Former Red Sox coach DeMarlo Hale is a great example that managerial candidates come and go. He was in vogue for a while, but his name hasn’t been included in searches for the last couple of years.
“I can’t think of anyone more qualified to be a major league manager than DeMarlo Hale,” said longtime coach, scout, and minor league manager Bob Schaefer, now special assistant to the general manager with the Nationals. “Players relate to him, and you don’t hear his name.”
Hale, the Blue Jays’ bench coach, has disappeared off the radar. So, too, has the Giants’ Ron Wotus, the longest-tenured bench coach in baseball, who serves under one of the game’s best managers in Bruce Bochy. Wotus, a Colchester, Conn., native, previously served under Felipe Alou and Dusty Baker.
You’d think you’d want a guy like that managing your team, but Wotus didn’t get a sniff last year and hasn’t yet this year.
“I think it’s a dream of anyone in my position to want to manage,” Wotus said. “I think I’ve been ready for it for a long time, but for whatever reason the opportunity just hasn’t come my way.”
Recently, teams have hired ex-high-profile major league players, including Ryne Sandberg (who paid his dues in the minors), Matt Williams, Brad Ausmus, and Robin Ventura, and the results have been mixed.
The old apprenticeship thing isn’t as important. For as much as players are being rushed to the majors, managers are as well.
Years ago, if you were Whitey Herzog’s or Earl Weaver’s or Bobby Cox’s right-hand man, you’d get hired somewhere. Wotus hasn’t found that to be the case.
Neither has John Russell, the former Pirates manager and now Buck Showalter’s bench coach in Baltimore. Hale was also Terry Francona’s bench coach in Boston, and that hasn’t helped him.
What does a coach who has helped win two championships have to do to be considered? There can’t be any greater tribute to the job done by a coach than players responding and winning a championship.
Also on the Giants’ staff, Tim Flannery and Dave Righetti want the opportunity to manage, but both are not being considered.
How do these names come and go so quickly?
“It’s trendy,” said agent Alan Nero, who has represented many managers and coaches, including Tampa Bay’s Joe Maddon. “It’s owners and GMs looking for a certain type of guy. It’s sabermetrics. It’s the type of team. All kinds of factors. What’s trendy now may not be in a year. I have a lot of very qualified people sitting at home.”
Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach was a popular name for a while, got some interest the last two years, but this year? Not so much.
Then you have Brian Butterfield. Who deserves to be a major league manager more than him? He’s made a huge difference in turning players major leaguers. Remember his contribution to Derek Jeter? He’s a guy who knows the game inside and out, and not one interview?
Obviously, there are many variables involved.
The new-wave GMs generally don’t like “recycled” managers, but if you hold true to that you’d never have had the success of Joe Torre, Cox, or Tony La Russa in the past, or currently Bochy, Francona, Showalter, and Joe Girardi.
You wouldn’t have three of this year’s four LCS managers — Showalter, Bochy, and Ned Yost.
Once you’re out, it’s so hard to get back in.
Just ask Willie Randolph, Ken Macha, Don Baylor, Kevin Kennedy, Art Howe, Cecil Cooper, Brad Mills, Gene Lamont, Dave Trembley, Lee Mazzilli, Tony Pena, Jim Riggleman, Eric Wedge, Manny Acta, and a host of other former managers.
The Astros just hired A.J. Hinch, who at age 40 is getting a second chance.
The Rangers are spanning the globe for their new manager to replace Ron Washington, and have interviewed interim manager Tim Bogar.
Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo is one of the names being considered, and Texas pitching coach Mike Maddux has resurfaced.
The Twins recently fired longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire after much soul-searching. They had intended to being Gardenhire back until the final two weeks of the season when they started to change their mind.
The Twins have always been an insular organization, so it’s no surprise they’re considering former Twins Paul Molitor, Single A manager Doug Mientkiewicz, and Terry Steinbach.
La Russa, who is now running the Diamondbacks with new GM Dave Stewart, seems to be considering more experienced candidates to replace Kirk Gibson. Jim Tracy, who has managed the Dodgers, Pirates, and Rockies, had a strong interview, though it is unusual for a three-time manager to be considered again in this day and age.
La Russa has great respect for managers who have done the job and are able to learn from their mistakes.
