Did you read recently where Downtown Tony Hsieh, who is to Fremont Street (and its surrounding area) what Joe Namath was to Broadway, is going to run his giant shoebox called Zappos without managers?
Think what might have happened had Hsieh purchased the Las Vegas 51s a couple of years back — as he was seriously considering — and used a similar business strategy.
Who would have coached third base tonight when the 51s play their Pacific Coast League home opener against Fresno at creaky old Cashman Field?
Poor Wally Backman would have been out work. Backman might have had to get a real job selling cars or something.
Who would have made out the batting order?
Yeah, one supposes Frank Viola could have done it. He seems to know a lot about baseball, too. But Viola is the 51s’ pitching coach — not technically a manager, but sort of a manager of the pitching staff.
Would a pitching coach be allowed keep his job in Tony Hsieh’s “holacracy?” Could he even spell holacracy?
Ground rules would have to be checked. Men in blue would have to be consulted. Replays would have to be reviewed.
Speaking of the umpires, who would come out to argue with them on close plays if there wasn’t a Bobby Cox or a Lou Piniella nearby? Who would kick dirt on their trousers?
Who would trudge out to the mound to signal for the southpaw warming up in the bullpen — and then who would come out one batter later and signal for the right-hander?
Who would sit in a tiny office without windows or ventilation late at night and file reports about how the bonus baby the Billy Beane-types in the parent club’s front office selected in the first round suddenly can’t hit the broad side of a sabermetrics barn with his cutter?
Who would spit tobacco in the corner of the dugout and say clever baseball things such as “Let’s get two?” Who would call for the high cheese or a li’l chin music when high cheese and a li’l chin music were called for?
Last but not least, who would punch out the marshmallow salesmen one encounters in the hotel bar on road trips? You think the fourth outfielder is gonna do it? Guess again, Cornelius McGillicuddy.
Perhaps Tony Hsieh can run a shoe business without managers.
But you can’t run a baseball team without one.
The Chicago Cubs tried it during the 1960s. Remember the College of Coaches? It was a notorious failure. As were the Cubs.
Besides, if there were no baseball managers, there were be no old baseball cards of guys named Grady or Sparky, or Solly or Salty, or Casey or Cookie — or even Herman Franks — cupping their hands to their cheeks, as if they were calling out to outfielders to play this guy to pull.
Certainly you remember those old manager cards you used to keep in a shoebox (but not a Zappos shoebox, because Zappos wasn’t around in Herman Franks’ day) in the closet. You may remember the checklists, too.
When Tony Hsieh was thinking about buying the 51s, I was told he had wild ideas about rebuilding the franchise or at least injecting some new life into it.
Supposedly he talked of letting everybody in for free, and then charging a little more for peanuts and Cracker Jack.
When the baseball people told him that was zanier than the Phillie Phanatic, Hsieh supposedly said fine. Then peanuts and Cracker Jack would be free, and he’d charge more for box seats.
Somebody should check the back of Tony Hsieh’s baseball card. I think he might be the long lost son of Bill Veeck.
But I keep thinking about this one night last summer when Tony Hsieh shut down East Fremont Street, and rented out all the bars, and told people — any people, not just people who worked for him — they could come in and drink for free.
I think about that night, and what if Tony Hsieh had bought the 51s, and what if he turned Cashman Field into a free bar and/or a mini downtown Camden Yards, all without asking taxpayers for a single dime?
These new owners haven’t broken ground on the new ballpark and climate-controlled batting cages in Summerlin people have been talking about for years. As long as they keep asking taxpayers for dimes, it’s probably not gonna happen, either.
See Mayor Goodman, downtown soccer stadium.
So it would appear we’re going to get a new hockey arena long before we’re going to get a new ballpark. Taxpayer dimes are not being spent at the new hockey arena. Not even on a Zamboni.
51s officials say it’s going to take a “creative approach” now. I say it’s going to take owners with deep pockets who are willing to write a check and not ask for public dimes.
A creative approach is optional.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.