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Which managerial opening is the most desirable?

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As we wait for tonight’s NLCS to kick off — a preview on that will be up later this morning — let’s talk about all the managerial openings, shall we?

With the Dodgers giving Dave Roberts their vote of confidence last night — and none of the remaining playoff teams being even close to likely to can their current skipper — we seem to be locked in at eight openings: Mets, Phillies, Pirates, Cubs, Giants, Padres, Royals, and Angels.

Which one is the most desirable? My take on the pros and cons of each gig:

Mets

Pro: There is a lot of young talent on this club and, for the first time in ages, a lot of it is on offense. Between that, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard, there is a reason that with a couple of additions here and there, the Mets can be a playoff contender for the next several years. And hey, there’s nothing like winning in New York.

Con: There is no strong reason to believe that the Mets ownership will increase payroll in a way that will make those “couple of additions” good and valuable ones. The Wilpons have been cheap for years and years and, while they could always change course on things now that it appears the club has an opportunity to contend, I’ll believe it when I see it.

My guess who gets hired: Joe Girardi. Which, actually, would be a pretty good pick. As would any other experienced guy with a winning track record. Like, say, maybe Buck Showalter or someone.

 

Phillies

Pro: A good core of talent, led by Bryce Harper. An owner and front office who seem willing to spend to improve the club. A team that, if it didn’t have so many injuries would’ve done better, thereby setting the stage for a new manager to look like a savior.

Con: There was a report last night that GM Matt Kelntak did not agree with owner John Middleton that Gabe Kapler should’ve been fired, so if you walk into that job you’re walking into at least some moderate chaos. There is also a sense that the Phillies scapegoated Kapler for what, in reality, was just as much a player development issue as it was a managerial issue. You can have all the talent in the world but if your scouts, coaches, coordinators, trainers and analysts can’t help you maximize your talent’s potential, you’re gonna have a hard time.

My guess who gets hired: No idea, but like the Mets opening, this job, for a win-now team, has an experienced managerial hand written all over it. If I’m the Phillies I take a hard look at Dusty Baker, Buck Showalter, Ron Washington, Girardi if he’s available or guys like that.

 

Pirates

Pro: Managing a major league team is better than not managing a major league team. Pittsburgh is a nice place to live and raise a family.

Con: How much time ya got? This is an organization in disarray. The front office seems to believe its primary mission is to deliver profitability to the team’s owner and the team’s owner has done nothing to disabuse them of the notion. Watching Tyler Glasnow and Gerrit Cole face off in the ALDS last night is a reminder that, even when the organization has talent, it has no idea what to do with it. As for the manager’s job itself, even an old steady hand like Clint Hurdle couldn’t keep the clubhouse from descending into chaos and there does not appear to be anyone on the roster who can help a new manager establish some order and discipline. Oh, and the club looks poised to lose for a few years so any first time manager is gonna have a really hard time using this job as a stepping stone to a better one later. Ask Alan Trammell and guys like that how that works out for ’em.

My guess who gets hired: Jeff Banister was a Pirates player annd employee for decades and, since being fired by the Rangers, he hasn’t been talked about as a candidate for any other jobs. In 2019 he served as a special assistant for the Buccos. If I had to guess, they’ll reward him for his organizational loyalty by giving him the job. Doing so would probably save the team money over other candidates too, so it’d be win-win as far as the front office is concerned. It would also, mercifully, save some rookie manager from being thrown into that disaster. In this Banister would be like some grizzled old NCO, who was already mortally wounded, jumping on a landmine to save a scared young private who has his whole damn life ahead of him.

 

Cubs

Pro: There’s a ton of talent here, obviously. There’s also a talented front office that, while constrained a bit on spending this last year by the front office, still is allowed to play with a big payroll. It’s a glamor job that could, if things broke right, have you in the postseason in your first year.

Con: There will be a lot of immediate pressure to win and, if you don’t, you’re gonna take a lot of the blame AND you’re gonna be compared unfavorably to Joe Maddon and, if you’re not David Ross, David Ross. The farm system is not what it once was. You might only have Kris Bryant for two seasons given that he hits free agency after the 2021 campaign, has Scott Boras for an agent and has, reportedly, already turned down contract extension offers.

My guess who gets hired: Hard to say. I feel like the fans and media want someone who is more rah-rah than Maddon was and thatTheo Epstein and Jed Hoyer want someone who is more pliable when it comes to tactics, strategy and player usage as well. That points a finger at Ross, who is a special assistant for the Cubs and the team’s defacto mascot and cheerleader as well. A recently-retired catcher with no coaching or managing experience getting a marquee big league job? WHAT ARE THE ODDS?!

