Baseball player-managers have become myths, totally extinct in today’s game. Still, in the early 1900s major league players often doubled as managers for their clubs during the season. The strategy saved teams money and relied on these men to step into positions of leadership. Thus, veterans or revered players usually filled this role, hoping to set a good example for those in the clubhouse.
Many famous names have seen time as player-managers over the last century. Their ranks include names like Joe Torre, Frank Robinson, Mel Ott and Cleveland Indians great Tris Speaker. Even Honus Wagner and a young Connie Mack held the title in their careers. For a full list of baseball player managers, look here.
So here at The Game Haus, we’ve reimagined what the modern baseball player-managers look like. In this series, we give our arguments for the player best equipped to lead each team as skipper. The only requirement is that the player must be either in his team’s 60 man player pool or recovering from a major injury.
Let’s get started with the American League East.
Baltimore Orioles: Alex Cobb
Besides slugger Chris Davis, Alex Cobb has the longest baseball tenure among anyone on the Orioles roster. Cobb’s presence atop the pitching rotation is key in determining the struggling team’s success. He is 32 years old and has experienced the successes and struggles that indicate he can mentor the younger players, especially pitchers. Heck, a player-manager might be the preferred change of pace for the Orioles after the incident involving Brandon Hyde and Chris Davis last season. A veteran with experience, even if his best playing days are behind him, would be a fantastic face for Baltimore this season.
Boston Red Sox: JD Martinez
While Dustin Pedroia is a no-brainer pick here, it’s unclear if he’ll ever play another game for the Red Sox play considering his injury history. Martinez, though, is no slouch as a backup option. He worked incredibly hard to retool his swing from earlier in his career, leading the American League with 130 RBIs in 2018. There is nothing more old-school than a slugger like Martinez heading a young Boston team ready to put some runs on the board. With David Price departing in the Mookie Betts trade and Chris Sale on the shelf, Martinez’ batting expertise is the biggest asset to the Red Sox for the immediate future.
New York Yankees: Brett Gardner
There is only one correct answer here. Brett Gardner is the last remaining Yankee from the Derek Jeter–Mark Teixiera–Alex Rodriguez Yankee teams. He even outlasted CC Sabathia who retired this offseason. The biggest factor in the outfielder’s favor is that Gardner has played at least 140 games every season since 2013 and is likely to do so again this season. Not only that, but Gardner has improved offensively each year and is on track to turn 37 in August. If anyone could step in and succeed Aaron Boone, the Yankee faithful would put their full trust in Brett Gardner. He has been proven reliable, passionate and above all a fierce competitor. The player-manager position is the next logical step for him as a seasoned veteran.
Tampa Bay Rays: Charlie Morton
As another young team, Tampa Bay stands to benefit from veteran leadership. Look no further than World Series-winner and silver fox Charlie Morton, who heads a young pitching staff with lots of potential. The Rays may actually be one of the few teams a player-manager does not work well for. Their success has often been at the hands of baseball analytically-minded brains (see Joe Maddon and Kevin Cash), but Morton could be an interesting and strategic replacement. He could set the tone for the younger players and impress others in the organization with his grit out on the mound. And he’d do it all while taking the ball every fifth day, that much is for certain.
Other Options: Kevin Kiermaier
Toronto Blue Jays: Tanner Roark
The infield for the Blue Jays expects to be a force for years to come. The Jays signed Hyun-jin Ryu to a deal this offseason to be the ace in their rotation. Prospect Nate Pearson is scheduled to make his debut with hopes of becoming a phenom. Who holds all these parts together? Journeyman Tanner Roark seems a more than suitable choice. The Blue Jays will be Roark’s fourth club in the last three seasons, and he knows better than most about the pressure to perform up to expectations. Younger players feel these same types of stress. This flurry of clubs also means he should not be afraid to give advice to longer-tenured players feeling the effects of a prolonged slump. Because what does he have to lose? Toronto will be a fun, young team that wants to shock the baseball world. As a player-manager, Roark should reliably balance out struggles and high points for the team.
Featured Image courtesy of NJ.com.
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