This is not to say Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch did or did not approve of his employer’s decision to acquire a disreputable ballplayer in closer Roberto Osuna, because I don’t know. This is to point out Hinch’s job was to stand in front and justify it, much as his conscience may or may not have allowed. Some days you punch the clock. Others, it punches you.
More than ever, problematic as a few managers can make it look, the game is the least of the gig. That leaves the other 21 hours of the day, those spent in modes of public relations, marketing, spin-doctoring, individual and group therapy, managing up (as well as down), brush-fire stomping, ego stroking (and stomping), fake smiling, go-along handshaking, medical reporting and no wonder so many are delivered lineup cards from their front offices, they’d barely have time to write them themselves. Oh yes, one other job: lineup-card-answering-for.
When Mike Scioscia steps down in Anaheim, assuming he does, he will be the last to have worked for four general managers while with the same organization. Because it doesn’t work that way anymore, not in any game, and particularly not in baseball. The power lies farther than ever from the top step, even as more is required from the man teetering upon it.
Hinch is excellent. So’s Joe Maddon. Bruce Bochy. Terry Francona. Bob Melvin. Dave Roberts. Others. Same time, you could squint and lean and see as many as eight managerial jobs open come winter. Even if it’s four or five – St. Louis, Cincinnati, Anaheim, Baltimore and whatever happens from there – that’s a lot, and the trend is toward first-timers, men not so far removed from clubhouses themselves, men who still look and sound like players, men who are analytics friendly, who lack the resume to be anything but what their bosses expect them to be. Every day. Which, granted, is like most other jobs.
So I asked a half-dozen baseball folks – general managers, scouts, baseball operatives – who they like for the next wave of field managers. Their answers were not intended to produce the complete list of who’s next, but to get a feel for what’s out there beyond the usual candidates.
Said one of those polled: “The brainpower bar has certainly been raised because there is so much information to manage, both up and down.”
Said another: “New-age managers are more psychologists regarding handling players; 2) analytics majors for front office compatibility; 3) media props; 4) lastly, game strategists.”
There will be omissions. This is what they offered:
The major league player information coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies, Fuld last played in 2015 and retired in 2017. His job under Gabe Kapler is described thusly: “Integrate the use of information in all areas of on-field performance and preparation and make recommendations regarding the most effective areas of future research and analysis.” Sounds like today’s manager.
The sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft, he played seven big league seasons, six with the Tampa Bay Rays, for whom he serves as major league field coordinator. Before that, he was in the Rays’ front office as a special assistant for four years. In an era when players are expected to finish their baseball educations at the major league level, Baldelli has a knack for teaching.
As Minnesota Twins coach and coordinator of major league development, Pickler, 42, according to his team biography, “Oversees outfield instruction, advises all coaches and players on game preparation and strategy, and coordinates communications between the major leagues and player development.”
After pitching five seasons in the major leagues for the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets, Bannister, 37, joined the Boston Red Sox as a scout and analyst before moving to the coaching staff. He possesses one of the brightest pitching minds in the game. His title: Vice President, pitching development and assistant pitching coach.
The New York Yankees hired a rookie manager (Aaron Boone) and, in a move that reflected their regard for Bard, made him Boone’s bench coach. Previously, he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he advanced from special assistant to the general manager to pro scout to bullpen coach. Bard caught in the big leagues for a decade.
After three seasons as first base coach for the Chicago Cubs (and a time as the club’s farm director), Hyde replaced Davey Martinez as Maddon’s bench coach. He managed for five seasons in the minor leagues for the then-Florida Marlins.
Ibanez, 46, has been a popular candidate for previous managerial openings. He was a finalist for the Rays job when Maddon left for Chicago and has been on several other short lists, including those in New York and Philadelphia. Currently serves the Dodgers as special assistant to the general manager.
The special assistant to Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, Young was a smart and productive player and respected clubhouse leader over 14 major league seasons. His transition to manager’s office would be a natural.
The hot name to replace Scioscia in Anaheim. Chavez, general manager Billy Eppler’s special assistant for three years, this week was named manager of the Angels’ Triple-A affiliate in Salt Lake City. Chavez had not coached or managed previously, though is regarded as an Eppler favorite.
He’s retiring at the end of the season in order to spend more time with his wife and two sons. Also, presumably, because he’ll be 40 in December. Fellow players do not like to disappoint Chase Utley, which is a good quality to have in a manager.
Just about everybody’s favorite teammate over a 19-year big-league career, the charismatic Hunter is a natural leader. He hinted at the All-Star Game, where he served as Futures Game manager, he might require minor-league seasoning, but probably could be talked out of that.
Beltran, 41, was one of six candidates to replace Joe Girardi in New York. He provided effortless leadership across a 20-year career and will manage somewhere, some day.
The Phillies bench coach has done it all, and done it with grace and energy. Was a Yankee for nearly three decades, 10 years as third-base and bench coach in the major leagues. Also, he managed in the minor leagues and was the club’s farm director.
The former catcher is Scioscia’s bench coach. Paul, 43, was previously minor league catching coordinator and a minor league manager for the Yankees. He got some love during the Yankees’ search that ended with them hiring Boone.
Lowell, 44, is one of those respected former players most believe would make a great manager, soon as he decides to be one. He is an analyst on MLB Network. He spent a few days in Red Sox camp this spring and said recently he could see managing in his future.
DeRosa interviewed with the New York Mets, was rumored to be Cubs bench coach candidate and was endorsed by Mark Teixeira for the Yankees job. While he lacks coaching experience, leaders are leaders. The personable DeRosa is one of those.
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