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Skipper candidates are waiting on deck
The scenario that has been put in place is that octogenarian Jack McKeon took over as the interim manager in Florida to clean up a team veering out of control — specifically to provide a strong hand of guidance for shortstop Hanley Ramirez — so that in the offseason an impact managerial hire can be made to help boost the presence of the Marlins franchise as it moves into its new stadium.
There is every reason to believe Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen could wind up with the job, bringing an end to the uneasy relationship he has with Sox general manager Kenny Williams. That could then open up the Windy City job for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, who has had an uneasy truce of his own with the Cardinals ever since Walt Jocketty was forced out as the general manager in St. Louis.
And there are plenty of dots that can be connected.
McKeon was the general manager of the San Diego Padres when they signed a 16-year-old Venezuelan shortstop prospect named Oswaldo Jose Guillen Barrios, aka, Ozzie Guillen. And while it was McKeon who traded Guillen in a package to the White Sox for right-hander LaMarr Hoyt in December 1984, the two have a bond that has grown over the years, including in 2003 when McKeon took over the Marlins managerial chores the first time and Guillen was a part of the coaching staff he retained.
The idea that McKeon, at the age of 80, would go back on the field to try to get the Marlins in order before handing it off to his protégé Guillen is not outlandish. If McKeon can finally get Ramirez to focus on maximizing his abilities, that alone could be a major step for the franchise.
In his first actions in his second round as Marlins manager, McKeon showed that Ramirez will be a focal point. When Ramirez sauntered into the clubhouse late for the manager’s meeting on Monday, Ramirez found his name missing from the Marlins lineup and when he showed up earlier than he had all season on Tuesday, he was given the chance to hit fourth for the first time in his big-league career.
La Russa, meanwhile, finished his playing career in the White Sox organization, and began his managerial career in the Sox farm system, getting his first big-league opportunity on the South Side when he replaced Don Kessinger for the final two months of the 1980 season.
He guided the White Sox to an AL West title in 1983, and remained until being fired 64 games into the 1986 season. In the process, La Russa and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf developed a friendship that never wavered and continues to foster the expectation that La Russa will finish his managerial career where it began.
There, however, is ample time remaining before decisions for next year have to be made, and as easily as dots may be connected today the line can become blurred along the way, particularly in Florida.
That’s as apparent as the one-year managerial tour of Joe Girardi, whom Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria worshiped because of Girardi’s Yankees ties. Loria stood behind his hiring of Girardi even when Girardi created an us-against-them mentality between the people he brought to the Marlins organization and the folks who were there beforehand — both on the field and in the front office.
But that all came to an end late in that season when Loria, seated in his box seat next to the Marlins dugout and screaming at umpires, was dressed down by Girardi in front of the players during the course of the game.
That's life with Jeffrey Loria, a lesson to be learned for anyone who thinks it is a sure thing that Guillen will be the Marlins' next full-time manager.
As a result, a list of candidates needs to be prepared, not only for the Marlins, but any other team that could decide to make a change in coming months:
Bobby Valentine is currently a member of the ESPN broadcast team, but was a successful manager with the Texas Rangers, where he made his managerial debut in 1985, but also with the New York Mets and Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan.
Bobby Valentine will probably end up managing again. Koichi Kamoshida
He has a keen dugout sense, but has fallen victim to power struggles with higher ups. After the 2009 season and again when the Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez as manager in the midst of the 2010 season, negotiations with Valentine to become the team’s manager broke down in the final stages. Loria, however, has not lost his fascination with the personable Valentine.
Jim Fregosi is 69, which is three years younger than McKeon was when the Marlins hired him in the midst of 2003 season and he rallied that team to win a world championship.
A strong personality who was an All-Star player, Fregosi has had success in a managerial career that included stops with the Angels, White Sox, Toronto and Philadelphia. Currently a special assistant in Atlanta, Fregosi is the ideal pick for a team that feels it has the talent to win now but needs a managerial shove.
Ryne Sandberg has taken on the minor league challenge to prove his desire to get a big-league opportunity, but was bypassed by the Cubs last offseason when they opted instead for Mike Quade.
That prompted Sandberg to leave the organization and take on the Triple-A chores for Philadelphia. The Hall of Famer would bring headlines and name recognition, but there’s always a gamble in promoting a manager directly out of the minor leagues without an interim period as a coach so they can readjust their talent evaluation.
Bo Porter is currently the third base coach in Washington after serving in a similar role in Arizona. He was a finalist for the Marlins job a year ago before Florida decided to give interim skipper Edwin Rodriguez the job on a full-time basis, and was a name that Marlins officials discussed last weekend before settling on bringing back McKeon in the wake of Rodriguez’s resignation.
Ron Wotus is in his 14th year on the San Francisco coaching staff where he initially was a third base coach and more recently bench coach. He has worked for managers Dusty Baker, Felipe Alou and Bruce Bochy.
He had a seven-year run as a Giants minor-league manager before being promoted to the big-league staff. He isn’t into self-promotion, but has received strong endorsements from each of the managers he has worked for.
Tommy Runnells became the bench coach in Colorado when Jim Tracy assumed the managerial role in May of 2009. Runnells was once a rising managerial star, hired by the Montreal Expos at the age of 36 in July of 1991 — making him the youngest manager in the game — but he was let go the next season.
Given a mandate to take a hard-line approach by the Expos upper management, and best remembered for running onto the field for the first day of spring training of 1992 in military fatigues, Runnells fell off the big-league radar until resurfacing on the Rockies coaching staff two years ago.
Buddy Black is managing in San Diego, but he was inherited by the current management and ownership group and, much like predecessor Bruce Bochy — who was allowed to walk away to assume the managerial job in San Francisco — Black could be available for the right job.
A former big-league pitcher who was the pitching coach of the Angels when the Padres hired him, Black has an easy manner but is a firm decision-maker and has shown an ability to maximize the results of what he has been given to work with as the Padres manager. He also would be a top name to surface for teams looking for a general manager.
Ted Simmons has done just about everything except manage a big-league team. An All-Star catcher and currently a special assistant in Seattle, he ran the farm department in St. Louis, was involved in scouting with Cleveland, was the general manager in Pittsburgh and served as a bench coach with Milwaukee and San Diego. He can intimidate higher ups because of his intelligence and his willingness to express opinions. He has a magical feel for the game.
Buddy Bell is running the minor league system for the Chicago White Sox and would be a primary candidate for the White Sox job, along with La Russa, if Guillen leaves.
He not only is a favorite of Reinsdorf, but has developed a strong bond with Williams, who doesn’t hesitate in describing Bell as one of the most qualified executives in baseball. Bell has enjoyed only one winning season in managerial tours with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City.
Tim Bogar is in his third year on the Boston staff and his second year as a third base coach. He also spent a year with Tampa Bay as the "quality assurance" coach, he initially coached in the Houston minor-league system and then managed in both the Astros and Cleveland farm systems. Primarily a shortstop in his playing career, he spent nine years in the big leagues.
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