Analyzing candidates for the Tampa Bay Rays' managerial job
By JON ALBA
College Contributor Network
Less than seven years ago, the Tampa Bay Rays made the storied turn around from worst to first. They dropped the "Devil" in the name, and in the process, dropped the years of mediocrity and found themselves in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Joe Maddon was considered to be the mastermind behind it all, as his unconventional methods rounded up the Rays into one of the best in the league.
But now, Maddon is in Chicago, attempting to do the same thing once again but in the Windy City. With him out of the picture, the Rays have released a list of 10 candidates they are considering for the open slot.
Now it's time to take a look at how makes the most sense for the franchise, which is once again in need of a quick turnaround.
Acta has the most managerial experience of all the candidates for the position, which obviously works in his favor. Though in this era of sports, experience isn't always necessary to land a big-time position, let alone in an atrocious market like St. Petersburg (hello, Derek Fisher/Jason Kidd/Steve Kerr, etc.).
The 45-year-old spent two-and-a-half seasons at the helm in Washington, as the franchise steadied itself in the nation's capital. His tenure was met with mixed results, as the team over-performed at 73-89 (they were that brutal) in his first season. But the downfall then ensued, and he was let go mid-2009.
He eventually found himself back on his feet in Cleveland, with another rocky tenure that ended for good in 2012. Acta has a reputation for relating well to players, especially younger ones. But is that enough alone with little proven managerial success?
Arguably one of the greatest players of his era, Larkin aims to disprove the ongoing theory of former stars having difficulty transitioning to the bench. The Hall of Famer has stayed active with the game since retiring in 2004, serving as an analyst on television and calling games.
As a shortstop, it is hard to question his knowledge of the game, and he appears to have a solid reputation within the game as well. But no coaching experience after being physically out of Major League Baseball for a decade works against him here. A quality candidate for sure, but there are questions.
Cash has two things in particular going for him: He's a former catcher, which has often translated to managerial success, and he's a Terry Francona guy. It seems most of the things Francona has touched over the past 10 years has turned to gold in some fashion, and Cash is one of them.
With him on staff as bullpen coach, the Indians turned things around in 2013 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card team. The team would fall just short of the postseason again in 2014.
He's a former player, one who never amounted to much in the majors, but his stature as a journeyman got him experience in dealing with different players and personalities in his career. Not to mention, at just 36 years of age (37 at season's start), he would essentially fit right into the clubhouse. But is that too young?
There are still many who cannot fathom how Dave Martinez hasn't had a managing job in baseball yet, and it's hard to argue as to why not. The 50-year-old played for nine teams over the course of his career as and outfielder, which ran from 1986 through 2001.
After his career came to a close, he got in the coaching ranks, and joined Maddon's staff as bench coach just following the 2007 season. The Rays reached the World Series that year. He has a strong reputation throughout the league for his coaching prowess, and has come up as a managerial candidate for various jobs across the league since the World Series season.
In 2012, the Red Sox nearly named him manager, but opted for Bobby Valentine instead. Could it work out the same for the Rays if they choose to pass on Martinez?
Counsell may have been known for his crazy batting stance throughout his career, but make no mistake about it, the man knew baseball.
He last played in 2011, as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, but journeyed throughout the league during his career. He has two World Series rings on his hand, including serving as the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series with the Marlins. The man knows how to win.
Counsell is an intriguing candidate for a team of young players like the Rays. He is middle of the line in terms of age (44) and has a history with the state. Not a favorite, in my opinion, but definitely worth consideration.
Montoyo currently serves as the manager for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate, the Durham Bulls. He's been there for eight seasons now, and has been a coach in the organization ever since it was given the green light for its first minor league team in 1997. He's won seven division championships in the minors, and has proven he can successfully lead a squad.
He's an interesting candidate in that, if he isn't given the job, what's next for him? Does he sit around in the system even longer? Or does he get an itch to go elsewhere? And if so, do the Rays risk losing him?
Sometimes, the guys who don't make the loudest noise in the field still become important parts of the game. Doug Glanville is an example of that.
Despite a 1999 campaign that saw him smack 204 hits and bat .325, he never quite achieved superstar success. Still, he was an important player for a clubhouse to have around, as he moved his way across several teams in the Major League spectrum.
Since retiring, he has been on television for ESPN, and works closely with developmental camps and programs to promote players' abilities. His experience here may serve as a factor as to whether he gets the job, though that is unlikely.
One of two men with managerial experience on this list, Wakamatsu served as the man in charge in Seattle from 2009 through most of 2010. The good news is the 2009 Mariners finished eight games above .500, and he received praise across the league for his work in a tough division.
Then 2010 rolled around, and the team regressed significantly to a 61-101 record. He was out before the campaign even came to a close.
Despite this, he has found success elsewhere, as he served as bench coach for the same Kansas City Royals team that took the World Champion Giants to Game 7 in the World Series. Will that be enough to earn him a job?
Speaking of the World Champion Giants, this man was on the bench for it all. Wotus, 53, spent a couple years in the game as a player, but really found his stride as a coach.
He began serving as a manager in the Giants' minor league system in 1991, and has progressed through the organization ever since. He's among the longest-tenured coaches in the game, having been bench coach for the team since 1999.
It's hard not to salivate at that kind of experience, especially for a team that needs experience backing them. This makes Wotus a legitimate candidate for the job, but will it be sufficient for the team to think it can connect to him?
Ibañez hasn't even retired officially yet, but he's still among the candidates interviewing for the Rays job. What does that say about the respect he has from those in the game?
The 42-year-old has been a consistent in the game since 1996, and at points was among the better players in the sport. He also has a stellar reputation across the league from players, and was looked at as one of the leaders (despite not playing) in the clubhouse for the Royals as they made their World Series run.
If the rumors are true of the Rays players being a significant part of the managerial search, then Ibañez is one of the most realistic candidates out there. He will be able to relate to the players immediately, having just been in their shoes. But the lack of experience could be worrisome for some.
The Rays are in a position where they may be rebuilding, but they also may not be. The players are going to be in a unique position where they'll need to find someone who they can buy into, but there are so many different sides to the spectrum they can look at.
If the Rays are attempting to play it safe, they should go in-house for the man with the most experience. But if it's about connecting to the players on a different level than experienced with Maddon, I say, take a chance.
My pick: Raul Ibañez
Who they likely pick: Dave Martinez
Jon Alba is a senior at Quinnipiac University. There he serves as general manager of the school's television station, Q30 Television. Follow him on Twitter: @JonAlbaSFC