Why Great Players Shouldn’t Coach or GM! (AKA What Kind of Manger Would Donnie Baseball Be?)

26 Mar

Isiah Thomas, Ted Williams, Larry Bird, Kevin McHale…. Four great players off the top of my head who each made their sport’s hall of fame and then went on to lesser glory as coaches and GMs.  Let’s face it the record of superstar players as coaches and G.M.s is pretty bad.

Anyone remember Michael Jordan in Washington?? 

I once read someone theorizing that the reason great players can’t coach is due to a lack of empathy.  A great player, since he was great, just can’t relate to a player he coaches who isn’t great.  Yet, in team sports many times the less than great guys are the people who can make the biggest difference in how a team does in a season.

Superstars will always be superstars.  Coaching them is more about keeping their egos in check and keeping them hungry.  Coaching the rest of the team is probably more difficult for former superstars.  How do you keep motivating and teaching people who simply can’t do what came to you so easily as a superstar?  It’s got to be a frustrating thing…

Bart Starr, Pete Rose, I could go on…

But I want to get to Donnie Baseball.  Don Mattingly, who you may remember from your time on the Joe Torre Replacement Committee, almost got the Yankee job that ultimately went to Joe Girardi. 

There’s been a sense in the New York area that Don Mattingly would be one heck of a major league manager.  I’ve never understood that.  The man doesn’t seem to have the personality or drive for it.  Unfortunately, due to some personal issues he’s working on, he’s had to take a step back out in LA and has probably slowed his ascent to someday being some team’s skipper.

Mattingly had a very interesting and controversial career.  He actually never did anything controversial, but his career essentially was composed of two wildly different parts.  In the first part, the young Don Mattingly comes out of nowhere to become the best player in New York when many where busy proclaiming Darryl Strawberry “the Black Ted Williams”.  For half his career, Mattingly was Donnie Baseball.  He terrorized the American League.  Then, came the injuries…

The second half of Mattingly’s career was nothing like the first.  While he was still a class act and fan favorite, due to back problems, he was never able to be the offensive force he had been.  Mattingly, for the last half of his career, was a sort of light hitting first baseman with a great nickname.

The controversy comes from the debate over whether Mattingly deserves a spot in baseball’s Hall of Fame.  I won’t take a side here because I want to focus on Mattingly’s coaching potential.

He’s an interesting guy because he’s been on both sides of the baseball experience.  He’s been a superstar and he’s struggled.  I still don’t think he’s a verbal enough leader but there’s no question that he would have a clubhouse’s respect and he might just be able to relate to everyone on the team from superstar to scrub based on his own baseball experience.

Let’s hope he gets his personal issues resolved so that he gets the chance to show us what kind of a manger he can be. 

Donnie Baseball deserves that much.

PS – his other nickname THE HIT MAN was pretty cool too.


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