Every year, a manager or two or three gets fed into the wood chipper, and fans don't waste any time picking their favorite candidates to replace them. Right now, you can walk into a Chicago tavern and find six people who have an opinion on Pete Mackanin. This is unusual, mostly because there are probably Phillies players who haven't formed a solid opinion about their bench coach. Now because his name is swirling around the Cubs' vacancy, he is someone to judge.
Nobody knows a thing about most of the managerial candidates. Sure, there are exceptions. Guys like Terry Francona and Bob Brenly have an established history, and fans of their former teams can tell you all about their strengths and peccadilloes -- the things they loved, and the things that drove them crazy.
- Sweet mustache
- Looks like Steven Keaton from Family Ties; could possibly bring closure to that Meredith Baxter-Birney crush I had when I was eight
- Brother of Greg Maddux; could possibly bring closure to that Greg Maddux crush I had from 1986 to 2008.
- Uh, don't know
- Might have a real chip on his shoulder against Greg, and he might go Cain and Abel on him, which would be a total distraction
To paraphrase Rick in Casablanca: Who is Mike Maddux really, and what was he before? What did he do and what did he think? We don't know, really. But that is one sweet mustache; I'd like to think after the World Series, it climbed off his face and took Derek Holland's wallet at knifepoint.
It isn't just Maddux, though. Every manager without experience goes through the same non-vetting vetting by the interested fan. Ryne Sandberg is a favorite candidate among some Cubs partisans. He was a star, a Hall-of-Famer, so there's a little bit more info on him. But not a lot. And what we do know is a little different:
These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third, it's disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up.
His Hall-of-Fame induction speech was one part shave-those-sideburns-Mattingly, and another part okay-Pujols-lets-move-the-runner-to-third. But maybe that's not how he managed the Iron Pigs in AAA, though. Also, as an aside, the Iron Pigs sound like a team that was named by a very confused Black Sabbath fan.
What managerial searches allow us to do, then, is see what it's like to be like the vast majority of Americans. During presidential elections, candidates pay a lot of people a lot of money to tell them if lapel pins are a big deal this year. As someone who cares about beliefs, positions, and actions, you might think that's a stupid thing to consider. But elections are won and lost because of how a candidate smiles, or if he or she sweats too much during a debate.
With potential managers, though, we're not clueless because we don't have the time or inclination to look things up. The information just isn't accessible to the common fan, usually. If there were such a thing as Managerial Candidate Debates that were televised, there's a chance that Mike Maddux could say something like this:
Steals. Stolen bases, my friends. That's how to win ballgames. If I take over the Red Sox, we're going to run, run, run, run. Jacoby is cool, but Adrian Gonzalez had better hit the exercise bike if he wants to start. I want to see him attempt 50 steals next year if I'm hired, and I'm hoping he makes it 50% of the time, which is my personal goal for everyone. Also, I plan to carry a three-man bullpen because starting pitchers should throw more complete games. And lastly, I move to eliminate rosin bags. Make them illegal. They're messy things. And I can't abide messy things. Good night!
Or he could say the most brilliant thing you've every heard a baseball person utter. Don't know.
The only thing we know for sure is that every manager is going to annoy you when they have control of your favorite team. Yes, that one. That one, too. Totally annoying. They're going to bunt when you don't want them too, and they'll let hitters swing away when they should bunt. They'll sit your pet prospect down for some other goof, and their batting order will be completely nonsensical. They'll drive you up the wall. You won't know until they actually push the buttons in the dugout.
Until then? Hey, it would be un-American not to form opinions based on a scintilla of information, a gut feeling, or a candidate's je ne sais quoi. That's all we have to go on, and it's a heckuva lot more interesting than muttering "Oh, I don't know much about that candidate, really" over and over and over. Pick a favorite! Get really fired up about it! And then sit back and helplessly watch him drive you insane.