A number of current players will manage in the big leagues someday. Others would be highly capable, but — either by choice or circumstances — will never have an opportunity to become the next Bobby Cox or Earl Weaver.
Who are these prospective future managers? I asked that question to uniformed personnel over the course of the 2015 season, and their answers were a mix of predictable and unpredictable. A common theme was familiarity, as the vast majority cited players with whom they’ve shared a clubhouse.
A handful of recently retired players were mentioned. As they are also viable candidates, I included them in the responses.
Here is what 20 people I spoke to — a dozen veteran players and eight coaches or managers — had to say.
Alex Avila, Tigers catcher: “Don Kelly would make a good coach or manager. He has the right qualities. You have to be a good people person and at the same time you have to know where the line is between manager – authority figure – and friend. You have to distinguish that while keeping a pulse on the clubhouse. You have to be able to motivate as well.”
Bruce Bochy, Giants manager; “Buster Posey would be successful at it. But do I think he’ll want to be? No. Hunter Pence would be really good. He’s inspirational, positive. Hunter could go on the MLB channel, coach, manage — he could do whatever he wants — because he’s got an unbelievable positive attitude, and he’s relentless with it. He’s going to be well-liked, but he’s also going to be The Man.”
Michael Cuddyer, Mets outfielder: “Adrian Beltre would be a good one. He’s played the game for a long time and he’s played it the right way. He’s intelligent. He has clout with both American and Latin players. Would I manage? I don’t know. I’d have to get permission from my wife.”
David DeJesus, Angels outfielder: “John Buck. It depends on if he’d want to do it or not, but I feel he could really manipulate a team. Catchers have had good success as managers. Understanding pitching is huge and a catcher is the most involved person in the game. If I had to name one guy right now, that’s my dude.”
Chris Denorfia, Cubs outfielder: “David Ross. Certain guys are leaders and he’s one of them. He commands respect and his knowledge of baseball is second to none. Mark Kotsay, who is already coaching, is another. He has the same kind of character, leadership and knowledge.”
Mike Dunn, Marlins pitcher; “I don’t know if he’ll like me saying it, but Jeff Mathis. He understands all aspects of the game. He’s a catcher and catchers are very involved with the coaching staff, preparing for a series. Guys like him and David Ross are very smart when it comes to knowing the game. Off the top of my head, it would be Mathis and Ross.”
Terry Francona, Indians manager: “That’s a little subjective. Anybody could do it. If one general manager thinks you’re capable…. I guess a guy who comes to mind is Jason Giambi. I think G could do pretty much whatever he wants, whether it’s hitting instructor or manager.”
Jeff Francoeur, Phillies outfielder: “My two guys would probably be Alex Cora and David Ross. Between playing and doing analysis on ESPN, Cora knows the game inside and out. Ross just has a good feel for the game. I’ve seen how he handles a pitching staff. Those guys are in the game every pitch, every decision, and that gives them an edge.”
John Gibbons, Blue Jays manager: “Mark DeRosa would be a good one. A guy like Dustin Pedroia would be outstanding, with his baseball IQ, and he’s got that charisma. Russell Martin would be great at it. J.J. Hardy. But again, would they want to? These guys are having great careers and will have played for so long — do they want to deal with all the bullshit?”
Jonny Gomes, Braves outfielder: “Rocco Baldelli. He did some work in the scouting department when he was done, and now he’d back in uniform on the coaching side. I think he’s being groomed well. David Ross. There’s his catching background and he’s played under quite a few managers in different organizations, in both leagues. He knows the odds and ends.”
Fredi Gonzalez, Braves manager: “I think there are a lot of guys. There are guys who are very cerebral. I think A.J. Pierzynski could do it. He knows the game. He wants to win, and I think people sometimes confuse that for other stuff. He speaks his mind. There’s not a cookie-pattern type of manager; you have different types of dynamics and personalities. Mark Kotsay could do it.”
Ryan Hanigan, Red Sox catcher: “David Ross could be a manager. He’s a pretty smart guy – catcher, veteran, understands all aspects of the game. He understands how to put other guys first. Another is Jose Molina. I guess my mind goes to catchers. There are a lot of benefits that go with the position in regard to what you need to know as a manager.”
Aaron Harang, Phillies pitcher: “Jeff Francoeur is one. Corky Miller isn’t playing anymore, but he’s another. They both have the personalities for it. Henry Blanco. It comes down to personality, guys who know how to take things seriously on the field — when they cross the lines it’s all business — but in the clubhouse, they know how to keep it loose.”
AJ Hinch, Astros manager; “I have a catcher bias, so A.J. Ellis and David Ross would get my votes. The way they go about their business — their knowledge, heartbeat, temperament — fits what I see as managerial qualities. The way they express themselves and seem to have some command of the room. Willie Bloomquist could be a great coach or, potentially, a manager.”
Don Mattingly, Marlins manager: “A.J. Ellis. When you know guys, you know how they look at the game. He might want to do it. He asks a lot of questions. Being a catcher is an advantage, from the standpoint of how the whole game kind of goes through pitchers.”
Andrew Miller, Yankees pitcher: “It would be interesting to see Dustin Pedroia manage a team, but he’s going to make a lot of money in his career, and he has kids. Would he be a legitimate candidate? You can’t keep him out of the clubhouse, and he loves baseball, so maybe. But I think current players who are future managers are probably role players, because of the financial component.”
Brad Mills, Indians bench coach: “David Ross is one. A retired guy that comes to mind is Todd Helton, because of his mindset and the way he goes about things. Matt Holliday comes from a family background of coaches. Daniel Descalso, with the way he goes about the game and the way he watches. Aaron Hill. A.J. Ellis. Those guys all fit the category.”
David Ross, Cubs catcher: “Jonny Gomes comes to mind right away. He thinks the game. He’s been a guy who keeps track of everything — he’s managing along with the manager — and he has the passion for it. Eric Hinske is another. The more hats you’ve worn, the more you understand and can communicate with your players. You’ve been in their role. Would I manage? Of course. I’d love to manage in the big leagues.”
Robin Ventura, White Sox manager: “Adam LaRoche could probably do it — his knowledge and the way he interacts with guys and pays attention. Melky Cabrera could probably do it. He gets it. He understands the game. There’d be some translation stuff, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less smart. Guys could adapt to it.”
Chris Young, Royals pitcher: “Nick Hundley comes to mind. He’s got all the qualities: leadership, knowing the game, relating well to people. He sees the game from a catcher’s perspective. I played for a pitcher, Bud Black, who was a good manager. I think Greg Maddux would be an unbelievable manager. I’ve never been around anybody who sees the game quite like him.”
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