THE USUAL SUSPECTS

By:  Holly Horning:

With just a little more than 2 weeks left in the season, it’s time to start analyzing the pool of managerial candidates.

Over the past month, I’ve been developing the list and dividing past and current managers into 3 lists based upon probability. And why just managers? Why not coaches?

Well, two reasons. Coaches, unless they work for the Tigers, tend to be enigmas and hard to analyze due to the lack of information. But the most important reason revolves around the cold-hard fact that unless you are Mike Matheny, first-time managers are proving to be a failed experiment. Especially when you have ageing superstars and an elderly owner who just fired his GM, in part because he hired the wrong guy to manage the team.

And just like half-formed Jello, my lists continue to keep slopping over into each other. Stories and rumors pop up in the media, GMs re-sign their managers to contract extensions and teams rise and fall in the standings and playoff chances.

In other words, expect these lists to keep changing. Especially the categories involving “likely” and “highly likely.” And currently I’m doing my best not to wish Wild Card defeat upon a couple highly respected managers I’d really like to see come to this town.

But before we delve into the candidates, we need to understand the factors that will make them desirable – or undesirable – to Mr. I and Al. They need to be a match in multiple categories – those of corporate culture, personality, managerial record, expertise in working with youngsters or veterans, and philosophy to name a few.

So without further adieu, let’s identify those managers most unlikely to wear the Olde English D given the above factors:


Manny Acta – Managed 2 teams to poor finishes and unable to find a managerial job for the last 3 years.

Dusty Baker – Considered very old school and unwilling to consider analytics. Called the “Widowmaker” for his misuse and injury to pitchers. Oversaw several team collapses and known for making controversial remarks.

John Farrell – Currently taking a leave of absence due to cancer treatment, but expected to be relieved of his duties by Dave Dombrowski. His health and 2 last-place finishes will take him out of the running.

Ozzie Guillen – Eccentric and outspoken, often clashing with his GMs. Yearly headline-making controversial statements, the last one killing fan attendance in Miami.

Lloyd McClendon – Losing records with 2 teams and expected to be fired by the Mariners. A known quantity, the Tigers still preferred the skills of an untested rookie over Lloyd’s.

Bob Melvin – Once considered vulnerable due to a cellar-dweller year, Melvin just had his contract renewed by the A’s.

Ron Washington – Personal problems have followed him since 2009, the latest forcing his resignation last year and still allegedly an issue consuming his attention. He just recently accepted a job as the A’s third base coach.

Ron Gardenhire – Yep, I saved the best for last. Despite a suspect report that says it’s a “done deal” with the Tigers. Despite this same report saying he accepted the job with the Tigers without discussing a contract or money. Despite the fact Gardy despised and avoided analytics when managing. Despite Al Avila’s initiative in creating a real analytics department and hired 4 employees.

Ron is Jim Leyland’s best friend. He was available after last year and despite the Tigers being swept in the playoffs, he remained unemployed despite JL’s possible intervention. His last years with Minnesota resulted in 4-straight 90-loss seasons, the worst in Twins history, coupled with a lifetime 6-21 record in playoffs. His successor, Paul Molitor, has taken the Twins to a winning record and possible playoff contention.

So what would it mean if Gardy, who is affable but not effective, gets the job? It would probably mean that Mr. I is calling the shots and wants a return to the days of how JL managed. Good but not good enough.

It would also mean that the Tigers are more concerned with staying within their comfort zone, working with a personality and type of management they already know. Could this be an example of the pendulum swinging from one extreme to another – and back?

Let’s hope not. The Tigers can’t waste another year.

(Stay tuned for the upcoming Part Two tackling the Likely Candidates.)

5 thoughts on “THE USUAL SUSPECTS

  1. Writing about Gardy’s analytic allergy as case against him, given your opinion about saber-metrics, is funny. Is he incapable of change and growth over time? I don’t think he will become the next coach at the end and I could care less who he is friends with around MLB, it is silly to say he’s not a serious contender.

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    • Hi, Matt – Just because I write about sabermetrics, doesn’t mean I’m a fan of them. For the record, I’m neither totally for nor against. I base my rationale on the current battle between teams trying to modernize and getting their old-school managers on board – and not having much success. There is a huge changing of the guard in baseball and a manager who has no experience in how to use analytics, when a team spends big bucks to bring them in, is at a disadvantage. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts! – Holly

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  2. Been waiting for this and the follow up pieces. Thanks for publishing Holly. I’m an ” old timer” so I have little knowledge of analytics are being implemented. I do see FBI coaches with huge ” cheat sheets” on the side lines though. I disagree with Gardenhire, think I’d put him in the ” likely.” The “done deal” source has to be Bernie!

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  3. I wonder if analytics are overrated. The Tigers are about to fire a young Ivy League-educated manager whom you’d think would be more in tune with trends in data-driven decision making. Still, if a manager candidate flatly rejects analytics and just wants to trust his instincts, I’d be wary. It’s a balancing act.

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  4. Holly, in addition to your comments about Dusty, his teams always seem to be on the wrong end of history. From the ’02 World Series that his Giants would lose to the 2003 Cubs he managed with that whole Steve Bartman/Alex Gonzales debacle to his last stop with the Reds in which his team was no-hit in a playoff game a few years back.

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