Like most other professional sports, baseball teams consist of multiple levels of responsibility. The three primary parties responsible for managing a Major League Baseball team are the owner(s), front office, and coaching staff
Let’s look at each one of these.
I debated on whether to include ownership here, but I think they are worth noting. Most baseball owners are not directly involved with day-to-day operations. However, they are typically involved with major big-picture items (e.g., setting the team’s budget) that influence how the team will be managed. In particular how the front office will be constrained (or not).
Some owners are more known (notorious?) for being hands on than others. George Steinbrenner comes to mind. However, some owners are more hands off, and known to provide the front office plenty of resources in order to seek a championship (e.g., the late Mike Ilitch comes to mind here).
What I find interesting is the evolution of the terminology. When I was younger, there was the general manager (front office) and the manager. As the New York Times wrote about last year, the titles have had ongoing shifts. Just to name a few, any of these could be the name for the position overseeing the front office: General Manager, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations, President of Baseball Operations, Chief Baseball Officer.
Just from the opening paragraph, you can begin to see the confusion if you go looking for “who’s in charge”. The Tampa Bay Rays use a dual title (General Manager and President of Baseball Operations for their head, whereas the Kansas City Royals are led by Dayton Moore (President of Baseball Operations) but also have a General Manager.
Regardless, it’s sufficient to know that the front office is distinct from the game managers. The responsibilities of the front office include:
- Conduct and finalize trade negotiations
- Conduct and finalize contract negotiations
- Place players on and claim players from waivers (as well as designated for assignment process)
- Call up (or send down) players to/from the major league team
- Scout players (high school, college, minor leagues, major leagues)
- Make decisions regarding who to draft in the amateur draft (Rule 4) and Rule 5 draft
The manager leads the coaching staff, which also includes a number of coaches (e.g., hitting coach, pitching coach, bullpen coach, first base coach, third base coach, etc.).
Coaching duties are typically split like this:
- Manager : Primary responsibility is the management of on-the-field portion of the team. He/she decides on the starting lineup, when substitutions will be made, and when discussions (well, arguments) are to be had with the umpire.The manager will usually provide input to the GM about needs they see (e.g., left-handed pitchers are beginning to tire, so perhaps we need to call up a fresh arm).
- Pitching Coach
- Bullpen Coach
- Hitting Coach
- First Base Coach
- Third Base Coach
: The pitching coach handles the management of the pitching staff. This includes helping pitchers prepare (e.g., information about opposing hitters, establishing workout/practice routines), providing input on pitch selection, analyzing pitches (and pitching sequences), and managing in-game pitcher use in conjunction with the manager.
The bullpen coach is in charge of making sure each pitcher warms up appropriately during the game. He/she will often receive word from the manager or pitching coach advising who should be getting ready. They may also provide input on pitching mechanics and pitch selection.
The hitting coach is in charge of establishing batting practice routines and providing guidance to each hitter about how they can improve. This may include adjusting hitting mechanics or providing guidance on upcoming pitchers. The hitting coach increasingly should be able to understand advanced hitting analytics and adjust hitter’s approach based on that information.
In game, the first base coach’s primary responsibilities include communicating with hitters once they reach first base (e.g., observations about pitcher’s patterns that may help with stealing bases) and tracking where the ball is on the right side of the field (e.g., watching for trick plays, telling runner to advance to second base).
In game, the third base coach’s primary responsibility is to track the baseball on the left side of the field (e.g., watching for trick plays, telling runner when to advance to third base or home plate). The third base coach especially needs to be a good judge of when to stop a runner at third base or when to send them home (e.g., on singles hit to the outfield when a runner is on second base, or fly balls when a runner is on third base).
In addition to the above duties, typically one of the coaches (not manager) will have primary responsibility coaching the infield and/or the outfield.