Friday, September 25, 2009

Managers of the future

Tragic number update: Eight. The Tigers had just enough padding on the scoreboard in Cleveland Thursday night to survive Fernando Rodney in the ninth inning.


It's a rather pointless exercise, but I sometimes try to guess what current players will someday become major league managers.

It's pointless because relatively few of today's managers had long major league careers as players. Consider the five in the AL Central this year. Ozzie Guillen had a real career as a player. Ron Gardenhire had a brief major league career — 285 games, one season as the Mets regular shortstop. Eric Wedge (Cleveland) had 39 games in the bigs, which was 39 more than Jim Leyland (Detroit) or Trey Hillman (Kansas City).

Still, I see three guys on the Twins current roster who I have no trouble imagining as big league managers some day.

Michael Cuddyer appears, at least from this distance, to be an effortless leader, a guy who knows when to ease the tension (magic tricks) and when to focus his mates on the job at hand. Certain metro columnists have drunk deeply of the Torii Hunter-is-a-leader Kool-Aid, but it appears to me that Cuddyer is better at the job, because he buys into the Twins approach completely.

Mike Redmond, unlike Cuddyer, fits one of the two prevalent molds for managers — he's a catcher, and thus has some experience working with pitchers as well as the offensive side. He's also seen Leyland work up close; the LaRussa-Leyland branch of the managerial tree rooted in Ned Hanlon and John McGraw has already proven influential in the field.

Nick Punto fits the other mold — pepperpot infielder. (Cuddyer would represent a strain popular in the 1960s and relatively rare today — an outfielder/first baseman who can project an air of quiet strength. Think Walt Alston or Gil Hodges.)

My guess is that Cuddyer would be the best manager of the three, but that's strictly a guess.

It's entirely possible that none of them would even want to try it. Each has made a few million dollars, and the prospect of riding the buses in the Midwest League while learning the ropes generally holds little appeal to those who don't really need the job.

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