Let’s take stock of the Yankees’ managerial chase, just because there’s no actual free agency going on. So far, Brian Cashman and ownership have interviewed a number of less-than-enticing candidates: Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, Aaron Boone, Chris Woodward, and Hensley Meulens. Just yesterday, though, they interviewed yet another one, one that was much more unconventional: Carlos Beltran.
Beltran, the now-recent World Champion and former Yankee and Met, literally just retired. However, he was still called in for the interview because, despite lacking any previous managerial experience, he has an excellent rapport with the team he would actually be managing.
This isn’t to say that the previous choices wouldn’t have certain advantages, of course. Thomson is a Yankee favorite and seems to embrace the organizational line; Wedge has years under his belt; Meulens has hitting coach experience and speaks five languages. Beltran, on the other hand, has quite a few, and checks a number of the boxes Cashman put forth when he started the search.
“[He] listed in-game decision making, prep work, open-mindedness to pro scouts, player-development recommendations, analytical suggestions, performance science, the medical side and being open and honest with the media as plus attributes. Cashman also added that a preexisting relationship would help but is not necessary.”
So far, Beltran has shown a few of those in plain sight. On analytics, he has said:
"I don't see teams winning these days without analytics; it's a huge part of baseball.. The human factor of the game is important, but analytics will position players to be more consistent making plays or helping pitchers attack hitters where it's not a guessing mode, but in advantage mode. It's valuable information. You make moves based on data. If I told you there was all this data for your financial investments, would you use it? Of course you would. Same thing in baseball."
In terms of communication and working with the clubhouse, there are quite a few positive anecdotes:
CC Sabathia today, talking about Carlos Beltran: 'His baseball IQ is off the charts. He’s got a great personality, he can get along with the guys...We have to wait and see how it shakes out here, but at some point he’s going to be a good manager for somebody.''— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) November 28, 2017
Over the last few years, many young Yankees credited Carlos Beltran’s influence as having helped their careers. He requested a locker next to Aaron Judge in spring ‘16. Has a good relationship w/ Cashman. Very intriguing managerial candidate.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) November 28, 2017
Keep in mind that these are the players (possibly not CC Sabathia) that Beltran will have to manage, and he already acted as a pseudo-player manager with some of them. Just as we saw with Joe Girardi and Gary Sanchez, a souring relationship with a young and important player could jeopardize your job. These players matter more than any single manager.
That doesn’t mean that there isn’t one glaring issue, and that’s actual, in-game managerial experience. But, then again, even Girardi himself had little experience before he made the plunge, and Joe Torre was a managerial failure. In theory, if someone with a crystal ball could look 20 years into the future and see that time’s best managers, my guess is that a few started with little or no experience. Maybe this is Beltran’s chance.
Or maybe it isn’t, because you also need to take the media praise with a hardy grain of salt. There are good stories and he seems to fit the profile, but no one knows what happens when you actually sit in the hot seat. It’s a fickle job where performance isn’t even in your control, but I think with this interview, Cashman and company are fishing in the right direction at least. If they were to choose him, it would be risky, but they’d be adding a team favorite, pro-analytics future Hall of Famer with a fresh voice.