Tag Archives: Possible Manager

Possible Manager: Bob Melvin

"So who is on first, what is on second, I don't know is on third ..."

Bob Melvin was the manager of the Seattle Mariners from 2003-04 and of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-09, winning Manager of the Year with the NL West Champion Diamondbacks in 2007. Those ’07 Diamondbacks managed to make the playoffs despite being outscored by their opponents in the regular season, which is weird. Previously, Melvin was a scout and bench coach for the Brewers, and then a bench coach for the Detroit Tigers (2000) and Diamondbacks (2001-02) before becoming the Mariners manager in 2003. Melvin, tragically born with two first names, is currently a scout in the Mets organization. “Scout,” as used here, is a fancy term meaning “we’ll pay you to hang around for a year and then maybe we’ll give you a managerial job.” This comes out to a 69 on my made up coaching experience scale, the second highest of the six candidates.

During his younger years, Melvin spent ten years in the major leagues, playing for seven different teams. In 1987, Melvin hit 11 home runs and threw out 43% of would-be base stealers as a backup catcher, but also managed to bat .199. Nonetheless, it was his best season. (He wasn’t very good.) He had 0.9 career wins above replacement.

As a major league manager Melvin is nicknamed “The Mad Scientist” because he reanimated dead tissue from several corpses into first baseman Mark Reynolds. (Possibly.) He might also be nicknamed “The Mad Scientist” for using an amorphous lineup in Arizona, subbing players in and out at will and hitting them in whatever spot he felt might work. This may or may not have annoyed said players. He has said he believes in hitting high on-base guys near the top of the order, which is good, but I have no idea how statistically inclined he really is. His teams bunted moderately, had good stolen base percentages, and issued a middling number of intentional walks. As for being fiery, he was good for 2-5 ejections per season. Take that for whatever you will. Melvin gets a 7 on my made up managerial strategy scale.

However, given a young team in Arizona that saw early success, Melvin was fired in the middle of 2009 with the halted development of some players as the cited reason. Center fielder Chris Young failed to blossom until this season, outfielder Carlos Quinten struggled until being traded to Chicago, and first baseman Conor Jackson fell apart and then fell ill in 2009.  The 2007 Diamondbacks massively overachieved, which probably raised expectations too high for Melvin’s 2008 and 2009 squads — his team’s early success doomed him. If my memory serves me correctly, Melvin was also in an awkward and unfunny commercial for the Sonic fastfood chain a few years ago.

Despite that, he’d be an acceptable manager.

Managerial Odds: 5 to 1. There isn’t anything great to say about him, but there isn’t anything awful, either. He’s qualified if boring. If the Mets are looking for an in-house candidate with big league managerial experience, Melvin is the right choice.

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Possible Manager: Ken Oberkfell

Ken Oberkfell has been managing in the minor leagues for fourteen years, which is kind of insane. He managed at the Single-A and High-A levels for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1997-2000, and then jumped to the Mets organization in 2001. He has managed at the Single-A, High-A, and Double-A levels before settling in as the Mets Triple-A manager since 2005. He was briefly the Mets first base coach during the second half of 2008, after Willie Randolph was fired in the classless Mets midnight massacre rally to restore fear and insanity. I have no idea why Oberkfell has never been given a chance to manage or coach at the major league level somewhere — fourteen years is a long time. He winds up with a 42 on my managerial experience scale, right near Chip Hale and Dave Jauss. He’s the dark horse in the race, but that’s only because no one knows anything about him. Seriously. There’s nothing to say about this guy.

Actually, he has a mustache. So there’s that I guess. While we’re on this topic, here’s a brief guide to managerial descriptions you might read and what those descriptions say about the manager’s physical appearance:

  • Cerebral = “wears glasses.”
  • Fiery = “has mustache.”
  • Steady = “fat and/or old.”
  • Colorful = “Ozzie Guillen”

Oberkfell spent sixteen years in the major leagues, eight with St. Louis and five with Atlanta. He was an underappreciated on-base machine and good fielder at third base for the Cardinals in the early 80s, hitting .296 with a .368 on-base percentage between 1979 and 1983. Oberkfell was worth 19.1 wins above replacement during his career, easily making him the best player among the Mets in-house managerial candidates.

Oberkfell is an odd duck when it comes to strategy, as well as surname consonant placement. He loves bunting, but almost never issues intentional walks. He’s had mostly slow teams at the AAA level, so it’s difficult to gauge how aggressive his teams are on the base paths, but the answer tends to be “not very.” I’ll give him a 6 on my manager strategy scale, which is middling. Bunts are bad, but disdain for the free pass is good.

And that’s really all there is to say about Oberkfell. His only experience coaching with a major league team was a few months in 2008, and the Mets sent him back to Triple-A after the season. If there are players who find themselves labeled quad-A — too good for the minors but not good enough for the majors — then Oberkfell might be the managerial equivalent of that. It’s hard to figure out what his deal is, and why he’s been stuck at Triple-A for six seasons.

