Friday, September 19, 2003

Silly Manager Trick #23
The Frank Robinson Rule  

Coaching is one of the cardinal virtues of managing: the ability to make long-term, enduring performance enhancements (without andro) in the staff who work for/with you.

Remember this: Just because it's easy for you doesn't mean it's easy.

In non-baseball coaching, it’s important to remember what I call The Frank Robinson Rule: if you’re really good at something, whether you got there by the luck of birth or the application of hard work and practice, don’t expect other people to achieve what you have.

Frank Robinson was one of the finest players ever to make the majors. He won a Rookie of the Year award (1956, for Cincinnati), Most Valuable Player awards in both leagues (Cincinnati in 1961, Baltimore in 1966). In 1966, he also won the MVP of the World Series and won a Triple Crown (lead the league in batting average and homers and RBIs), too. He won a Gold Glove in 1958.

In short, he was an all-around player, who got to big games and did well in them in a lot of different situations. He was born with great talents, and worked very hard to sharpen them.

He was, until 2002, when he took over the MontrĂ©al Expos, a poor manager. Rico Carty played for Robinson in Cleveland in 1975 and 1976, and was one of the better players on the team. He once told me that Robinson was really tough in his expectations of players. Robby was a five-tool all-star who found it hard to believe that if his players weren’t as good as he had been, they just weren’t trying hard enough.

This is actually typical in non-baseball managers who have a strong history of accomplishment, and their normal pattern is to see each fresh face as a savior, only to be disappointed (and even sometimes turning on them) when they discover the youngster can’t do everything they themselves can do.

If you have this Frank Robinson pattern, it increases your ability to find the flaws in your team players’ game, but it brutally limits what you can and will do to help your organization help the player make a dent in the limits. Your roster, like most major league rosters, will usually have a few five-tool players as well as scrubs as well as role-players who excel at one or two of the many things they need to do.

It may be age or special learning experiences or just the fact that the Expos have such an eviscerated roster, but Robinson inherited the them in 2002 and was successful with them both in that year and the next. Were his expectations so low that he had to overcome his natural tendency, or has he grown as a person and manager? I’d like to think it’s the latter.

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