Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, January 6, 2014

On Managing and Those Amazing Men That Make Up the Minor League Managerial Positions

The Don Mattingly contract extension is the first of a trio that the Dodgers need to complete this off season,  (Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez need to be extended too).  It was also the least important of the three, BUT, it had to be done and I’m glad at least one of them is in the process of being completed.

At his season ending press conference, in an awkward setting Mattingly expressed his frustration of being on a short leash this past season because of his lame duck status with his contract.  If working under a three year contract umbrella will give him that comfort of not looking over his shoulder constantly, then it’s for the best.  I think it’s well understood that Mattingly feels much more comfortable in the dugout knowing that his financial status isn’t on the line everyday.

I could argue regarding Donnie’s faults as a field general, which are well chronicled, but I think it’s fair to say that he’s not the type of manager that is going to cost his club a lot of games during the season.  He manages in the traditional fashion which is fairly predictable.  There’s too much little ball for my taste, but there simply are not a lot of sabermetric types out there in the managing circles for the hiring.  Baseball still operates a lot on reputation and within a network of well known people in baseball circles.

Mattingly let it be known that he wanted an extension at this press conference on October 21, 2013.  (photo by Al Seib/LA Times)
Don Mattingly was a superstar player and viewed as a cerebral one at that.  That pedigree kept him from toiling in the minors to pay his dues.  His tutelage was at the side of Joe Torre, first with the Yankees and then with the Dodgers.  He wasn’t earning his stripes in the minors, where he could have learned game management away from the spotlight.  Mattingly had the pedigree that allowed him to bypass that step.  In retrospect, it was probably a mistake but it’s safe to say now that Donnie got a pass from working in the minor league trenches.

About a year an a half ago I had an interesting conversation with Ron Cervenka of ThinkBlueLA.com.  Ron is quite passionate about following the Dodgers minor leagues, especially the High A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  The topic we were discussing was the time the minor league staffs put in for such horrible pay.  You’d think that in organized baseball, where some coaches have worked for the Dodger organization for years that some of these valuable managers would be compensated appropriately.  The truth is though, those guys make peanuts.

There are men that have paid their dues on the minor league levels, but seem to never rise into the foray of consideration when major league jobs surface.  Think about it.  You’ve got a guy like John Shoemaker in the Dodger organization for years.  He has been labeled as a man that works well with kids in the minor league levels, essentially pigeon holing him into a lifetime of minor league managing at the lower levels.  I don’t think it’s fair to Shoemaker, but he has been labeled.  I also think if given the opportunity, he’d be a great major league manager.

Stan Wasiak was a dedicated Dodger employee 47 years.  An infielder signee with Brooklyn in 1940 as a teenager, he never advanced beyond AA ball as a player but the organization saw him as a knowledgeable baseball man.  He was an excellent teacher of the fundamentals to kids.  He started managing at age 30 in 1950 and he continued as a minor manager until his 65th birthday in 1986.  Valdosta, Newport News, Mobile, Idaho Falls, Green Bay, Great Falls, Salem, Lynchburg. Evansville, El Paso, Daytona, Albuquerque, Lodi, and Vero Beach were some of his stops.  He compiled a .520 winning percentage over 18 different cities in 37 seasons for a total of 5496 games.  Never once did he even sniff an opportunity at the majors and it wasn’t because he didn’t want to advance.  Wasiak actually was hopeful to make the major league staff in the early 70s with the Dodgers, but it never materialized.

“He had a knack for making me feel special,” said former Dodger farmhand Jerry Royster back in a 1985 Sports Illustrated article about Wasiak.  Stan had just broken the  minor league record as the winningest manager ever in the lower levels.  Royster continued,” That’s important because the minor leagues aren’t an easy time in your life.”  When it was Royster’s time to be call to the majors, Wasiak was the man privileged to give him the great news. (Link to SI article by Ivan Maisel found HERE)

That didn’t get Stan any closer to the majors though.  After managing AAA Albuquerque to a few sub .500 finishes in the mid 70s, the Dodger organization felt that he was best suited to teach younger kids as players closer the the major league level weren’t going to listen to him as the younger kids would.  Back to Lodi in the California League he went.  It is estimated that Wasiak traveled in the neighborhood of 3 million miles on buses all over North America with his teams, and he never made anything near $30,000 a year doing it.

Baseball Card from Stan Wasiak's final season managing in AAA

And this leads me to another beef I have with the game. and that is the poor compensation that so many managers and coaches in the minor leagues receive.  It isn’t uncommon to see a minor league manager making in the neighborhood of only $30,000 or $40,000 a year.  These are guys that put in long hours and ride the buses in the bushes for months at a time.  Added to that is that they are not only managing teams, but serving as parents, impromptu counselors, roster decision makers and are stuck with the unenviable task of giving the news to players that will be faced with the realization that their playing careers are over.  It isn’t uncommon that in some lower levels these guys are acting as traveling secretaries, and even grounds crew.   Add to that the daily field reports sent to the parent club and scouting they will complete of their league in general.  After Spring training ends, most leagues are as long as 144 games, and then there are playoff series as well.  On the lowest levels, the travel can be brutally tough, with uncomfortable bus rides and subpar hotels. 

So when you head out to Camelback Ranch and meander over to the minor league fields, if you get a chance, let these men know that they are appreciated.  You’ll see them in action, working drill after drill with the young kids and stopping to provide detailed instructions to them.  These men are a special breed of baseball men.  They aren’t there for the pay, but for the love of the game.  They’re the unforgotten heroes in the trenches.  Minor league managers and coaches that groom ballplayers into major leaguers.  It’s not an easy job.  A thankless one for the most part.  They should be recognized.

(*Note: Stan Wasiak retired from baseball at age 66 following the 1986 season managing Vero Beach.  He passed away six years later at his Mobile, Alabama home having never stepped in a major league field, except to throw out the ceremonial first pitch after breaking the minor league record for managerial victories). 


Dodger Organization Minor League Coaching staffs:

Albuquerque Isotopes:  Manager Damon Berryhill, Pitching Coach Glenn Dishman, Hitting Coach Franklin Stubbs

Chattanooga Lookouts: Manager Razor Shines, Pitching Coach Scott Radinsky, Hitting Coach Shawn Wooten

Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: Manager P.J. Forbes, Pitching Coach Matt Herges, Hitting Coach Mike Eylward

Great Lakes Loons: Manager Bill Haselman, Pitching Coach Bill Simas, Hitting Coach Johnny Washington

Ogden Raptors: Manager Lee Tinsley. Pitching Coach Greg Sabat, Hitting Coach Leo Garcia

Arizona League Dodgers: Manager John Shoemaker, Pitching Coach Hector Berrios, Hitting Coach Henry Cruz


  1. The minor league teams are the lifeblood of MLB teams. That is why the Dodgers have wandered 25 years in the wilderness. They didn't pay attention to their life line and tried to do it all by transfusion. If they don't attend properly to the minor league teams they will be like Moses with 40 years in the wilderness.

    Biggest mistake they made in that period of time, even more so than trading Konerko, Piazza and Pedro was firing Dan Evans.

    Great to acknowledge the minor league coaching staffs. They do play for the love of the game.

  2. Makes one wonder how their families can afford to live less yet stay together. To coach one must have a passion for the game and the kids and I take my hat off to those that can and do dedicate their lives for the Love of the Game