Pete Mackanin's been Reds' rose, but is he man?
September 9, 2007
Pete Mackanin replaced Jerry Narron as the Reds' manager July 1, at which point Cincinnati held an awful 31-51 record. Under the leadership of Mackanin, a Reds advance scout and the Pirates' interim manager for part of 2005, they went 33-26 in their next 59games.
Sounds like grounds for a promotion to full-time, don't you think? It could very well turn out that way. But Mackanin, 56, must leap some hurdles that have very little to do with his 2007 performance.
For starters, Mackanin is the third straight man to take over the Reds' head job at midseason, and his two immediate predecessors produced few dividends. Dave Miley replaced Bob Boone in July 2003 and Narron replaced Miley in June 2005.
More important, Mackanin's status speaks to a greater debate within the baseball industry: The relative value of a manager. The Reds have to decide where they stand on this issue.
A quick walk through the Reds' clubhouse, a couple of hours before Pedro Martinez's 2007 debut, picked up a relaxed atmosphere. "Things were really tense when Jerry was here," said closer David Weathers, the former Met and Yankee. "People were worried about Jerry losing his job. Once Jerry was let go, guys relaxed some. And [Mackanin] has a great sense of humor."
Weathers also praised Mackanin for his bullpen management.
Mackanin contended, "My experience shouldn't have anything to do with whether they keep me," and in a vacuum, perhaps that's true. But on Labor Day, with the first-place Mets in town and future Hall of Famer Martinez on the mound, the Reds hosted a plethora of empty seats. There's something to be said for the buzz an established manager can bring in.
The Reds reportedly have interest in bringing over Tony La Russa, whose deal with the Cardinals expires after this season, yet that seems like a stretch. Reds owner Bob Castellini has a relationship with Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine, as Castellini held a share of the Rangers when Valentine managed in Texas.
Here's some rampant speculation: Let's say the Yankees don't bring back Joe Torre. Torre's wife, Ali, is from Cincinnati and has a large family contingent there. Could Castellini possibly pay enough to lure Torre?
The subject of manager pay gained momentum with the publication of "Moneyball," in which author Michael Lewis derided the job as "middle management" and described A's manager Art Howe as essentially afraid of his own shadow (too bad the Mets didn't get an advance copy).
You can see the diverging schools of thought in the Cubs and Nationals, both of whom changed managers last offseason. Lou Piniella, earning more than $3 million annually, has justified Tribune's investment, whereas former Mets coach Manny Acta, who is drawing six figures, has been fantastic in Washington.
Will Castellini decide he can't do without a superstar skipper? Or will he give Mackanin the chance he seemingly has earned?