The best baseball manager in the country resides in a small town in middle Tennessee. His name is Wink Chatterfield. A smallish man, with a height that would only make a child jealous and a weight bordering on a sack of flour, Chatterfield is an icon in his field. He has all the smarts to be great but his key to success can only be described as an aura. There is just a way about him. Players love him; the media loves him. Hell, even opposing managers respect and admire him. It’s like he’s there at the ballpark everyday having fun while everyone else is doing work. The only similarly is that he collects his paycheck just like the rest of them, even though it never seems like he’s working.
Wink is not his given name. His momma still calls him Franklin. Wink is what everyone else calls him although not many know why. The nickname stems from a bit of irony. Chatterfield simply goes innings, sometimes whole games without blinking or shutting his eyes. Most observers take this as steely determination, him trying to psych out the opponent. Others oftentimes believe Wink has slipped into a coma, as he routinely matches his unmoving eyes with a quiet mouth.
But this is what makes him such a spectacular coach. He is hands-off. He does not force moves or strategy on his players and they respect him for it. Wink can go an entire game without suggesting one bit of tactic to his position players, allowing them to learn from their own mistakes and adapt on the fly. This freedom in his clubhouse makes his players feel like the master’s of their own game and they love Wink for it.
There have been games where Chatterfield’s managerial way has come back to bite him though. Once, when his right fielder had stepped in a divot in the field and twisted his ankle, Wink made no effort to remove him from the game. He would have to battle through the pain and play a more focused, mental game for the last few innings. That was Chatterfield’s belief. However, when the man could not run down a routine fly ball this seemed like a poor decision.
Asked after the game by the media about his choice for his right fielder to stay in, Wink simply smiled at the reporter, with his eyes wide, and the man abandoned his line of questioning.
To people outside the sport, it was not clear why Wink Chatterfield was so successful or beloved. For non-baseball people, they could not see what Wink was great at. And for stat heads, they simply refused to believe because of what their numbers claimed. In a press conference after a game one day a statistician brought out pages of data to dispute the claims that Wink was the best. He had situational numbers showing how Wink refused to have his players bunt when it was clearly the best play. There were claims that Wink, giving all his players the green light to steal a base at any point in any game, was out of touch with the current era. The statistician really did not get IT. Of course he had examples of where these managerial decisions harmed Wink’s team. When his slow-footed catcher tried to steal third base down two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning one game, it really put a damper on the team’s chance of winning after he was thrown out by 20 feet. But the man never brought up any instances of when Wink’s hands-off approach benefited his team. The argument was completely bias and one-sided like all the attacks on Chatterfield were.
In the end, the measure of a man’s success should be determined by wins and losses. That is what a manager is brought in and paid to do: win. And Wink’s teams flat out win. He has averaged more than 200 victories per calendar year for the past two decades. Never mind the fact that Chatterfield routinely manages multiple teams at one time (creating a gigantic conflict of interest to those concerned with such notions). Forget that he often coaches through three or four seasons in one year, jumping from different leagues in different towns. The numbers do not lie. Over 200 victories per year is something not even Casey Stengel or Connie Mack could dream of reaching.
People who dislike Franklin “Wink” Chatterfield will find reasons to downplay his accomplishments. The bottom line is that if a manager was needed to win one game, a hypothetical life-or-death situation, there is no doubt Mr. Chatterfield would receive a call asking if he was in town and whether he had the number of a manager who could be counted on in such a situation. No one is more reliable for contacts and networking than Wink Chatterfield.