By Sweeny Murti
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It’s a tough job to have when you can fall nine innings short of the World Series and then be out of work.
The Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and the Packers’ Mike McCarthy were four quarters away from the Super Bowl last year, both coaches with their one world championship several years in the rearview mirror losing in the conference title games. But here they are still running their ships.
Maybe Joe Girardi fell a little out of favor with Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. Maybe ownership decided the magical run to Game 7 of the American League Championship Series wasn’t enough to save his job. The Yankees were, after all just 7-6 in 13 postseason games and lost two straight with a chance to clinch the pennant. Maybe owner Hal Steinbrenner decided he didn’t want to commit $16 million to $20 million on a long-term deal for a manager. Or maybe they just decided it was time for a new voice in the room.
It ended Thursday, and history will remember that Girardi was the manager of the last Yankees World Series champion in 2009. Until the next one comes along, of course, and that will be the mission statement handed to the next Yankees manager. Who is he?
Well, there are many what-ifs on the board. Let’s tackle a few of them, although this is far from a complete list and more like a starter set:
Rob Thomson, Yankees Bench Coach
Thomson has spent 28 years in the Yankees organization, 10 years on the big league coaching staff under Girardi. The 54-year-old is the in-house candidate with the strongest Yankees roots. He excels at communicating and instructing young players, of which the Yankees have plenty now and on the rise.
Tony Pena, Yankees First Base Coach
The former All-Star catcher has spent 12 years as a Yankees coach, managed Kansas City Royals for parts of four seasons and managed the Dominican Republic to the WBC championship in 2013. The 60-year-old Pena was one of three finalists for the Yankees job that went to Girardi after the 2007 season. Pena was named AL Manager of the Year with the Royals in 2003.
Joe Espada, Yankees Third Base Coach
Espada worked under Girardi for three years. The 42-year-old also spent four seasons as Marlins third-base coach and spent a year in the Yankees’ pro scouting department, where he worked closely with the analytics department. His managing experience is limited to the Puerto Rican Winter League. It appears Espada has options — he is currently a candidate for bench coach jobs in Houston and Boston and was on a preliminary list for the Tigers managing job that went to Ron Gardenhire.
Al Pedrique, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders Manager
Pedrique has spent five years managing in the Yankees organization at four different levels since 2013, the last two years at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The 57-year-old has drawn raves from the young players coming up through the system in recent years, a group that includes Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Tyler Austin, Tyler Wade and Luis Severino. Pedrique has also spent 10 years managing in the Diamondbacks organization, including part of the 2004 season as interim major league manager.
Kevin Long, Former Yankees And Mets Hitting Coach
Long spent eight years as a coach under Joe Torre and Girardi and the last three seasons under Terry Collins with the Mets. The 50-year-old was for a while considered the front-runner for the Mets’ managing job that went to Mickey Callaway. Long managed in the Royals’ minor league system in the late ’90s and had a good relationship with Cashman, who promoted him from Triple-A to the major league staff after the 2006 season.
Pete Mackanin, Phillies Special Assistant
Mackanin has been a major league manager for parts of five seasons with the Pirates, Reds and Phillies although only two full seasons (2016-17) when the Phillies lost more than 90 games each time. In late September, the Phillies announced Mackanin would be bumped up to the front office. He worked in the Yankees’ pro scouting department a few years ago and was rumored to be such a Cashman favorite that he would have become the next Yankees manager had Girardi not been signed back after the 2013 season.
Some other names have been floated publicly, including in-house options such as minor league managers Jay Bell, Josh Paul and Vice President of Baseball Operations Tim Naehring. I’m sure there are others who have not yet been reported.
If the search to find Torre’s replacement after the 2007 season is any model, the Yankees will not interview a large number of candidates. That process included only Girardi, Pena and Don Mattingly (who incidentally is still under contract with the Marlins for three more years).
It would be surprising to see the Yankees drag this process out, and it might surprise some to see it played out less secretively than other items of business in Yankee-land. The 2007 search included a media conference call with each candidate at the end of his organizational interview. Those calls also served as part of the interview process to see how the candidates handled themselves in the media.
The search is on. One of the best jobs in all of sports awaits.
Please follow Sweeny on Twitter at @YankeesWFAN