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 players saw time as player-managers over the last century. Their ranks 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.
This week looks at player-managers in the National League West.
For player-managers picks in the AL East, look here.
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF David Peralta
Like many on this list, David Peralta is a proven veteran in the division, and young Arizona players stand to learn a lot from the outfielder. Peralta has batted above .275 in every full season in which he’s played since his 2014 debut. Unfortunately, the Diamondbacks have only made the postseason once during Peralta’s tenure but do figure to make some noise in the division this year. Their off-season additions of Kole Calhoun and Madison Bumgarner will go a long way toward what production the team will see this season. Peralta may not have as high-profile a name as these two. Still, he knows the Diamondbacks’ general strategy and could help shape the team’s identity with control as a baseball player-manager.
Colorado Rockies: OF Charlie Blackmon
Self-proclaimed “just a little ‘stitious,” Charlie Blackmon and his beard are primed as one of the best player-manager combinations in baseball. As a career Rockie and lifetime .304 hitter, Blackmon continues to be a bright spot on some very bad Colorado teams. Nolan Arenado will always be the team’s headliner, but Blackmon has a legitimate chance to be a valuable coach and key contributor like his teammate. The outfielder remains a fan favorite and a laid-back player who happens to be very good at baseball. When it comes to navigating Coors Field, Blackmon and those under him will definitely have an edge.
Other Options: Daniel Murphy, Nolan Arenado
Los Angeles Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner
Calm, consistent and charismatic, Justin Turner tops the list of high-profile players competing to be player-manager for the Dodgers. Turner mans the hot-corner and has done so for Los Angeles since 2014. Don’t be confused by his bright orange hair: his veteran presence is both calm and reassuring. Ultimately the configuration of the team around Turner makes him the best decision for this spot. Mookie Betts, superstar that he still is, just arrived in LA drowning in fan expectations. Clayton Kershaw, though a universal talent, still faces his own challenges with declining velocity, mentoring the pitching staff and trying to be a one-man bridge to Kenley Jansen. Instead elect a player like Turner, part of the glue that holds Los Angeles together, and now he becomes the ideal choice for a player-manager. All this while the team’s superstars play like they’re accustomed to, without the weight of added responsibility.
Other Options: Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Chris Taylor
San Diego Padres: SP Garrett Richards
The San Diego Padres are different from every other team in the NL West. Whereas other teams have the benefit of experience, San Diego has the gift of youth. The Padres stacked their 60-player pool with their top 10 minor league prospects, part of a system that is ranked second overall. Needless to say, someone with experience should be around to corral these young roster pieces. Garrett Richards is not in the prime of his career any longer, and although he’s had some injury history, he has still been in MLB nine years. Guidance from Richards bodes well for their pitching prospects in place of a normal coaching staff. Conversely, players like Eric Hosmer and Tommy Pham should be able aid any young hitters.
Other Options: Wil Myers, Tommy Pham, Manny Machado
San Francisco Giants: DH/OF Hunter Pence
For fans who just did a double-take, yes, Hunter Pence is back with the Giants this year. Pence was with San Francisco for parts of seven seasons, winning two World Series with the club. Now Pence, the target of outrageous fan signs everywhere, is back on a one-year contract alongside other veterans Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey. It’s true that any of these guys would do a fantastic job as player-manager. However, the 37-year-old Pence was a noted leader on two of those Giants World Series-winning teams. He likely will bring that same passion back to the Giants this season. Sometimes, when teams find a strategy that works, they are keen to continue using it. And no offense Gabe Kapler, but the Hunter Pence strategy has been proven to win multiple World Series. *Mic Drop*
Featured Image courtesy of Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images
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