 

Giants

Pro: The Giants, as an organization, are certainly loyal to their managers, coaches and front office staff, so there’s an implied stability in the job. Ownership doesn’t meddle. They’ve shown they’ll spend if needed. The fan base turns out pretty damn well. With Bruce Bochy retired and the notion of the Giants reloading instead of rebuilding proving to be less-than-a-successful one, team president Farhan Zaidi will be super invested in whoever he hires to be a partner in bringing the Giants back to contention. At the same time, it’s unlikely that the team will embark on some dreary, tanking, teardown rebuild, so contention could be sooner than one thinks. Oh, and San Francisco is a lovely town if you can afford it.

Con: You’re following a Hall of Famer who everyone on the planet loves, and that’s never easy. It’s hard to say, immediately anyway, what the path back to contention really looks like. You’re basically placing your career in Zaidi’s hands and hoping for the best. There are worse hopes.

My guess who gets hired: A Bob Melvin-type. Meaning: a guy who Zaidi trusts, will keep an even keel, will carry out the vision of the front office, and who will not be expected to work miracles on his own. Probably a current coach for a forward-thinking organization on one of the teams for which Zaidi worked in the past (Dodgers, Athletics). Mark Kotsay has been mentioned. I suppose he or someone like him fits that bill.

 

Padres

Pro: A boatload of young talent both on both the big club and working its way through the system and Manny Machado locked in as the superstar for the next decade is the primary draw here. Pretty reasonable expectations given how historically bad the Padres have been. Starting next year you’ll get to wear those sweet brown uniforms. San Diego, of course, is the best damn place to live.

Con: There are a couple of dead contracts there in Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer that ownership publicly beefs about on a fairly regular basis. That suggests that (a) ownership, which signed off on those contracts, isn’t a huge fan of taking responsibility; and (b) they could be used as a pretext for not spending more money to put the team over the top once they are in contention. Also, no matter how much young talent is in the system, young talent can break your heart, the Dodgers aren’t going anywhere, the Giants will be back eventually and the Dbacks are always tougher than you think they’ll be, so there is no guarantee that you’ll do great in San Diego. Oh, and if you fail to do great there, it’ll be hard to find another job given that you’ll probably be blamed for not being able to make the most out of the talent you were given.

My guess who gets hired: No idea. Manny Machado reportedly wanted them to interview his old manager Buck Showalter. This would be fun because earlier in his managerial career he had a rep for being the guy who got the team just to the brink of contention, getting fired, and having his successor claim all the glory (Yankees, Rangers, Diamondbacks). That was a long time ago, though, and the Padres don’t seem all that interested in him anyway. There were rumblings that they were interested in Joe Maddon, but, as I note below, he’ll likely go to the Angels. Someone said they may take a run at bringing old manager Bruce Bochy back, but Bochy sure seemed like he was retiring from managing, not just from the Giants. A very Padres move would be to miss out on Maddon and hire his bench coach, Mark Loretta, who is also rumored to be up for the Cubs job. He played for the Padres for three years so, sure, why not?

 

Royals

Pro: You’ll probably have a long leash. The team got sold so whoever gets hired will likely have the unequivocal approval of ownership without any chance of organizational upheaval putting your job in jeopardy in the short run. At least as long as Dayton Moore doesn’t get cast aside for someone else, which does not seem likely. The farm system, pretty terrible a few short years ago, has improved pretty dramatically over the past couple of years due to some good drafts. If you can make it to 2022 you may reap the benefits of that.

Con: Even with a promising future, there is not a lot of talent in the system ready to contribute immediately, so if you aren’t given that long leash then you could be made a scapegoat by new ownership. A new owner, by the way, that used to be the minority owner of the Indians so perhaps he is bringing along that organization’s penny-pinching ways? It’s just a great unknown at the moment.

My guess who gets hired: I think they repeat the Ned Yost model of “well-respected longtime coach with a little gray at his temples.” There are a ton of guys who fit that bill. I don’t know that any of them are strong favorites right now. Anyone have any guesses?

 

Angels

Pro: You get to watch Mike Trout every day. You may get to watch Shohei Ohtani pitch again next year. Albert Pujols is not a good baseball player anymore but by all accounts he’s a hell of a guy. There is more talent in the system now than there was a couple of years ago when the Angels farm was rated the absolute worst in baseball though, as noted below, that’s a relative thing. There are very nice parts of Orange County in which to live if you have the means.

Con: There is more talent but the system is still not overflowing with top talent, especially on the pitching side. And the big club’s pitching is a mess too. Chalk that up in part to GM Billy Eppler’s bargain bin shopping last offseason. Speaking of Eppler, he’s only under contract through 2020 on a club that has tossed GMs like Kleenex over the past several years. There is a decent chance of instability here in addition to more losing thanks to a lack of talent to surround Trout. They also just fired Brad Ausmus after one season because the team’s owner, it seems, saw someone he liked better become available. You wouldn’t date a guy who did that on a whim, so why would you work for him?

