Are Dave Martinez’s Chances of Being Hired Decreasing By the Day?
By Robbie Knopf
When a closer departs in free agency, everyone looks at his team’s overpowering setup man as the favorite to replace him. While the same logic does not often hold true of managers, it certainly appears to for the Tampa Bay Rays. Since the moment Joe Maddon left, current Rays bench coach Dave Martinez has been mentioned as the frontrunner to be the new Rays skipper. His talent has been lauded by Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey, and he would provide a sense of continuity in a time when everything is changing for the Rays. Yet Martinez has not been hired yet, and people throughout the league are skeptical that he will actually get the job.
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If the Rays were going to hire Dave Martinez as manager in a stability-oriented move, they already would have done so. That is what league sources told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, and it is not a difficult argument to make. When Andrew Friedman left, the Rays immediately moved Matt Silverman to president of baseball operations, showing that their trust in their internal options to keep them going in the right direction. Why would the Rays do that in their front office and not for their manager job?
At the same time, though, hiring Martinez a few days after Maddon’s departure would have been exactly the time of move the Rays like to avoid. This is a team that attempts to remove emotion from its decisions, showing no hesitation as they traded James Shields and David Price. Hiring Martinez quickly would have gone against starkly against that because there is no rational reason to do so.
If the Rays quickly replaced Maddon with Martinez it would have been like showing your ex-girlfriend that you really loved that you’re doing alright. Let’s be honest here–whoever the Rays choose as manager will have a lot of work to do to become anywhere near as respected as Joe Maddon has become around the league. You don’t see Maddon leave and simply move on in an instant. The stability that would come with Martinez taking charge would be nice, but what do the Rays have to gain by showing a sense of desperation in pursuit of that stability?
We have to remember that teams don’t really need managers for the offseason. It would not affect the Rays’ offseason in any meaningful way if Martinez was hired tomorrow or in a month. Martinez could be a fine manager, but the Rays have everything to lose and nothing to gain hiring a manager before they have interviewed all possible candidates. If Martinez gets the job, it will be because of merit, not because the Rays want to replace Maddon as soon as possible. The issue with the opinion of Cafardo’s sources is that timing should not be a factor whatsoever as the Rays make their managerial choice.
The issue with these arguments is that we could be saying all the same things about Friedman leaving. The difference there, however, is that Silverman was not a subordinate of Friedman–he was another key figure that has led the team for years and years now. Martinez, meanwhile, has not yet proven that he can handle a position of authority. His experiences as bench coach are insufficient to prove that he would make a great manager, and it makes sense for the Rays to gather all the information they possibly can before they hire him.
Dave Martinez may be the best fit to be the Rays’ next manager, and if he is, they will hire him. The Rays have incentive to take their time and no reason at all to hire Martinez quickly. Dave Martinez is as much of a candidate for the Rays’ managerial vacancy as ever, and we can still describe him as the favorite. It will be interesting to see whether he will be the Rays’ eventual choice.