Baseballistic
All Things Baseball

Managers Wanted

Finally, a day off between the League Championship Series and the World Series, which starts tomorrow. I thought that since playoff baseball is on a one-day hiatus, I’d go off that topic and discuss the abundance of managerial openings throughout the league. From toothpick testers to guys with communication trouble to veteran managers looking for their career to be resurrected to experienced coaches looking for a fresh start, there’s a ton of holes to be filled and plenty of capable skippers to fill them. Here’s a closer look at who fits where and who doesn’t.

Chicago Cubs Lou Piniella

Fixing the Cubs will be no easy task for Lou Piniella

I’ll start with the Cubs, since Chicago’s NL team has already chosen its new manager. Cubs GM Jim Hendry hired veteran skipper Lou Piniella to resurrect the team and get playoff baseball back to Wrigley Field, with ending the Curse of the Bartman one of the goals for the distant future. My evaluation of this decision is both positive and negative. Lou Piniella is a fine manager: he makes good decisions, knows how to manage the pitching staff, and he is certainly capable of reviving a team. Unfortunately, the Cubs main problem may not be in the dugout — in fact, I’d argue that it’s the front office that’s responsible for 90% of Chicago’s demise. GM Jim Hendry has made bone-head moves, added injury-prone players to the already beaten-up roster, and has ignored several crucial statistics, such as OBP when putting together the team. Piniella is definitely a good choice to help the Cubs get back on top, but some reshuffling of the front office is long overdue.

San Francisco Giants Wotus, Bochy, Brenly, Acta, or Washington?

The Giants’ best option might be just across the Bay in Ron Washington

GM Brian Sabean is looking for a Manager who can help get the Giants back into playoff contention and who is also able to manage young players well. With San Francisco’s front office looking to deport most of the 40+ year olds and alter the Giants’ strategy for winning, the new skipper will need to have excellent knowledge of the game, be experienced, and be able to communicate well with the players. Ron Wotus is a good in-house option, and the long-time bench coach is certainly deserving of a promotion. Sabean however, has long resisted giving Wotus a chance at the top and it’s likely he’ll scour the market and interview anyone he can before settling on his bench coach. Three of the options are Padres’ manager Bruce Bochy, who has been granted permission by San Diego to seek a position elsewhere, Cubs’ broadcaster Bob Brenly, and Mets’ 3B coach Manny Acta. While both of these guys have what it takes to be terrific skippers, I don’t think any of them fit well with the Giants changing philosophy. One guy that does fit in is Oakland’s 3B coach Ron Washington. While Ron-Wash is unlikely to be seriously considered by Sabean, I think he ought to be. Washington is one of the best coaches in the game — both at 3B and with the infielders — and he certainly has a terrific managerial career in his near future. With the A’s managerial role also empty right now, the Giants will need to act fast if they want Ron-Wash in their dugout.

Oakland Athletics Bochy, Washington, Lachemann, or Geren?

GM Billy Beane has a surplus of in-house options
The A’s are well-known for keeping their budget low, so don’t expect Billy Beane to scour the market looking for a high-budget manager. The only former or current MLB manager that Oakland will likely consider is Bruce Bochy, though the chances of Bochy coming to the A’s are probably remote. Beane also has 3 options to choose from within the A’s coaching staff. I already mentioned Ron Washington as a Giants’ candidate, and Ron-Wash is likely the favorite of the 3 to become Oakland’s manager as well. That said, his on-field coaching partner, 1B coach Bill Lachemann is also a strong candidate to become the skipper. Add bench coach Bob Geren into the mix and you can see why Billy Beane can get away without having to look beyond what he already has. Unless Ron Washington gets an offer somewhere else, I fully expect Billy Beane to promote him. If Ron-Wash does leave Oakland, I think either Lachemann or Geren, not an outsider, has the inside track to the managerial position. Why? Because both are very capable managers and know the A’s players well. Remember, Ken Macha was ousted not because of lack of success, but rather because of a “communication breakdown” (as outfielder Jay Payton put it) and a “complete disconnect” (as catcher Adam Melhuse put it) between the players and the skipper.

