Joe Maddon becoming the Angels' next manager was almost as certain as Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole striking out 10-plus batters in an appearance. In other words, it was almost a lock.
It's the second time in Maddon's a managerial career that his availability has caused an organization to fire their existing manager with time left on his contract.
The first time was five-plus years ago, when Andrew Friedman, who was the head of baseball operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, left to take over as head of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Maddon and his agent were smart enough to have given themselves a short window to opt out of his Rays deal should Friedman leave. Within about a week's time, the Chicago Cubs had fired Rick Renteria and given Maddon a $25 million deal. Maddon helped the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908.
Maddon jockeyed the Cubs to that franchise-changing title in 2016. But in the couple years since, the Cubs didn't take that next step into greatness. Instead, they had two disappointing seasons. This year's late-season collapse sealed Maddon's fate. As soon as he was let go, the Angels dumped their manager, Brad Ausmus, who had just completed his first year of a three-year deal. Maddon has a long history with the Angels dating back to when he originally signed with the team as a catcher in 1975.
Maddon's hiring still leaves seven open jobs in the small fraternity of 30 big-league skippers. With MLB's moratorium on signings during the World Series, Maddon and the Angels will announce their deal at a news conference Oct. 21.
So, let's see where the other seven teams sit right now:
The Cubs, who finished 84-78 this past year, moved on after Maddon's five-year contract expired. The late-season collapse didn't help, and they probably wanted a different energy in the dugout and clubhouse.
The Cubs spoke to former Yankees and Marlins manager Joe Girardi for eight hours. Girardi is from Chicago, but I don't think the fit is there. They plan on talking to current bench coach Mark Loretta, Astros bench coach Joe Espada, former Cubs catcher David Ross and former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler.
I was listening to Steve Phillips break down club president Theo Epstein's managerial hiring history on MLB Network Radio. Phillips mentioned that Epstein hired Terry Francona as Red Sox skipper after Francona had been fired by the Phillies. Epstein knows how hard it is to be a successful manager, and Kapler likely will stress what he learned from his two years in Philadelphia during the interview process. Epstein and his GM, Jed Hoyer, will be listening to how much he stresses his need to do things differently rather than blaming his former team.
Kapler also played for Epstein in Boston (2004-2006). I think the past relationship between Epstein and Kapler pays dividends and gives Kapler his second chance. If not him, toss a coin between Ross and Espada.
Kansas City Royals
Ned Yost, 64, retired after 10 seasons in Kansas City and a World Series championship in 2015. The Royals finished in fourth place in the AL Central at 59-103 this past year.
The hot candidates are Mike Matheny, Dale Sveum and Pedro Grifol. The outside consensus is that Matheny must have taken his current job as a consultant to Royals GM Dayton Moore with the understanding he'd be a candidate if and when the manager's job came open. Sveum seems like a very solid choice. The fan base seems up in arms at the prospect of Matheny. That leaves Grifol as the best man for the job. Grifol is currently the Royals' quality control coach. My guess is Grifol or Matheny.
New York Mets
The Mets fired Mickey Callaway after two seasons, but the Mets had a very solid second half of the season to finish in third place in the NL East at 86-76, and there is an awful lot to like about this job. No other new manager will walk in with a rotation comprised of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Marcus Stroman. Zack Wheeler is a free agent and is expected to sign elsewhere.
There were reports that initially the club was interested in speaking with Buck Showalter, Mike Bell and Girardi. Carlos Beltran declined to interview with the Cubs or Padres and stated the only job he was interested in was the Mets job. Since then, an out-of-the-box name, Eduardo Perez, has surfaced.
Not quite sure why it hasn't been done yet, but Brodie Van Wagenen should be putting the full-court press on Girardi. Like Showalter, Girardi knows and can handle the New York scene. Unlike Showalter, Girardi has a World Series ring. Beltran is definitely a candidate if he aces the interview. Perez may end up with the job if they try to go cheap on Girardi.
Kapler was fired after two so-so seasons at the helm. His team had miserable starting pitching in 2019, and that is hardly his fault. The team suffered major injuries to 5-6 relievers, and those weren't his fault either. This firing was decided by team owner John Middleton more so than GM Matt Klentak. Team president Andy MacPhail wasn't strong enough in Kapler's camp to go to bat for him.
So far, the three men they have spoken to are Showalter, Girardi and Dusty Baker. This is Showalter's only chance to secure one of the openings. But I think the job will go to either Girardi or Baker. Girardi wants the Mets job badly, and if he fails to get that job, I think the Phillies job is his. Baker is a winner and has probably gotten the support of Bryce Harper. That means something in Philly.
Clint Hurdle leaves after a nice nine-year run. This really has to be viewed as the one organization that is clearly looking for a first-year manager. Twins bench coach Derek Shelton is a hot candidate, as is Athletics bench coach Ryan Christopher. Let's not leave out Pirates third base coach Joey Cora, the brother of Red Sox skipper Alex Cora. Joey Cora is qualified but may be overshadowed here by the two other names mentioned.
San Diego Padres
Andy Green was fired just shy of finishing his fourth season as Padres manager. I'm not quite sure what GM A.J. Preller saw in him or how he was able to start his fourth season considering Green had not posted a .500-or-better record in his first three seasons. It'd be a good idea for Preller to nail this managerial hire -- or there may very well be someone else picking the next manager in San Diego.
Apparently, Preller is aiming to make his decision and announce it before the start of the World Series Oct. 22. His list has been whittled down to Jayce Tingler and Ron Washington. Tingler is the major league player development field coordinator with the Texas Rangers. Preller, a former executive in Texas, has known Tingler a long time. Preller also has a history with Washington, who managed the Rangers from 2007-2014 and is currently the third base coach of the Atlanta Braves.
There are a couple of rumblings that former Giants manager Bruce Bochy may want to manage a team again, and if so, Preller would field that call. Bochy managed the Padres from 1995-2006. I believe the choice should be Washington. He is a little rough around the edges, but Tingler sounds like a choice that is too risky for a guy who needs to hit this one out of the park.
San Francisco Giants
Bochy retired after his amazing 13-year run that netted the Giants three World Series victories. Amazingly, Bochy has been managing for 25 consecutive seasons. In addition to the three rings he won as Giants manager, he also took the Padres to the World Series in 1998.
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi plans to sit down with a large cadre of candidates including incumbent coaches Hensley Meulens and Ron Wotus, Athletics quality control coach Mark Kotsay, Rays bench coach Mark Quatraro, Dodgers bench coach Bob Geren and Matheny, Grifol and Kapler.
My experience has taught me that a lot of times when there are two in-house candidates, it lessens the chance either one is selected. But how Zaidi is thinking is anyone's guess. His relationships are with Kotsay, Geren and Kapler.
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