- Reports are out that the Angels want managerial candidates to take a written test. Is this unusual practice?
On Monday afternoon, Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reported that the Angels will be administering a two-hour written test to managerial candidates. The news was met with some amusement (sharpen your No. 2 pencils!) and a feeling that this was another move to alienate more traditional managers (say, Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker) from future positions. Our panel of MLB experts discusses the ramifications of Eppler's move and how it might signal the future of managerial hiring.
Tom Verducci: The two-hour test is nothing new. I've known candidates who spent an entire day interviewing and even watching games to go through what their thought process should be. It shouldn't scare off "traditional" candidates, and if it does, you didn't want that guy anyway.
Ben Reiter: I’m assuming the ability to write is a prerequisite to anyone – traditional or otherwise – who is trying to get one of just thirty highly coveted and highly paid jobs. The really interesting question is what the Angels will do with the tests, and how much they will factor into their ultimate decision. Which we don’t know.
Emma Baccellieri: I'd argue that managers' interpersonal skills are more important than ever. The front office is bringing information on how to optimize the line-up, how to use the shift, how to deploy the bullpen. There are still crucial decisions for a manger to make, particularly in-game, but so much of the big-picture stuff can be largely handled elsewhere. Meanwhile, communicating with and relating to players remains a huge part of the job, and that can't be outsourced. There's certainly value in a written test like this one—particularly as one part of a larger interview process—and we don't know exactly how the team is using it. But I don't think that, on its own, it can assess who's going to be equipped to manage the personalities of a clubhouse.
Jon Tayler: It’s certainly a sign of the times in that it reflects how thoroughly the Angels’ front office wants to control its manager—to have him be an extension of its thought process. That’s no surprise: We saw that with the Yankees and Aaron Boone, and as front offices get more and more data-centric and quant-heavy, the days of the truly independent manager will come to a close. Will this turn off the likes of Buck Showalter and Dusty Baker? Almost certainly. Is that by design? Almost certainly. Young and pliable is the flavor of the moment. The one worry if you’re the Angels is drawing in someone so raw and untested that he can’t think on his feet in crucial situations—a problem that shows up at inopportune moments, as the Yankees found with Boone in the last two games of the ALDS.
Gabriel Baumgaertner: This is a newstory ripe for Twitter jokes, but I can't imagine it's something too unusual for a prospective manager. All four remaining teams are led by young managers (Milwaukee's Craig Counsell is the oldest at 48) and three of them (Dodgers, Astros and Brewers) are openly some of the most progressive teams regarding player evaluation. A prospective manager likely doesn't need to be fluent in xFIP to win over Eppler, but he probably will need to demonstrate a knowledge of certain hitters' tendencies and ideal reliever matchups.
Talk radio hosts are bound to lambast this as removing the heartbeat from the game, but my assumption is that Eppler wants a manager whose situational awarenes is high and his test is a way of demonstrating that. I'd be shocked if it is revealed that the candidate who scored the highest on this written test was given the job.
Jack Dickey: The Angels, who have a shrinking window and no time to waste on a bad hire to replace Mike Scoscia, should be applauded for their rigor. It’s important to see how potential managers explain their baseball and people philosophies outside of the traditional job-interviewing context. As a lowly journalist, I’ve never hired anyone for a paying job, but I’ve certainly been around lots of people who’ve been hired for paying jobs. A lot of people can talk a good game in an interview! There’s only so much you can cover in a couple hours, and sometimes a pleasant conversation can obscure less-pleasant truths. The problem for the Angels is that the skills necessary to be a great big-league manager are only marginally more likely to surface themselves in a written test plus an interview than in an interview alone. It’s a hard job to do, and a hard job for which to predict someone’s performance. Take the NL East: Dave Martinez and Mickey Callaway had great pedigrees—both struggled this year. Gabe Kapler had a less traditional résumé; the jury’s still out. Brian Snitker, with no pedigree, looks like a maestro. So who knows?