Chicago White Sox: Manager search
CHICAGO – Wouldn’t it be nice to go looking for a new job, and a pay raise to go along with it, all while being the person asking the questions instead of answering them?
For Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr., that could end up being their reality as they find themselves in the role of sought-after manager candidates.
Both Martinez and Alomar are reported to be high on the list of both the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox as the clubs look to replace long-time managers.
So instead of, say, the White Sox asking either what they have to offer, Martinez and Alomar might be able to turn the question right back at general manager Kenny Williams.
Boston has the better track record of success over the past decade, a healthier pocketbook and tons of national attention to raise your profile. But there is also the cramped quarters of Fenway Park that only raise the heat from the pressure cooker of the job.
The White Sox can’t even boast about a less stressful job since they will be expecting success just as much as Boston will from its new manager. What they can offer is a division more winnable than the American League East since it’s free from the likes of the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays.
The White Sox also appear to have a better clubhouse culture since it was widely reported that Red Sox players splintered themselves into various cliques.
Still, given a choice, it’s likely that either probably goes with the Red Sox over the White Sox simply because the club has more money to throw at its problems. The White Sox are forced to be a little more creative when it comes to putting together and retooling a roster.
None of it should worry the White Sox since they aren’t expected to be too disappointed with landing their second-best candidate.
CHICAGO -- The end of the Tampa Bay Rays’ season means the pace should pick up on the White Sox’s manager search.
Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is believed to be one of the White Sox’s top manager candidates, if not the No. 1 guy in their search following the departure of Ozzie Guillen last week.
Martinez just completed his fourth season as the right-hand man to Rays manager Joe Maddon. Tampa Bay made the postseason in three of those four seasons. A member of the Rays’ inaugural club in 1998, Martinez played 16 seasons, including stints with the Cubs (1986-88, 2000) and White Sox (1995-97).
In his three seasons with the White Sox, Martinez batted .302 and had a career-best 19-game hitting streak in 1997.
Another top candidate is believed to be new Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who had been the club’s first-base coach before a promotion last week that is set to go into effect in 2012.
The White Sox are also believed to have interest in former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, whose contract option was not picked up after his team’s September collapse prevented them from advancing to the postseason.
Other speculation has centered around the White Sox being interested in current St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who is a former White Sox manager and has a close relationship with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
But unlike Martinez and Alomar, Francona and La Russa are not of the up-and-coming manager mold the White Sox are believed to be looking for. The search could be modeled after the one Reinsdorf’s Bulls used to ultimately land first-year head man Tom Thibodeau.
Like the Bulls, the White Sox are believed to want their head man to grow quickly into the position with the potential of having a lengthy tenure with the club, not unlike what happened with Guillen.
Friday’s news that Red Sox manager Terry Francona will not have his contract option picked up has made the White Sox’s manager search that much more interesting.
There is no doubt Francona would be a good fit with the White Sox. He’s won multiple World Series titles recently. He knows what it takes to deal with high-priced talent and when it comes to preparing a team for a high-profile series, Francona did that all the time when the Red Sox and New York Yankees butted heads, not to mention all of his team's playoff appearances.
But the decision of whether or not to puruse Francona will not come with east.
Let’s start with the issues of pursuing Francona:
• The White Sox are interested in a payroll reduction for next season, and Francona would actually hurt those efforts. Ozzie Guillen was reportedly set to make somewhere in the $2.75 million range for 2012 before he asked out of his contract.
• Going with a first-time manager in Sandy Alomar Jr. or Dave Martinez likely would cost what Guillen was making -- or less. Those managers could be lured to the South Side for, let’s say, three years and $6 million, or possibly less. Francona would likely require more of a commitment like something to the tune of four years and as much as $18 million.
• Then there is the issue of Francona himself. Like Guillen with this year’s White Sox, Francona was unable to get what he needed from his club. The Red Sox had a lethargic start to their season and then topped that with a September collapse for the ages. It raises questions about whether or not Francona has lost his touch.
Now the problems that come with not making a serious pursuit of Francona:
• This is the guy that White Sox fans would seem to want above all other candidates. Not making a push for Francona runs the risk of telling White Sox fans that the club isn’t serious enough to put the best possible options in place for success. It’s not exactly the best way to sell season tickets.
• The White Sox obviously look like a group that needs strong leadership. Guillen has always been known as a players’ manager and even he was unable to squeeze much life out of the 2011 White Sox. If strong leadership is what the White Sox need, Francona is the guy most likely to provide it. How can you pass on an option like that? It’s not to say that Alomar or Martinez can’t provide leadership, but we already know it’s at the top of Francona’s resume.
