[This post was submitted by Warren Leeman, otherwise known as Shchi Kossack. He offers suggestions “from the old recliner” for the next Reds general manager and manager.]

Walt Jocketty and Bryan Price are locked in for the 2016 season. Both have one year left on their contracts and Bob Castellini will simply not terminate either contract. That’s a given. Hopefully his commitment to the Old Boys’ Club for 2016 is merely a reflection of his loyalty to his long-time associates and will ultimately be a prelude to the house cleaning after the 2016 season with a new Baseball Operations management and philosophy for 2017.

I have no real confidence that BC is capable of and willing to make the decision to clean-sweep the Reds to establish a completely new, modern baseball philosophy, but as fans, we have to hope. With that hope in mind, is it too early to begin looking at options for a new GM and Manager for 2017? It’s the offseason for the Reds as we await the World Series with activity and news related to the Reds limited to the shuffling of the major league coaching staff, so why not throw the discussion out there now? From the Old Cossack’s perspective, I’ll start by throwing my ideas and wish list out there for consideration.

When the decision on a new Reds’ GM is finally made, he may not even still be available after the 2016 season. He has already been prominently linked to several of the post-2015 GM openings, but Dan Kantrovitz would make an ‘elite’ head of the Reds’ Baseball Operations Organization to finally lead the organization into the modern age of MLB. Kantrovitz may actually be over-qualified for the Reds’ mid-market franchise, but the opportunity for full autonomy and control to implement his vision of the Reds’ Baseball Operations Organization might be very enticing to such a young, experienced, savvy, insightful GM candidate. Should anyone want a Kantrovitz primer, I highly recommend David Laurila’s discussion from 2014 over at Fangraphs.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/qa-dan-kantrovitz-st-louis-cardinals-scouting-director/

If the new GM needs a pedigree, stints with St. Louis and Oakland provide a nice one. After receiving an undergraduate degree from Brown, Kantrovitz spent 4 years cutting his teeth in the Cardinals’ organization then completed his master degree in statistics at Harvard. He spent two years as Director of International Scouting for Oakland, two years as Director of Amateur Scouting for St. Louis and last year served as AGM for Oakland.

While Kantrovitz comes well versed in numbers and metrics, his philosophical approach, while based on data analysis, also incorporates an old school approach as referenced in his quote regarding scouting evaluation, “We try to keep it as scientific and data-driven as possible, but our metrics aren’t our end-all-be-all. Our scouts know that. Any time you’re dealing with amateur baseball players, it’s highly variable. If we didn’t allow some wiggle room — quite a bit of wiggle room in some cases – from the influence of our scouts’ voices, we’d be off.”

Kantrovitz should also appeal to the innate need to hire ex-Cardinals from pre-2008 if that matters, except this would be a young, sharp, energetic and capable acquisition. Most of Kantrovitz experience has been through developing and managing highly effective scouting departments. His approach to assembling an effective organization was addressed in his quote, “I’d guess having a background in analytics influences the way I look at assembling a staff, but at the end of the day, I’d prefer not to have a department where we all think the same way or have the same set of experiences to draw upon. Scouting is so difficult, that I think to minimize our mistakes, having scouts who have different approaches is important.”

This is exactly what the Reds have lacked (and need), an open mind to differing opinions and differing approaches.

After the GM is in place, the next field manager must be a top priority. This gets tricky for me. I’m not sure how Bob Castellini would feel about hiring another manager with no experience, but I also don’t want another retread. I was very pro-Price when he was hired, mostly from outside observation of his professional management and communication skills that he had exhibited as a pitching coach and the support he received from the players he coached. That hasn’t worked out so well.

I like the idea of ex-players with sub-superstar skills who made it through sheer fortitude and determination. I’m particularly biased toward catchers since they must have superior baseball knowledge and instincts to succeed. They also have to be pretty hard-nosed and tough in order to succeed.

