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Pete Mackanin faces age-old managerial question

11.05.11 at 2:17 pm ET
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By any account, Pete Mackanin has developed both a resume and a reputation that put him in position as one of the top managerial candidates on the market. Though he has never been a full-time manager, he has served twice as an interim manager, he has more than a decade of minor league managerial experience, he’s been a major league advance scout and he’s spent the last three seasons as the bench coach for a big-market contender with the Phillies.

Those experiences are at the forefront of why Mackanin has emerged as a candidate for the managerial vacancies with both the Red Sox and Cubs.

“He’€™s got a really broad set of experiences. He’€™s managed a ton of games in the minor leagues, the Caribbean, some at the big-league level. He’€™s been off the field as a scout. He’€™s been part of good major-league teams as a coach,” noted Red Sox GM Ben Cherington on Monday. “He’€™s got a really broad set of experiences that appeal to us. He can see the game from different perspectives, which I think is a benefit. As you saw today, he’€™s got a good way about him, a good sense of humor, mature, and a good reputation from every clubhouse he’€™s been part of.”

In more ways than one, that range of experiences separates Mackanin from other managerial candidates. He has seen the game from more vantage points than the other individuals to whom the Sox and Cubs either have already talked or plan to talk (Dale Sveum, Mike Maddux, Sandy Alomar Jr.). However, Mackanin is also in a different demographic than the other candidates. Maddux is 50; Sveum is 47; Alomar is 45. Mackanin, meanwhile, is 60.

The Phillies bench coach does not think that his status as a sexagenarian is significant.

“I don’€™t look at it as a disadvantage at all,” Mackanin told reporters in Chicago. “Knock on wood, I’€™m still healthy. I throw batting practice every day, so I stay in shape. One of the great things about baseball is I get paid to stay in shape; I get paid to be around young people who are vibrant, and they’€™re a lot of fun to be around. That being said, I’€™m not 70; I’€™m 60, and I’€™m a young 60 ‘€” I’€™d like to think so.’€™’€™

That said, it is fascinating to note that Mackanin is trying to do something that hasn’t been done in more than 30 years. The last time that a manager received his first full-time big league job at the age of 60 or older was in 1980, when Bobby Mattick, then 64, was named the manager of the Blue Jays. He spent two years in the Toronto dugout, finishing in last place three times (first in 1980, then in both the first and second halves of the strike-bifurcated 1981 season) and never received another managerial opportunity. (He did remain in the game and cemented his reputation as a scouting legend with the Blue Jays.)

In recent years, there are examples of managers who received their first full-time opportunities in their mid- and late-50s. One of the most notable is the man on whose staff Mackanin is a coach. Charlie Manuel was hired by the Indians at age 56 in 2000, left the Indians in the 2002 season and then was hired for his second gig in 2005 by the Phillies at the age of 61. Felipe Alou was 57 when he finally received his opportunity to manage the Expos; he went on to manage in Montreal and San Francisco for 14 seasons. Phil Regan was 58 when the Orioles hired him for a single terrible season in 1995. Cecil Cooper was 58 when he was named the full-time manager of the Astros for 2008 (following a stint as interim manager the previous year).

The reasons for the paucity of managers who receive their first opportunities in their 60s are likely manifold. For starters, many top candidates are identified much earlier in their careers; hence, while managers will receive new opportunities at age 60 and after (witness Manuel), they often will have already had initial opportunities.

Moreover, there is a natural funnel that occurs — the number of individuals who stay in the game for more than 40 years (such as Mackanin, who was drafted as an 18-year-old in 1969) is vastly exceeded by the number of individuals who are in the game for 10 or 20 or 30 years. Further, while Mackanin suggested that he is the picture of health, few will suggest that coaching (whether in the big leagues or minor leagues) or managing in the minors is a particularly healthy undertaking; that, no doubt, contributes to the funneling effect.

But, suffice it to say, Mackanin would be an outlier if hired to be a first-time manager in his 60s. That said, the Sox, at least, insist that age will not be a consideration as they make their next hire.

“I will say that, in general, we hire ‘em young, in full flower, and at the older end,” Sox President/CEO Larry Lucchino said in response to an inquire about age and managerial hirings. “And our managerial search will be conducted accordingly.”

That, of course, is good news for Mackanin, as he tries to buck the hiring trends of the last 30-plus years.

Read More: bobby mattick, Charlie Manuel, Larry Lucchino, pete mackanin
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