The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced the selection of Bob Brenly as their next manager, replacing Buck Showalter who was fired at the end of last season. Brenly has spent the last three seasons as a radio and television announcer for the club.
The broadcasting booth may seem a strange place to look for a manager, but it really isn't, especially if the person sought also has playing and coaching experience. You have to pay attention to the game and "manage" right along with the person making the decisions for real when you are covering a game as an announcer or reporter.
Brenly recently gave some insight into what he would have liked to have seen done different. His opinions were almost identical to my own (which must mean they were good ones). He would have bunted and used the hit and run play more often. In other words, he would have played to "manufacture" runs as opposed to waiting for the long ball.
His opinion on how to use his relief corps is not known. I hope he will be less wedded to a "closer" philosophy than Showalter was and consider letting a pitcher who is successful in the eighth inning continue on the mound in the ninth.
The rest of this column was written prior to the hiring of Brenly by the Diamondbacks. Either he or Terry Francona would have been a good choice and does not change the validity of what follows.
The firing of Vince Tobin by the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago made the third major professional coach or manager of a Phoenix area team to be axed in less than a year. The Diamondbacks cut loose Buck Showalter at the end of the baseball season. Danny Ainge "retired" as the Suns headman, though there is some speculation that the move was not totally voluntary. The Coyotes did not join the recent bloodletting, but they have a history of pulling the rug out from under a coach rather quickly as well.
Each of the situations is different and should be judged on its own merits. The Cardinals have fallen on hard times, but it seems more fault lies with the ownership and the front office than with the coach. Tobin handled the situation well and with class and will likely be back in coaching in the near future.
Showalter will also likely land another job in Major League baseball. Injuries had more to do with the demise of the Diamondbacks than any managerial decision.
The Suns have a strange history as far as coaches are concerned. It is not inconceivable that Ainge could wind up back with the organization in some capacity, even as head coach again. The precedence is there.
One troubling aspect of at least the Showalter and Tobin cases is that an Arizona Republic columnist was calling for each of their jobs and that those drumbeats seemed to have the ownership's ears. Some even go so far as to say that the columns were the catalysts that led to the firings. Now we are reading some of the same things about Arizona State University football coach Bruce Snyder and University of Arizona mentor Dick Tomey.
Journalists probably do know a little more about the sports they cover than the average Joe on the streets. They are not experts, though, and don't know more than the coaches, the owners, the front office people or those on the field. Everyone can have an opinion. However, when your appears in print for thousands to read and could influence the actions of the front office, there should be a responsibility to learn as much as possible about your subject before spouting off.
The one caution I would offer to those with the power to remove a coach (Showalter, Tobin, Snyder, Tomey) is to recognize that the one constant in the most successful sports programs in the land has been a constancy in the head coaching position. With a few exceptions, the teams that make changes frequently (Cardinals, this is your history) are constantly working to catch up. Usually they make another change before they really do catch up and fall even further behind.