Offseason, Week 2: We Still Don’t Have a Manager

Lane Kiffin in one of his final moments as head coach of USC in 2013.

by DrLefty

A press conference was scheduled on Thursday at 10 a.m., and I got all excited, but…no. It was USC announcing the hiring of their new athletic director. Oops. Wrong sport, wrong loyalty.

Now the question is: Will the Giants have a new manager before the new Trojans AD fires the head football coach, Clay Helton?

(USC plays at ASU today. It was after a shellacking in Tempe in 2013 that Lane Kiffin infamously was fired at LAX after the team flew home. So…stay tuned. USC is big on tradition.)

OK, back to the Giants. There’s a reason this weekly feature is called “Out of Left Field.” The right-brained can be a little quirky. We see connections everywhere.

 

Breaking down the manager search

So far the only rumor with legs is that the Giants are down to three finalists: Joe Espada, Gabe Kapler, and Matt Quatraro. A lot of noise early this week had Kapler as a done deal. Then on Thursday, news broke that Espada had just finished his second interview and that he’s now considered the front-runner. I take from this that no one really knows what’s what here, except of course the Giants’ front office.

This list tells us a couple of things and raises a couple of questions.

  1. Joes vs. schmoes: So far six of the eight manager openings have been filled by MLB teams. Three were filled by well-established names–former World Series champions Joe Girardi and Joe Maddon and Mike “Don’t Call Me Joe” Matheny, who took his Cardinals to three straight NLCS and a World Series. Two were filled by recently retired World Series champions (David Ross from the 2016 Cubs and Carlos Beltran from the 2017 Astros). The only no-name so far is Jayce Tingler, hired by the Padres. The Giants’ short list means they are hiring a schmoe and not a Joe, and yes, I’m lumping Gabe Kapler in with two guys I never heard of until a couple of weeks ago. Now, hiring a schmoe isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Joe Maddon was one at one point. So was Bruce Bochy. One of the Giants’ finalists (Espada) appeared on Eno Sarris’s list a few weeks ago of the next wave of great new managers. So did Jayce Tingler and David Ross. It’s just different for the Giants, who haven’t gone with an unknown name as manager since…well, I dunno, the 70s? Dave Bristol? Joe Altobelli?
  2. Old guy vs. young guy: “Young” kind of co-occurs with “schmoe,” but not entirely. Carlos Beltran may be just 42 and a first-time manager, but he’s no schmoe. I think he’s a likely Hall of Famer. The Giants are definitely going with “young.” Kapler and Espada are 44, and Quatraro is 45.
  3. White guy vs. non-white guy: It’s interesting that in the largest and most diverse state in the U.S., one with five major league baseball teams, the only non-white manager is Dave Roberts of the Dodgers. The Giants’ short list includes one person of color, Espada, who is Puerto Rican. Already passed over in this fall’s searches have been Hensley Meulens, Dusty Baker, and Espada himself (by the Cubs). Of the six newly hired managers since the season ended, only one, Beltran, is not white. We’ll see where the Giants end up.
  4. Insider vs. outsider: The Giants did interview both Ron Wotus and Hensley Meulens for their manager position, but one always sensed that it was a courtesy rather than a serious possibility. Both of them are older by today’s new manager standards (both are in their 50s, and Wotus is in his late 50s)–though “old” doesn’t seem to matter if you’re a “Joe.” One could argue that both Giants coaches are at least as accomplished as any of the three finalists remaining, but it seemed clear that a fresh start was wanted and needed after Bochy’s 13 years ended on a low note (as to the final three years–the goodbye ceremony was great).

So to sum it all up, we know we’re getting a young outsider schmoe but we don’t know yet if he’ll be a diversity hire. And…we’ll just have to wait and see. For how long? Well–the Trojans’ game at ASU kicks at 12:30, so they should be arriving back at LAX by maybe 9 p.m. tonight, and…I kid.

 

Other Giants’ tidbits

Nothing earth-shattering here. Madison Bumgarner and Will Smith still have a few more days to decide on their qualifying offers. But here’s some other news, sort of:

  • The Giants have begun the renovation of Oracle Park, moving the bullpens to either side of the centerfield kale garden, taking out some bleacher seats, and slightly shortening Triples Alley. But good news!  That bar in the kale garden that serves the great (but pricey) Bloody Marys is safe!
  • Former Giants first baseman J.T. Snow is bored.
  • The Giants claimed the Wong brother off waivers.
  • The SABR defensive index, which is 25% of the Gold Glove calculation, was released this week for 2019. It had Buster Posey actually better than last year (but third overall at catcher) and Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt also in the top three at their respective positions (Belt was second among 1B). Three-time Gold Glover Brandon Crawford finished ninth among NL shortstops, and in a head-scratcher, Kevin Pillar finished 12th among center fielders.

 

Final thoughts

There will be more in the coming weeks about roster churn (which has already started–goodbye to Mike Gerber; hello to Kean Wong and others), other 40-man roster moves (we’re getting closer to the deadline for protecting minor leaguers from the Rule 5 draft), and free agency. (Hey! The Giants actually have plenty of money to spend this year–but will they? Will they instead shed more payroll by trading the likes of Samardzija, Longoria, or Belt?)

For now, we’ll just wait to hear the announcement about Clay Helton being replaced by Urban Meyer—oops, I did it again, didn’t I? But I predict that by next Saturday, the Giants will have announced their new manager. Lefty out.