Friday, October 13, 2006

Giants Manager Search: Week 2

Interesting article in Merc about Piniella got me to post my thoughts about the search. According to the article, a close source to Piniella said that "he wouldn't wait around to consider all offers." But still the Giants are still sticking with their plans to hire a manager after the World Series end, Lou or not Lou, as they are supposedly waiting for certain teams to exit the playoffs and free up personnel for an interview with the Giants.

Reading between the lines, I see that this means a number of things. First, Piniella is probably not very interested in the Giants position, so why wait when you might get a position you prefer, which seems like is the Cubs position. Second, even more importantly, it seems to be getting clear that the Giants are not even interested in Piniella. The article notes that it is unclear what Piniella and Sabean spoke about whereas it noted that Sabean has already had two in-depth discussions with Ron Wotus. In addition, it also noted that Sabean "reportedly asked the New York Mets for permission to speak with members of their coaching staff, presumably Manny Acta or Jerry Manuel." Apparently Acta, who happened to live in the building that Cory Lidle's plane crashed into, is also being considered for the Ranger's open manager's position, so he will be in demand.

So, bottom line, it does not look like the Giants are talking to Piniella for their job. And, really, it doesn't look like a fit for Piniella either, he doesn't want to be part of another re-building with youngsters, like Tampa Bay, his last job. And at 63, he doesn't have many more years to manage to put up with a re-building with as many question marks as the Giants appear to have.

Candidates Thus Far: Only Wotus, Definitively

The only clear candidate has been Ron Wotus and he's already gotten two interviews. No other name has been definitively mentioned yet, only that the Giants want to interview someone off the Mets coaching staff. If I were to bet, as I think I noted here (but certainly at McCovey Chronicles), Ron Wotus has to be the front runner for the position, due to his history and position with the team.

While it won't be an upset if he doesn't get the position, depending on who else gets hired, all the indicators point to him. He's already spoke twice with Sabean. Sabean made the point that Wotus nearly got the Dodgers' job, coming in second to Little, and had interviewed with other teams, showing that he has the credentials and respect within the majors to manage an MLB team.

Wotus has been prepared for the Giants manager job while working for the Giants since 1990. Wotus was a very successful manager in the Giants farm system, from 1991 to 1997, winning when the Giants basically had a barren farm system. His winning percentage was .575 (555-411) and, not only that, his teams finished above .500 5 of his 7 years and made the playoffs in 6 of his 7 years as manager in the Giants farm system. Not only that, but he was twice named Manager of the Year.

He then joined the Giants major league team as 3B coach under Dusty, then became bench coach for Dusty for the rest of Dusty's tenure with the Giants. He then kept that position even when Felipe came on, when Luis Pujols would have appeared to have been the logical choice for Felipe since Pujols had Felipe as his bench coach when he was manager of the Tigers. The Giants appear to have forced Felipe to keep Wotus and Righetti as bench coach and pitching coach, as well as other coaches, when managers typically bring in his own people, Pujols being the only one Felipe brought in.

The Others

With the Piniella sighting mainly apparently a fact finding informational meeting between two old friends - probably Sabean picking Piniella's brains - that leaves only the Mets as the other potential source for interviewees, either Manuel and/or Acta. The A's Ron Washington has been mentioned by the media as a possible but if the Giants had expressed interest by contacting the A's for permission, it hasn't been leaked out yet, which probably means that they are not interested in him. Particularly since Billy Beane was open Wednesday about talking with Texas and granting them permission to speak with Washington - if the Giants had expressed similar interest, one would think Beane would have mentioned something at the same time.

And there was this peculiar dichotomy between action and speech: Sabean said that he won't be releasing his short list and having a "dog and pony" show of potential managers coming in and talking to the media about the position and instead he would keep the search quiet and under the radar, and yet he openly admitted that he had spoke with Wotus about the job, essentially endorsed him in the same conversation, and now has acknowledged two meetings with Wotus. All the while, he has not publicly acknowledged anyone else.

If Not Ron, Then Who?

