The Industry Standard on Managers Contracts
Just yesterday I sat at this computer and wrote why I was worried about the upcoming offseason. About a rift that might have formed between Mike Rizzo and the Lerners and how the Lerners don't trust Rizzo anymore and publicly humiliated him and Bud Black. Then I started to think about things a little more and read some pieces on the situation. It was actually negative pieces that started to change my mind a bit. How things played out is still embarrassing, but there is a chance the Nationals are right.
My mind first started to change when I read this Bob Nightengale piece, and he compared the handling of Bud Black to the Strasburg shutdown. Managers are simply offered three year deals and that is how things are done in baseball. Using the argument people used against the 2002 Oakland A's and defensive shifts is an argument that is going to cause me to rethink my position if I'm on your side. Then there is the comparison of Bud Black to Don Mattingly. Sure Black has managed for more years but he has an overall losing record and everything good about him can be attributed to Petco Park as much as it can Bud Black while Don Mattingly controlled a clubhouse full of egos and personalities and did nothing but make the playoffs year after year. Based on the resume Don Mattingly should get more.
Then there is the fact that the Marlins aren't the shining example of how to hire a manager. They are going to be paying four managers next season. That is more than most teams but quite a few teams, including the Nationals, are going to be paying multiple managers in 2016. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post wrote that the Lerners created their own disaster. In a side note I don't think Adam Kilgore has ever bought a house, and when he does I hope he doesn't offer list price. Hidden in this scathing review of the Nationals manager search is the nugget that, "When the Nationals hired Matt Williams, they gave him two years guaranteed. The same offseason, the Tigers, Phillies, Cubs and Reds guaranteed their first-year managers three seasons." Look at the list of clubs that guaranteed three years. Brad Ausmus, Ryne Sandburg, Rick Renteria, and Bryan Price were guaranteed three years. One of them is still managing.
There is a disconnect here. There are only 30 major league managing jobs in the world and only a handful are available every offseason and yet it is industry standard that a person that is being hired to be fired has the leverage to demand a long term deal. My opinion of Bud Black is that there is nothing he has done in his career that screams to me that he should be a manager in Washington for three years or that he doesn't have to prove he's the right fit before earning a three year or longer deal. If this were Terry Francona or Buck Showalter we were talking about I'd take serious issue with them being offered anything less than three to five years at at least $5 million, but this isn't. This is Bud Black, and in the above paragraph Brad Ausmus, Ryne Sandburg, Rick Renteria, and Bryan Price. Three of the four have been fired and the last should have been and will be fired likely before the 2016 season has ended.
Now we get to the claim that managers need three years on their deal to get the respect of the clubhouse. No. They need to be good at their job to get the respect of the clubhouse. Matt Williams having his option for 2016 and winning the 2014 manager of the year award was supposed to help him gain the respect of the clubhouse, but Jayson Werth ripped a line-up card down in front of him and asked him, "When exactly do you think you lost this team." Having an extra year on his deal and being the previous season's manager of the year wasn't enough to gain Matt Williams an ounce of respect, and what good is a guaranteed three years when a manager will be fired with years left on their deal anyway. The only person those guaranteed years have meaning to are the manager being hired. That is guaranteed money. All the managers that were fired this past season will be paid to manage in 2016, but it didn't help them keep the respect of the clubhouse or from getting fired. Those guaranteed years are meaningless in the terms of respect.
I should be clear that I was never really a Bud Black fan to begin with. I said at one point I'd rather have Matt Williams back than Bud Black. The big thing about Dusty Baker is that he might be bad at filling out a line-up card and in game management but that he has the respect of his players, and he doesn't need a third guaranteed year to do so. It is his personality, leadership, and past success that earn him respect. People yesterday compared the Bud Black situation to the Jim Riggleman situation, and they might be right. Jim Riggleman was not a winning manager and was never going to be one, and he used a small winning streak to try and leverage a long term deal. He had never had the respect of the clubhouse and was viewed correctly as a placeholder until the team got good, but if Jim Riggleman has stayed and continued to win in 2011 then he would've gained the respect he craved. Multiple years and more mediocre baseball and double switches wasn't going to make Jayson Werth suddenly like Jim Riggleman, and if Bud Black is of that ilk and thinks waving his third guaranteed year in the faces of Harper and Paplebon is going to make them BFFs then he isn't someone I want managing the Washington Nationals.