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik gave a second chance to Lloyd McClendon, who had an unsuccessful five-year tenure in Pittsburgh, waited nine years for his next chance, and then fell one game short of the playoffs in Seattle.
We’re seeing a new list of names interviewing, such as Steve Buechele, Alex Cora, Joe McEwing, Kevin Cash, Phil Nevin, and Lorenzo Bundy. Chip Hale’s name has made a comeback. Randy Knorr’s is gone. Ex-Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek was mentioned as a possible Padres manager before a recommitment to Bud Black.
Get interviewed and get the job, or it could be a long time before you get anything else.
Atlantic League getting up to speed
The independent Atlantic League is a step ahead of Major League Baseball in terms of pace of game changes. When the Atlantic League adopted five steps starting Aug. 1, according to former Astros president Tal Smith, who was on the pace of game committee, it reduced game times by an average of 12 minutes initially, and then settled at 8-10 minutes as games became more important toward the end of the season.
Smith said the league will attempt to cut the time of stoppages between innings from an average of 2:34 to two minutes next season, which will shave considerably more time off a nine-inning game.
“It’s something we can execute in our league that maybe would be difficult in major league baseball because of television,” Smith said.
Another experiment for the Atlantic League will be using wireless communication from the dugout to the pitcher. This way, the manager can call in instructions to the pitcher or catcher and not have to make an appearance at the mound.
The league already has limited timeouts to three per game. Wireless communication would enable the league to reduce game times even more.
Smith said hitters are getting used to not stepping out of the box so often, and catchers have found they can communicate with the pitcher without a full-fledged mound visit.
The Atlantic League rejected one suggested change, pinch running for the catcher. It doesn’t appear that will gain traction.
The changes adopted were limiting mound conferences to three for a nine-inning game, but allowing one more conference per three extra innings; umpires enforcing the rule that pitchers must throw 12 seconds after they receive the ball and making the batter stay in the box; reliever warm-up pitches reduced from eight to six; intentional walks being automatic; and strict enforcement of the strike zone.
MLB, meanwhile, is using the Arizona Fall League to test out pace of game suggestions, such as a time clock for pitchers.
Apropos of nothing
1. Cardinals catcher A.J. Pierzynski said he’d be shocked if David Ross didn’t return to the Red Sox as the backup catcher. “He was like a second manager over there. They asked Rossey’s opinion on everything,” Pierzynski said. “They wanted him to catch even more than he did.” Pierzynski also said John Lackey hasn’t changed his approach since coming to the National League. “No, he’s the same Lack. He comes right at you,” Pierzynski said. Pierzynski, by the way, doesn’t want to retire after this season.
2. Lackey hasn’t had much to say about his Boston experience. “Right now, thinking about Boston is way down on the list,” he said. “I’ve got other things to worry about right now and things I need to pay attention to.” Lackey said of pitching in the NL, “It’s different, no doubt. There’s a free out built in there and there are some other things that are different.”
3. A few Athletics officials were surprised that Jon Lester fell apart and allowed six runs on eight hits over 7⅓ innings in his wild-card playoff game against Kansas City. “After all,” said one A’s player, “I thought his purpose was to win us that game and beyond.”
4. Rumors of an Andrew Friedman/Joe Maddon tandem for the Dodgers are making the rounds. It would require compensation.
5. One NL GM said Mookie Betts might be the most “mentioned name” in trade talks this offseason. The GM said Betts would be the main piece in any deal for a front-line starting pitcher, such as Chris Sale, Cole Hamels, or Jonny Cueto.
6. Andrew Miller was at the root of the demises of the Dodgers, Tigers, and Nationals, and the rise of the Orioles. All four teams made major bids for Miller, and only the Orioles ponied up their third-best pitching prospect — lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez — to make it happen. Not pulling the trigger on Miller killed the Tigers and Dodgers, and if the Nationals had Miller after Matt Williams’s horrible decision to take out Jordan Zimmermann in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game against the Giants in Game 2 of the Division Series, they might still be playing. The Orioles don’t regret it, even though Miller will sign elsewhere after the season. They don’t seem to be fretting about losing Rodriguez to Boston.
7. It was admirable of Bill Mueller to resign as Cubs hitting coach when the team removed assistant Mike Brumley. “Mike was a big part of what we did there,” Mueller said.
