2015 New Ports Manager

The Stockton Ports have announced their 2015 On Field Staff, including for the second season in a row, a new Manger. This year, longtime A’s Minor League Manager, Coach and Scout Rick Magnate will take the helm of the good ship Stockton. He has managed in the Minors since 1997 with a break from 1998 to 2006 when he became the Manger in Vancouver.

Buttermaker HitlerMinor League Managers are something of a mystery to fans. Most of the time, it seems like they are former minor league players with an occasional cup of coffee in the Majors. They appear as grizzled and Crash Davis-like philosophers or Morris Buttermaker drunks with a penchant for winning. They aren’t.

What they are is teachers, parents, leaders, drill sergeants and even baseball philosopher and so much more rolled into somebody who loves the game so much that they want to do everything they can to make certain that the next big thing to hit the Majors is ready and capable to carrying the torch. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. But it’s clear that they will have a major impact on the young players and even have a say in whether or not the players move up.

The biggest dichotomy, of course, is the age old Minor League debate: do you learn by winning or by following the agenda? Fans like to see wins, and happy fans come to the ball park. Players like to win because, well, because why keep score if nobody wins? But sometimes, winning isn’t as important to the Big Club as having payers make progress. A couple of years ago, Lynn Sakata found that out the hard way in Modesto, where HE WAS FIRED MID-SEASON BY THE ROCKIES for putting the emphasis on winning. I thought it was a bad move for a lot of reasons, the main one being that the Rockies have a history of mediocrity and it wasn’t like they were developing players hand over foot that could be traded or made it to the show for the Team and led them to competitiveness. Sakata’s philosophy was that you learn to win with the skills you have, and then you translate that to the big leagues. The Rockies disagreed and insisted on limiting pitchers to short outings and having players do specific things on the field that weren’t always called for “by the book” to win a game. It drove Sakata virtually “nuts” (get it?) and if they hadn’t fired him I am certain he probably would have quit anyway.

The weird thing, of course, is that after Sakata was canned, the Nuts went on a second half streak and won the Second Half crown, before falling to Visalia in the first round of the Playoffs. So who knows? Is winning more important than learning?

After an odd incident in Stockton a couple of years back, I ended up changing my own mind on the matter. I was a pretty die hard “Just Win, Baby” guy, until a 15 or 17 inning game (who keeps track after 10?) that ended up with the Ports losing after a position player, balked the winning run to 3rd base, twice. The Ports were out of Pitchers, and the 3rd Baseman had been asked to risk his career and arm by throwing an inning, or two from the mound.

On a team where Winning is the only goal, that’s the sort of thing players do without hesitation. They want the win, and who doesn’t think that they can strike out Babe Ruth, at least once?

But what I never considered before is the fact that the players have long range goals, and the risk to a position payer going to the mound for mop-up duty or in a 22 inning marathon (which will only happen on a post-Game Fireworks Night), is taking a huge risk. Pitching isn’t throwing a ball from 3rd to 1st or from the Outfield to the cutoff man. There’s a reason why Pitchers go through the routines they go through and do things the way that they do. This isn’t Little League, where a player moves around from position to position each inning, this is Professional Baseball, where a player gets paid – at this level – to learn and progress as the Big Team that invested in him sees best.

16542f5231c084c03b422557111746a1And that’s why managing in the Minor Leagues is such a challenge. There are usually – at this level – three guys. A Manager, who doubles as the 3rd Base Coach, a Pitching Coach and a Hitting Coach. There’s no Bench Coach, no Ego Coach, no team shrink or advisor. Those three guys, led by the Manager, have to figure out a way to teach the kids what they have to know to be of increased value to the Big Team, AND keep the local fans coming because a team of loveable losers is funny in the movies, but not so much in real life.

The Minor Leagues are about entertainment as much as they are competition, and a good Manager knows entertainment is what you make it . When Webster Garrison was managing in Stockton, he became a fixture for a group of fans who called themselves “WebHeads,” holding up his picture and cheering loudly as he jogged… okay… walked to 3rd Base in the bottom of each inning. The fans loved him, and he in turn, helped a lot of Stockton Ports make it to the Major Leagues, and not just with the Athletics.

Less known is that during the teams infamous 16 game losing streak in 2012, Webby kept his cool on the field and in the locker, but not so much when he wasn’t around the players. In my view, it made him even more loveable, and it taught the kids that winning the RIGHT way is just as important as winning at all. By THE FINAL GAME OF THE SEASON, it was obvious that the 2012 Ports had learned more than they ever would have had the won the League Title.

Rick Magnate

Rick Magnate

So now, for 2015, Rick Magnate takes the reigns in Stockton, tasked with bringing up some of the best future talent that the A’s have in the right way. He and his staff will be a leader, teacher, mentor, Drill Sergeant, Ass-kicker and ego stroker. All in front of  couple of thousand of people each night who want to see the Ports win, but in their hearts know that what they are really seeing in the starting of some big League careers.

You get picked to do this, because you’re the best at it.  And because you love the game.

Rick Magnate is that guy for Stockton in 2015.

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Posted on January 12, 2015, in 2015 Season, Baseball, Minor Legue, Ports and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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