So it right now looks like, to me, that Wotus is the prime candidate. True, it could be as Sabean noted, that his search is going on under the waves, that trait has marked most of his big trades, they usually came out of nowhere, without a rumor to give a hint of what's about to happen. But why acknowledge Wotus then? Why bother pointing out Wotus' good qualifications for the job? And how he came in second for the Dodger's spot? Just say exactly what he said, without mentioning Wotus: "I'm not running a dog and pony show like other teams, I will let you know when I have picked a new manager."

If he is not selling Wotus to Giants fans, who is he selling to? If you hear enough Sabean calls and interviews, if given his druthers, he would rather keep everything undercover and out of sight. He never accidentally pass on any info that he doesn't want to get out, he usually has an agenda for the interview, where he's basically marketing to the fans and setting expectations and selling the team. He keeps information very close to the vest and out of the hands of the media as much as he can without totally stonewalling the reporter. He clearly has a plan for what message he is trying to communicate to the public, to set expectations.

But his only message here is that Ron Wotus has the qualifications to be a major league manager, he has come close before, and he is one of the Giants candidates.

And he has basically made it clear, in the interview with KNBR after Alou's dismissal, that Righetti is not a candidate. He admitted that he hadn't even spoken with Righetti yet and said Rags might not be interested but that he would speak to him- avoiding saying that he would consider Rags as a candidate - then one week later, Righetti says in an interview that Sabean has not spoken to him yet and he's just worried about keeping his job when the new manager comes in. Meanwhile, Wotus has had another conversation with Sabean since then.

9 comments:

  1. Even as I was posting, apparently Piniella has politely turned down being considered for the Giants position, "because he doesn't want to be so far away from his home in Tampa."

    What a lame cliched excuse! That is what drove him to leave Seattle and hook up with Tampa Bay's managerial job. Did SF suddenly shift 2,000 miles east in his mind when he was "discussing" the job last week and then he suddenly realized this week, "Whoa Nelly, SF is on the West Coast!"

    The USA Today fantasy baseball news feed lists Wotus, Manuel, Acta, and Bob Brenly as people the Giants are considering, so there's Brenly now, though I have not seen any word in the local papers at all about Brenly being in the mix, other than when the writers were speculating who might be considered and so they listed every available usual suspect potential managers out there. Brenly, Fregosi, Piniella, Washington, Manuel. At least Acta appears to be a new name, I don't recall him being mentioned for other jobs.

    Plus the Rangers job added THEIR bench coach, Don Wakamatsu, and Trey Hilman, who manages the Nippon Ham Fighters in JAPAN (first I ever saw a manager in Japan being considered, other than when Bobby Valentine was managing there, but at least Bobby was a very successful manager here in the U.S. first, I've never heard of Hilman.)

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  2. Whatever Lou's reasons are, I'm happy that he's not coming our way.

    Kent

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  3. It seems we are considering Acta, Wotus, Black and Boche. I would be very happy with any of the first 3.

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  4. Interesting point made on KNBR this morning on Murph and Mac show: wanting a Spanish speaking coach to talk with Angel Villalona.

    Don't know whether it was a joke or half serious, but generally, there will be a lot of prospects coming up who are from the Carribean, such as Angel, Sharlon Schoop, Waldis Joaquin, Pablo Sandoval, et al, and it would be good to have a manager who can converse with them in their native language.

    So that would suggest that being a Spanish speaker would be a big plus and Acta obviously does (as does former "candidate" Lou Piniella), and don't know about the rest.

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  5. There is a really interesting bit on McC Chrons about an interview Acta had in '05. The article seems to show him as very impressive - in addition to the Spanish. An advantage is, as I understand it, his English is very good, too, a requisite, IMO.

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  6. Thanks allfrank for the headsup, much appreciated! That's pretty good info on Acta there. Just from the info there, I'm pretty sold on Acta, my interest in him has been Acta-vated. :^)

    I wonder if there is a similar interview with Wotus out there since he's been interviewed a couple of times last year too. It would be interesting to do a comparison of each candidates philosophies.

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  7. Acta-vated. Very clever. Made me smile.

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  8. See on this mornings Chron that Ray Ratto thinks the leading horse is Black and Acta is merely window dressing? Thoughts?

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  9. I love Ray and sometimes poorly emulate him when I write.

