Who should be the next Orioles' manager?

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Juan Samuel has the job now, but you have to assume that he’s truly just the interim guy.  Based on my perusal of Orioles’ blogs and stuff, O’s fans seem to be begging for an experienced major league manager, and one would think that Andy MacPhail is thinking the same thing.

But who?  The name I’ve heard the most from Orioles fans is Buck Showalter.  I can see the appeal: he’s smart, he’s experienced and he has a track record for turning teams around (see, Yankees, Diamondbacks).

I think people read too much into that, though. Sure, Showalter was around for the rebirth of the Yankees’ dynasty, but that’s more a story of a savvy front office than a managerial genius, ain’t it? Showalter’s success with the Diamondbacks is much the same story. Tell me: was the Dbacks’ 100-win season in their second year of existence a function of Showalter’s multi-year plan to launch that franchise coming to fruition or a function of the front office going out and getting Randy Johnson and squeezing good years out of some aging veterans?  Good job by Buck, sure, but it’s not a model that the Orioles are following.

Other candidates that get talked up by O’s fans are Tom Kelly and Davey Johnson.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but those guys are a bit long in the tooth to bring a young team up from nothing anymore, no? And that’s even if you assume that either of them want to manage the O’s. Davey has a bad history with Peter Angelos and Kelly seems pretty darn comfortable being Twins manager emeritus these days to want to try and figure out what makes Adam Jones tick.  If I had a veteran team I wanted to push over the top, sure, I’d consider both of them, but they just aren’t the right fit for Baltimore.

Who else? The Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly has a slide show of twelve potential managers, including Showalter, Johnson and interim guy Samuel.  Others on Connolly’s list are Phil Garner, Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge, Larry Bowa, Bobby Valentine, Bob Melvin, Rick Dempsey and a couple of minor league guys.

Bowa would certainly light a fire for a while, but that’s all he’s shown he can do as a manager and his act gets old pretty quick. Melvin might be a good choice — experienced but not too experienced — but he seems to be the Mets’ skipper-in-waiting and would probably decline. Same with Sandberg and the Cubs.

Valentine seems more like Johnson and Kelly to me inasmuch as I’d rather see him with a veteran team, not kids. Dempsey is a broadcaster and that’s a lot more comfortable a life than that of a manager, so he may have no interest.  The minor league guys would be viewed as Dave Trembley redux (i.e. no major league experience) so I can’t see the team going there.

Of course there’s very rarely a perfect choice when it comes to these things, and often the best man for the job isn’t among the initial group of usual suspects.  If I’m running the Orioles I let Samuel play out the year, wait and see who becomes available, and be confident that my considerable amount of young talent will be a drawing card for a lot of potential candidates.

In other words: wait until this winter, Andy.  You’ll do much better then.

Are the Cardinals about to go on a free agent binge?

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The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.

St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.

The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.

Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?

Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.

 

Bobby Valentine on short list to be U.S. Ambassador to Japan

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12:  Former MLB player Bobby Valentine attends Annual Charity Day hosted by Cantor Fitzgerald, BGC and GFI at BGC Partners, INC on September 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Cantor Fitzgerald)
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There is literally nothing you could tell me that the incoming administration is considering which would shock me anymore. As such, I saw this story when I woke up this morning, blinked once, took a sip of coffee, closed the browser window and just went on with my morning, as desensitized as a wisdom tooth about to be yanked.

Rob Bradford of WEEI.com reports that Former Red Sox, Mets and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is on a short-list of candidates for the job of United States Ambassador to Japan:

The 66-year-old, who currently serves as Sacred Heart University’s athletics director, has engaged in preliminary discussions with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team regarding the position.

When contacted Thursday night, Valentine refused comment.

Huh. Given his history, I’d have assumed Valentine would be a better choice for the CIA, but what do I know?

Valentine managed the Chiba Lotte Marines of Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons, leading the team to a championship in 2005. He also knows the current prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, as both went to USC. Assuming championship teams meet the country’s leader in Japan like they do in the United States, Valentine has at least twice the amount of experience with top political leaders than does, say, Ned Yost, so that’s something.

The former manager, more importantly, is friends with Donald Trump’s brother, with the two of them going way back. Which, given how this transition is going, seems like a far more important set of qualifications than anything else on this list.