My guess who gets hired: The best news for would-be candidates is that, hey, you’re not gonna get this job! Joe Maddon seems locked in to return to the team where he made his bones as an organizational solider. If he passes on it, boy howdy, beware of taking this gig because it’s got bad juju written all over it.

 

Ranking them in order of desirability: Cubs, Padres, Phillies, Mets, Giants, Royals, Angels, Pirates. Though I reserve the right to change my mind if the Mets make a legit promise to spend money.

Rob Manfred explains reasoning behind proposal to cut 42 minor league teams

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As we learned earlier this week, Major League Baseball wants to contract 42 minor league teams, mostly in short-season and rookie ball. The proposal earned a lot of backlash, including from some of the teams on the chopping block and from Congress. MLB responded with its own letter to Congress, written by deputy commissioner Dan Halem, explaining the league’s reasoning.

In the letter, Halem complains about the lack of competition between minor league teams and independent teams. Halem wrote, “The lack of competition among operators of teams for an affiliation with a Major League Club has reduced the incentive for some affiliated Minor League teams to improve their facilities and player amenities.” It is an interesting thing to write as someone representing a $10 billion business that has benefited for a century from an antitrust exemption.

Halem also noted that MLB has several goals that are supposedly attained by cutting 26 percent of the minors: ensuring the quality of the facilities for the players, reducing the travel burden, improving the “compensation, accommodations, and amenities” for players, improving the affiliation process between minor league and major league teams.

Commissioner Rob Manfred essentially echoed that sentiment on Thursday, per Newsday’s Laura Albanese. He gave four reasons behind the proposal: inadequate facilities, travel, poor pay, drafting and signing players who don’t have a realistic shot to make it to the majors. The last reason is a new one, but let’s go over those four reasons in context.

It is true that some, perhaps even most, of the facilities of the 42 named teams are inadequate. It’s not all of them. As NECN’s Jack Thurston reports, the owner of the short-season Lowell Spinners, Dave Heller, said that his team’s stadium is “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League,” speaking highly of its lighting and field conditions. The Quad Cities River Bandits, the Astros’ Single-A affiliate and also on the chopping block, renovated their stadium a handful of times over the last 12 years. In fact, it earned an award from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” in both 2008 and ’09, and finished third in the 2018 running for “Best View in the Minors.” At any rate, if facility quality is such a big issue, why did the Athletics continue to play in a stadium that repeatedly had its sewage system overflow in 2013?

Travel is certainly a big issue for minor leaguers because they mostly travel by bus, not plane. Having teams located closer to each other would be more beneficial in this regard. Or — and hear me out, here — major league teams could take on the extra expenditure of paying for their minor leaguers’ airfare. Several years ago, the Phillies took on the extra expenditure of making sure their minor leaguers ate healthy food and that has worked out well. The Blue Jays took on the extra expenditure of giving their minor leaguers a pay raise and that has worked out well. The Red Sox took on the extra expenditure of installing a sleep room at Fenway Park to ensure their players were well-rested and that has worked out well. No one is suggesting that Single-A players have to fly first class on every flight, but the travel issue is an easy fix that doesn’t require contracting 42 teams. Teams have individually chosen to improve their players’ quality of life and it has yielded positive results. Imagine it on a league-wide scale for thousands of players in their formative years.

Manfred citing minor league pay as a basis for the proposal is laughable. His own league successfully lobbied Congress to amend language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, classifying minor league players as seasonal workers. That means they are not entitled to a minimum wage or overtime pay, among other worker protections. If the pay of minor league players was so important to Major League Baseball, it wouldn’t have pressured the government to legally ensure they didn’t have to pay them a living wage. Every baseball team is worth at least a billion dollars. The league has set year-over-year revenue records for 16 consecutive years, crossing $10 billion in 2018. Minor leaguers could be compensated well without robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Lastly, it is true that a majority of minor league players will never reach the major leagues. That doesn’t mean that their presence in the minor leagues or their effort to realize their dreams have zero value. Lopping off the bottom 26 percent of minor leaguers might nominally increase the level of skill on each roster, but it eliminates so many jobs — well over 1,000. Furthermore, there are few incentives for athletes to want to slog through several years of the minors as it is, as Kyler Murray recently showed, but there would be even fewer incentives by shrinking the minors (and, consequently, the draft). Shrinking the minors and the draft could lead to more minor league free agents, but if baseball is actually interested in a free market (it’s not) then it should abolish the draft entirely as well as the arbitration system.

These reasons, each uniquely fallacious, hide the real reason behind the proposal: shifting money around so Major League Baseball can say it will award pay raises to minor leaguers, ending a years-long stretch of bad P.R., without actually cutting into profits. MLB could have afforded to pay minor leaguers a living wage years ago and it chose not to. MLB could have chosen not to lobby Congress for the ability to continue underpaying minor leaguers years ago, but it chose to do so. Everything since has been the league trying to avoid lying in the bed it made for itself.