In most industries, the prerequisite for a job is experience. Employers value it. Employers demand it. If you don’t have experience, you needn’t bother calling.
No experience, no job. That’s how it works in the world.
Except for, it seems, in the baseball world. These days, experience is a four-letter word. Not only is it a detriment to getting a job, experience seems to be a deal killer.
More and more, having a resumé that was forged from having accomplished something in this game has very little importance. One could argue, in fact, it’s of zero importance. It’s a black eye.
The manager used to be the most important hire a team could make. Often, the manager was the team. He was the leader. He was the heart and soul. He was the face of the team.
One usually likes having a general who knows his way around the battlefield. Now, the manager is the low man on the org chart. Just above the intern.
Of the thirty major league managers currently employed, nineteen got their jobs with absolutely no major league managing experience whatsoever. Most had absolutely no minor league management experience, either.
Even more telling is the more recent hires. In the past two seasons, eight manager vacancies have been filled in the National League. Seven have gone to first-timers. The American League has also seen eight managers hired in the past two years. Six had no experience. All totaled, that’s thirteen of the last sixteen managers recently hired. That’s 81 percent rookie managers.
Looking inward, none of the last three managers the Texas Rangers have hired had previous major league experience. One led his team to two World Series and one Wild Card game. He lost all three. One led his team to two American League Division Series. He lost both. Would experience have made a difference in any case? Of course. Experience always matters. And when you look back, even a sliver of difference would have made all the difference in the world. It just might have altered the legacy of this franchise.
These days, managers are dropped into the deep end of the pool and expected to learn how to swim. Good thing for them now it’s just a wading pool.
The front office makes the lineup suggestions. The front office makes the strategic calls. The front offices dictate the platoons and the defensive shifts. Duties and decision-making that were once left to experienced baseball men are now often being made by math nerds who’ve probably never stepped onto a field, and probably have never seen the sun.
This love affair with inexperience extends to five of the top members of the Rangers coaching staff. The manager, the hitting coach, the assistant hitting coach, the pitching coach, and the bullpen coach have never before done what they were hired to do.
Experience in baseball is over-rated. More to the point, experience is expensive.
And not just with managers. A recent Sports Illustrated article details how the current state of analytics is making experience players extinct as well.
Affording to SI, since 2006 there has been a 58% decrease in major league games started by players 33-years old or older. That’s stunning. Teams would rather go with raw, inexperienced younger players making the major league minimum than accomplished veterans.
Experience is no longer valued. More to the point, experience costs too much.
The article references four players over 33 who’ve had remarkable careers but cannot find a single team who wants them—Carlos Gonzalez, Adam Jones, Melky Cabrera, and Carlos Gomez—and a fifth, Hunter Pence, who is fighting for his baseball life. They all suffer from the most unforgivable of baseball maladies: experience.
Fans have to ask, is this the best product teams can put on the field? It’s the cheapest, to be sure.
Experience is wasted on the accomplished.