The only team left in baseball without a manager is the one team that has been most active during the Hot Stove season.
According to Danny Knobler, the Toronto Blue Jays have been doing their best to keep their managerial as quiet as possible. That effort toward secrecy has lead to conflicting reports on a handful of potential candidates. This weekend, Buster Olney reported the Jays had narrowed their search and two of the finalists were Jim Tracy and Jim Riggleman. A short while later, however, Ken Rosenthal reported that Riggleman hadn’t even been contacted by the Jays.
Knobler has sources that tell him former Indians manager Mike Hargrove, who last skippered the Mariners in 2007 before quitting mid-season (and mid-winning streak), has been contacted. The Jays, Knobler’s piece says, are targeting experienced managers with “an edge.”
Reports at various times this off-season have connected Toronto to Tim Wallach, who has no managerial experience, and to former big league skippers Tracy, Manny Acta, Don Wakamatsu, and even Bobby Cox. Knobler says there is no indication the Jays have spoken to the likes of Larry Bowa, Lou Piniella, or Bobby Valentine.
What I don’t get is why everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room. When I think of an experienced manager with a edge, there is only one bench boss that comes to mind: Ozzie Guillen.
Guillen is available, having been dumped by Miami at the end of the season, he’s full of fire and won a World Series while guiding the White Sox. Additionally, those five players Toronto is getting from the Fish all have experience playing under Guillen, so there would be some built-in familiarity far away from the South Beach disaster of last season.
The best managers in baseball do make a difference for their teams, but just how large a difference is up for debate. Anyone who has gone through at least one season at the helm of a big league club has a decent idea on how to handle in-game decisions. If not, having a solid bench coach will certainly help. The difference is how each manager handles the personalities in the clubhouse. It’s a skill normally attributed to the more laid-back skippers in the game. Joe Torre was lauded for his steady hand at the helm of the Yankees, Jim Leyland is widely-regarded as an excellent handler of the clubhouse, Terry Francona is thought of the same way.
If the Blue Jays are looking to go in the other direction, however, guys like Bowa, Tracy, and Hargrove would fit the bill. But the poster boy for firey managers is Guillen. In a Winter full of Blue Jays surprises, he would be the biggest of them all.