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Should the Rays’ Manager Search Offend Dave Martinez?

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Excitement and intrigue always abound any time a new manager steps up to helm an organization. Tampa Bay Rays fans and everyone involved in the organization should be encouraged by the Rays taking their time and going through all the necessary steps. Everyone except perhaps Dave Martinez.

In the days following Maddon’s departure, Martinez was, it seemed, the obvious choice to take over as manager. He has been interviewed by other clubs (e.g. the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros) and seems to be liked by the players in the clubhouse. But instead, the Rays seem to be doing the right thing by going slowly through a list of candidates.

Let’s recall the days following Andrew Friedman’s departure–within the hour the public knew that Matt Silverman was to take Friedman’s vacant post. Stuart Sternberg called him “absolutely the right choice.” There’s no reason to contest Silverman as the substitute for Friedman, but it seems to me worth asking why the same sort of search taken or a similar list of audacious names sent around.

The quick answer is that Silverman seemed the logical choice, was next in line, knows the organization, etc. However, to shift back to the manager search, why aren’t the same reasons good enough for Martinez? One reason is that a manager interacts more directly with players as opposed to an executive, who is supposed to evaluate them in a more detached fashion. Even so, can that explain all of the explicit differences in process in hiring a President of Baseball Operations and in hiring a new manager?

The general trend across MLB is for the manager to be an outsider of sorts. Sure, Brad Ausmus was a catcher for the Detroit Tigers for a little (’99-’00), but he beat out Gene Lamont (the bench coach under Jim Leyland) for that gig. Mike Matheny played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 2000-2004 and so has some organizational familiarity (certainly more than Ausmus had with the Tigers), but he beat out everyone coaching under Tony LaRussa.

There’s a similar story surrounding the hirings of most, if not all, of the current managers of teams. John Farrell–a former pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox and now their manager–represents the exception. Nearly all MLB manager were hired guns and not promoted from within. Certainly the recent trend has been for an organization to look beyond whomever is in hand. The Rays, then, are no exception to the rule here.

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But certainly it isn’t hard to remember last season when the San Diego Padres fired GM Josh Byrnes in the middle of June, and then spent a long time (even allowing the trade deadline to come and go) looking for a replacement. One day after the Atlanta Braves were eliminated from playoff contention, they fired Frank Wren and set up a search committee even though they expected to merely hire “highly regarded” assistant GM John Copallela. For the record, the Braves now have John Hart as their President of Baseball Operations and aren’t looking for a GM. The Rays, however, were content to move forward without any kind of search committee. Sternberg already had the right candidate, he knew it was right, and, it seems, that’s all that matters.

I am not claiming that I know that Dave Martinez will be a great manager, or won’t be selected, or even that Silverman will do a terrible job as the new President of Baseball Operations. I simply wonder what it says about your organization to have such different processes for selecting a head of baseball operations and selecting a manager. If you were Dave Martinez, wouldn’t you, at least, be scratching your head? If the Rays are performing the status-quo search for a manager, then why did they skip over that process when it came to their President of Baseball Operations?

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