robot, but Maddon can also be somewhat overwrought in his opinions and actions. I also like using data to inform decisions, but I feel like the way Minasian implemented it is a bit too intrusive. Ultimately, it's just another example of the Angels' dysfunction.
   18. The Duke Posted: October 07, 2022 at 03:30 PM (#6099652)
16. I doubt the manager has control of batting order - why would they ? It's a pre - game exercise. I'm betting that all front office

I know the front office isn't supposed to communicate but the story above says they do - it's just on a relay system - I bet this happens all the time
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: October 07, 2022 at 04:09 PM (#6099667)
16. I doubt the manager has control of batting order - why would they ? It's a pre - game exercise. I'm betting that all front office


I agree in theory, but considering the moronic lineup construction that the Cardinals have had under both Shildt and Oli, you have to assume it's not the front office dictating, if so, they need to fire their analytics guy, because he's a ####### idiot. Anytime Molina is batting 6th or above, is a clear indication that they aren't following any analytical system, and of course having Bader bat directly behind Molina shows a clear lack of understanding how baseball works.

I'm a fan of the TLR second leadoff guy batting ninth, so I'm fine with Bader there, but they often had him batting 7th with Molina batting 6th, and that is stupid on so many different levels.
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: October 07, 2022 at 06:00 PM (#6099782)
option B:
“Perry just called down. He thinks we should get Trout out of the game, and I agree.”


That's the option the trainer should've taken.

It's not as if the game was close, for Christ's sake. Take him out and examine him more thoroughly before the next game.
   21. McCoy Posted: October 07, 2022 at 08:45 PM (#6099810)
It's virtually never a good idea to go up to your boss and tell him what he can and can't do. And it's definitely never a good idea to communicate that while shouting and cursing.
   22. cHiEf iMpaCt oFfiCEr JE Posted: October 07, 2022 at 09:16 PM (#6099817)
option A:
“Perry just called down. He said get Trout out of the game.”

option B:
“Perry just called down. He thinks we should get Trout out of the game, and I agree.”
Let's not be too tough on Minasian. Don't forget this is a passage written by Maddon months after this incident took place. It's also a pretty good guess Maddon was too busy keeping tabs on his players on the diamond to take contemporaneous notes.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: October 07, 2022 at 09:56 PM (#6099835)
No one likes micro-managing. You tell people what needs to be done, if you dictate exactly how they need to do it, that will always breed resentment.
   24. sunday silence (again) Posted: October 08, 2022 at 09:24 AM (#6099857)
what about stealing, defensive alignments, pitch selection. Are these called by the manager?
   25. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: October 08, 2022 at 02:46 PM (#6099901)
Let's not be too tough on Minasian. Don't forget this is a passage written by Maddon months after this incident took place. It's also a pretty good guess Maddon was too busy keeping tabs on his players on the diamond to take contemporaneous notes.

it's not about the wording itself; it's about the intentions conveyed and the intentions received. maddon clearly took it as an intrusive order, and i think it's fair to blame the middleman in this situation (frostad, the athletic trainer) for not softening the language in a way that would avoid maddon going full redass over a very common sense recommendation.

the fact that maddon is writing this months after it took place is even more damning, imo.
   26. 57i66135 is a hard word for me. Posted: October 08, 2022 at 02:55 PM (#6099905)
fwiw, the philadelphia eagles went through a similar situation.

when they hired doug pederson, they created management structure that was highly interconnected. it wasn't just the head coach and coordinators telling everyone else what to do; game plans were developed by position coaches, with significant input from the front office. there were a lot of people involved in both day to day management, and game day playcalling, and it worked. not only did they win the super bowl, they won the superbowl with their MVP-candidate starting QB sitting up in the press box.

over time (well, immediately after they won the super bowl), their coaching staff was raided by other organizations; the people they hired weren't as good as the ones they lost; and both the coach and the QB (who wasn't on the field) got huge egos and they both wound up revolting against the collaborative environment that won them a super bowl.

after a few years of living in their own personal centralia, the eagles fired pederson, traded wentz, and now, 18 months later, they've reinstituted that same collaborative management structure, and they're sitting at 5-0, as the only unbeaten team left in the NFL.
   27. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: October 08, 2022 at 03:30 PM (#6099919)
no electronic devices are allowed in the dugout
I used to think this, too. (And it was true, recently.) Watching the playoffs, though, the dugouts are filled with IPads or the like, emblazoned with the MLB logo.
   28. greenback needs a ride, not ammo Posted: October 08, 2022 at 05:16 PM (#6099938)
Anytime Molina is batting 6th or above, is a clear indication that they aren't following any analytical system, and of course having Bader bat directly behind Molina shows a clear lack of understanding how baseball works.

I'm pretty sure this was a respect-for-Molina thing, which shows a clear understanding of how Cardinals marketing works.
   29. The Duke Posted: October 09, 2022 at 01:03 PM (#6100132)
24.

1. Defensive alignments: those little cards in their pockets come from front office. The dugout moves guys around but I'm sure it's 95% based on analytic data. Infield in, halfway or back is likely a manager call
2. Stealing - good question. Likely pre-programmed as to who gets green and red lights. I'm guessing the players themselves pick their spots.
3. Pitch-calling-another good question. How long will it be before pitch com is controlled by front office and the catcher is listening, not typing ?
   30. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: October 09, 2022 at 02:06 PM (#6100146)
Anybody have a good sense as to who was the major league manager with the least amount of on-field baseball playing experience? (I don't mean like some short-term manager, but a guy who got hired, and/or had the job for a full year or more, etc.)

For example, is there a manager who never played beyond high school? Mike McDaniel is the coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, and was a wide receiver at Yale, pretty much jumping in is a low-level assistant in the NFL right after college (he was a ballboy as a kid for the Broncos). By age 39, he was a head coach, known as a highly-intelligent, data-driven, wonky coach. Is there somebody like that in baseball right now?
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: October 09, 2022 at 02:12 PM (#6100147)
Anybody have a good sense as to who was the major league manager with the least amount of on-field baseball playing experience?


The guy mentioned in this thread, Mike Schildt, topped out at college ball.
   32. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 09, 2022 at 02:23 PM (#6100151)
Anybody have a good sense as to who was the major league manager with the least amount of on-field baseball playing experience? (I don't mean like some short-term manager, but a guy who got hired, and/or had the job for a full year or more, etc.)


Jack McKeon and Ed Barrow come to mind.

edit: McKeon had a lengthy minor league career, so not him.
   33. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 09, 2022 at 02:25 PM (#6100152)
From his wiki article:

To date, Barrow is the only manager to win a World Series without previously playing in organized baseball, whether in the minors or majors.
   34. Misirlou cut his hair and moved to Rome Posted: October 09, 2022 at 02:33 PM (#6100153)
Dan Jennings managed the Marlins for 3/4 of a season and never played professionally.

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