Greetings from Fenway Park, where Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin just met with reporters for 21 minutes,
Mackanin arrived at Fenway at 9 a.m. for a day-long process that included a test on in-game scenarios. His interview session with reporters went well. He presented his case well, cracked some jokes and seemed to have a good presence.
Mackanin, a youthful-looking 60, has managed more than 2,000 games in the minor leagues and during winter league stints in Australia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela.
He also has 106 games of major league experience as an interim manager with the Reds (2007) and Pirates (2005).
But Mackanin, the bench coach in Philadelphia the last three years, has yet to get a major league team of his own despite that impressive resume. He said his wife, Nancy, dwells on the reasons why that is more than he does.
“Of course I’ve wondered,” Mackanin said. “I don’t know. Whatever happens, happens. I’m good with it. I’m happy to have an opportunity just to have somebody listen to me.”
The Red Sox gave Mackanin plenty to talk about. He was in meetings for nearly nine hours with general manager Ben Cherington and his staff before being ushered up to the press box to meet with reporters.
“He’s got a broad set of experiences that appeal to us. He can see the game from different perspectives, which I think is a benefit,” said Cherington. “He’s got a good way about him, a sense of humor, mature, and a good reputation from every clubhouse that he’s been a part of.”
The Reds were 20-games under .500 when Mackanin replaced Jerry Narron as manager. He led Cincinnati to a 41-39 record, but there was no reward waiting. Owner Bob Castellini wanted a bigger name and hired Dusty Baker. The same thing happened with Pittsburgh, who passed over Mackanin and hired Jim Tracy.
“If you believe that you need a big-name manager, I can’t convince you otherwise. That’s just your opinion,” Mackanin said. “I don‘t happen to believe that’s that important.”
A well-prepared Mackanin then mentioned Whitey Herzog, Bobby Cox, Dick Williams, Gene Mauch, Walter Alston and Tony La Russa as successful managers who were not particularly well known before being given a chance.
“I’m not comparing myself to them. I’m better than them,” Mackanin joked.
Mackanin, who has been in pro ball for 43 years as a player, coach, scout and manager, wore his 2008 Phillies championship ring and accessorized his tweed jacket with a Red Sox-red handkerchief in his breast pocket. He also carried an iPad, something that surely caught the eye of the Generation X executives who interviewed him.
“I love statistical analysis,” Mackanin said, noting he used it extensively when scouting for the Yankees in 2008. “It’s very important. Numbers mean something.”
The Red Sox also asked Mackanin about handling the players off the field, a skill the new manager must be adept at given the September collapse and disunity in the clubhouse.
Mackanin described himself as both a players’ manager and a disciplinarian.
“I feel like I have leadership qualities and I feel like I can help this franchise get back to where it once was. Not that it was ever gone from anything, but I guess there was a little hiccup here. We’re going to put it behind us and move on.”
From his current boss, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, Mackanin has learned the value of keeping his finger on the pulse of the clubhouse.
“That probably the biggest thing. He doesn’t show panic. He’s very loyal to the players,” Mackanin said. “But at the same time there’s some friction there. To me, between a manager and a player there has to be some friction even if it’s just a little bit. Players have to have a little bit of fear of the manager. Not much, just that little bit knowing he’s got the [upper] hand.”
Mackanin played to his audience when he met with reporters, mentioning that he played for Red Sox legend Ted Williams when he was invited to spring training with the Rangers in 1972.
“He was my favorite manager,” Mackanin joked.
Cherington indicated the initial group of candidates would be narrowed down and interviewed further. He hopes to have a new manager in place before Thanksgiving.
“We’re trying to get a feel for how they would manage all parts of the game,” Cherington said.
Some other news:
• Ben Cherington said Dale Sveum will come in for an interview on Wednesday. The Red Sox have yet to ask permission to speak with any other candidates beyond Mackanin and Sveum. The hope is to have a new manager in place by Thanksgiving.
No Sox coaches have been scheduled for interviews.
• There have been talks with the agents for David Ortiz and Jonathan Papelbon. But Cherington does not expect a deal to be made before they can enter the market at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.
• The deadline with the Cubs to make a deal for Theo Epstein is tomorrow.
“It’s a difficult deal to work out because it’s to hard to quantify the value of Theo Epstein,” Cherington said. “I have an idea of it and Theo doesn’t think he’s worth as much as I do. We haven’t been able to bridge that gap yet.
That means commissioner Bud Selig is likely to intercede and determine what the Red Sox will get in return for their former GM, who agreed on a five-year deal to become president of baseball operations of the Cubs on Oct. 12.
“Both sides are comfortable with that outcome if it happens that way,” Cherington said.
Cherington said the teams would argue their case before Selig, or his representative. Then the commissioner would make a ruling.
• John Lackey gets his Tommy John surgery in California tomorrow from Dr. Lewis Yocum.
• Cherington said Marco Scutaro is the starting shortstop going into spring training.
“We see him as an above-average major league shortstop. He certainly performed that way this year,” said Cherington, who felt the $6 million option picked up on Sunday was “very fair” considering what Scutaro’s value would have been on the market.
With Mike Aviles, Jed Lowrie and 21-year-old prospect Jose Iglesias on the roster, the Sox could be in a position to make a trade.
“We felt like going into spring training with a surplus in that area was an advantage to us and this offseason, having a surplus in that area is an advantage to us, too,” Cherington said.
• Cherington on declining the $3 million option on righthanded reliever Dan Wheeler: “We just felt like looking into the offseason, we didn’t feel like we could commit to that money him this early. We have a lot of respect for Dan. He’s a pro and pitched really well after coming off the DL before getting a little sore late in the year. We’ll keep the door open.”