The Miami Marlins under the ownership of Jeffrey Loria are expected to do things that leave you bewildered, sometimes in a good way for their fans (giving Giancarlo Stanton a $325m/13 year contract extension this off-season) but more often not (take your pick: acquiring a high profile manager and several free agents in a blaze of publicity when opening a brand new ballpark, only to get rid of most of them one year later would be a good place to start).
They have added another entry to their list of wonderment today, but as a prelude to discussing this I’m led to a story that dominated the British sports news over the past week.
In all of the coverage about Steven Gerrard’s departure from Liverpool FC, it was noted that he is currently in the process of getting his ‘coaching badges’ to move into management when his playing career is over.
It doesn’t matter that he has had a 17-year professional playing career that’s seen him win major trophies and play for England over 100 times, he still had to obtain his ‘Level 2, Certificate in Coaching Football’ the same as someone wanting to do a ‘Football in the Community’ coaching role to set him on his way.
Gerrard is currently completing his ‘Level 3, UEFA B Licence’ that takes between 12 to 18 months of work (he has been coaching Liverpool’s Under-16 team once a week as part of this) before progressing on to the ‘Level 4, UEFA A Licence’ that can take a further two years and is a requirement to manage or coach professionally (either having the qualification or being in the process of working towards it).
From there, if he wants to manage in the Premier League or a major UEFA competition he has to have completed or be working towards the ‘Level 5, UEFA Pro Licence’, which can take another year.
Ryan Giggs, Gerrard’s contemporary, became the first person to obtain the Level 5 qualification whilst still playing and a feature by the Independent in 2013 explained what this stage in the qualification process involved:
“Giggs … will undertake 240 hours of study to gain the qualification – including spending three days at a European club and making a detailed case study of a business. He is expected to secure the qualification within the next 12 months after a period at Warwick University’s Business School.”
It’s all part of the UEFA coaching qualification pyramid that is designed to ensure men and women coaching or managing 14 year-olds in a football academy or experienced internationals in the Champions League have undergone a thorough period of study that goes a long, long way above simply being good at playing the sport when you were younger.
It certainly doesn’t preclude pockets of the ‘old boys’ network’ having a strong say in who gets employed at certain clubs, but it does at least ensure that coaching is something that merits the designation of being a profession in it’s own right, rather than just being there for the manager’s mate to earn some money to pay off his gambling debts.
In Major League Baseball, things aren’t quite so structured.
There is a growing trend in appointing former players to MLB managerial roles despite the individuals having precious little managerial or coaching experience. Craig Counsel (Milwaukee Brewers) Mike Matheny (St. Louis Cardinals) and Brad Ausmus (Detroit Tigers) are but three examples and every appointment has raised the same question: if teams don’t value experience in these roles then what do the roles actually consist of and how important are they?
The Miami Marlins have raised the stakes by sacking Mike Redmond and replacing him with General Manager Dan Jennings. By all accounts he’s held in high regard by many that know him and have worked with him, but he has no professional playing career to speak of and his coaching resume consists of a stint with a High School in Alabama years ago.
It may prove to be an inspired decision; however if it does then that’s perhaps an indictment on what a manager or coach does in MLB.
Can it really be right that at the very highest level of baseball – the pinnacle of the professional game – the small select group of managerial and coaching positions available can be handed out to people with no actual qualifications or direct experience in doing the jobs they have been appointed to?