October 31, 2014

Joe Madden and the Opportunity of a Lifetime

It's Baseball, Baby. Just play. 

Sparky Anderson was hired mid–season 1979 by the Tigers and the manager he replaced, Les Moss, was jettisoned. It was a move the Tigers couldn't refuse at the time, similar to the recent move (or subsequent???) the Chicago Cubs have (or will) be making with Joe Maddon. 

I think Joe Maddon has every right to make the decision he made. He had the ability to choose to leave the Rays and accept the managerial gig with the Cubs in Chicago if that's what the parties decided they wanted to do.

I read somewhere that the Cubs, in 1979, decided that they were going to hire Sparky Anderson to be their new manager — in 1980. A Tigers broadcaster heard the rumor from a friend who heard it from a friend who … well, you know. And suddenly, the usually tight fisted, no splash move making general manager, Jim Campbell, hired Sparky Anderson and fired the longtime company man Les Moss. Moss had finally realized an opportunity to manage the big club after years in the organization, including the minor leagues.

One of my favorite pictures. It's a shot of Ernie Harwell standing at Tiger Stadium and chatting with a young fan who couldn't believe he was talking to Mr. Harwell. In the background is the legendary Sparky Anderson. I didn't realize what a gem of a photo I had until I looked closely at it one night. 

Anderson rode into town proclaiming that the Tigers would win a World Series within five years. He guaranteed it. Of course, if the Tigers had never won the 1984 World Series, we probably wouldn't remember that Anderson made that bold proclamation. The Tigers of the early '80s were a good bunch who grew up together. Much of the team was homegrown talent cultivated by company man Bill Lajoie.

This brings me back around to the Cubs and Madden. Even though the management structure is completely different all these years later, I'm sure there are people who remember when the Cubs took their time and didn't make the move to bring in Sparky. Maybe Sparky instead of Jim Frey could have led the Cubbies to the '84 Championship instead of the Tigers. As you may remember, Frey was appreciated in Chicago and won the '84 Manager of the Year.

Joe Maddon is a players' manager who gets great results from his teams. He is unorthodox, maybe even unique. He may be just the manager to bring in and put things together in Chicago. It's an interesting management structure in Chicago, and perhaps, Theo Epstein wishes he would have hired Madden all those years ago in Boston, after all. I like Joe Maddon and thought he would be a good addition to the Tigers if they so desired. But, this time, the Cubs struck first. It's not the terrible thing for baseball that everyone is making it out to be. I'm sure Rick Renteria will continue to get paid for the remaining two years on his contract and he may well end up managing elsewhere in the future. The Cubs have the resources to do what they feel they need to do to put themselves in the best position to win.

Greg Eno wrote this upon Anderson's death in 2010. I liked this quote so much, I turned it into a quote. I never realized what a great manager the Tigers had until he was no longer managing the team. 

Is there anyone who doesn't wonder if Jim Leyland hadn't called Dave Dombrowski in 2005 and said, "Dave, I think I'd be willing to manage again if you had an opening ..." ? Leyland had quite after 1999 with the Colorado Rockies, saying he was burned out and didn't have the fire any longer. He regained it for eight years in the Motor City. The key to that move, though, was the Leyland had been a longtime Tiger before leaving for the Chicago White Sox in the early '80s to manage with Tony LaRussa, then an unknown.

 Jim Leyland was redeemed when he returned to manage the Tigers in 2006. He took the job of a legendary Tiger, Alan Trammell (#3, below) but it sat okay with fans because Leyland was a former Tiger. Leyland worked with both Trammell and Whitaker (#1) when they were farmhands but Trammell grew up under Anderson and considered him a mentor. 

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