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Twins managerial search: How do you make distinctions between external candidates?

We all say "I like this guy" or "I like that guy," but upon what criteria are we basing our opinions?


This is an editorial that was inspired by a conversation on the Twinkie Town Facebook page, where one of our commenters mentioned that Chip Hale was his "ideal" candidate. This person's reasoning was that Hale has not been a part "of THIS Twins front office" and that, just as (un) specifically, he's been the coach on a team that competes year in and year out.

There are, of course, a multitude of gaping holes in this reasoning. My criticism isn't leveled at this single commenter, but at the trope: even if we accept that the Twins must only hire candidates from outside the organization, third base and bench coaches are responsible for neither the personnel decisions nor, barring a blown call in sending a runner from third, the win-loss record in any capacity. What, exactly, do any of us know about these coaches?

Finding coaches who are fresh off of winning teams, or a stretch of winning seasons, has merit. It's why I'm a fan of Jose Oquendo, who has been coaching with the St. Louis Cardinals since 1999 - in that span they've won eight division titles, made 11 post-season appearances, and have made four World Series appearances (winning two). There could be another one this year.

We take team attributes and apply them to the coach, which is about as accurate as blaming Gardenhire for the Twins being bad the last four years or as meaningful as evaluating a pitcher based off of his win-loss record. But we do it anyway because we don't really know anything else. It's why I like Dave Martinez, who has been a coach with the Rays since 2007 - I assume his philosophy on playing the percentages in baseball would be the same as the organization that employs him.

Still, when it comes down to it - we don't know. We don't know that Oquendo's time with the Cardinals makes him a better managerial candidate simply because St. Louis has something of a mini dynasty running. We don't know that Martinez's time with the Rays means he embraces the numbers side of evaluation in the way we might hoping for. And we don't know that Chip Hale, or John Russell, or Torey Lovullo, or Joe McEwing have "proven" themselves simply by virtue of being on a team that's won games.

All we know is the extent of their coaching experience, and whether or not they've ever been a part of the Twins organization. And if you only want to go external, that's fine; I happen to think you'd be ignoring a couple of very solid candidates in Mientkiewicz and Molitor (if he is actually interested in the job). I can understand the premise even if I disagree.

But saying that any one of the external options has proven himself? You'll have to tell me how. And in that instance, the virtue of being an outsider isn't enough.

There are a lot of important questions that should be asked of any candidate for the Twins managerial post. Here are just a few that spring to mind.

  1. What is the candidate's rapport with the players, and how would that rapport be established?
  2. How does the candidate manage 25 disparate egos that come with a Major League clubhouse?
  3. How much managing will the front office need to do on the to-be manager?
  4. What experience does the candidate have in talent evaluation?
  5. In what respects is the candidate similar to Gardenhire, and in what respects is he different - what, precisely, does the candidate bring to the table that is new?
  6. How does the candidate communicate on the whole, both up and down the chain; how would he deal with the decision makers when there is the inevitable clash?
  7. What is the manager's attitude towards not just baseball, but life in general? What is his approach to success and adversity?
That's a list we could build upon pretty easily, but they're all more important questions than Is he an internal candidate or Has he been a coach on a winning team? We know the experience they bring to the table, we know where they've been, and we know the results of the teams for who they've coached, but in determining whether or not they're a better managerial candidate than someone else - those things are not enough.

The Twins are interviewing external candidates this week and probably over the coming couple of weeks as well (including the aforementioned Hale, Russell, and Lovullo), but there's still a lot to be learned. Can we learn enough to give our support to a certain candidate based off of more than superficial information or a gut feeling? I hope so.