I grew up in the 1990’s, when Major League Baseball managers were an old school breed. Joe Torre, that calm, steady, fatherly presence was really more the exception than the norm. I’m thinking more along the lines of Lou Piniella. Most of us kids of the 80’s and 90’s remember this type of manager. The resting face peering from the dugout was an ornery scowl. Always. Trying to picture Bobby Cox smiling is like reaching for that vague feeling of a dream, not sure it ever really existed.
And the tantrums, oh how we fans loved the tantrums. There was nothing better than seeing your team’s manager just lose his shit, and try to get thrown out of the game. Watching his irate face literally millimeters from the ump’s, screaming who know’s what. Ump called it a ball. You’d think Dusty Baker’s case to the contrary would go something like this: “Dude, that was so a strike, it’s not even funny.” What more is there to say? Does Moises Alou (Sr.) really think that as his saliva sprays into the ump’s eyes, his toddler tantrum is really going to make the ump go, “You’re right. I missed the pitch. Hey everybody, call reversal!”? Of course not. It wasn’t about logical behavior. It was about men behaving like men. It was about raising hell, and masculine things like that. It was about rallying your boys for war. After all, somebody had to get those good-for-nothing-pansies going!
Ah, but look where we are now. At Mickey Callaway’s presser upon being hired as New York Mets skipper, we heard the same unfamiliar language that was echoed a month later by Aaron Boone at his presser for being announced the new Yankee skipper. “Our players are going to know how much we care about them.”
(mimics car tires screeching to a halt)!!!??!!
And so it has happened all over baseball. The argyle sweater vest revolution has finished infiltrating the dugouts across MLB. Where we once canonized hard-asses like Billy Martin for physically fighting his own players, now we are making sure that each and every one of our ball players feel loved. Awwww, how sweet. (histrionic eye roll in 1,2,…)
But is this what fans want to hear? Do I really want to see my fourty-five year old clean-shaven manager, with a mildly pleasant countenance, jog in to have a quick word with the ump, “Sir, was that pitch a smidge high? Ok, got it. Thanks for your time.” Okay, I might be getting a bit carried away, but who knows? As we watch this new wave of managers arrive, (and kick Dusty in the ass on the way outta Washington) I think we need to once again remind ourselves that baseball is not all numbers and winning. It’s a culture and a history. And it’s entertainment. It bridges generations and it leaves marks in our minds and in our hearts. I really hope I get to see my new manager, Mickey, throw a few tantrums of his own this year. C’mon, Mick, a few good bitch-fits for ol’ times sake huh? Because, well, it would make me sad if my daughters grow up and never get to see that.