Managerial Odds: 12 to 1. Oberkfell has been around for so long that he must have some clue what he’s doing. But there also must be some reason he’s never been seriously considered before. Or maybe the timing has never been right. Who knows. Oberkfell is a man of mystery.

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Possible Manager: Chip Hale

Sweet watch.

Before joining the Mets staff last spring, Hale spent the previous nine seasons in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He managed at the Rookie, Double-A, and Triple-A levels for the Diamondbacks between 2000-2006, winning Manager of the Year honors in both the Pioneer League in 2001 and again in the Pacific Coast League in 2006. His Tucson Sidewinders — led by slugger Chris Carter — were PCL champions in 2006. Hale was Arizona’s third base and infield coach from 2007-2009, before joining the Mets in the same role last season. This comes out to a 40 on the coaching experience scale, which is right in the middle of the pack. (It ranged from 9 to 99.)

I’ll take this moment to point out that it was Chip, and not Dale, who acted as the responsible and assertive rescue ranger. I believe this is completely relevant when discussing Hale’s managerial resume.

Hale spent seven seasons in the major leagues as a utility infielder, six with the Minnesota Twins. His best year was 1993, when he posted a .832 OPS in 69 games and played every infield position. He had 0.9 career wins above replacement.

As a minor league manager, Hale exhibited Sandy Alderson-friendly strategies. His teams did not bunt often, had good stolen base percentages, and he did not call for many intentional walks. All these things make me happy. His managerial style comes out to an 8 on the (fictitious) managerial strategy scale, the highest among any of the in-house candidates.

Hale, as some of you might know, developed a reputation as a good third base coach this season. I believe this has far more to do with how hilariously terrible Razor Shines was as a third base coach than anything else. It really was hard to tell if Hale was any good, or if he only appeared so in comparison with Shines. Hale was also the infield coach for a group that saw great defense from Ike Davis, average defense from a rusty Jose Reyes, and painful defense from David Wright. So that’s sort of a wash.

Those things being said, I believe Hale is the internal candidate that makes the most sense. He seems like the sort of manager Alderson would be looking for, based on his “Moneyball” and press conference quotations. Hale has experience managing on the minor league level and coaching at the major league level. His strategies appear to be based on logic and not tradition. He is familiar with the current players, but also hasn’t been around the organization that long — and thus he has avoided being overly tainted with their many, many failures. I’d be content if he were named the new manager.

He also said this about coaching third base, which I like: “It’s hard. You get 27 outs, and you don’t want to make a stupid out somewhere as a coach.”

Managerial Odds: 5 to 1. Hale is a strong candidate, but his lack of major league managerial experience and connection to the previous regime might hurt him.

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Organizational Manager Day

I thought I’d try something different around here today. The Mets reportedly have or are planning on interviewing six members of their organization for the open manager position:

  • Brooklyn Cyclones Manager Wally Backman
  • Minor League Field Coordinator Terry Collins
  • Third Base and Infield Coach Chip Hale
  • Bench Coach Dave Jauss
  • Scout Bob Melvin
  • Buffalo Bisons Manager Ken Oberkfell

Now, I’ve noticed something about evaluating managerial candidates: I have no idea how to do it. I’m not going to endorse anyone, because I have no clue who would be good. I don’t get to interview any of them, so most of this is guessing games in the dark. Instead I’m just going to present background information on each, and then you can make up your own mind. Mostly.

But instead of dumping an epically long background post that covers all of them, I’ve decided to split that up into six posts throughout the day, each post focusing on a single candidate. So today is “Manager Day” around these parts, or “Organizational Manager Day.” Or just “Friday.”

Two things you should know first:

1. I created a “managerial experience scale” to measure … well, you know. The scale gives points for every year spent managing or coaching — 1 point for each year spent managing rookie ball, 2 points for each at A-ball, 3 for Double-A, 4 for Triple-A, 5 points for coaching at the major league level, and then 7 points for every year spent managing at the major league level. It’s not a perfect system — seeing that it’s almost completely arbitrary — but I hope it gives a vague way to eyeball and compare the candidates’ track records. I also decided to ignore Manager of the Year awards, mostly because Jerry Manuel won one of those once. The candidates’ scores run from a 9 on the low end to a 99 on the high end.

2. I also have a managerial strategy scale, which runs from 3-9. It’s based on bunts, stolen bases and stolen base percentage, and intentional walks. I went with those three because they are presumably things the manager directly influences. Also, I went with those three because they are easily found on Baseball-Reference. A manager gets more points for not bunting as often as the rest of his league, having a smart base running team, and not issuing free passes. This is obviously just a small piece of the managerial puzzle, but I figure it’s better than nothing. It should give a small sense of how likely a candidate is to over-manage.

Alright. The first post should be up in a little bit. Just sit by your computer and hit refresh until then.

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