I don't post very often. I'd rather just read many of the well thought out and insightful posts of the rest of the BCB habitués. This season, however, has been enough to make even the most reclusive Cubs fan want to stand on a street corner and rave. As such, I have decided to add my two-cents worth to the mélange of analyses, flames, ravings, and thoughts about who's hot or who's not.
First, I'll establish my credentials. I am a military man. I retired from the U.S.A.F. after 24 years of active duty and I am currently a civilian employee of D.A.F. I put this forth as the foundation of my knowledge of leadership and management, which I feel is extensive and arguably makes me an expert, at least from a military point-of-view and I think these very principles will apply equally to a professional baseball club.
The biggest bone of contention this year is the performance and future of our fearless on-the-field leader, Dusty Baker. My thoughts on the matter are that from all apparent indications, Dusty must go. I'll temper that opinion slightly by emphasizing the phrase "from all apparent indications." We, except for those claiming the inside track (another subject for another time); only know what we are allowed to know through various media.
Consistency: The debate that rages over bringing in a disciplinarian versus a more subdued type is one that bears no merit whatsoever, either way you go. The most important trait a good leader can exhibit is consistency. The team needs to know where they stand and what to expect at all times, with no surprises. Even twenty-something millionaires with bad attitudes need consistency because whatever their views on respect are, they all hinge on knowing where they stand with the boss and whether or not their actions on and off the field fall within established rules and guidelines.
Respect: Respect is a two way street. There is respect inherent in a position, such as the manager of a baseball team, and there is earned respect. Look at the most successful managers today, guys like LaRussa and Cox currently, and in the past guys like Sparky Anderson, Whitey Herzog and Tommy Lasorda, just to name a few. They all have or had earned respect and, they appear to respect their players in return by being consistent in enforcing their rules and programs and working with them from a professional, not a buddy-buddy angle. When a player doesn't tow the line, they sit on the bench or they are disposed of in any of the usual baseball ways.
Motivation: A good leader motivates those over whom he or she is appointed. External motivation serves to fire-up internal motivation. Ultimately, a player must dig deep within himself to be the best he can be. Whether Dusty provided the external motivation to Bonds and Kent is an unknown. There appears to have been a huge, ego based rift between the two that Dusty was unable to deal with, thus the departure of Kent. I believe that, without intending to restart the Bonds debate, Barry was mostly internally motivated and couldn't care less about the team. When he discovered he could reach the zenith of baseball through the use of modern chemistry, his self motivation grew. My point being, Dusty's success in San Francisco had more to do with an enigmatic superstar and a consistently weak division than his ability to motivate his players.
Discipline: A good leader will discipline players for substandard performance or unacceptable behavior but he'll do so privately. Such disciplinary action cannot stay top secret because if it does, it has no effect on the organization as a whole so a certain amount of information must be allowed to flow. When disciplinary actions fail, the player must be disposed of accordingly. This is where the relationship between the field manager and the general manager is crucial. On-the-other-hand, a good leader will praise good performance publicly. This is MGT 101 but it lies at the very foundation of running a successful organization.
Training: Leadership, at any level, requires training to develop sound fundamentals (here we blur the line between leadership and management). In baseball this becomes painfully obvious. The manager must demand that his coaches do things his way. They, in-turn, provide appropriate training to the players on the fundamentals of the game at the big league level. Most of what they were taught at other levels, much of which was good, must be brought to major league levels. Simple things such as not hitting the cutoff man, or sliding into first base are inexcusable in the big leagues and cannot be tollerated. More complex things such as executing a hit-and-run, or bunting need to be practiced, again the duties of the coaches.
Planning: The leader's role as manager demands that each game be thoroughly planned for. Here, scouting reports and metrics must be studied and put to use effectively. George Will hit very hard on this in his discussion of Tony LaRussa in Men At Work. The biggest variable, however, is simple baseball intuition. The manager's gut feelings and his track record regarding those feelings must be considered before he is even hired. Don Zimmer comes to mind as a manager who often went against convention and was, at least part of the time, successful. Dusty often goes against convention but his successes seem much less apparent than others. Balance between numbers and intuition, albeit difficult to measure, is very important.
For any leader to be successful, he has to get his people to want to perform for him. Everyone else is secondary.
I think the general consensus among Cubs fans is overwhelmingly in favor of dismissing Dusty Baker. Although it is nice to think about "fresh blood," managerial candidates fitting this category must have a strong track record insofar as demonstrated leadership skills are concerned. Guys who have previously managed are much easier to size-up. In either case, a strong leader in the position of manager can turn the team around with very few changes of player personnel.