If he is available after the 2016 season, I think Ryan Hanigan could be the man to right the ship as the Reds on-field manager. Boston has a $3.75MM team option for Hanigan in 2017 with an $800K buyout. With the plethora of recent injuries for the 35-year-old catcher, I think Hanigan’s playing career may come to an end after 2016 and he looks to be a solid managerial candidate, at least at some point. His knowledge of pitching and hitting can match anyone. He always commanded respect as a player and no one was tougher than Hanigan. I think he has separated himself enough professionally from the current roster to avoid personal relationship complications, but has recent-enough ties to the organization to allow a smooth transition. I see better all-around preparation to become a successful manager through his playing experience and approach to the game.

If Hanigan is available and wants the opportunity and Kantrovitz and Hanigan can work together effectively, I would take a flyer on Hanigan as the next Reds manager.

47 Responses

  1. WVRedlegs

    I like the Kantrovitz proposal. That makes alot of sense. Maybe Barry Larkin as his assistant GM.
    I can’t get on board with the Hanigan idea, at least not at the majors level. The Reds will need an experienced skipper. But maybe grooming Hanigan at AA or AAA would be ideal to get him some managing experience. You just don’t see teams groom managers anymore in the minors. Hanigan would be ideal to replace DeShields at Louisville.

  2. Daytonian

    Hanigan? Maybe. Who knows? But. if so, Hani he has to manage in the minors before taking the reins in Cincy. No more on-the-job training with the Reds. Price’s multitude of avoidable errors reveals the costs of putting a good man in the managerial position without jos first learning the nuances of the managerial craft.

  3. Bryan E

    The relationship a manager has with the front office is quickly proving to be a more important prerequisite than prior managerial experience. Mike Scioscia is undoubtedly an experienced manager, yet his toxic relationship with the front office led to irreconcilable differences. Listening to DeShields talk makes it obvious he is one who is set in his ways and he would almost certainly butt heads with an analytically savvy front office.

    The Reds need someone who buys into the team which has been assembled and who is willing to trust in the system. Previous managerial experience is not a panacea and the lack of it should not automatically exclude someone from consideration. I think it has been clear to everyone here that the Reds have lacked a cohesive organizational philosophy and there needs to be a top to bottom acceptance in a “Reds Way”. That includes the manager.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Very well stated Bryan! Everyone in an organization does not need to agree, but everyone must move in the same direction as an organization. The GM and manager do not need agree, but they must work together. No better example would be Pittsburgh with Huntington and Hurdle. No manager is/was more ‘old’school’ then Clint Hurdle, but Hurdle adapted tp follow Huntington’s lead and the organization benefited. I absolutely agree with your perspective on DeShields. He’s toxic.

      • Big56dog

        What is the positive perception of Deshields? My only knowledge of him is that he worked with Billy on his bunting in the off- season.
        If he is hanging his hat on that, well that is all I gotta say about that…

  4. Chuck Schick

    Well written post.

    There are very few things in the world more worthless than ” Major League Managerial Experience”. You’re making pitching changes and doubke switches….not flying the Space Shuttle, performing brain surgery or designing nuclear power plants. Any reasonably astute baseball person can ” manage” a game. I’ve found no correlation between experience and wins.

    The main role of a manager is to “run the team.” Running a team requires leadership skills and emotional intelligence. While those skills can be refined and improved, in general, you have them or you don’t. Guys with
    ” fire and passion” tend to alienate their players and are short term fixes. Baseball can’t be managed like high school football is coached.

    In a perfect set up, the manager executes a plan set forth by a progressive baseball operations team. The organization has a plan, and a belief and the Manager implements. The game of baseball is played best when it’s run like an actual business.

