2005 Managerial Speculation
I’m going to add to this as we work on it, so please, if you don’t see someone here, be patient.
Internal organizational candidates
Minor league managers
Dan Rohn. Manager, Tacoma Rainiers.
Rohn’s been recognized as a fine minor league manager. He’s a player’s manager in a different way than Melvin was. Where Melvin let the team run, Rohn’s happy to shake things up without beating up on people — dumb stuff like cancelling BP if the team’s dragging, for instance. Rohn’s been able to get a lot out of his players and keep a team together even as it was pillaged by the M’s. Rohn’s tactical game is predictable in some situations, which at the major league level would be scouted and exploited.
Dave Brundage. Manager, San Antonio Missions. Organization loves him, he’s a fiery motivator type. Doesn’t care for stats at all, and his teams run like crazy on the basepaths. It’s worked for him, though, and it’s not as if he’s making really low-percentage plays. What I really like about Brundage is that while he may not care about stats, he’d clock his mom if it meant he could win a game. If the opposing team has a terrible player at third who can’t charge bunts, he’ll have the team bunt at that guy until they sub him out. If their catcher has a hitch in his throw, he’ll steal bases every pitch he can get away with it. If you’re as tired of seeing Melvin mechanically steal a base instead of using brain power to figure out how to steal a game, Brundage is the manager you want.
Both of these guys would be upgrades over Melvin. They have managerial experience where he does not, they’re used to working with young players, which Melvin did not, and in particular players they’re going to try and build the team around. Rohn is a good choice for managerial experience, Brundage would likely remake the team’s style in his image, with all the risk and reward inherent in that kind of project.
Bryan Price, pitching coach, Mariners. Price was a finalist in the managerial running last time. He was thought to lack the required experience, but someone who might take over for Melvin down the road. Which doesn’t make sense, since Melvin had no managerial experience to speak of either. Anyway, Price’s reputation’s taken a huge hit since Piniella. It seems strange that Price managed to win Piniella’s respect and turn Lou’s greatest weakness into a strength by demonstrating to Lou the benefits of shorter leashes, rest patterns, and Price also did a lot of work in when to pull guys against leaving them in, bullpen management, and so on. And yet under Melvin, supposedly a more progressive thinker, the team went to endless L/R platoon matchups out of the bullpen, where guys warmed up eight times a game only to not come in, and inexplicably wore out their starting pitchers over seasons and over games.
What happened? Did Price get dumb? Stripped of authority? Did Melvin not listen to him? Only Price can answer these questions, but no one’s asking.
In a larger sense, pitching coaches almost never go on to become good managers, which seems weird but… it’s also true. We can speculate on why this is — I personally don’t see why someone smart like Price couldn’t pick it up — but it remains that it’s a huge barrier to overcome.
Don Baylor, former manager, Rockies 1993-1998, Cubs 2001-2002. No. No way. Along with Larry Bowa (see below), if your team’s considering Don Baylor you should hope you can still get your season ticket deposit back.
Larry Bowa, former manager, Phillies 2001-2004, Padres 1987-1988. Bowa’s a bad manager. There’s no other way to put this. He’s a fiery, competitive guy but he alienates his players quickly, his teams underperform, he has trouble running his pitching staffs… if you want a firebrand manager, there are far, far better choices. As much as people are worried that hiring internal candidates means we’ll have trouble attracting free agents, I think Bowa would be a larger problem for potential FAs.
Bob Brenley, former manager, Diamondbacks, 2001-2004. If you couldn’t get enough of Bob Melvin, here’s the guy you want to replace him. Yeagh. Ill talent evaluator, terrible in-game tactician. No hire.
Larry Dierker, former manager, Astros, 1997-2001. Author of “This Ain’t Brain Surgery” which I highly recommend as a good book. Known as one of the most sucessful managers in using statistical analysis and strategy along side conventional wisdom and the Book, Dierker’s largest problem was that Bagwell and Biggio turned against him and drove him out. Dierker’s teams consistently over-performed, reaching the playoffs on modest budgets, and he did an outstanding job of getting good seasons out of players who would later collapse. Got two good seasons out of Carl Everett, for instance, and managed to keep Carl out of trouble for the most part. I spent a good part of an hour interviewing Dierker for Baseball Prospectus Radio, and I have to say that I was greatly impressed with his obvious intelligence. Almost certainly willing to return to managing in the right situation. That said… Dierker hasn’t gotten a lot of attention for recent openings, and I wonder if there’s an issue with him not being old-school enough. I think Dierker would be an outstanding candidate for the job.
Jim Fergosi, former manager Angels, 1978-1981, White Sox, 1986-1988, Phillies, 1991-1996, Blue Jays, 1999-2000. Fergosi’s got over two thousand major league games under his belt, and the only real season you could point to as an example in his favor is the 1993 Phillies team that won 97 games. Besides that his career is a long exercise in sub-modesty.
