Eight Potential Player-Managers in the MLB
This slideshow is an extension of an article I wrote recently that simply asked the question, "What Happened to the Player-Manager in Baseball?" The article can be found here.
Here are some players of varying ability, stature, and age who could make sense as player-managers in the near future.
I leaned toward players who have a strong connection with their current teams and who have had a high level of success at some point in their playing careers.
Tony Clark, Arizona Diamondbacks
Tony Clark is in the perfect situation to become a player-manager.
First and foremost, he's experienced more ups and downs in professional baseball than current Arizona neophyte manager A.J. Hinch.
Clark is a veteran of 15 seasons and is one HR shy of 250 for his career. He is a former All-Star and has played in the postseason.
Tony Clark rarely plays now, so he has ample time to handle the managerial duties while coming off the bench every now and then.
Clark is also a well-known positive clubhouse presence. He is a highly respected player, not just on the Diamondbacks, but across baseball.
This almost makes too much sense. Perhaps the Diamondbacks should pull the plug on the A.J. Hinch Era and give Tony Clark the reins.
Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves
As Bobby Cox approaches retirement, and the oft-injured Chipper Jones nears 500 HR, it is easy to envision a scenario where the Atlanta Braves allow their franchise icon the chance to achieve a career milestone while the organization ushers in the "new guard" of players from within their farm system.
What young player wouldn't be eager to learn how to play the Atlanta Braves Way from Mr. Brave himself?
Jason Varitek, Boston Red Sox
Many managers apprentice for the position by having long playing careers as knowledgeable catchers who are adept at guiding a pitching staff.
Going on that description, Jason Varitek certainly fits the bill.
One would think that Terry Francona can manage in Boston as long as he'd like.
In the unlikely event that Francona moves on sooner rather than later, though, the Red Sox could turn to Varitek. He's already proven to be great as the on-field manager of the club and has served as the team's captain for several years.
Varitek is a great clubhouse influence, has experience working with the players' union, and certainly understands the modern pressures of today's ballplayer, playing in the pressure cooker that is Beantown.
Todd Helton, Colorado Rockies
With retread manager Jim Tracy now in charge in Colorado, perhaps it's only a matter of time until Rockies ownership turns over the manager's role to Todd Helton, who has been the face of the franchise since 1998.
Helton is to the Rockies what Don Mattingly once was for the Yankees. When the Rockies made their run to the World Series in 2007, many of the team's young players stated that seeing Helton in his first postseason was a motivating factor for them.
While Todd Helton has had a solid season thus far, he hasn't produced a 100 RBI season since 2003, or a 30 HR season since 2004. His bat is productive, but he is not playing at an All-Star level.
Still, he has the utmost respect within his clubhouse and around baseball.
Carlos Delgado, New York Mets
Carlos Delgado is the veteran leader of the New York Mets. He came up as a catcher, grew into an All-Star at 1B, and is one of the most underrated performers in the game.
Currently out with a hip injury, Delgado is 27 HR short of 500 for his career. For a player on the cusp of 500 HR, Delgado is relatively young (turns 37 later this month).
His presence in the clubhouse, the way he has dealt with ups and downs over his career, and his experience in New York make him uniquely qualified to manage a team.
The Mets' current manager, Jerry Manuel, does not have a dynamic personality. Delgado could step in and the team likely would not miss a beat.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Alex Rodriguez has a passion for the game of baseball. He is knowledgeable, works hard to improve himself, and clearly understands the economics of the game from a player's standpoint.
Most importantly, he and the Yankees are married to each other until Alex Rodriguez turns 42. Alex wants to break some significant offensive records, and the Yankees want those records broken with Alex wearing pinstripes.
If his body doesn't hold up as he ages, and he winds up as a platoon player or a part-time player down the road, it may make sense to install Rodriguez as a player-manager.
It would give the Yankees some justification to pay Rodriguez his record-breaking salary if he were to become a bench player late in his career while managing the club, and it would give A-Rod the opportunity he needs to surpass Barry Bonds and others in the record book.
Jason Giambi, Oakland Athletics
At first thought, the idea of Jason Giambi as a player-manager is laughable.
But the more one thinks about it, the more it may make sense.
Giambi is knowledgeable about hitting. He's been an MVP and an All-Star. He's experienced the glory of signing a big contract, and the humility that comes with scouring for a job late in his career. He's been on great teams and disappointing ones.
In other words, he has seen it all professionally.
He was embroiled in some steroid problems and made it through with his reputation as a fun-loving player who can keep a clubhouse loose. As he has aged, he has assisted young players as they started their major league careers.
He's an unusual candidate to be a player-manager, but his skills (drawing a walk, hitting for power) would allow him to play into his 40s as a part-time player or DH.
Oakland has been known as a maverick franchise in the past. Perhaps they should return to their roots and give Giambi the reins.
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals
Hopefully, you readers are not as perplexed by this idea as Albert seems to be...
Albert Pujols is by far the youngest player (according to his birth records) on this list and has several Hall of Fame-caliber seasons ahead of him most likely.
He may also be the most instinctive and intelligent player on this list as well. His current manager, Tony La Russa, has called Pujols the best baserunner he has seen in his career. This from a man who managed Rickey Henderson, the career leader in stolen bases!
It's not normal for someone of Albert's prodigious talents to be good at every facet of the game. And yet, he is a perennial MVP and Gold Glove candidate, in addition to understanding situational baseball like a manager would.
Assuming Pujols remains a St. Louis Cardinal for the entirety of his career, it wouldn't be far-fetched to see him riding out the last of his playing days as the team's player-manager.