Updates on nine
1. Nelson Cruz, OF/DH, Orioles — Cruz is in good position to make some money on a three- or four-year deal. He enjoys Baltimore and hopes he can stay, but as we’ve written before, the Yankees and Rangers will make bids, as will the Mariners. Cruz, 34, looks like he’ll make a bundle somewhere.
2. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals — LaRoche likely will not be re-signed by the Nationals, who could move Ryan Zimmerman to first base. But LaRoche lines up nicely as a target for the Brewers, who have toyed with the idea of Ryan Braun moving to first but will likely keep him in the outfield. LaRoche also could draw interest from the Orioles if they lose Cruz, but the Brewers right now seem like the best fit.
3. Kevin Long, former hitting coach, Yankees — Long didn’t survive the purge of Yankees coaches, which also included the longtime and very effective Mick Kelleher. But as soon as he was dismissed, Long got some love from players, including David Ross, who said, “I hear he’s one of the best.” Long buys into Boston’s grind-it-out system since that’s what he preached in New York. He could join Chili Davis, Bill Mueller, and Dave Magadan as possible choices for the Red Sox, along with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez, who is really liked by the players.
4. Greg Colbrunn, former hitting coach, Red Sox — Colbrunn was a high riser in the Yankees’ system a couple of years ago when he was the hitting coach at Charleston, S.C., their Single A team, so don’t be surprised if he is welcomed back for their major league job.
5. Johnny Narron, former hitting coach, Brewers — Narron was fired last week. It makes you wonder whether Narron could return as Josh Hamilton’s “accountability partner,” a role he filled for a few years when Hamilton was with the Rangers. Hamilton has had a couple of tough years with the Angels since leaving Texas and Narron. Could the Angels try to reunite the two and help Hamilton get through day-to-day life after beating his addiction to drugs and hope Hamilton’s career takes off again?
6. Jung-Ho Kang, SS, Nexen Heroes — The Korean shortstop will be posted in November (under the old posting system in which the highest blind bidder gets exclusive negotiating rights), and while there’s intrigue over the 40-homer performer, there is still some pushback from scouts who have seen him play on whether he translates to major league baseball. Some of the alarms include the leg kick in his stance that’s very pronounced and lasts deep into his swing. There also has always been skepticism over his ability to play shortstop in the majors, even though he won the Korean version of the Gold Glove.
7. Victor Martinez, DH, free agent — This may not be a J.J. Hardy situation where he signs before free agency. But we do know this, according to a major league source familiar with Martinez: He prefers to work something out with the Tigers, so they will get first crack at him. If he elects free agency, comfort of the workplace will be extremely important. So you wonder about New York and whether we could be looking at more like Baltimore, Toronto, Chicago, or Texas. Suffice it to say, the Tigers would like to get it done sooner rather than later.
8. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Athletics — Could there be more trades between the A’s and Red Sox this offseason? Samardzija is going to get a big spike in pay in arbitration. Oakland GM Billy Beane could hold on to him until midseason and then deal him, or deal him this offseason. The feeling is he’ll listen to offers on Samardzija this offseason. If that’s the case, count the Red Sox as one of the possible interested parties. The Sox inquired with the Cubs about him before the trade deadline, and they would not give up a package that included lefthanded pitching prospect Henry Owens. Instead, Samardzija and Jason Hammel were traded from the Cubs to the A’s. But this may be a second chance for the Red Sox, who also like Oakland catcher John Jaso.
9. Jake Peavy, RHP, Giants — Peavy has gone from getting a minimal contract in free agency to a possible three-year deal. The Giants are interested in re-signing him because they need him, and manager Bruce Bochy has pushed the right buttons with him. The National League agrees with Peavy, who is only 33. And he appears to be enjoying being back with Bochy, his manager during his glory years in San Diego.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Among qualified batters this season, no batter had a greater percentage of swings out of the strike zone than Pablo Sandoval (43.7 percent) or less than Matt Carpenter (18.6 percent).” . . . Also, “From 2008-11, Mark Teixeira hit .313 against pitches of 92-plus miles per hour. From 2012-14, he hit .217.” . . . Happy birthday on Monday to Scott Cooper (47), Dick Pole (64), and Bob Bailey (72).firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.