Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Who will be the Next Manager of the Nationals?

By: Evan Levitt

A few years ago, it seemed as though the Washington Nationals just hired one of the best managerial prospects of 2006--Manny Acta. Many, myself included, envisioned him to not only be the right man to lead this young team out of the N.L. East cellar, but the man who could lead the Nationals for the next 10+ years--as he was only 37 years old, had experience coaching in the Major Leagues, experience managing in the minor leagues, and an agressive drive for success--just what the Nats needed...right?

Well, that's what we all thought but on July 13, 2009, the Manny Acta era ended in Washington when he got a "pink slip" in the mail. Was it justified? I don't know. However, its time for the Nationals to look for their next manager and "take two" on looking for the future organizational star.

Here are the candidates with a list of pros and cons for hiring each of them:

Jim Riggleman

WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE HIM--> Through 75 games, he led the Nats to 33 wins. While that total is not playoff worthy by any means, it is a MAJOR improvement from the totals they had in the first half of the year. Additionally, he seemed to really motivate the last-place Nationals, even until the last weekend of the year (did you see his reaction when Justin Maxwell hit that walk-off grandslam against the Mets at the end of the year? He looked like he won the pennant). Additionally, he has experience managing and working with young players.

--> Frankly, is he anything more than a professional interm manager? I don't know. His career win-loss record is not great by any means (.444 winning percentage), but much of that is not his fault. He is also not likely that guy who will be managing the Nationals in 2020 as he would be 72 this year. He might be a little "over-the-hill" to be the Nationals manager of the future.

Bobby Valentine

WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE HIM--> Bobby V took the Mets from underachievers to pennant winners. He manages with a fire that is second to none. He could be the perfect man to light a fire under the behinds of these young ballplayers and bring out the best in them. Wherever he has managed, success has followed (in one way or another) so what's to say that success would not follow him ot DC?

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> Bobby V will be 60 years old soon and has had a wonderful career as a manager. Would he want to continue managing for another 10 years? Probably not. Additionally, he has been away from baseball in the USA for over 5 years, so would it make sense to hire him to manage a bunch of young players he has probably never heard of?

Don Mattingly

WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE HIM--> When Donnie Baseball became the hitting coach for the Dodgers, he showed that he is willing to develop into a future manager, regardless of whether it is with the Yankees. He has had one of the best mentors in the game: Joe Torre. He is young and could realistically manage the team for 10+ years.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS-->He has no managerial experience and has always coached with Joe Torre by his side. Would we be considering him for this job if it were not for Joe Torre--maybe not. Additionally, rumor has it that he retired from playing baseball due to "personal problems" and also delayed his debut as the dodgers hitting coach due to the same "personal problems." By no means is this a reason not to hire him, but it is something to think about.

Darnell Coles

WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE HIM--> While working for the Nationals A affiliate in 2007, I had the fortune of watching Darnell manage in his freshman year and frankly I was impressed. He has such a fire when managing and developing young talent. He has experience managing in the minor leagues and has moved through the Nats organization rather rapidly (manager in low A in 2007, manager in high A in 2008, hitting coach AAA in 2009). He is a young guy too and might be the most realistic choice (out of the ones listed) to still be managing the Nats in 2020.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS-->Darnell Coles has limited experience managing/coaching in the minor leagues and no experience managing/coaching in the majors. While I am biased and would absolutely love to see him manage the Nats in 2010, I think he probably will need a few more years of experience managing in the minors and/or coaching in the majors before taking the reigns for a big league club. However, MARK MY WORD, he will manage in the big leagues one day.

Willie Randolph

Mr. Randolph has spent his whole career around winning and has the rings to prove it. He has experience in almost every facet of running a baseball team, from managing to working as an asstant general manager. He is clearly a smart guy who knows the game of baseball. Plus, the passion for managing seems to be stronger than ever for Willie.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> When the Mets hired Willie, they thought that his "winning ora" would rub-off on the players. For a short period of time, it did. However, after a while Willie seemed emotionless and lacking "life." Frankly, there is nothing in particular that sticks out as being a "key component" of Willie's managerial game, everything is just average. Do the Nats need another "average" guy managing them?

Ned Yost

He has been a coach for countless playoff teams, helped transform the Brewers from the laughing stock of the league into a play-off contender, and learned from a future Hall-of-Fame manager, Bobby Cox? Sounds pretty good, right?

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> He received a lot of criticism in 2008, so much so that he was fired with 12 games left in the season. It was one thing when the Astros fired Cecil Cooper this year with 13 games left as the chance of them making the playoffs was 0%. However, when Yost was fired, the Brewers were in the heat of the playoff race. Thus, there must be sometime MAJOR about Ned that caused the team to fire him after 150 games in 2008. His managerial style was often the subject of criticism--is that something that the Nats need?