    • Big56dog

      The more I see and think about the impact the manager has, I would say they have little impact on games overall, but can impact the season.
      Joe Maddon for all his accolades, has had minimal post -season success. I am not sure what Ned Yost does but my impression he is not that progressive, but some how the Royals win without a great deal of super star talent.
      My biggest criteria for a manager is one who can keep it together in front of the media and not lose the club-house. If the GM is not going to come in with some Progressive Philosophy, I would hope they would start with something basic, like maybe not hiring Pitching coaches to manage and targeting former catchers if you have nothing else to use as a starting point.

      • Victor Vollhardt

        Casey Stengel ( don’t forget he managed stars and bit players in a big media town with difficult owners to a huge success) once described the job of manager this way: “on a 25 man roster there are 10 guys who love you and 10 guys who hate you and 5 guys who are undecided either way–the job of the manager was to see that those 5 guys didn’t join either group”. Now of course this statement was meant to be funny, but it contains a lot of truth —–how talented people are handled or how they perceive themselves to be handled will always show up in their performances. This is the essence of what a manager does—and those types of people are very hard to find in any field–let alone trying to work “their magic”. in full public view. Many games are won at dinners hotel rooms, manager’s offices and around batting cages before any ball is put in play.

      • Chuck Schick

        Casey Stengel won 5 w/s in a row with Mickey Mantle and lost 120 games with Marv Thornberry. The talent you manage is far more important than how you manage.

  5. larry papania

    Good, thoughtful article. I love the Kentrowitz for G M proposal, but as stated by both of the first two respondents, I doubt that B C will take another chance with a new mgr., in light of Price’s performance. How about Dusty Baker (ha, ha). But seriously, I also think that the next mgr. have at least a couple of successful years of AAA mgr. experience to be considered a mgr. candidate by B c.

  6. Kyle Farmer

    How about Joe Oliver as a sleeper, former Reds catcher candidate for manager in 2017? I believe he’s been managing in the lower levels of the Boston farm system. I have no idea how successful he’s been or his views on analytics. Just throwing it out there.

    • redsfan06

      I like Oliver as a candidate. If he has been managing in the Red Sox minor league system, he surely has been exposed to their analytical ways. Coupled with Kentrowitz, It brings views from several analytical leaning organizations together.

  7. tgarretson82

    Very well thought out reasoning behind the proposals. I love the GM idea, but Hanigan as manager may be on the too inexperienced side. I would be really interested to here other possibilities thrown out there for GM and manager.

    I just hope that Jocketty learns from guys like Alderson from the Mets. Look at the RA Dickey trade. He knew Dickey even at his prime was not going to be part of their future plans (Frazier, Chapman) so he traded Dickey for d’Arnaud and Syndergaard – who are central pieces to their WS run.

  8. TR

    A good article. I hope Kantrovitz is still available when the owner decides to shift gears in the front office. As for the field manager, I would let the new GM make that chose since harmony is an important factor in the success of the organization.

  9. WVRedlegs

    According to the talking heads on MLB Network radio, the top 3 things an MLB manager candidate needs are communication skills, communication skills, and communication skills. Bryan Price has that.
    To have the ability to communicate with the front office. Check.
    To have the ability to communicate with your players. Check.
    To have the ability to communicate with the media. (Cue the scratchy needle on a record sound.) With the exception of one Taliban Trent turd in Cincinnati, Price has mostly fared well with the media.
    They say that filling out a lineup card and in-game decision making only accounts for about 10% of a manager’s job. And Price has a new bench coach to help him with those decisions.
    More importantly though, Price’s fate will be tied to the progression of the starting rotation and how much they improve upon their unglamourous August and September. Lets see what Price can do with a healthy and potent full 25 man roster. Not the lackluster 25 man rosters that Jocketty has provided over the last two seasons.
    The onus is fully on Jocketty this winter to provide the players capable of competing or contending in the NL Central.

    • Gaffer

      This post is in jest right? These players have completely tuned Price out. Cueto completely dressed him down in public!

