Looking For A Leader

A Recent History of Tacoma Managers

2010: Daren Brown manages the first-place Rainiers until August 7, when he is named Mariners interim manager after Don Wakamatsu is fired. Hitting coach Jose Castro manages the Rainiers for the remainder of the season, and into the playoffs.

2011: Daren Brown manages the Rainiers all season.

2012: Daren Brown returns and manages the Rainiers all season.

2013: Daren Brown manages the Rainiers for one month, then is promoted to Seattle to be the third base coach. John Stearns takes over the Rainiers and finishes the season.

2014: Rich Donnelly is brought in from outside the organization to manage in Tacoma. The longtime MLB third coach gets promoted to Seattle on March 7, after M’s third base coach John Stearns steps down due to health-related issues.

Here we go again. The Rainiers don’t have a manager, and opening day (April 3) is fast approaching.

Stearns had surgery for a hiatal hernia. He’s going to be out of action well into April, it seems. He stepped down today, saying (according to a Mariners press release) “It is not fair to the organization, to Lloyd (McClendon) or to the players for me to expect to jump back in after not being able to participate in the bulk of spring training. Instead, I have asked Jack (Zduriencik) to re-assign me within the organization, and he has agreed to do so.”

Stearns will work as a pro scout this season – something he has done before. This means we might see him at Cheney Stadium at some point this season, which would be fun.

So now we once again need a manager in Tacoma.

Who are the in-house candidates for the Rainiers manager job?

Brown is still around and we would love to have him back, but his status in the organization is a bit cloudy after Jack Z broke up Eric Wedge‘s staff last Fall.

Jim Pankovits managed Double-A Jackson for three years, and now he is the roving minor league infield instructor. The story I heard (second- or third-hand) is that Pankovits wanted and requested the roving job – so switching back to a manager role might not be what he had in mind. That being said, he has the experience to do the job.

Jack Howell oversees all of the Mariners minor league managers and coaches. He might just say, “what the heck, I’ll do it.” He’s done some managing in the low minors.

Scott Steinmann served as Rainiers bench coach last year after Stearns came in. He’s currently slotted to be with short-season Everett as hitting coach (Steinmann enjoys working with the younger players). His experience last year might cause him to be reassigned to manage Tacoma.

Former Rainiers catcher Jim Horner managed in High Desert last year, got promoted and is currently set for his first season of managing at Double-A Jackson. They could bump him up to Triple-A – but this would cause an organization-wide chain reaction that might be more trouble than it’s worth.

Roy Howell (no relation to Jack Howell) is the new Double-A hitting coach. He has managed in the lower minors in the Padres system, and he has three years of PCL experience as the hitting coach for Portland from 2000 to 2002. He managed in the Atlantic League two years ago. I have no idea if he’s interested in managing again.

These seem like the most likely candidates to me. It’s probably too late to go outside of the organization. Baseball people commit to a job once spring training starts; the off-season is when managers/coaches shuffle between organizations.

However, the independent leagues could be raided. Maybe it’s time for a blast from the past… Dan Rohn was just named manager of the Traverse City Beach Bums, who are an independent team in his home town. Has enough time passed to bring back Rohnie?

Thank goodness they made the move before the season starts. Whoever the new Tacoma manager is – sources from Arizona say we should find out within a few days – at least he will have the last few weeks of spring training to work with the team.

Here’s an idea that we should actually employ: let the fans manage.

Believe it or not, this has been done before. In the Major Leagues.

Maverick owner Bill Veeck once had a “Grandstand Manager Night” when he owned the St. Louis Browns. He gave fans sitting around the dugout signs to voice their opinion, and let them vote on key decisions. Meanwhile, actual Browns manager Zach Taylor sat in a rocking chair next to the dugout, smoking a pipe.

This really happened in 1951. And the Browns won, too. Fans all-time managerial record, in Major League Baseball history: 1-0.

We can do this.

We can do this.

Should the Rainiers managers be in the bleachers, or down in the Dugout Club?

I can just picture the new Dugout Club sales brochure: “The Dugout Club puts you closer to the action than ever before. You are intensely involved in the on-field action – in fact, each Dugout Club ticket now includes the right to vote on the starting lineup and key strategic decisions during the game. The Dugout Club puts you in the manager’s chair. Each Dugout Club ticket includes unlimited hot dogs, soda, beer, wine, and peanuts.”

The pressure is on you - the fans.

Fans: the pressure is on you.

Here’s more on The Day The Fans Managed. It’s an amazing story – give it a read.

Let the fans manage the Rainiers in 2014!

Needless to say, our final positional preview (the Tacoma bullpen candidates) has once again been postponed. Monday! I really, really, really mean it this time! Unless, um, they name the Tacoma manager that day.

Links:

  • Ryan Divish has a story on the Rainiers manager situation.
  • Those of you who watched a lot of Rainiers games last year are just like me: not surprised at all that it looks like Abraham Almonte will make the Mariners. I’d wager he ends up starting a lot of games, too.
  • The Mariners don’t need Kendrys Morales, John McGrath writes.
  • Lookout Landing has a thorough look at James Jones, who is likely to take Almonte’s spot in the Tacoma outfield.
  • James Paxton is a survivor, Jerry Brewer writes.
  • Meanwhile, after a week of rest Taijuan Walker played catch yesterday. So far, so good.
  • Bob Dutton ran through the Mariners bullpen options.
  • Dutton also talked to new closer Fernando Rodney about his crooked cap.
  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy reminds us that three potential Rainiers in spring training camp have special contract provisions.
  • If you’re an ESPN Insider, here is Buster Olney’s take on Ken Griffey Jr.
  • Dr. Frank Jobe changed baseball forever. He passed away at age 88 – here is his New York Times obituary.
  • Exhibition round-up: Rodney made his Mariners debut, and Brad Miller turned in a web gem during Thursday’s 7-4 win over the White Sox… defensive problems cost the Mariners in an 8-5 loss to Cleveland on Wednesday. Almonte hit a leadoff homer.
  • We’ve got some PCL news today. The Omaha Storm Chasers will host the 2015 Triple-A All-Star Game. I know many of you want it in Tacoma (and so do I) – the Rainiers did not bid for the 2015 game, due to the Chambers Bay US Open happening at roughly the same time. Patience…
  • The Salt Lake Bees have a new name for their stadium: Smith’s Ballpark. Smith’s is a large grocery chain in Salt Lake City. So long, Spring Mobile Ballpark. This is the third name for the ballpark in my time in the PCL – whatever the name is, it’s one of the finest facilities in the league.
  • Former Tucson General Manager Mike Feder was hired by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a promotional capacity.

Weekend reading idea: baseball strategy books. We might need YOU.

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One Response to Looking For A Leader

  1. Doug Shirk (the older) says:

    If you can find a copy Bill Veeck’s book, “Veeck–As In Wreck” not only details the Manager for a Day stunt, it includes the Eddie Gaedel/Falstaff Beer birthday, and all in all, his entire, fun filled career in baseball through the Go-Go White Six era. I would recommend it to anyone who loves the game.

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