Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Tony Pena Talking Points

Murray Chass writes about the search for the next Yankees manager. After dealing with Girardi and Mattingly, he talks about Tony Pena's prospects:

Tony Peña, scheduled for an interview tomorrow, is the third serious candidate. He probably lags behind Mattingly and Girardi because, although he has been the Yankees’ first-base coach the past two seasons, he never played for the team. Other candidates may be added, but it’s not likely that anyone will eclipse any of the first three.

So what if he "never played for the team?" Neither did Torre. Or Buck Showalter. Or Casey Stengel. Such a justification seems like a stretch to find a difference between Pena and the two seemingly favored candidates --Mattingly and Girardi -- that avoids anyone having to come out and say that Pena is a token minority interview that they're not seriously considering for whatever reason.

Which is not to suggest that the Yankees are racists or anything. Such an assumption is silly. It is very likely, however, that they are more concerned with how the next hire plays in the press and with the public than the actual chops of their next manager, and for that reason feel the need to hire one of the sexier candidates.

"How it plays with the press," if that is one of the considerations here, could be a legitimate concern I suppose, but it does seem like a somewhat petty one that could lend itself to a bad hire in the interests of good short term public relations. Mattingly may make everyone feel good, but I don't think I'm alone in thinking that, strategically speaking, he would get his lunch handed to him by Francona, Scioscia, and Leyland on a daily basis.

And what makes the brass think that the public would embrace Girardi or Mattingly more than Pena? After all, unlike Girardi, Pena has at least coached this team, and unlike Mattingly, he has managed before, and those are certainly considerations that the press and the fan base in a sophisticated baseball market can appreciate, right?

At the end of the day it's entirely possible that Pena is wrong for the job for several reasons, and it's undeniably true that the Yankees should be able to hire whoever they want for any reason they want to.

That said, if I were a NY reporter I would make the Yankees go on record and say why Pena is a worse candidate for the job than Mattingly, who has no experience, or Girardi, who has less experience than Pena, rather than parrot what sounds like an erroneous talking point from the Yankees' brass about "playing experience" being so damn important.


Diesel said...

I think what's most encouraging to me is that all three of the Yankees' primary candidates have glaring weaknesses. Pena was pretty bad with K.C., and I'd like nothing more than the Yankees to start bunting their way into losses on a regular basis. Girardi could very well take an axe to the arms of Messers Hughes, Chaimberlain and Kennedy, and Mattingly could be as astute a baseball mind as Celine Dion for all we know. This sounds like fun.

Mac said...

How about, "Pena's experience suggests that he sucks, while Mattingly might not suck"?

Shyster said...

Since I posted this several emailers and BTF posters have brought me around to the idea that Pena is probably wrong for several reasons, but I don't know if his experience in KC is a valid basis for that. He did make something close to chicken salard out of the chicken sh*t he was given in 2003, and that has to count for something.

Of course, quitting in 2005 amidst a sex scandal doesn't help him.

Tybalt said...

I thought Pena did quite a good job in Kansas City for most of his tenure and he is very respected in the baseball community (as opposed to the sabermetric community or among fans). He is especially revered among Dominican players who see him as a leader, pioneer and mentor.

I agree that Pena's time in KC fell apart quite badly. By '05 he was a shadow of himself. The Yankees wouldn't do badly with Pena (he would certainly be a better choice than Girardi, whose rah-rah-fire-and-brimstone bullshit will cut no ice with a team of mid-30s veterans), especially if they saw him as a short-term hire to help their young players along while they look for a replacement among the elite managers in a year or two.

Of course, they'll never do that, because that would be prudent, and prudence isn't a word in the Bronx.