  10. james garrett

    Baseball is a business but it can be made fun and exciting with the right leadership.I like the choice of GM because he is data driven but leaves room for the other intangibles that are needed to run a business.He probably should pick his own manager but former catchers have a history of being very good.

  11. ScottyReds

    We need to move quickly toward the use of analytics period. Whoever that is, sounds like this guy would be perfect. Lets all send letters to BC recommending both as clearly as possible

  12. RFM

    Dan Kantrovitz, (new) Brewers AGM Matt Arnold, Rays AGM Chaim Bloom, and maybe even Cardinals AGM Michael Girsch should all be considered… with the selected candidate then choosing the manager.

    Just appointing a new manager without the new GM having a say in the matter is a terrible idea. Having someone to make big decisions is the whole reason to find a new GM, and undermining their authority on day one would be a crazy idea. Also, if top priority is having a sabermetrics-friendly young GM, why choose a manager (like Hanigan) whose understanding of, acceptance of, and ability to integrate advanced metrics is totally 100% unknown? Again, hiring someone who might reject data would totally undermine the objectives of a new GM. Hopefully Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon’s long time bench coach, gets an interview. I’d be much sooner give him the job than Hanigan, Larkin, or someone totally unknown like that.

    • Shchi Cossack

      All good options for a GM. Hopefull the interview and selection process for the manager will properly vet any candidates and the ‘good old boy’ or ‘I like ’em’ criteria will have no bearing on the selection. I certainly do not pretend to have properly and completely vetted Hanigan’s qualifications, but his struggles through the Reds’ minor league system and antiquated philsophies at both the minor league and major league levels always appealed to me and made me view Hanigan as a leader more than a follower, despite the odds to the contrary.

      • RFM

        With all the recent attacks on Bryan Price, the proven pitching coach, and how he’s adapted to the managerial role, I’m not sure what makes anyone think that Ryan Hanigan is better suited. In the era of sabermetrics it seems like leadership is a secondary concern. Dusty Baker was a leader, his players liked and respected him a lot, but it couldn’t satisfy the sabermetrics crowd. Seemingly prioritizing a manager who motivates players is old fashioned and behind the times… based on everything I’ve heard for years.

      • Carl Sayre

        Love the article and I agree that catchers have a great foundation for the mechanics of managing.I understand the data driven approach and I am trying to embrace it but I am still old school seat of my pants type fan. I would really like a GM that would make me embrace the data driven approach completely.

  13. WVRedlegs

    Kansas City Royals Assistant GM and Director of Scouting and Player Development JJ Picollo might also be one to consider. The Directors of Player Development and Directors of Scouting seem to be where new managers and GM’s are being hired from.
    I heard him on the radio at lunch time, and he seems like he is on the cusp of being a GM. He interviewed with the Phillies for their GM position earlier this year.

    • Shchi Cossack

      Picollo is another good candidate. The Phillies seem to have obtained the pick-of-the-litter when filling their GM opening and ultimately selecting Klentak over Picollo, Bloom & Kantrovitz.

    • RFM

      Kantrovitz, Matt Arnold, Michael Girsch… and Picollo… all have backgrounds in scouting/player development.

      The Royals have accomplished the impressive feat of going to the World Series in consecutive seasons, and both JJ Picollo and scouting director Ray Montgomery are sometimes mentioned as GM candidates. Both are in their mid 40’s, not that that’s a big problem, but they’re older than several top candidates. More importantly to me, the Royals are one of the few teams in the 2015 playoffs that don’t seem built to last. They’ve had to trade many assets just to keep this window open, and they’re now dealing with free agency and rising salaries. I’m very skeptical of their ability to remain a contender in 2016 and 2017, and I don’t really see them as a model for the Reds. Nobody from the Royals would be my top choice.

      • WVRedlegs

        Yeah, the Reds don’t need anyone from an organization that preaches putting the ball in play, having high OBP hitters throughout the lineup, having a lockdown bullpen, have won two consecutive AL pennants, and lead this year’s WS 2-0 now. That isn’t a model we should emulate.

