What if Derek Jeter played for the Yankees and managed the franchise? Our fan panel discusses.
Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic), Emma Carmichael (writer, Deadspin), Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic) talk about what would happen if a big-name player managed his own team.
A curious thing happened on the way to the Chicago White Sox naming former star and Nolan Ryan punching bag Robin Ventura as their new manager. According to multiple media outlets, general manager Ken Williams briefly considered naming veteran slugger Paul Konerko player-manager, a former mainstay of baseball that has not been seen in more than 25 years.
Though Williams only toyed with the idea—he didn't even mention it to Konerko—the story made me wonder whether a player-manager could succeed in any of the major American sports. Until the mid-70s, star players routinely took the helm of their own teams, including Bill Russell, Ty Cobb, and Frank Robinson. But the last MLB player-manager was Pete Rose in 1984 (we all know how well that turned out) and the NBA no longer allows player-coaches.
My question is: In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, constant scrutiny from fans and pundits and super-inflated athlete's egos, could a player effectively mange his own team? Could a veteran like Derek Jeter or a star like Albert Pujols—both of whom command respect from their teammates—oversee the demands of a manager while retaining the focus to play at a high level? I think no—the media firestorm that would surround Player-Coach X's every move might be manageable at first, but over the course of a 162-game season he would inevitably wear down.
Emma, am I being too cynical? And if so, who'd you like to see player-manage your beloved Red Sox?