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.
For a full list of baseball player managers, look here.
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.
This week features player choices for clubs in the National League East.
Atlanta Braves: 1B Freddie Freeman
Few players have shown the consistent production that Freddie Freeman
has known in Atlanta. The first baseman has played a pivotal role since his first full season with the club back in 2011. Freeman’s swing is consistent and productive enough to ensure he will remain useful in the lineup as player-manager. What might most appeal about this choice is Freeman’s warm, welcoming personality. Between his smile and well-advertised hugs (though he’ll refrain from these during the pandemic), Freeman makes success achievable and a competitive season more fun. Freeman also recently recovered after contracting COVID-19, which delayed him from fully attending summer camp. So as manager, Freeman too is now fully aware of the need for players to follow health and safety protocols this season.
Miami Marlins: C Francisco Cervelli
The Marlins are a team looking for direction this season, just like the club’s past two years. And the truth is, the Fish figure to be challenged for several more. Catcher Francisco Cervelli has been around the block in his career no doubt, but he still has valuable baseball knowledge. While Cervelli has dealt with concussion issues for the last few years, he has said he still wants to continue catching. Miami is a team with a noticeable lack of veteran leadership, and Cervelli might be able to mentor young players, as well as Don Mattingly, already does. Their win total won’t drastically improve, but team cohesion could likely increase with Cervelli leading the way. Whoever takes the job as player-manager job would have a sharp learning curve in an already competitive division.
New York Mets: 2B Robinson Canó
Age is just a number for Robinson Canó. He still produces above the major league average at an impressive 37 years-old. Canó has seen it all, from his debut with the Yankees to his time as a cult-icon with the Mariners. His leadership is surely what would help him succeed as player-manager on the Mets, especially with Canó’s 15-year career. After the firing of Carlos Beltrán and the team’s imminent sale, the Mets will need a great figurehead. Yes, New York always finds a way to underperform expectations, but maybe Canó helps them break that streak. In a city where sports figures are quicker than morning traffic, Canó can rise above it all. The veteran will show players that it might be okay to play baseball long enough to become the game’s villain.
Philadelphia Phillies: OF Andrew McCutchen
So. Very. Cool. Andrew McCutchen has the ‘it’ factor when it comes to his on-field presence, but it’s off the field where he truly shines. Topps earlier revealed McCutchen’s player card for this season, and it has since cemented this role. Not to be outdone, “Cutch”’ has always been well-spoken and consistent on the diamond. His game’s value is far greater than the price of admission. McCutchen may deal with lots of big personalities as player-manager within the clubhouse but should have no problem in that climate. And McCutchen’s strategy for the Phillies would likely rely on more speed and fundamentals, like his own game. These are things that have gotten lost in baseball among the plethora of monster contracts and power-hitters currently on teams’ rosters. Pitching is still a major question for Philadelphia, but with McCutchen’s wealth of confidence and style what could possibly go wrong?
Washington Nationals: RP Sean Doolittle
This is really a tough one. On a club with three blue-chip starting pitchers, it makes it hard to look past Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg or Patrick Corbin. But it’s Sean Doolittle that jumps to the top of this list for his comments around season negotiations and player safety this offseason. A socially-conscious player-manager in the nation’s capital would be a welcome sight to many in the MLB community. Though Doolittle has occasionally struggled with the Nats, he remains an integral part of their pitching-heavy strategy.
He’s a respected eight-year veteran on a team already full of veterans, so his viewpoints certainly hold weight. It’s easy to see how Doolittle will fairly manage a staff of pitchers that won them the World Series last year. Nothing will be an easy road, but as a baseball player-manager Doolittle will be able to handle it.
Featured image courtesy of The Topps Company, Inc. and Beckett.com
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