Art Howe, former manager, Houston Astros, 1989-1993, Oakland A’s, 1996-2002, New York Mets, 2004-2004. Howe’s an average manager. I don’t mean that as a jab at all — I only mean that Howe’s more of an organizational soldier than he is a Piniella-type personality guy. With the A’s, he played the kind of ball they wanted for the most part, and leaned heavily on Rick Peterson to handle the pitching staff. In New York, things didn’t go so well, but he faced the same issues all the other Mets managers had. The greatest knock on Howe is that his A’s teams appeared really badly coached. As much as we might mock the M’s for this at times, Howe’s A’s teams went into the playoffs and made terrible gaffe after gaffe that cost them games and series. That kind of poor preparation sticks with me — it’s preventable, and Howe should be held accountable for it. Better than Bowa, though.
Davey Johnson, former manager Mets 1984-1990, Reds 1993-1995, Orioles 1996-1997, Dodgers 1999-2000. I’d forgotten those two years with the Dodgers. Johnson was a master of the death-by-paper-cuts approach to managing, a guy who would hunt for every advantage, real or imagined, in every game, and over the course of the season would squeak out more than he should have. He also consistently angered or alienated organizations he worked for, players who took the field for him… Johnson’s a guy you might want as a bench coach, if you thought he wouldn’t be constantly stirring up trouble. Supposedly comfortable in retirement and declining all inquiries.
Grady Little, former manager Red Sox, 2002-2003. Little’s always going to be roasted for the Martinez Mistake, and that probably inordinately hurts his chances at future jobs. Which sucks. If you feel sorry for Little, please send donuts. To me. Because as Sox fans will be happy to tell you, Little made many mini-Martinez Mistakes all season long. Their lamentations aside, Little did run two top-notch teams to excellent records, though, while managing difficult personalities — though the 2004 super-chemistry is credited to Manny, because all chemistry changes have to be attributable to someone. Grady Little doesn’t seem to bring much to the table for the Mariners job, and seems unlikely to be a serious candidate.
Carlos Tosca, former manager Blue Jays
Bobby Valentine, former manager Rangers 1985-1992, Mets 1996-2002, also has managed in Japan and is currently managing the Chiba Lotte Marines. Valentine is smart and stupid. He’s an intelligent, funny man who somehow seems to alienate his organizations. He’s had a keen eye for player talent — one of Valentine’s more famous conflicts with Mets management came when he told them they needed to spend whatever it took to get Ichiro and they blew him off. But then again, Valentine loved Rey Ordonez and refused to pinch-hit for him even when it was absolutely called for. I found him tactically smart but with blindspots (Ordonez), others disagree with that. Valentine knows more about baseball than anyone else on this list, if I may, but the application of that knowledge is sometimes baffling.
Interestingly enough, he’s being mentioned as a strong candidate to be re-hired in New York, which would be bizarre, given all they went through. Valentine can opt out of his contract with Chiba, but has said that he’s happy working in Japan again.
Earl Weaver, former manager, Baltimore Orioles, 1968-1982, 1985-1986. Oh, why not? If Jack McKeon can come back, why not a 74-year old Earl Weaver? Fun side note: even with those two bad teams at the end, Earl Weaver’s career winning percentage was .583. Between 1968-1982, his worst team was the 1972 Orioles who went 80-74. He won with speed and with power, with youth and with veterans.
Jimy Williams, former manager, Blue Jays, 1986-1989, Red Sox, 1997-2001, Astros, 2002-2004. I uh… boy. Williams is good with the press. He’s an amusing old, old school manager. He uh… can we just say no to Williams and move on?
Guys looking to move up
Chris Chambliss. Unfortuantely he’s constantly put on the minority-candidate carousel, and deserves better. Lot of minor league managerial experience, lot of major league managerial experience. Check out this interview with Chambliss, by Jeff Bower back when Bower was writing for BP instead of telling kids to get off his lawn. Chambliss is another fiery dude, but apparantly that’s only in your favor if.. I’m better off not finishing that sentence, I think. Chambliss would be an interesting hire, for certain.
Joey Cora, third base coach, White Sox, also has managed teams though not in MLB.
I’m sorry, but it’s so hard for me to think of li’l Joey Cora, grinning, running around, crying, as the manager of the Mariners. I know that’s dumb, but that’s Mariners fandom for you sometimes: it’s rewarding and absurd, all at once.
Rudy Jaramillo, hitting coach, Rangers. I don’t know him from Adam.
Joe Maddon, bench coach, Anaheim Angels. Frequently touted by Peter Gammons as one of the next great managers, Maddon’s name has circulated a lot this year for managing vacancies. I’m going to be totally up-front about this: Maddon apparantly keeps track of a bunch of stats he’s made up on the team, like “keep-alives” where you get on base after the guy in front of you makes an out. That’s exactly the kind of weird, stats-to-support-assertions thing we don’t need. I would rather have a guy who doesn’t particularly care about statistics making decisions based on his impression of hitter ability (breaking ball pitcher… who do I have who can hit that…) than crazy small-sample-size stats like keep-alives. The guy doing talent evaluation could possibly be good at that and make good choices. There’s no way a manager who tries to draw anything out of those random weird stats, much less make decisions based on them, is making better decisions than they would rolling dice. That aside… the fact that he’s even looking at stats is sort of encouraging.
Coming up! More crazy candidates!