An Important Reminder Regarding Team Culture

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yesterday Larry Beinfest had this to say about Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins' search for his replacement:

Our managerial search begins immediately and our hope is that a new manager, along with roster improvements, will restore a winning culture.
There is an important rebuttal to make here and it is this: Winning builds a winning culture, a winning culture (whatever the hell that means) does not lead to winning.

We were initially highly annoyed that the Marlins seem content to have scapegoated Guillen (along with the now-departed Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell) for their terrible 2012 season, but that emotion has subsided. Guillen is very clearly an insufferable dick whose personality is grating even when things are going well (as his tenure with the White Sox suggests). We won't begrudge any employer that dismisses an employee who creates a toxic work environment.

But to suggest that having the right manager can lead to a 69-93 team morphing into a playoff contender is beyond ludicrous. Having a more nurturing influence in the clubhouse would not have made Heath Bell pitch any better or Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes not be average hitters. There's a reason we keep suggesting the Marlins forego hiring a manager altogether - managers are almost entirely unnecessary.

And to suggest that chemistry and culture lead to winning (which is Beinfest's implicit assumption) flies in the face of reality. Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent absolutely loathed each other, yet the San Francisco Giants were one bullpen meltdown away from a World Series title in 2002. The Yankees teams of the 90s and aughts won plenty of games despite being a circus (though they pale in comparison to the Bronx Zoo Yankees of the 70s, who also won championships even though Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin made Bonds and Kent look like JD and Turk).

But we're just tilting at windmills here. The Marlins will improve next season (because how can they not?), and whoever the new manager is will get a good deal of credit thanks to the front office (and their enablers in the media) conflating correlation with causation. That doesn't make it correct, though.


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