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 baseball greats saw time as player-managers over the last century. Their ranks have included 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, modern baseball player-managers are being re-imagined. In this series, writers give their arguments for players best equipped to lead their 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.
Picks for the American League Central are up this week.
Chicago White Sox: SS Tim Anderson
The SouthSiders have quite the emerging star in Tim Anderson. The shortstop improved his batting average by 95 points last season, pacing all of baseball with a .335 average. And with Anderson’s new confidence at the plate came his undeniably epic bat flips.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 12, 2020
On a team with many young talents, Anderson has the skills, swagger and reliability to lead as a player-manager. He’s also played in more than 120 games each of the last three seasons and has the star factor fans tune in to watch. Where he may need guidance, the 27-year-old has plenty of mentors, including José Abreu, Gio Gonzalez and Kelvin Hererra. None of these men by themselves can match the presence Anderson brings to the field, though. If Chicago is looking for one player who has the experience and drive to be effective in a manager’s role, Anderson deserves the opportunity.
Cleveland Indians: 1B Carlos Santana
When team names are up for debate and star players are at risk of being traded, sometimes a veteran first baseman gives a team the comfort it needs. Many things are uncertain in Cleveland this season, but Carlos Santana isn’t one of them. Santana continues to produce for an Indians team he first debuted with back in 2010. Not only does the slugger produce, but he’s also had at least 85 RBIs in five of his last six seasons. The times of Cleveland’s veteran aces are over after trades of Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the last year. Santana always brings pop and a competitive spirit when he’s in the lineup for the Tribe, even if his defense leaves something to be desired. In a time with lots of turnover for Cleveland baseball, a familiar, reliable and respected face like Santana should have no trouble as a player-manager.
Detroit Tigers: OF Cameron Maybin
Fans may wonder where Miguel Cabrera is on this list. Okay, yes Miguel Cabrera is the link to all good things in Tiger baseball, going back to their two World Series appearances and an illustrious Triple Crown season in 2012. But Cabrera simply cannot produce like he once did. He played in just 38 games back in 2018 due to injury and hit only 12 home runs last season. Consider instead veteran Cameron Maybin. The journeyman is back for his third one-year stint in Detroit and is ready to slide into a starting outfielder’s role. Maybin finds himself on his sixth club in four years and leading a young, inexperienced Tigers lineup. His above average-defense, acceptable offensive contributions and work with the MLB Players Alliance all make Maybin a great choice as a player-manager in baseball this season.
Other Options: Okay, Miguel Cabrera could still do well here.
Kansas City Royals: C Salvador Pérez
The Royals are similarly a young team with a need for veteran leadership. Enter Salvador Pérez, five-time Gold Glove-winner, two-time Silver Slugger and six-time All Star. Oh, and World Series MVP. Not only does Pérez match the optics of an on-field leader, he’s also the Royals catcher, meaning he is already used to managing games from behind the plate. Pérez missed all of 2019 for Kansas City after missing time with Tommy John surgery but is back this year. Pérez makes it incredibly difficult to dislike him, as he’s a proud Venezuelan with an amazing personality. In a year where the Royals expect to bring up more of their top draft picks, the catcher may already expect to play a pivotal role. Having him take the managerial helm doesn’t seem that much of a stretch.
Minnesota Twins: DH Nelson Cruz
The king of the Bomba Squad deserves everyone’s respect. Not only has Nelson Cruz gotten better with age, he is still hitting home runs at age 40… and hits 40 home runs nearly every season. Cruz has benefitted from the post-DH world no doubt, but the 120+ games he’s played for the last six seasons suggests the role might help keep him healthy. He was a central part of the home run-record Twins last season which in which the club ended with a mind-boggling 307 home runs. As a player-manager, Cruz’s worth lies in his swing, his knowledge to help both young and established hitters. When the pitching in the division is weak, teams need to score runs, and the Twins under Cruz will do just that. Also, make Nelson Cruz a player-manager and there is little doubt he will give the job everything he has.
Featured Imaged Courtesy of Charlie Riedel/AP Photo
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