  14. Bryan E

    I think we also need to be aware BC’s influence over baseball operations. He is a highly involved owner and wields a massive amount of veto power for the Reds. If this team is to build a strong, forward thinking organizational philosophy, BC needs to step to the side and let the baseball people be baseball people. I’m not saying he should completely recede into the shadows but there is a fine line between involved owner (Bill DeWitt) and overly involved owner (Mike Illitch).

  15. ncmountie1

    I like Kantrovitz, and I like Hanigan being groomed for down the road. What about Ted Power? Does he have the stuff? Is he too old school? I certainly think he’d be good PC at MLB level.

  16. james garrett

    One thing I am hoping for as a fan is that we build an organization that year after year competes for a playoff spot.I know few teams can say that but imagine what that would mean as far as revenue for the Reds.My thoughts are build it and they(meaning the fans) will show up.I realize all parts of the organization must walk hand and hand to make that happen but it can be done with the right leadership.I think it could be accomplished with a new data driven GM hiring an old school manager that is willing to go along such as was mentioned by SHCHI in regards to the Pirates.The Reds don’t need to re invent the wheel but rather get on board with the rest of the league.

  17. GreatRedLegsFan

    My two cents to Brandon Philips as Player-Manager for 2017.

  18. bhrubin1

    Love it! Hanigan was my favorite Red when he was here. So cerebral. I can’t think of a better guy to take a flyer on.

    • ohiojimw

      It was often said that Hannigan was a manager in the making; but, I would want to know where he is at on Sabremetric thinking. Probably most importantly, for any managerial candidate, is the guy on the same page as the rest of the org.

      • Tom Diesman

        Along the same lines, we might want to toss Corky Miller’s name into the mix. He was often spoke of as future managerial material as well.

    • Shchi Cossack

      When I saw the Anthopoulos’ resignation mentioned, I was very conflicted about him being a Reds candidate going forward. I think I would probably pass on Anthopoulos, but then again…

    • CP

      Potential target for what position? AA is a pretty good fit for the Reds (young, but has experience and some degree of success). I think AA is a good GM, but the Reds have already backed Walt Jocketty. I could see some organizations reversing themselves, but it would be pretty shady to flip. I assume you bring in AA, he’s bringing in his own manager & staff.

      • ohiojimw

        It would take the kind of coordination the Reds have not proven to be adept at; but, an org that really wanted AA would find a way to transition along the lines that Milwaukee did when Melvin stepped back.

        Price is a problem because it is hard to imagine anybody else would want him around for manager even as a lame duck.

      • CP

        The Reds have to know they are going to stink next year, so Price is probably already a lame duck. Bad teams/organizations kill managerial careers. If I had time, I’d like to research how luck plays a factor in the careers of managers. If that first managerial job is for a bad baseball team, what are the odds you’ll have a long managerial career? No one turns down their shot to manage a professional baseball team, but maybe they should?

      • ohiojimw

        That’s a very interesting point as to whether the person defines the job or the job defines the person’s career.

        I think in Price’s case a major issue was that he was simply clueless about total breadth of the manager’s job because he had been totally immersed in developing pitching his entire career; and, the situation got ahead of him to the point he was behind the curve no matter what. I don’t think it is valid to point to Matheny and the guy in Detroit, Ausmus, in comparison to Price because they were both catchers and thus more deeply involved in the overall game than Price. Even a guy like Ventura had a fuller view from being a position player.

        As an org, the Reds probably brought in Jay Bell to be bench coach because they felt a strong voice would be needed there to help Price along. We know now that for whatever the reasons, apparently that relationship did not turn out to be an effective and productive one.

        2015 was obviously going to be a disaster for the Reds once the rotation was disassembled by trades and injury. However, I think any number of competent managers could have kept the wheels from falling off as much as they did in 2014. Playing barely better than .400 (.413) over 80 games from July 1 to the end of season was pretty much a harbinger of what happened this year.

