If the latest reports are to be believed, the Dodgers managerial search is down to three candidates: Bud Black, Gabe Kapler, and Dave Roberts. The good news is, those three are all very good candidates, for very, very different reasons. It’s not difficult in the least to make a strong, compelling, case for any of the three of them. It’s nice to not have a “please, not that guy” horse in the race. So now matter how this turns out, I think I’ll be pleased.
But that’s not the same thing as not caring, and I care. If I’m throwing my support behind any of these guys, it’s the one you might think I’d like the least. I want the next manager of the Dodgers to be Bud Black.
With that out there, I need to give you some reasons as to why. So, here’s three of them.
Because I’d rather keep Kapler where he is.
I’m just the biggest fan of Kapler. You saw how excited we were last year when there were merely rumors that he’d be coming on board, and he’s more than lived up to that. In addition to the improvements in food and fitness, I keep going back to this Pedro Moura article from over the summer:
Scott Schebler understood only a little bit of the array of data Kapler presented at first. That’s why, Kapler said, they have to talk about it again soon, and the Dodgers’ minor-league staffers must also be fluent in the figures, to aid in the understanding.
“The first time you present information to a player, it’s brand new, totally foreign,” Kapler said. “The second time you present it to a player, it feels a little less awkward, a little uncomfortable. The third, fourth, fifth, sixth time they hear about wOBA and it being more indicative of positive performance than batting average, then it’s not so foreign and awkward anymore, and it feels like a conversation they’re ready to have.
“I believe it’s a commitment you make over time to help players understand how they’re being evaluated. You can’t quit halfway, because then everything goes out the window.”
All of which is just fantastic. You don’t need players to be able to calculate wRC+ in their head; you do want them to understand what’s really important, and what they’re being graded on.
But then I wonder… is the best place for that the major league clubhouse? Do I prefer Kapler being able to shape the younger, impressionable prospects, or trying to change the baseball worldview of an Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, or J.P. Howell? I’m not sure that message flies in the clubhouse, and I’m not sure he can do as much good. Even if that doesn’t bother you, his single year of managing a Single-A team eight years ago doesn’t demand that he’s the obvious choice, and that leads into the next item…
Because Roberts has no managerial experience.
Roberts is another guy I like a lot, because he’s got the playing experience, is extremely well-respected, and would be a sorely-needed minority manager. He worked with Josh Byrnes in San Diego, and he reportedly came in a “close second” to Scott Servais in Seattle, which is notable because Jerry Dipoto appreciates the advanced stats of the world.
Obviously, the Dodgers were impressed:
— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) November 4, 2015
But he has no managerial experience at any level, and only a few years of even being on a major league staff. I wonder if it’s telling that when Black was fired by San Diego, they called up minor league manager Pat Murphy to run things, not Roberts.
As you may know, I’m not a huge fan of managers with no pro managerial experience, which leads us to…
Because Black has everything you want.
You know what I hear a lot from fans? “No retreads,” i.e., we don’t want a guy who skippered a loser somewhere else, because he’s proven he doesn’t know how to win, or something.
Except, that’s a huge fallacy. Look at this year’s World Series. Ned Yost failed in Milwaukee. Terry Collins failed in Anaheim and Houston. Remember when Terry Francona broke the curse in Boston in 2004 and added another in 2007? He’d led some truly awful Philadelphia teams first. Clint Hurdle is highly respected in Pittsburgh, but only after running some terrible Colorado clubs. A.J. Hinch just led Houston to the playoffs, after leading Arizona to the basement. John Gibbons took Toronto to the ALCS, after that very same team fired him in 2008. Likely Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy had a pretty inconsistent 12 years with San Diego before going north. “Legendary World Series champion Joe Torre” doesn’t happen without “finishing third or lower 11 times in 14 seasons for the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals” Joe Torre.
You get the idea, and look at the current landscape. While I grew to like Don Mattingly, there’s no arguing that his first few years were rough. Matt Williams was hired with no experience, and look how that ended. Brad Ausmus had no experience, and it’s a minor miracle he kept his job. Bryan Price, Robin Ventura, & Walt Weiss aren’t exactly covered in accolades. I’m still not sure about Paul Molitor. The exceptions seem to be Mike Matheny & Jeff Banister, though Matheny has the power of the always-talented Cardinals roster behind him, and Banister at least managed several years in the minors back in the 1990s.
While I’m not always against inexperienced managers, it’s got to be the right situation. A young team with low expectations, all maturing together — think Kevin Cash in Tampa Bay — makes some sense. A team with the biggest payroll in the game, massive expectations, and even bigger egos, well, that demands someone who’s been around.
Black’s been around. He’s worked under Byrnes. He was a pitcher, a manager, a colleague of Joe Maddon for years under Mike Scioscia, and he was the top choice of another very talented, win-now team in Washington, before that fell apart and went to Dusty Baker. He even finished atop Grantland’s bullpen usage rankings, as you’d expect from a former pitcher, and he finished atop something I don’t totally understand from Bpro called “Manager Grind Runs.” He’s even dealt with baseball’s toughest personality, blowing out Milton Bradley’s knee on the field once, which you can take either as a good thing or a bad thing.
Point is, he’s been there.
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So the ultimate outcome here: Black manager, Roberts bench coach — clearly they can work together — and Kapler right where he is. You can see different permutations of that, but it’s the best way to get all three men, all of whom are very impressive, and the best way to get the best candidate in charge.
I’ve now guaranteed this will never happen.