Thursday, February 07, 2008

Don't Laugh, But Sheffield Would Make Best Manager After Retirement

Call it another Hot Stove League game -- something to while away the time until the pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland, and we can start talking about current events on the field again.

Something to ponder while the snow piles up outside: which current Tigers player would make the best manager when he retires?

I'll make it easier for you: eliminate all the pitchers, including Kenny Rogers. For whatever reason, pitchers traditionally have made lousy managers, with few exceptions: Tommy Lasorda and Bob Lemon come to mind, and that's about it. So that's 40% of the roster you don't have to consider, right off the top.

First, let's rewind. Had I posed this question some 20 years ago, I'd wager most folks would have gone with Alan Trammell. He seemed to have "manager" written all over him. He was, and still is, an unabashed Sparky Anderson protege. I still think Tram could be a winner in MLB, with the right roster. But it was easy to see Trammell as a manager, while he was an active, cerebral shortstop in Detroit.

Let's go around the horn ...

C: Ivan Rodriguez. Pudge as a manager? I don't think so. He has the fire, but I don't know that he's patient enough. I can see him as a frustrated, Ted Williams-type. I don't think he'd enjoy the daily interaction with reporters, either.

Vance Wilson. Oh, absolutely. This guy could manage right now, probably. I can see him working his way up through the Tigers system. He may even run the Tigers someday. Don't laugh.

1b: Carlos Guillen. Guillen could be OK, if he came out of his shell a bit. He fits the mold because he wasn't a star right away; he had to work hard and be a rank-and-file guy for some pretty good Seattle teams. Those types sometimes have a better sense of what it takes to be successful in the big leagues.

2b: Placido Polanco. Not a manager type, but I see him as tomorrow's Rafael Belliard -- an infielders coach and a trusted manager's confidante.

3b: Miguel Cabrera. Too early to tell. He's still a kid, for gosh sakes.

ss: Edgar Renteria. I don't see it, but maybe he would do it in a Winter League or in the low minors.

lf: Jacque Jones: Not feeling it here.

cf: Curtis Granderson: Still young, but out of all the under-30 stars in baseball now, Grandy might be in the Top Five in the Potential Manager category. Patient, affable, and knowledgeable, Granderson might have the goods. Excellent with the media, too.

rf: Magglio Ordonez: I don't know why, but I can see Maggs not really being heard from again after his playing days are done. Another Chet Lemon. Seems like he'd just as soon fade into the sunset.

utility: Brandon Inge. Interesting case here. I think he could do it, but how he'd do with the super egos, I'm not sure. Also might be a tad too glib. But he'd be fun to cover.

dh: Gary Sheffield. OK, now here's where you may be surprised. I believe that Shef, of all the Tigers, would make the best manager. The bigger doubt is whether he'd even do it.

Sheffield: he'd have the fire to lead a ballclub; but would he do it?

He has so many of the right attributes: knowledge; exposure to big media markets; courage; approachability; a "pizzazz" factor. He'll utter something outrageous at times, a la Ozzie Guillen, but it won't be for shock value; it'll just be what he believes. I'd like to see it happen, but like I say -- would he even be interested?

Another question: how many of the most successful managers of all-time were considered to have a bright future when they started? In other words, you could play this game throughout history, and maybe not even mention some of the best to ever patrol a dugout. Those you thought would be good, weren't. And vice-versa.

So it's a meaningless little game that we just played. What else do you expect in the days leading up to spring training?


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