Why Angels are banking on 2-hour manager test

October 17th, 2018

Many baseball observers reacted with curiosity this week, following an MLB.com report that the Angels have administered two-hour written tests to managerial candidates during interviews this month.

The Angels are, in fact, "getting closer" to a decision on their next manager, one source said Tuesday. Eric Chavez and Brad Ausmus are among the internal candidates who have interviewed, sources say, while Cubs bench coach Brandon Hyde and Astros bench coach Joe Espada are active candidates as well.

And while the duration and thoroughness of the Angels' exam may be rare -- even by the standards of an increasingly analytical sport -- written exercises have been a component of managerial interviews for more than a decade, sources say.

In fact, Terry Francona's interview with the Red Sox following the 2003 season included a short quiz, lineup exercise and multiple-choice portion, one source told MLB.com. The purpose of the written work was to make Francona feel uncomfortable, spur discussion and reveal to the Red Sox front office how he weighed competing factors in arriving at decisions.

The approach worked: The Red Sox hired Francona, and during his first season in Boston he helped the franchise win its first World Series in 86 years.

Sources say the Angels' current test spans multiple aspects of a modern manager's job: in-game decisions, the value of analytical information and approaches to relationships with players and front-office officials.

The examination typically has required between four and six handwritten pages, representing roughly one-quarter of the total time spent on a first-round interview. One source said the initial one-day interview for the Angels' managerial position has lasted around nine hours.

The Angels believe the written test can be more revealing than dialogue in illuminating how candidates approach specific aspects of the job. For example: During the regular season, mangers have several hours during which they consider analytical, scouting and subjective information to determine a lineup. A written exercise -- in which candidates set a lineup after being presented with research and other hypothetical factors -- mimics that ritual more meaningfully than a series of questions during extemporaneous conversation.

The Angels engineered the two-hour test with a balance of quantitative and qualitative sections, in order to demonstrate candidates' critical thinking ability, according to one person familiar with the exam. Major League team executives told MLB.com this week that it's common for teams to ask managerial candidates to complete short questionnaires and assessments of their personalities and learning styles.

A high-ranking official with one team said the prevalence of email and text messages in sharing information for in-season decisions has made communication skills (across mediums) more important to evaluate when hiring for various positions. In the Rangers' ongoing managerial search, the team is asking candidates to prepare brief answers to several questions in order to promote better discussion during the interview.

Baseball teams aren't the only entities within the industry who see the value in written assessments. Anyone wishing to join the Scott Boras Corporation as a player representative must complete a written test along with in-person interviews, to provide a fuller picture of his or her communication skills and analytical abilities.