Thursday, December 3, 2015
As much as I don't like to admit it, there are some people that I know who view me as nothing other than "the boss."
I don't like being known as "the boss." I cringe when people call me "boss" or "bossman." I want to be known as a regular guy who really isn't any different than he was the day he took the title of "boss."
But that can't happen. For one, being the boss means you have to do boss-like things that fundamentally change you. You're not the same person as you were before you acquired the title. Your job has made it so.
Secondly, people look at you differently when you're the boss rather than a co-worker. They expect things from you (boy, do they ever) that they would never expect from you as a co-worker. And even though your personality is the same, nothing else is.
When I first became a boss, I had some issues. They weren't any different from the issues anyone else has learning a new job, but because you're the boss, no one's going to give you any slack. Some people like to give the boss problems just because "they're the boss." I get it. I didn't get it then. But I get it now. It's a world full of Dilbert cartoons.
So although there are many horrible bosses, just as there are horrible employees, I have sympathy for what many bosses must do. Believe me, there are bosses who are making decisions because they actually believe it's the right thing to do, not because they're clueless or maniacal or sadistic.
Probably my favorite boss of all-time is Marv Levy. As you know, he was "the boss" of the Bills when they reached the Super Bowl four straight years and lost every one. I covered the Bills during Levy's reign and he was about as pleasant as a coach could be for leading an entire NFL team. He wasn't domineering. He wasn't ego-driven. He wasn't sarcastic or standoffish. He was an intelligent grandfather of a coach, and I appreciated him every time I had to cover the team.
I received the Levy card from J.T. of the blog The Writer's Journey. He sent me a bunch of Bills and Dodgers. This helped spur an investigation into my favorite bossmans in professional sports. I decided to make a top 10 of my favorites. But I quickly eliminated the NHL and NBA because I just don't pay attention to those leagues much. Then I eliminated the NFL because, let's face it, most NFL coaches are jerks.
Nah, I'm kidding (a little). I just know too much about baseball for me to include leaders from any other sport.
So, here we go, 10 of my favorite baseball managers.
10. Ozzie Guillen. Yeah, yeah, he said a bunch of stuff that aggravated a lot of people. I don't care. I like people who say a lot of stuff and don't censor themselves all the time (In small doses anyway. If you've got some person in your ear about Donald Trump and gun control every day, it's getting shut down). But the best part of Ozzie is he mostly talked about baseball, and boy did he love baseball.
9. Charlie Dressen. The manager of the Boys Of Summer. That must have been a tall task. Dressen led the Dodgers to back-to-back pennants, but wore out his welcome with the team after demanding more than a one-year contract. Dressen was super confident and thought a lot of himself. But he was great copy. And you won't hear me complain about that.
8. Joe Maddon. It's kind of disappointment that he's with the Cubs now, because I like the way he thinks. This is the way I'd like to be a boss if I fully embraced my bosshood (bossness? bossocity?). Maddon's got all the schemes and stunts to get his players on the same page. I don't know what it looks like behind the scenes, but something's obviously working.
7. Sparky Anderson. It took Anderson's transition from the Reds to the Tigers to realize how likable Anderson was. I never appreciated him with Cincinnati. Anderson seemed much friendlier and accessible in Detroit. I know he probably wasn't the greatest tactical leader or judge of talent (Bill James was always hassling him in his annual Abstract books). But he did win a few World Series without being sour about it.
6. Tom Lasorda. Lasorda is the manager of my youth, that's why he is here. I was never a fan of how he handled pitchers and I sometimes cringed at his outsized personality. But you've got to appreciate a guy who helped the team do so well during my formative years. Lasorda is another fun manager who spoke his mind, equal parts goofy and profane. And you've got to admire that.
5. Terry Francona. Sometimes when I see managers speak in public I wonder if I'm seeing the real thing. Francona appears to be completely unfazed by the weight of the world on his shoulders as a manager of a big league club. There are no signs of pressure, little aggravation. It's as if he was born to be a manager and he knows it. I've seen Francona get upset -- he's had some memorable umpire confrontations -- he never seems overwhelmed by being the boss.
4. Earl Weaver. I didn't really like Weaver when I was a kid because I was usually rooting against the Orioles (except when they played the Yankees, of course). But as the years went on, my admiration grew. Weaver was the smartest manager in the room. He did things that no other manager was doing but wasn't obnoxious about it. Weaver was also great theater. And although he didn't see eye-to-eye with some of his players, some of his players probably deserved it. Jim Palmer especially.
3. Yogi Berra. I can't say I was paying much attention when Berra was managing. His first stint with the Yankees and his time with the Mets were before I knew baseball. When he returned to the Yankees in 1984, that's when I was starting to turn away from the sport. So it still puzzles me that someone like Berra, with his Yogisms and seemingly gentle nature, could manage teams like the Yankees and Mets. But I like the idea of it.
2. Dave Trembley. I know, Trembley didn't have the success that these other guys have. But he is one of the greatest minor league managers of all-time. And he's one of the few managers for which I have a signed card. And any manager who is willing to talk on the phone to me for two hours for an interview makes my top 10 list.
1. Casey Stengel. Another manager who could fill a sportwriter's notebook. I love that Stengel was considered a clown and a failure the day he was hired as Yankees manager and then led them to one of their greatest successes. Bosses can prove people wrong, too. Stengel has a number of great cards, most of which I still need to acquire because he's probably my favorite baseball bossman. (Keep in mind, he started with the Dodgers).
True to the nature of a boss, there is something negative you can say about every manager I just listed. There is no manager that "everybody loves." That's the nature of the job.
But really most of them are just regular people, trying to do a job to the best of their abilities under difficult circumstances.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like not to be the boss again. And then I think, well, who would be the boss then?
Somebody's got to do it. Might as well be me.
(P.S.: I almost forgot to show the rest of the Bills and Dodgers J.T. sent!)