When it comes to managing a baseball team, who knows the game better than someone who played it? That’s why it should come as no surprise that of the league’s 30 current managers, 25 of them are former MLB players.
With an established history and track record of making the transition from the field to the dugout already in place, the question becomes which current players would make the best manager?
This was just one of the many questions Athlon Sports posed to today’s players, with the goal of gauging their opinions, tastes and preferences on a variety of topics related to both on and off-field issues. More than a fifth of all MLB players responded for this survey, which appears in full in the upcoming June issue of Athlon Sports Magazine, so we feel this is a fair representation of the mindset of today’s major-leaguers.
Which current player will make the best manager?
(Numbers following name represent the percentage of the vote player received)
1. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees (7.1%)
There should be little surprise the Yankees captain received the most votes from his peers. Even though he has yet to play in a game this season, Jeter’s Hall of Fame legacy is secure, as is his standing as one of the greatest to ever wear Yankee pinstripes.
Whether Jeter even has any managerial aspirations is for him to reveal, but it’s clear that his peers think he’s more than capable of making the transition. Playing his entire career in the media capital of the world for one of the world’s most recognizable franchises and becoming one of the greatest of all-time certainly doesn’t hurt his credentials either.
2. Jason Giambi, 1B/DH, Cleveland (6.4%)
A 19-year veteran who has played for four different teams, Giambi has left enough of an impression on his peers in regard to his chances of making it as a manager. Giambi has a reputation for being a great teammate, and he also gained some credibility and respect when he publicly apologized in May 2007 for steroid use. Giambi reportedly was considered as a possible managerial candidate in Colorado during this past offseason before the Rockies settled on Walt Weiss. First-year Cleveland manager Terry Francona also was adamant about signing Giambi, believing he would be a great mentor for the Indians' younger players. So it appears that the players aren’t the only ones who think highly of Giambi in this respect.
3. David Wright, 3B, New York Mets (5.7%)
Similar to Jeter, Wright is the face of the other baseball team in New York, as he already is the all-time Mets’ franchise leader in numerous offensive categories. Wright hasn’t enjoyed near as much team success as Jeter, but the Mets’ struggles in the win-loss column haven’t impacted the complete, all-out effort Wright puts into every game. He’s been known to play hurt or at less than 100 percent and has clearly won the respect of his teammates, as he was named the fourth captain in Mets’ franchise history this season.
4. Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Toronto (4.3%)
A 16-year veteran who has played for eight different teams, DeRosa has seen and done it all during his career. He is a versatile player who has spent time at every position on the diamond with the exception of pitcher, catcher and center field. He has been an asset to the managers he’s played for during the latter part of his career as a do-everything, utility player who is ready when called upon and won’t grouse about at-bats while on the bench. A graduate of the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, DeRosa certainly appears to have the ingredients players like to see in their managers.
5. David Ross, C, Boston (4.3%)
He’s played for six different teams in 12 seasons and has appeared in more than 90 games just once. A career .237 hitter, Ross has obviously earned the respect of his teammates and peers for his contributions to a team based on him finishing tied for fourth in this vote. While he may just be a backup catcher, Ross is in good company as 10 current managers, which is a third of MLB teams, spent time behind the plate during their playing careers.
6. Mark Kotsay, OF/1B, San Diego (3.5%)
The recipient of the Golden Spikes Award in 1995 as college baseball’s best player while at Cal State Fullerton, Kotsay is in his 17th major-league season. A career .278 hitter with 127 home runs who has played for seven different teams, Kotsay’s contributions to a ball club go beyond what he can do at the plate. Kotsay has made the transition from full-time starter to part-time player and done so while maintaining the respect of both his teammates and the franchises he has played for.
7. Joe Mauer, C/1B, Minnesota (3.5%)
The 2009 AL MVP, there’s no disputing Mauer’s status as one of the game’s top hitters. His worth to the Twins goes well beyond his contributions on the diamond, as evidenced by the eight-year, $184 million contract he signed in 2011. An established, well-respected player on the field and a profitable, likeable and marketable commodity off of it, Mauer is a perfect fit to eventually become the next in a line of “home-grown” Minnesota managers, similar to Tom Kelly and current Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire.
8. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis (2.8%)
Long known as one of the best defensive catchers and game-callers in the game, Molina also has developed into one of the top offensive backstops in recent seasons. His contributions and importance to the success of the Cardinals’ pitching staff during his tenure is unmistakable, so it only makes sense that his peers feel Molina would make a great manager. Besides his work with the pitchers, Molina often will direct the positioning of the other fielders. Molina’s middle brother Jose is a catcher with Tampa Bay, while his older brother Benjie is the assistant hitting coach for the Cardinals. So why not a Molina-heavy coaching staff with Yadier as manager?
9. Nick Punto, 2B/3B/SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (2.8%)
Punto is the epitome of a major-league utility man, having played 13 seasons for five different teams even though he’s started more than 100 games in a season just twice. He’s played all four infield positions and also spent time in the outfield. He won a World Series with the Cardinals in 2011 and represented Italy in the World Baseball Classic in both 2009 and ’13. More known for his glove than his bat, Punto is your prototypical solid, yet not spectacular, professional major-leaguer in the mold of current Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum.
10. Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox (1.6%*)
A 17-year veteran with more than 400 career home runs, Konerko is second all-time in White Sox franchise history in both homers and RBIs and has been the team's captain since 2006. Whether Konerko decides to follow in the footsteps of former teammate and current manager Robin Ventura remains to be seen, but he is well respected for his baseball mind and has had a good working relationship with the media during his career. Rather than Ventura, a better comparison for Konerko would be current Los Angeles Dodgers skipper and former All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly.
*Jerry Hairston Jr. (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Michael Young (3B/2B, Philadelphia) also each received 1.6 percent of the vote.