Bob Melvin

WHY SHOULD THEY HIRE HIM--> This guy has experience managing, and has shown that he can be successful. Additionally, people like working for him (note Bryan Price resigning after Melvin was fired in 2009). A few years ago, he was even named the N.L. Manager of the Year. Additionally, he has been known to be unconventional and creative with his lineup and roster--something that might come in handy for the Nats. Plus, he is young, so he can be around for a while.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> He has been fired from his managerial post twice since 2004 and pushed the D-Backs to fire him after less than 30 games this year. Thus, it is not unreasonable to be concerned about his managerial style/clubhouse management. His career record is so "up and down"--one year making the playoffs, the next losing 90+ games; is that what the Nats need?

Tim Bogar

This former utility infielder has really developed into a top managerial prospect. He managed in the minor leagues from 2004-2006 and won THREE manager of the year awards. THREE. That is ridiculous! But what else does he have to show besides a few pieces of hardware? He has gotten promoted throughout the minor leagues and spent the past year coaching in the big leagues for the Red Sox. Additionally, he is one of the youngest in this crowd (only 42 years old) so he can potentially be penciled in for 10+ years.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> While he has won managerial awards, he only has 3 years of experience managing--and that was in the minor leagues. His experience coaching in the Major Leagues is even more limited. Someone will eventually take a chance on Tim, but it may not be in the best interest of the young and inexperienced Nats to have a young and inexperienced manager.

Tony Pena

Tony took a team that was the laughing stock of the league (the KC Royals) and made them into playoff contenders. Thus, he won the 2003 A.L. Manager of the Year award. His success with the Royals did not last, but he showed what he could do with a young team. Additionally, he has spent the past 4 years coaching the winningist franchise in baseball history--the NY Yankees.

WHY THEY SHOULD PASS--> While it is very impressive what Tony did with the 2003 Royals, the 2004 and 2005 Royals were nothing short of a disaster. However, the most alarming thing might be the fact that he resigned when things got really rough for the Royals...what's to say he would not do this again with the Nationals?

  • Tim Foli
  • John Stearns
  • Brad Mills
  • Chip Hale
  • Clint Hurdle

To Be completely honest, when I started writing this I thought my conclusion would be that Jim Riggleman is the best candidate to manage the Nats. However, that has since changed since I looked into the candidates a little further. I believe that that this is not simply a "fluke" and that most people probably will think that Riggleman is the best candidate, but after looking into the potential candidates, they will see that there is someone better suited for the job, and that person is....


So why do I believe that this former utility infielder, with minimal experience managing in the minors and even less experience coaching in the majors is the right choice? Because, he has shown that he can manage if given the opportunity. Here is his career record:

2004-Greeneville Astros 41-26
2005-Lexington Legends 82-57
2006-Akron Aeros 87-55

That leaves him with a career win loss record of 250-168--that is a .611 winning percentage. Granted, it is almost a guarantee that this record will suffer if he manages the Nats. But that is besides the point. Not only has he gained experience managing in the minor leagues and coaching the major leagues, he done so with flying colors.

The problem with Riggleman is that he is nothing more than an "average manager." What the Nationals need is someone who will be able to grow with the organization and help players like Jordan Zimmerman, Ryan Zimmerman, and John Lannon develop into organizational stars. This is not going to happen over night. It could take years. Thus, I am a firm believer that the Nationals need a young manager and Bogar is perfect. Is this a risk. ABSOLUTELY. However, the pay-off can be huge, and thus, I believe it is a risk worth taking!

Unlike the situation with the Astros I do not think the ideal candidate will be the one hired. Instead, I think the job will ultimately go to either Jim Riggleman or Don Mattingly. Riggleman's experience managing and time with the team might be enough for Mike Rizzo to hire him. Mattingly has spent his career around big names and winning, which is something I believe may ultimately lead the Nats to offering him the job.


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Anonymous said...

The problem with someone like Bogar is that his resume and background is so much like Acta's pre-Nats (minor league manager, major league coach for a contender, great reputation), that hiring him will raise the question, why didn't they keep Acta? (Especially if Acta does get the Houston or Cleveland job.)

While of course the Nats had a better record under Riggleman than Acta, quite a bit of that can be attributed as much if not more to Mike Rizzo (finally getting the bullpen fixed to some extent, the acquisition of Nyger Morgan, etc.)

I do think that the Nats will want someone who contrasts with Acta, not resembles him. If not Riggleman, that means someone like Bob Melvin.

Unknown said...

Why is Tim Foli more of a longshot than Bogar? Foli is in the Nats system, he's actually managed most of the players on the team and he's had success with those same players at AAA level. He was brought up to help the team with the expanded rosters and seemed to be received well by the team. I don't know enough about Foli's MLB experience, but I like the idea of having somebody who knows the team, but has not really been associated with the awful losing Nats teams.

That said, I think what the previous commenter said is true: they want somebody with MLB managing experience and that does not seem like Acta. I think they will avoid the names "common fans" have not heard of like Foli and Bogar, and look at someone like Melvin or Valentine.

Jack said...

So, what was Mattingly's "personal problems"? I thought his retirement was because of his back?

Jorge Says No! said...

His personal problems centered around his ex wife. His ex wife was jailed back in 2008 and his son was arrested for spitting on Mattingly's ex wife in 2009.