On the heels of the announcement of the final three managerial candidates Friday, ESPN’s Jim Bowden had some pretty strong words on the Rays search to fill the gap left in Joe Maddon’s wake. Sadly, unless you have an ESPN Insider account, you probably couldn’t read what Bowden had to say. While I’m one of the many who doesn’t have an account with ESPN (Do I REALLY want to put more money in Kruk’s pocket?), a kind follower of the X-Rays Spex Facebook page reprinted his comments in their entirety.
Without further adieu,
The Rays’ managerial search took another bizarre twist Friday when it was announced that their three finalists were Don Wakamatsu, Raul Ibanez and Kevin Cash. Their initial list of eight individuals to interview was puzzling to begin with, considering just two of those candidates were former big league managers: Wakamatsu and Manny Acta.
Wakamatsu’s first managerial stint lasted only 274 games with the Seattle Mariners, and he was 28 games under .500 when he was fired in 2010. Acta has six years of MLB managerial experience, but his career win percentage is just .418, and he hasn’t had a winning season.
But the surprising part wasn’t that those two got interviews; they’re both solid baseball men and deserve another chance. Instead, it was more about which experienced managers did not get an interview. That list that includes Ron Washington, Kirk Gibson, Dusty Baker and Ron Gardenhire. All four of them have led a team to the postseason since 2010. Washington has two AL pennants and four 90-win seasons under his belt; Gibson was the NL Manager of the Year just three seasons ago; Baker has eight 90-win seasons, three NL Manager of the Year awards (and three second-place finishes); and Gardenhire, known for having teams with good fundamentals, has five 90-win seasons and has finished in the top three in Manager of the Year voting seven times (one win). Not even good enough for an interview?
Another surprising aspect about their candidates list was that several of the industry’s up-and-coming possibilities were not included, such as Tim Bogar, Torey Lovullo and Doug Mientkiewicz. Barry Larkin and Doug Glanville did receive last-minute interviews — not sure why they weren’t on the original list — but neither seemed to get fair consideration. In particular, Larkin would have been a perfect fit for the Rays given his leadership qualities, number of years in the game and his impressive managing work in the World Baseball Classic with the Brazilian national team. But apparently, he was out-interviewed by the above finalists.
It’s also a little strange to see Ibanez (who still hasn’t officially retired yet), but no interview for Paul Konerko.
To top it all off was the disrespect toward long-time Rays bench coach Dave Martinez. Several Rays players, including Evan Longoria and Alex Cobb, publicly and privately urged new Rays GM Matt Silverman to hire Martinez, citing that continuity would help them through the losses of manager Joe Maddon and GM Andrew Friedman going forward.
Silverman was smart to ask some of his star players for their input, but didn’t seem to pay much attention to it. The Rays decided to include Martinez in the managerial hiring process, but didn’t even name him a finalist. Silverman wouldn’t have had all those candidates if he thought Martinez would be the next manager, so why make him go through a process you knew he wouldn’t survive and then embarrass him more by not even making him a finalist?
According to some, the interview process itself was much more corporate-slanted than baseball philosophy oriented, and the candidate list seems to have no theme or consistency to it. There’s no clear direction of what they’re looking for in a manager, as Wakamatsu, Ibanez and Cash are as different from a personality perspective as they are from a baseball philosophy perspective. The final list is about as eclectic as it gets.
In an attempt to put a positive spin on this, I’ll note that a poor process doesn’t always mean the wrong guy for the job. For Silverman’s sake, he better hope he hires the right guy, because this will be the most important decision he will make in his rookie year as a GM.
After a busy week of wheeling and dealing, here is how the Rays 40-man roster looks now:
In a recent piece for the Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin noted,
With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan — either via trade or signing — who has more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options so they can compete. … In addition to the expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders (Logan Forsythe or Sean Rodriguez) and bullpen (Brandon Gomes, et al).
Matt Joyce’s availability with an asterisk, of course.
The Rays will have to seek out a team who is looking for a left handed power(isn) hitter. Joyce is coming off a .254 BA/.349 OBP/.383 SLG season, and while his BA was above his career norm for a good part of the season, his power numbers and slash line wRISP were down. Then there’s the whole “Joyce isn’t good against LHP” scenario – Tampa Bay has hidden Joyce from lefties with just 35 of his 493 plate appearances coming against fellow southpaws. FanGraphs’ Dave Cameron has noted that clubs are showing a preference for right-handed power hitters, potentially decreasing any interest in Joyce, who is projected to earn $4.9MM in his final spin through arbitration.
Quell those fears, my friends. In a response to a question about the future of Jim Hickey on Twitter, Marc Topkin was fairly reassuring, going as far as to note that Hickey is signed for 2015, and the Rays value his work.
In an ideal world, Tampa Bay will offer a contract extension to Hickey at some point during this off-season, if not next.