Texas Rangers Washington, Acta, Hillman, or Russell?

Manny Acta is one of the favorites to land the Texas managerial job

The AL West is rapidly becoming more competitive and the Texas Rangers are having trouble keeping up with the A’s, Angels, and even the soon-to-be-much-improved Mariners. With Buck Showalter sent packing due to lack of improvement, the Rangers are looking for a new skipper who works well with young players and can turn a team around. Manny Acta was recently interviewed by GM Jon Daniels, and both came out of the meeting pleased. Acta is probably the favorite of the current MLB coaches to land the Texas’ job, although Ron Washington will get some strong consideration as well. Texas has also added Nippon Ham (Japan) manager Trey Hillman to its list of candidates, and Hillman is well-liked by GM Jon Daniels, so he will likely be one of the finalists. Another “sleeper” candidate to become the new Rangers’ skipper is former Texas’ catcher John Russell, who was named International League “Manager of the Year” for his terrific effort with AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre (Phillies). Russell is definitely not one of the favorites, but he will almost certainly be strongly considered due to his wealth of success in the minor leagues.

Florida Marlins Fredi Gonzalez

Fredi Gonzalez could make the youthful Marlins a powerhouse

The Marlins fired Manager Joe Girardi despite a very successful 2006 season in which the team chock-full of rookies exceeded everyone’s expectations. As was the case with Ken Macha, Girardi did not communicate well with the players and was difficult to be “friends” with. Fredi Gonzalez was a very smart choice to replace him, because he has experience with youthful and energetic players and gets along with his team well. If the Marlins, despite their lack of star-power, will once again contend for the NL East and certainly the Wildcard, Fredi Gonzalez will be heralded for his effort. There’s no reason, in my opinion, why he should fail.

Washington Nationals Acta or Girardi?

Joe Girardi is considered the Nationals’ top candidate
The Nats list of candidates isn’t long, and it doesn’t need to be. Joe Girardi would be a good choice given his success with the young Marlins team last season, but GM Jim Bowden has to be concerned with the “communication breakdown” that Florida complained of. Manny Acta has what it takes, but Bowden doesn’t appear extremely enthusiastic about him either. With Washington’s candidate list more brief than anyone else’s, I think Bowden should take Girardi and enroll him into “Communication 101” at a local Community College, just in case.

Likely Landing Spots for the Recently Fired

  • Dusty Baker — working as senior tester for a toothpick factory; he’s darn good at it, unlike managing
  • Ken Macha — Konichiwa Japan! Macha has no future as a manager in the MLB so unless he gets a coaching job somewhere, his future is in Japan
  • Joe Girardi — Girardi will probably get a good look from the Nationals but a more likely landing spot is as a coach for the Yankees
  • Felipe Alou — Felipe can still manage, and his brain certainly isn’t “cream of wheat” yet (Larry Krueger). That said, he’s had a long and illustrious career and I’d call it quits if I were Felipe — his son Moises’ retirement should help the elder Alou hang up his cleats and lineup pen.
  • Buck Showalter — He has analyst/announcer written all over him. Showalter has experience as a sports-reporter, so he will likely either broadcast games for an MLB team or join ESPN’s Baseball Tonight crew
  • Frank Robinson — Very similar to Felipe Alou’s case, Frank should call it a career before things go south.

The 2006-07 offseason should be exciting to follow, with managers joining the “hot stove” in a very big way this winter.

________________________________________________________________

Trivia!

Yesterday’s Q and the correct A…

Q: One part of Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland’s attire during games sets him apart from most skippers. What is it?

A: Leyland is known for two peculiar habits during games. The one I’m asking about here is Leyland’s strange decision to wear cleats in the dugout. The other? Leyland is known for smoking on the clubhouse ramp between innings.

Today’s question is…

Mets’ 3B coach Manny Acta is a candidate to manage quite a few teams. Which country’s team did he manage during this year’s inaugural World Baseball Classic?

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