Last week Cal Ripken Jr. made it pretty clear that he’s interested in becoming a manager, which led to some speculation in Chicago about his candidacy for the Cubs job, and now the Hall of Famer is being linked to the Nationals opening. Well, sort of.
Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth has said he’d support Ripken as the replacement for Davey Johnson, so Rich Eisen asked Ripken about that on his podcast and Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post has the details:
I have said that at some point I’d like to come back to baseball. And most recently, I said that I’m starting to get an itch to do that. But I’d have to look hard at any opportunity, and so far, I haven’t been asked to do anything. So it’s very flattering that people think of me that way, and I have thought about how cool it would be to manage.
And even Donny Mattingly got me thinking about this a little bit more. He said there’s nothing like being a player, and coaching is pretty good because you help other people do what it is that they do. But managing is the closest thing to being a player. And I’ve always thought that, anyway, internally. Now I’m starting to think about that a little bit more. So far I’ve got nothing new to report, but that’s been the consistency, that I’ve made those statements. And I am getting a feeling that maybe I’d like to get back in.
I speculated last week that Ripken’s total lack of experience coaching or managing would keep teams from considering him a legitimate candidate and based on his quote it sounds like that’s the case, although it obviously only takes one phone call for that to change.
Earlier, Craig wrote about the latest in the Mets’ search for a new general manager. Their list has been pared down to three candidates: Chaim Bloom (Rays senior VP of baseball operations), Doug Melvin (Brewers senior advisor), and agent Brodie Van Wagenen (of Creative Artists Agency).
It’s a diverse list, for sure, which makes one wonder what process allowed them to arrive at these final three candidates. Bloom is new school, Melvin is older-school, and Van Wagenen is… just inexperienced. Van Wagenen in particular is an interesting candidate as he has spent years advocating on his clients’ behalf. As a GM, he would do the exact opposite: he would try to take advantage of his players whenever possible, like every other GM in baseball does (e.g. manipulating service time).
Per Mike Puma of the New York Post, agent Scott Boras thinks there would be a conflict of interest if an agent were to become a GM. Boras, in fact, says he has turned down opportunities to lead front offices. But there is no verbiage saying that an agent must divest himself of his business interests before taking a job in a front office. Dave Stewart and Jeff Moorad are two examples of agents who later went onto the ownership side of the business. Stewart, in fact, moved into the front office after retiring and held various roles in with various organizations until he started Sports Management Partners (renamed Stewart Management Partners). He transferred control of the agency to Dave Henderson before he joined the Diamondbacks’ front office near the end of the 2014 season.
Ownership and labor are in constant conflict, even when things seem peaceful. Ownership wants to extract as much labor as possible as cheaply as possible. Labor wants to be paid for their work as much as possible. Their goals contradict each other and yet they need each other. While not required, usually being deeply on one side or the other — as agents and GM’s are — speaks to one’s personal ethos about the eternal tug-of-war. That Van Wagenen is so eager to switch sides speaks, perhaps, to opportunism. I would be, at minimum, unsettled if I were a client of Wan Wagenen’s at CAA. How might he use the sensitive information he was privy to as an agent to his advantage as a GM?
We have seen the analytics wave take over front offices around baseball. As ownership looks for ever more ways to pocket more cash, Van Wagenen’s candidacy may signal an upcoming wave of agents transitioning into front office roles. Hopefully that doesn’t become the case. There may be no one better equipped to take advantage of labor than someone experienced on that side of the battlefield.