With the departure of Don Mattingly and the Dodgers’ desire to fill the vacancy before December’s Winter Meetings, the search for a successor is in full swing. President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman must choose wisely. He and top lieutenant GM Farhan Zaidi continue to craft the roster and organization in their vision and now have the opportunity to hand pick their on-field voice. Credit for the team’s success, and responsibility for its failure is squarely on their shoulders. Here’s a look at some of the possible candidates for the Dodger job.
Bud Black has managed the Padres for nine seasons. Before that he served as the Angels’ pitching coach for seven years. He’s universally praised for his calming presence. San Diego fired Black 65 games into last season.
Pros: The widely-respected Black is a solid communicator who can run a clubhouse. Evidence of this is his staying power in San Diego under four different general managers. Among those he worked for is Josh Byrnes, a current Dodger Senior Vice President. He’s up to date on analytics, having seen their value while working in the Indians’ front office with Byrnes and former Dodger GM Paul DePodesta. Black was the 2010 National League Manager of the Year.
Cons: Black’s services are in high demand and he might leverage that to gain a more stable front office position with an organization. A low pressure network analyst job is also available for the communicative Black. Though the Dodger job is attractive, he might be the one candidate who would turn them down.
Dave Martinez serves as the Cubs’ bench coach under Joe Maddon. The tandem moved together from Friedman’s former club the Tampa Bay Rays. He’s highly regarded and has made it clear he wants to manage a Major League team as soon as possible.
Pros: Friedman is clearly the man in charge in Los Angeles. His experience with and respect for Martinez makes Martinez a logical candidate for the job. The Dodgers might have to act fast as Martinez will likely interview for other managerial vacancies. The time seems right for him to fulfil his dream and become a big league skipper. His lack of managerial experience would have been a detriment in past decades but now seems of little consequence.
Cons: The glaring question is this: Why isn’t Martinez already guiding a club? He’s respected and admired throughout baseball. He’s interviewed for a number of jobs and his name shows up often in lists of candidates for all the open jobs. Is he the perfect bench coach who builds close relationships but isn’t suited to actually manage a team?
Ron Roenicke was hired mid-season as the team’s third base coach. Many news outlets have floated his name as a possible successor to Mattingly.
Pros: The team’s base running improved dramatically under Roenicke. He’s familiar with the front office and has a working relationship with Friedman and Zaidi. He’s got the experience with five years at the helm of the Brewers and knows something about handling intense pressure – see Ryan Braun. Roenicke started his professional playing career when the Dodgers made him a first-round draft pick.
Cons: He’s not expected to be the team’s first choice. Though he was hired by the existing regime, it was Mattingly who chose Roenicke from a list of acceptable candidates provided by Friedman and Zaidi. He’ll turn 60 in August and is not seen as a long-term choice to steer the team. The Dodgers would like to retain him, but not as their manager.
Tim Wallach has interviewed for managerial positions in Detroit and Seattle and is a candidate for the current opening in Washington. It’s only a matter of time before Wallach gets his chance in Los Angeles or elsewhere.
Pros: He knows the Dodger roster better than any of the other candidates. Wallach played in Los Angeles for four years at the end of his career, became hitting coach in 2004 before being named the organization’s Triple-A manager. His first year piloting the club resulted in the Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year Award. He’s been Mattingly’s bench coach the last two seasons.
Cons: Wallach is solid. One of the few drawbacks is that he may not be the team’s first choice. Hiring him would be a safe move. It might also be a move seen as boring to a fan base than is looking to be energized after a 27-year World Series drought.
Gabe Kapler is a rising star in the Los Angeles organization. Bright, engaging, and forward-thinking Kapler appears to be a good fit at this time and place. The 40-year old played 12 years in the Major Leagues.
Pros: As Director of Player Development under Friedman, Kapler knows the organization and how his boss operates. Dodger ownership has given the reigns of the team to Friedman who must have a cooperative, compliant manager who’s willing to implement strategies grounded on analytics. Kapler could be that guy. The job would be ideal for Kapler, a local product who graduated from Woodland Hills Taft High School.
Cons: Kapler’s managerial experience consists of one season in the Single-A South Atlantic League. He’s an unknown quantity when it comes to handling a clubhouse. The bright lights of piloting one of baseball’s marquee franchises might be too much for a man with this little experience.
Dusty Baker is available. Dodger fans would rejoice to see a favorite son return the franchise to glory. The fact is he has no shot at this job.
Pros: He spent eight productive years in Los Angeles as a fan favorite enjoying the best statistical seasons of his 19-year playing career. Baker has plenty of experience with over 3,000 games spread over three teams in 20 seasons as a big league manager.
Cons: Baker is not a fit here. Friedman and Zaidi want a progressive, forward-thinking man to guide their team. In 20 seasons, Baker has managed 24 post season games, winning only 11. With the Dodger front office wielding all of the power, their next manager is going to be a subordinate. That’s not Dusty. Look for the team to hire more of a long-term solution than the 66-year old Baker.
Bottom line: Much to the chagrin of Dodger fans, Dusty Baker is not part of the candidate pool. Hiring Wallach or Roenicke is a safe choice, while Kapler presents an intriguing option. Look for each of these men to get an interview before Black or Martinez is named the tenth manager in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers.