Tuesday, October 23, 2007
John Rolfe of Sports Illustrated has a fun article up on major league managers. His thesis is basically Old School Managers are a) fat or b) crazy or c) both. It's well worth reading it just to see Eric Wedge's sour puss. That picture is probably what he looks like right now after that terrible ALCS.
I like fat, crazy managers who keep baseball interesting. Sadly you also have to have actually played professional baseball to make it as a manager today, otherwise George Steinbrenner would already be interviewing me. There aren't quite as many real lunatics managing today as there used to be, but baseball is much better off than the other sports. NFL coaches are so shackled by corporate policy, they need a permission slip from their mothers just to wear a suit on the sideline instead of this year's official team sweatshirt available at NFL.com. NHL coaches exist solely to be fired during a losing streak to scare the players into winning a game. Basketball at least has its share of screwballs, from Zen Master Phil to Chair Throwing Bobby. Basketball coaches can dress how they want to, Reggie Theus can look slick in his tailored suits and Rick Majerus can wear his huge sweaters. (speaking of coaches, I stumbled upon this while googling for Majerus and it's genius.) Baseball managers and coaches have to wear a uniform which is one reason why fat managers are awesome. It's great seeing some guy fat as me leading a ballclub or coaching third wearing the same uniform as the players on the field. It's not the jersey, big guys wear throwback jerseys all the time without looking too bad, it's the pants. Fatsos can't get away with wearing those tight knit pants without looking like Carl from Aqua Team Hunger Force.
Many people see them as fillers, but I like manager cards. I collect Braves team sets, and the manager card ties a set together whether it's Bobby Cox or Bobby Wine. It's also fun to see old players you once watched pop up in a new set when they get hired by a team to manage. Everyone who collected in the 80's has a bunch of Don Mattingly cards, now there's a chance you might get a new one in 2008 Topps. There are plenty of great manager cards in vintage sets too. Original Ted Williams cards are expensive as hell, but they are practically giving away his Washington Senator manager cards . There is a pretty steady stream of Frank Robinson cards going back from the 50's to the present day due to his regular managing gigs. Not just hall of famers either, there are plenty of minor stars and fringe players who can be found as managers in old cards. That Del Crandall manager card I pulled in 1984 and didn't pay much attention to became a little more interesting once I started collecting Braves cards from the 50's. One day Ozzie Guillen is starring for the Sox, the next he's managing them to a title and more importantly blowing up in the media about once a week.
It works the other way as well, old cards relegated to the common bin get new life if their subject goes on to become a decent manager. The rookie card of a relief pitcher with a lifetime 0-4 record and a 6.48 ERA should be a dead common, but when it's Tommy Lasorda's rookie, it sells for a hundred bucks. Sure, he was an all-star, but would Billy Martin cards be so sought after had he not gone 5 rounds with Steinbrenner? This year's World Series features a couple of managers who are well represented in sets from the 80's.
One thing I wish would make a comeback are coaching cards. There are tons of great players on coaching staffs all around the majors that would make for great cards. I'd love to pull a Glenn Hubbard or Rusty Kuntz from a new pack. I know it's not feasible to add another 3-4 cards per team to sets already squeezed for space, so just put them on a multi-player card with floating heads or squished like ants and tacked onto the manager card. Another 30 cards added to the Topps set would put them that much closer to getting back to a 792 card set which is how it should be anyway. Without coach cards, we would never have had this work of beauty:
Bob Gibson in a Braves uni. Awwww man that looks good. Put him on the '69 staff and no one would be talking about any stupid Miracle Mets now would they.