    To me, the article doesn't really make Black the leading horse, he's just throwing that out there as a trial balloon, really, as a thought piece that if Bud really was considered for both jobs, his choice would speak volumes of what a non-subjective decision maker thinks is the better franchise to go with.

    Then he subverts that later by noting that there are a lot of factors that are not related to the baseball side that could affect his decision, like Barry and Billy.

    But to your question on Black vs. Acta, both sound like good candidates for the Giants job, from what I know about both of them.

    As a more saber-oriented fan, Acta would be a great choice for that reason plus the bonus that he could speak with his players who are mainly Spanish speaking.

    Black, however, is good friends with some of the people already on the staff, according to one report (have to assume Righetti and Gardner, don't see any reason for Wotus, Pujols, or Glynne to have much interaction with Black previously), making the transition easier, since it sounds like the Giants are planning on keeping the coaches, and I like the coaches for the most part, except for probably hitting, since he couldn't fix up Niekro up here, he had to go down for that.

    But not that Acta could not learn to be like that either.

    Black is a plus because he's a pitcher and our main assets for the near-future on the team in terms of youth is our pitching, so hopefully he would know more about that than Acta. But, again, Acta could (probably does, since he spoke on pitch counts) too.

    What's intriguing with Acta is that if he is good, he could be a manager for 15-30 years, which would be a rarity in history, let alone today. I would like a continuity of the manager like that. He's only 37 whereas Black is 49. Then again, Black could be here 15-20 years himself.

    Of course, there is the history of it because Black was a premiere free agent that the Giants signed and he pitched well for us for many years.

    Plus, he helped shaped and guide the Angel's young pitchers, like Escobar, Lackey, Santana, and now Jered Weaver. Lackey in particular, he wasn't much of a strikeout pitcher when he came up but with Black's tutelage, over a short period, his K/9 rate went from 5.7 in 2002 to 6.7 in 2003 to 6.5 in 2004, to 8.6 in 2005, and to 7.9 in 2006. That boosted his K/BB from an OK 2.1 to a great 2.6 to 2.8 in 2005-6.

    So which way to go, with Acta who manages more sabermetically (not that Black wouldn't), which would help the hitters, or Black who helped guide Angels' pitching prospects into become productive pitchers (not that Acta wouldn't), which would help our young pitchers be harvested for trade or good performance.

    Right now, it looks like we can't go bad either way. I think both will bring a lot to the job. Given the Giants penchant for history, that would suggest that Black has the inside track, since he's a former Giants, but I think the only reason they saw Black first was because he was available and Acta was not.

    They, afterall, waited until now to interview Black, whereas the rumor about Acta has been out for a while now, suggesting the Giants only recently decided to pursue Black, kind of like an afterthought. Perhaps the reason why is that Black sent some grapeline feelers to the Giants to let them know of his interest. But even if so, it took the Giants a while to decide to "kick the tires".

    I would give Acta the inside track for now, given the Giants clear intention to integrate their operations, from the female announcer then African American female announcer, to hiring Dusty, who had basically zero managerial experience except for a brief run in the AFL, where, really, you can't show much of anything if you are a manager, to pursuing Felipe, to all the multi-cultural and diversity events that they hold during the Giants season, plus the decision long ago to have a Spanish language radio broadcast, and the embracing of past Giants greats, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Orlando Cepeda, Vide Blue, and hopefully Felipe will soon join them as advisor.

    Acta would make the most sense given that history of choices made, especially since the main management is still clearly white middle-aged, except for the CFO, an Asian. Even among Sabean's main advisors, they are all white, Tidrow, Dobson, Evans, Perranoski, and Colletti before that. And presumably, while Black would bring his pitcher's experience into the mix, that is redundant when you have Righetti and Gardner already here, unless the Giants had decided that they wanted to go in another direction there, and if they had, they would have been fired already, so presumably they are still held in high esteem.

    I think the Giants are more interviewing Black to 1) pick his brains, 2) give him additional exposure as a managerial candidate (Sabean was already around when Black was last with Giants), and 3) perhaps prime the pump for the Padres to go with Black since Bud LIVES in San Diego and his family living there was the major consideration for him, don't see how that changes yet, one of his daughters is still in middle school there.

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