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September 30, 2017

Wanted: MLB manager. A dozen names for the Phillies to consider

It’s been more than 24 hours since the Phillies called for a press conference to announce that Pete Mackanin would be shifting to a new role, out of the manager’s office at Citizens Bank Park and to a front office advisory role, which he will apparently be able to do from his permanent home in Arizona.

Mackanin’s 2 1/2-year watch as manager during the bulk of the Phillies’ rebuilding period will officially come to an end on Sunday, the final day of the 2017 regular season. The search for his replacement has already begun.

What are Matt Klentak and Co. looking for?

“With the way the rebuild is unfolding and the way that some of our young players are graduating to the big leagues and the way that the outlook is shaping up,” Klentak said Friday. “I think a new voice in the dugout and a new style is necessary.”

New style? One guess from the pressbox: the Phillies front office will want a manager that doesn’t put Freddy Galvis and his career .287 OBP toward the top of the lineup. And perhaps someone who won’t be afraid to toss ‘the book’ aside when it comes to employing his bullpen in late-game situations, regardless if that game is home or on the road.

The latter isn’t a knock on Mackanin as much as it’s a feeling that Klentak may be in favor of a more progressive approach from his field manager. In a game that’s dominated by old-school baseball men, though, it’s worth wondering if the idea of a perfect candidate exists.

But here are some interesting names to consider as the Phillies began their search:

The Insiders

Juan Samuel

The 56-year-old Samuel is a Phillies Wall of Fame and a popular presence on the current coaching staff. It surely helps to have a Spanish-speaking presence in the dugout and Samuel is close with the healthy contingent of Latinos on the current Phillies roster. He also has some managerial experience, working 51 games as an interim manager in Baltimore when both Klentak and Andy MacPhail were in the Orioles front office.

Dusty Wathan

Wathan has basically followed the same path as Rhys Hoskins and J.P. Crawford (who are both fans of his) in the last two seasons, getting rewarded for his admirable work at Double-A Reading by being promoted to the same managerial post at Triple-A Lehigh Valley this time a year ago. Wathan, 44, is the son of former major league manager (John Wathan) and will be on a coaching staff in the big leagues before long, perhaps as soon as 2018 with the Phillies even it’s it’s not as the manager.

Jorge Velandia

Velandia, 42, has a bit of a more diverse background than Wathan and Samuel, which could work in his favor. The Venezuela native is currently working as a special assistant to Klentak, a role he’s held for the last two years. He worked on the Phillies’ coaching staff in the second half of the 2015 season, after Ryne Sandberg resigned as manager. He’s also worked as a player personnel special assistant in the Phillies front office during his seven years in the organization’s baseball operations department.

The Ivy Leaguers

Brad Ausmus

The curious decision the Phillies made in extending Mackanin in May only to dismiss him from his managerial duties in September, with the team playing its best baseball of the season, could be easily explained with the idea that an external candidate unexpectedly emerged on the scene. Ausmus was fired by the Detroit Tigers a week ago. Ausmus may be the round peg in a round hole the Phillies are seeking: he’s young (he turned 48 in April) and he’s bright (he attended Dartmouth College, which just so happens to be Klentak’s alma mater).

Mark DeRosa

Like Ausmus, DeRosa is Ivy League educated but unlike Ausmus, he has ties to Philadelphia: the New Jersey native when to the University of Pennsylvania. mentioned him as a candidate and it makes some sense if you’re a believer that the Phils’ brass will seek out a young candidate (Spoilers: I’m in this camp). DeRosa is currently a popular personality at MLB Network, though, and it’s uncertain if he’s interested in getting back into a big league dugout. He also lacks coaching or managing experience.

The Old Men

Buck Showalter

As mentioned earlier in relation to Samuel, there are strong ties to Baltimore throughout the Phillies front office (in addition to Klentak and MacPhail, there’s also assistant GMs Scott Proefrock and Ned Rice as well as player development director Joe Jordan). MacPhail couldn’t reference Showalter early in his tenure with the Phillies. Showalter, 61, is under contract with the Orioles through 2018, which complicates his availability, obviously. Showalter has plenty of experience (19 years as a manager with four different teams) but came under fire for leaving his Cy Young candidate in the bullpen in the Wild-Card game 11 months ago.

Ron Gardenhire

Like Showalter, ‘Gardy’ has strong ties in the Phillies front office. He was on the Minnesota Twins coaching staff when MacPhail was Minnesota’s general manager. He was Minnesota’s manager (a post he held for 13 years) while current Phillies special assignment scout Terry Ryan was the Twins’ general manager. Gardenhire, who turns 60 next month, is currently the Arizona Diamondbacks bench coach.

The Old Phillies

Chase Utley

OK, maybe we just like putting him on any list we come up with here at PhillyVoice. But the point still stands: Utley will have to retire at some point and a lot of people believe he’ll stick around the game in some fashion. He is currently still playing (he’s started 80 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season) and his preference will be to keep playing in 2019, surely. Has there been a player-manager in baseball since Pete Rose? No, Utley will not be the next Phillies manager. Because as we’ve been with other franchise icons (Mike Schmidt here, Ryne Sandberg with the Cubs) it’s usually not a great look to hire an uber-popular player in franchise history who you’re eventually going to have to fire one day.

Raul Ibanez

You think they’d play “Werewolves of London” every time Ibanez came out to make a pitching change at Citizens Bank Park? Ibanez, 45, was a popular player and teammate during his three-year stay in Philadelphia from 2009-11 and is currently working as a special advisor in the Los Angeles Dodgers front office (so yes, if the Dodgers win the World Series next month, both he and Utley will get championship rings). Ibanez, who maintained a home in Philadelphia after leaving here, was one of three finalists for the Tampa Bay Rays managerial job three winters ago.

Three Others

Gabe Kapler

The former journeyman (Kapler played for six teams during a 12-year big league career) finished as the runner-up to Dave Roberts for the Dodgers manager job prior to the 2016 season despite limited coaching experience (he coached for Israel in 2013 World Baseball Classic and managed for one year with the Low-A Greenville Drive). But Kapler quickly made a name for himself in his post-player career as an intelligent, analytics-heavy analyst, which led to a role in the Dodgers front office. Kapler, 42, currently works as the Dodgers player development director.

Omar Vizquel

The former 11-time Gold Glove-winning shortstop is in a similar situation as Juan Samuel, Larry Bowa, and company as a member of a coaching staff that will be looking for work after his team’s manager was told he wouldn’t be back. Vizquel, 50, has worked on Ausmus’s coaching staff as the Tigers first base/infield/baserunning coach for the last four seasons. He also managed Venezuela in this year’s World Baseball Classic. He is very popular with fellow Venezuelans; many, like Freddy Galvis, grew up idolizing the slick-fielding infielder.

Alex Cora

Cora, who turns 42 next month, has been a popular name already on these lists, as the Phillies are joined by not only the Tigers but also the Mets (although they haven't officially announced Terry Collins' dismissal) as teams searching for a new manager. Cora is in his first season as the Houston Astros staff as A.J. Hinch’s bench coach. Cora, who played in the big leagues for 14 years, previously worked as an analyst on ESPN and ESPN Deportes. He has interviewed for manager jobs in Texas, San Diego, and Arizona in the recent past.

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