There are currently three teams (Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, and the Toronto Blue Jays) without a manager at this point in the year, two of which fired their managers and another that traded theirs to the Boston Red Sox for a utility player. In examining those three open managerial spots throughout the league it wouldn’t be surprising to see two coaches on the Baltimore Orioles coaching staff get a call for an interview.
Bench coach John Russell and third base coach DeMarlo Hale are held in high regard throughout baseball, with Russell being a former manager himself and Hale previously interviewing for several open manager positions over the last few seasons.
Russell used to be the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 2008 to 2010 and has been on Buck Showalter’s coaching staff since the 2011 season. At first he was hired on as the third base coach but lingering knee issues caused him to switch jobs with then bench coach Willie Randolph in June of the same year. He has served as the team’s bench coach since then and, by all accounts, has done a marvelous job working with Buck, the players, and more specifically catcher Matt Wieters.
Even though Russell’s career record as a major league manager sits at an uninspiring 186-299 (.384 win %), he didn’t exactly have a lot to work with the three seasons he managed the Pirates so you can’t place all the blame on his performance as a manager on him. You can’t win if you don’t have ample talent to compete, as well as players who are willing to take an all-in approach with your philosophy.
He’s won as a manager in the minor leagues with the Minnesota Twins organization, winning the Pacific Coast League title in 2002, and was also named the top managing prospect in the minor leagues by Baseball America in 1999 and naturally in 2002, so it appears he has what it takes to eventually become a successful major league manager – it’s really just a matter of finding and being offered the right opportunity.
Giving consideration to the fact that there are three open managerial spots available in baseball at the moment, it’s conceivable that the right opportunity could possibly be found with the Colorado Rockies organization. One of Russell’s largest responsibilities with the Orioles is working with catcher Matt Wieters because of his own background during his playing days behind the plate.
The Rockies have their own young, budding superstar catcher they need to try to continue to develop in Wilin Rosario and Russell has the background to help with that. Obviously that won’t be the only factor the Rockies take into consideration when evaluating candidates for their managerial post, but it certainly doesn’t hurt either. The fact that Russell has also managed at multiple levels in the minors, with great success, and has also managed in the majors before is also another plus when considering him.
DeMarlo Hale, another coach highly regarded around baseball, is also someone who could be in demand for one of the three open managerial positions. Hale has nine seasons worth of experience managing at the minor league levels in the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers organizations. He is no stranger to success either, as he has guided three different teams to the playoffs, he managed the American League team in the Double-A All-Star game in 1997, he coached the United States team in the All-Star Futures game in 1999, and to top it all off he has won two minor-league Manager of the Year awards (1995 and 1999).
When you look back at Hale’s history as a minor-league manager it suddenly becomes no big surprise as to why any team would seriously consider him for their manager. He was considered a finalist for the Boston Red Sox managerial post before Bobby Valentine was hired and there was a rumor that he was a finalist once again, as well as being called a perfect fit, before the Red Sox ultimately decided on (and traded for) John Farrell who was managing the Toronto Blue Jays.
Coincidentally enough, Hale was a top finalist for the open managerial slot with the Blue Jays in 2010 before they settled on Farrell as their man. It’s almost humorous how Farrell has beat Hale out for a major league managing position twice now, even though Farrell hasn’t had a huge amount of success himself yet. Another interesting tidbit regarding Hale and Farrell is that Farrell certainly had the more distinguished playing career as a pitcher in the major leagues, with Hale having only ever played in the minor leagues, but Hale is the one with the more distinguished managing career up to this point – albeit in the minors.
Is this the year that Hale finally gets his chance to manage a big league team?
If it is then my money would be on the Toronto Blue Jays giving him another call and possibly allowing themselves a do-over from 2010. They liked him enough to strongly consider him for the position before they hired Farrell, likely because of his pitching and player development background, and he was also strongly considered for the Red Sox vacant manager spot for the past two years. He’s been so close for three straight seasons now and don’t be surprised if this is finally his year.
Losing either of these coaches to another team, especially a division rival, would be a huge blow to the Orioles coaching staff but each man is well deserving of an opportunity to manage at the highest level. Buck Showalter would like to bring back his entire coaching staff for 2013 but he also wouldn’t stand in the way of anyone getting that one opportunity just about every coach in baseball hopes to get at some point in their careers.