Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Should We Be Keeping an Eye on the '82 Yankees?

A long time ago (in blog years, that is) I did a post called "Which Team Had the Most Future Managers?", where I discovered that in the true sense of the question the answer was the 1956 St. Louis Cardinals. I concluded by saying it's unlikely we'll ever see their record of nine future managers broken due to expansion, however, when I was updating my master list to account for the upcoming season's three rookie skippers (John Farrell, Don Mattingly and Ron Roenicke), I noticed one team is getting awfully close. Since I assume you read the title of this post, you probably already know I'm talking about the 1982 New York Yankees.

Mattingly was a 21-year-old kid who got into seven games that year as a September callup. Once he manages his first game for the Dodgers this season, those Yankees' future manager total will be at seven. His teammates who've also had a turn at the helm are as follows: Bucky Dent, Butch Hobson, Lee Mazzilli, Lou Piniella, Willie Randolph and Edwin Rodriguez.

It got me thinking: Could this team possibly challenge the '56 Cardinals? If only two more players ascend to the managerial ranks they'll be tied. Are there any other prospects on the horizon? As far as I can tell, nine other men currently or have recently worked in professional baseball:

Steve Balboni: Currently a scout for the Giants. He had a brief minor league managerial stint in 2001, but at this point he's probably a longshot to return to the dugout.

Dave Collins: Resigned as the Marlins' first base coach in the middle of last year. I can't find anything that says he's currently employed in a baseball capacity, but the fact that he coached last year tells me he could possibly surface somewhere. Still, coaching first isn't exactly the fast track toward managing. The position exists mainly to help baserunners with their leads, a role well-suited for a noted base thief like Collins. The highest level at which he's ever managed is Class A-Advanced in both 2001 and 2007.

George Frazier: Currently a broadcaster for the Rockies. Hey, Larry Dierker made the transition with no previous managing experience. Could lightning strike again?

Ken Griffey: Currently manager of the Class A-Advanced Bakersfield Blaze in the Reds' system. Interestingly, Griffey might already be the unofficial eighth future manager from the '82 Yankees. On June 18, 1999 Griffey, normally the bench coach, managed the Reds for a single game while manager Jack McKeon left town to be with his wife, who was having breast cancer surgery. Because he never officially held the title though, his name doesn't show up in Baseball-Reference's database of managers. Given his advanced age (61 in April), his best hope may be to catch on as a bench coach for a Major League manager on the hot seat.

Dave LaRoche: Pitching coach last year for the AAA Las Vegas 51's in the Blue Jays' system. According to the 51s' website, Tom Signore is now the pitching coach. I'm not sure if LaRoche currently has a job, but he's had such a long career as a pitching coach that I doubt he'd suddenly want to start managing.

Bobby Ramos: Currently the Rays' bullpen coach. Bullpen coach is even lower than first base coach on the food chain, though Ramos does have seven years of minor league managing experience. His last season in that role was 1999, so it'd probably take a fluke of mammoth proportions for him to find his way back at the Major League level.

Dave Righetti: Currently the Giants' pitching coach. A few pitching coaches have ended up as managers (Ray Miller, Marcel Lachemann and of course, Farrell come to mind), so it's not inconceivable that Righetti could too. Rags actually has expressed an interest in managing, so he might be the best bet to make it eight (officially).

Dave Winfield: Currently holds an advisory position in the Padres' front office. He's been wearing a suit instead of a uniform for over a decade. I'm guessing he doesn't have his eye on managing.

Butch Wynegar: Currently the hitting instructor for the AAA Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees. Wynegar did manage in the minors for four years in the '90s, but he seems to have carved out a niche as a batting coach. I doubt he's anything resembling a managerial prospect.

After looking at the remaining possibilities, the 1956 Cardinals' record seems reasonably safe. Still, this list has one real possibility and a few outside chances. If one of them ever becomes the official number eight (or nine) you can bet I'll be the first to make note of his connection to the post-pennant hangover known as the 1982 Yankees.

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