There are few more colorful personalities, and few more opinionated people, in baseball than Dallas Green. The Delaware native led the moribund Phillies to a World Championship, rebuilt the downtrodden Chicago Cubs and had a hand in the changing fortunes of both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees in roles as manager, general manager, scout and senior baseball advisor. Along the way he has clashed with ownership over lights at Wrigley Field, star players over playing time, and media over his approach to the game. Green, who still advises the Phillies on baseball matters, also had a tragic twist in the public eye when his granddaugher, Christina-Taylor Green, was killed in the 2011 Tucson shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. His handling of the tragedy was cited by media around the world, and he has become a very public advocate against gun violence.
Green put all his life’s work together in a new biography, “The Mouth That Roared; My Six Outspoken Decades in Baseball.” We caught up with Green to get his thoughts on the game of baseball, on and off the field.
What’s the one change you would make in the game today?
I’m in favor of a salary cap that would allow general managers to pay players based on performance, not just years of service. As I say in the book, the most disappointing outcome of the baseball union’s increased clout is that teams are now paying huge sums of money to mediocre players and non-performers.
You worked for some very colorful owners. Who in the game today do you think is the best owner and why?
I’ve spent most of my career with the Phillies, so obviously, I’m partial to that organization. But I also admire the Atlanta Braves. They field a winning team almost every season, and at least part of the credit for that goes to their ownership. I’ve always believed the front office and the manager need to be on the same page. That has long been the case in Atlanta.
Does the DH, which celebrates an anniversary this year, help or hurt the game?
I’ve never liked the DH, but I can’t really say if it has helped or hurt the game. I’ve been a National League guy almost my entire career, so I’m used to seeing pitchers swing the bat. Having the pitcher in the lineup gives a manager more to think about in terms of strategy. From a non-baseball standpoint, the DH drives up salaries, because there are a lot of high-paid players at that position.
Who is the one player in the game today you would most like to coach and why?
Mike Trout. I love his attitude and approach to the game. He has the talent and work ethic to become an outstanding player.
Today’s game is more and more about access than ever before. Does the corporate structure of the baseball business today help or hurt the managerial process?
It definitely hurts the process. There are far too many non-baseball people involved in baseball decisions. But that’s a result of the way money has taken over the game. The guys who control the purse strings want to know how their money is being spent.
How would your World Champion Phillies team stack up in the NL today?
We had a very strong ball club that included three future Hall of Famers: Pete Rose, Steve Carlton, and Mike Schmidt. We would definitely be in the hunt, because we excelled in all areas of the game and had a group of young players who loved to play and wanted to contribute to winning a championship.
From a manager’s perspective, which city has the best fan support, and which has the worst?
Philadelphia has the best fans. I’ve known them a long time, and they understand the game and are never shy to tell you how they feel about you or their team. Miami has the worst fans. It’s sad to see how few people show up for their games.
What’s the biggest regret you had as a GM?
It stung to be fired by the Cubs in 1987, just as players like Greg Maddux, Mark Grace, Rafael Palmeiro, and Shawon Dunston were about to make a big impact as major leaguers. The Tribune Company said “philosophical differences” between us led me to resign. But the truth is that they fired me.
Is there a city which you would have liked to manage in but never got the chance?
It’s hard to top managing the Phillies, Yankees, and Mets. I’m probably the only person to have done that. Each of those teams has a rich history, tremendous fan base, and some of the best beat writers in the business. I had some clashes with some of those guys, but for the most part, they could take it as well as they could dish it out.
As a player, what was your favorite city to play in and why? And did that perspective change when you went to the front office?
I’ve always liked San Francisco. They play lot of day games there, which means visiting teams can enjoy the city’s great restaurants. In my day, they were a tough team to face. Between Mays, McCovey, and Cepeda, outs didn’t come easy.