Padres Manager Search: Is MLB Experience Necessary?

The Friars say they want a guy who's been a big league skipper. Is that the right way to go?

“Experience is the teacher of all things.” – Julius Caesar

In most cases this is true (although I would have to wonder how Caesar’s experience with all the tension in the Senate did not teach him maybe he was in a little danger but that’s a discussion for another day).

Experience can be invaluable … but only if one learns something from it. Teachings aren’t worth much if the lessons don’t sink in. If you’re wondering what the heck I’m trying to get at, this is really a pseudo-historical reference made to start talking about the Padres search for a skipper.

The Friars have said they prefer a skipper with prior Major League managerial experience. That’s why the candidates being targeted include the likes of Joe Maddon, Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia and Ron Washington. All have had varying levels of success leading big league teams and all could be successful in San Diego.

But is having a Major League manager job on your resume necessary to lead a team to the World Series? Or did the Friars have such a bad experience with the inexperienced Andy Green that they’re leaning too much on experience now?

Last year Alex Cora took the Red Sox to a world championship even though the only time he’d ever been a manager spanned two seasons with Caguas in the Puerto Rican Winter League. Granted, Boston had a veteran and talent-laden roster which always makes things easier. But Cora pulled too many “right strings” along to way for it to be chalked up to just letting the best team on paper run to a victory parade.

So let’s look at this year’s post-season. There are 10 teams with 10 skippers that made the playoffs. I looked at all of their resumes to see what role, if any, being a prior MLB manager had on their ability to take a team to October. The list is crazy in the different the bench boss backgrounds with everything from a guy who has coached at the high school, college, minor league and Major League level and a guy who walked out of the broadcast booth with exactly zero coaching stops in between.

Each league is listed in order of 2019 playoff seeding, starting with the 5th and moving down to the 1st:


Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays):

2012 Blue Jays Advance Scout
2013-14 Indians Bullpen Coach
2015-present Rays Manager
Career record: 414-396

Bob Melvin (Oakland A’s):

1996 Brewers Scout
1997 Brewers Roving Instructor
1998 Brewers Assistant to General Manager Sal Bando
1999 Brewers Bench Coach
2000 Tigers Bench Coach
2001-02 Diamondbacks Bench Coach
2003-2004 Mariners Manager (record 156-168)
2005-2009 Diamondbacks Manager (record 337-340)
2010 Mets Professional Scout
2011 Diamondbacks Special Advisor
2011-present A’s Manager (record 731-664)
Career record: 1224-1172

Rocco Baldelli (Minnesota Twins):

2011-14 Rays Special Assistant of Baseball Operations
2015-17 Rays 1st Base Coach
2018 Rays Major League Field Coordinator
2019-present Twins Manager
Career record: 101-61

Aaron Boone (New York Yankees):

2018-present Yankees Manager
Career record: 203-121
* Boone was a national baseball broadcaster starting in 2010, the year after he retired as a player, until taking the Yankees managerial job.

A.J. Hinch (Houston Astros):

2005 Diamondbacks Manager of Minor League Operations
2006-09 Diamondbacks Director of Player Development
2009-10 Diamondbacks Manager (record 89-123)
2010-2014 Padres Vice President and Assistant General Manager
2015-present Astros Manager (record 481-329)
Career record: 570-452


Craig Counsell (Milwaukee Brewers):

2012-15 Brewers Special Assistant to General Manager Doug Melvin
2015-present Brewers Manager
Career record: 405-381

Dave Martinez (Washington Nationals):

2006-07 Rays Spring Training Instructor. 2008-14 Rays Bench Coach
2015-17 Cubs Bench Coach
2018-present Nationals Manager
Career record: 175-149

Mike Shildt (St. Louis Cardinals):

1994-96 West Charlotte High School Head Coach
1997-2001 UNC Asheville and UNC Charlotte Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator
1999-2003 MLB Scouting Bureau Associate Scout
2004-2007 Cardinals Area Scout, New Jersey Cardinals Hitting Coach (2004-05), State College Spikes Bench Coach (2006), Batavia Muckdogs Bench Coach (2007)
2008 Johnson City Cardinals Bench Coach
2009-11 Johnson City Cardinals Manager (record 124-77)
2012-14 Springfield Cardinals Manager (record 209-207)
2015-16 Memphis Redbirds Manager (record 138-148)
2017 Cardinals Quality Control Coach and 1st Base Coach
2018 Cardinals Bench Coach
2018-present Cardinals Manager
Career record: 132-99

Brian Snitker (Atlanta Braves):

1981 Braves Roving Instructor
1982 Anderson Braves Manager (record 72-70)
1983-84 Durham Bulls Manager (record 127-150)
1985 Braves Bullpen Coach
1986 Sumter Braves Manager (record 77-60)
1987 Durham Bulls manager (record 65-75)
1988-90 Braves Bullpen Coach
1992 Macon Braves Manager (record 58-81)
1993-94 Danville Braves Coach
1995 Durham Bulls Coach
1996 Danville Braves Manager (record 37-29)
1997-98 Macon Braves Manager (record 149-132)
1999-01 Myrtle Beach Pelicans Manager (record 238-179)
2002-04 Greenville Braves Manager (record 196-215)
2005 Mississippi Braves Manager (record 64-68)
2006 Richmond Braves Manager (record 57-86)
2007-13 Braves 3rd base coach
2014-16 Gwinnett Braves Manager (record 162-164)
2016-present Braves Manager
Career record: 318-292

Dave Roberts (Los Angeles Dodgers):

2010 Padres Special Assistant
2011-13 Padres 1st Base Coach
2014-15 Padres Bench Coach
Dodgers Manager 2016-present
Career record: 393-258

OK so that's interesting. Of the 10 managers to reach the playoffs six of them had no prior experience as a manager at any level and only two had been big league managers with another franchise: Bob Melvin and A.J. Hinch, who was hired by the Diamondbacks at the age of 34 and given less than two years with a terrible roster.

There have been plenty of guys who have won a World Series on their second or third jobs. Maddon, Ned Yost, Joe Torre, Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona all did it. There have also been plenty of guys who went all the way on their first trip as a manager. Cora, Bob Brenly, Ozzie Guillen, Tom Kelly and Sparky Anderson all did it.

The bottom line here, from what I can see, is the Padres need to find the guy who fits their roster and philosophy the best regardless of experience level. Instead of keeping an open mind and looking anywhere and everywhere for the person who truly is the best candidate the Padres seem to be thinking only a guy who’s been there before can be successful right now, which reminds me of another knowledge nugget from a dispatched dictator:

“Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true.” – Julius Caesar

That doesn’t usually work out all that well, either. It just makes sense to me to explore all the options before ruling any out.

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