  19. Chuck Schick

    Let me preface this by saying I hate the Steelers, but a lesson can be learned from them.

    They’ve had 3 Head Coaches over the past 45 years. While injuries and personnel issues in any given year may slightly alter things, they’ve basically played an attacking defense, physical run oriented style since the Nixon Administration. They draft and develop players who can fit into that style. They rarely sign free agents and aren’t afraid to let guys go when they become too expensive.

    Cowher and Tomlin were hired to execute an existing template. They don’t reinvent the wheel every few years. The organization isn’t run by the coach….the coach implements what the organization wants to accomplish.

    No Manager can ” fix” the current Reds. If the Reds borrowed from the Steelers…draft and develop a ” type” of player…don’t randomly fire managers because of a bad year…care about 2-3 things such as OBP and low walk rates for pitchers they could create the type of sustained success that’s been missing for 20 years.

    • Victor Vollhardt

      I agree with your thought especially the last paragraph–And the Dodgers (when owned by the O’Malleys) proved the same in baseball—with Alston and Lasorda(43+ years).. Going back to your previous reply on Stengel–he handled both (Yankees as winners and Mets as losers) very well. The Yankees of the 50’s had many egos and former big time players who were at the end of their abilities–Stengel got the most out of all of them.With the Mets–he was hired to buy time (they were in the WS 7 years later) shield the Met players from the press (who could have chewed them up-instead many became folk heroes and Marv was one of them).The Mets made a huge inroad to the Yankee fan/media base and Stengel was a big part of that. He was a very successful manager at both posts

  20. csmountaineer

    Really like the idea of Kantrovitz. In fact, I cannot think of someone more perfect. However, I strongly dislike the idea of hiring Hanigan (and your basis criteria is the position he played?). I would prefer someone who would whole-heartedly embrace analytics, but has excellent interpersonal skills.

    • Shchi Cossack

      I can certainly appreciate that you would disagree with my opinion. In fact the post was intended to spark discussion and solicit other fan’s opinions rather than proclaim my opinion as gospel. My old recliner has seen a lot of baseball and is quite comfortable but it has never made me any more insightful. I did not understand why you objected so strongly to either the Hanigan suggestion or why I suggested Hanigan. Perhaps I should have expanded my reasoning.

      I mentioned that successful catchers, by nature of the position requirements, tend to have a very good understanding of the entire game and that provides a good basis for managing. That was not intended to imply that all catchers would make good managers. Hanigan was a strong student of the game period. He understood hitting and pitching and defense. His on-field persona was that of a strong leader. He had the respect of all his teammates and the trust of his manager and coaches. Those are all good qualities for a manager.

      What most impressed me about Hanigan was his coachability combined with independent thought when the coaching he knew the coaching he received was simply wrong. Hanigan was a big, strong brute of a catcher. The hitting coaches throughout his minor and major league career tried to make him into a home run hitter at the expense of a profession plate approach. Hanigan even tried to oblige, as any player signed as an amature free agent would, but realized he would fail miserably as a poer hitter and played to his strength, which was not making outs rather than swinging for the fences.

      My concern, like many other repsonders, regarding Hanigan a possible manager in 2017, is his lack of any managerial experience, not his ability to be a good manager.

      • csmountaineer

        That completely makes sense. I understand your point of view, I just happen to disagree (and that is okay). Good article overall!

  21. Mike Sargent

    The Reds have always done a lot better when they had a more strict field manager, ie, Sparky or Lou Piniella. Maybe they should find a mean, vociferous guy like sweet Lou and forget about coddling the guys that don’t perform to their ability. Like Bruce, Hamilton, etc.

  22. TR

    I think being a successful manager has more to do with the talent of the players the front office puts on the roster. I never thought Sparky Anderson was an unusually strict manager but he had an incredible group to work with.