• Would putting out the extra money for Francona bring the White Sox an enough of a return on their investment? They say that managers don’t sell tickets, that fans come to the park to see players, so would the extra $2 million or so spent on a guy like Francona per year really being back more for their money? Those are numbers the White Sox alone can crunch. Winning games and getting to the playoffs is what will put fans in the seats. There’s no guarantee that Francona can do that better than Alomar or Martinez.
What the White Sox end up doing will be interesting. But knowing general manager Kenny Williams, he has already thought of ways to get Francona on board. He probably was mulling it over even before Guillen left and Francona was out in Boston. Now it’s time to see whether the pros or the cons win out.
But always remember this: Francona watched the White Sox play a few times this past season. Maybe he’s not interested.
Martinez, who played for the White Sox from 1995-97, batted .300 in two of his three seasons on the South Side.
Williams said he will not be able to name a manager before the playoffs start this weekend, and he said that delay could last until after the World Series depending on how things play out.
Martinez is the only one of Williams' prime managerial targets who will be involved with postseason play.
Sandy Alomar Jr. is a guy who knows what the White Sox are about and is very familar with pitching coach Don Cooper. He rates with Martinez as the top two candidates.
So with that in mind, we handicap the candidates to become the new White Sox manager, noting that Williams said that Buddy Bell was comfortable in his role as director of player development and wound not be interested in a field job.
Dave Martinez, Tampa Bay Rays bench coach: Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf had success hiring former Celtics coach Tom Thibodeau for the Bulls. Martinez is in a similar situation with the Rays under manager Joe Maddon as a coach on the rise poised for breakout success as the head man. Williams said he has one top candidate in mind. This could be the guy.
ONE STEP DOWN
Sandy Alomar Jr., Cleveland Indians bench coach: The always positive former catcher has been through it all as a player and is destined to be a manager one day. Was promoted to bench coach Wednesday. After his White Sox days were done, he kept his Chicago residence after moving on to a new team showing his love of the city.
Joe McEwing, Triple-A Charlotte Knights manager: His high energy and infectious style earned him the nickname "Super Joe" and there isn't a person who knows him who doesn't think it's a perfect fit. The organization is impressed with his work with the organization's young talent.
Ryne Sandberg,Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager: There seems to be little question he has the goods to manage. Would his hire, though, be a statement to the crosstown Cubs, who turned down one of their own to go with Mike Quade? The Angels nabbed Mike Scioscia, a favorite of the crosstown Dodgers, and the rest has been history.
Don Cooper, White Sox, pitching coach: The club's pitching coach for nine full seasons got his chance to be the main man for the last two games and loved every minute of it. He is a high-energy guy who has the respect of the players, but the White Sox would probably prefer that he keep his focus on the pitchers.
Terry Francona, Boston Red Sox manager: The Red Sox failed to make the playoffs, and the club could take a pass on his option for next season. Pushed all the right buttons for the Red Sox in two World Series title runs. Knows how to blend high-profile talent with emerging youngsters.
The team scheduled a news conference for Wednesday afternoon before their last game in the stadium where they've played since their first season in 1993. A source told ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine that Guillen will receive a four-year deal with the Marlins.
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General manager Kenny Williams said because of “warnings,” the White Sox had narrowed down possible replacements. Ozzie Guillen had been hinting for more than a month that he might not be around after this season and on Monday that news came to fruition.
Guillen will not manage the White Sox's last two games and is expected to be named the Florida Marlins' new manager this week.
High on that prospective manager list is expected to be director of player development Buddy Bell, who has nine years of major-league managerial experience with Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City. Triple-A Charlotte manager Joe McEwing is also expected to get a serious look.
A candidate with an outside shot is Cleveland Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr., who played for the White Sox.
Williams, though, said that to talk about candidates so soon is to take away from the attention that should be afforded to Guillen on his final day with the White Sox.
“We think that we can act swiftly but I think that accompanies a plan of attack to the 2012, '13, '14 season,” Williams said. “But I don’t want to get too far into that. I think that takes away from Ozzie on this day and what he means to the White Sox fans, to baseball fans, and certainly to a lot of people in this room and in our front office.
“I need to respect that and respect in such a way that he needs to be the story tomorrow, not what our future plans are.”
Guillen was scheduled as a guest for the "Scott Van Pelt Show" on ESPN Radio but his agent told the show's producer that Guillen had a meeting with Reinsdorf that would conflict with the appearance.
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