Want to be a manager? Maybe the key is that Rays connection

Three recent manager hires - Mickey Callaway (Mets), Dave Martinez (Nats), Gabe Kapler (Phillies) - have ties to the Rays.
Dave Martinez was most recently the Cubs bench coach. [Times files]
Dave Martinez was most recently the Cubs bench coach. [Times files]
Published Oct. 30, 2017|Updated Oct. 30, 2017

The Rays are most known around baseball for their impressive resume in developing young pitchers. But – albeit with no more the coincidental connection – they've suddenly turned out to be a source of managers.

Three managers hired in the last week all have ties to the Rays:

Mickey Callaway, hired by the Mets, was drafted (in 1996), developed by and debuted as a player for the Devil Rays in 1999 and stuck around through 2001.

Dave Martinez, hired by the Nationals, played for the inaugural Rays team in 1998 through a 2000 trade, then came back as a part- and then full-time coach, serving as bench coach from 2008-14.

Gabe Kapler, reportedly about to be hired by the Phillies, finished his big-league career playing for the Rays in 2009-10 and did some front-office work for them before eventually joining former Rays boss Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles.

(That's in addition, of course, to former Rays manager Joe Maddon being with the Cubs, and Kevin Cash, who played for the Devil Rays before being hired as the Rays current manager.)

(And several of the people at least mentioned as potential candidates for the still-open Yankees job have Rays ties – former players Josh Paul and John Flaherty, and former Rays candidate Raul Ibanez.)

Two of the three who just got manager jobs at one time were potential hires for the Rays.

Not Callaway, who left the Rays as a fringe big-league pitcher, so it was obviously way too early to say then he had future manager, or even coach potential. That emerged when he joined the Indians staff.

There was a time, however, when I thought Kapler would be the next manager of the Rays if/when Maddon left, but that changed when Friedman departed first, in October 2014, for the Dodgers.

Gabe Kapler
Gabe Kapler

It seemed at the time Kapler would end up in the Dodgers dugout. There are a few different versions of the details, but Kapler was, at the least, considered a likely favorite to get the Dodgers job but got beat out by Dave Roberts, and instead was hired as their farm director where he worked with a broad brush including emphasizing fitness and nutrition.

"Gabe has a track record of leadership, winning, progressive thinking and working with young players, and we fully believe that he is the right person to guide this organization into the future," Phillies GM Matt Klentak said Monday.

And there was a time when I thought Martinez would be the next manager of the Rays after Maddon followed Freidman out the door in October 2014. He had been the top assistant, was the logical successor and had the support of some key veteran players.

Though Martinez was on the list of 10 candidates to replace Maddon, he didn't make the cut to the three finalists as Matt Silverman, who slid over from his team president role to replace Friedman, said they preferred a "new voice" as they eventually hired Cash.

"The decision on Dave Martinez was especially difficult," Silverman said at the time. "He's played a key role in our organization's evolution, and he's done all he can to put himself in position to be a manager. In the end, we determined that our clubhouse would best benefit from a new voice that will add to our already strong and cohesive culture."

Martinez – who still lives in Pinellas County – instead left and joined Maddon in Chicago, serving three more years as his bench coach, and primary clubhouse message carrier, before getting hired Monday by the Nats, getting a three-year deal with a 2021 option.

"I am excited to bring Dave into our family," Washington GM Mike Rizzo said in a statement. "As we went through this process it became clear the type of manager we were looking for – someone who is progressive, someone who can connect with and communicate well with our players, and someone who embraces the analytical side of the game. We came away from the process feeling like there was absolutely no one better suited – who matched up to what this organization needs right now – than Dave."

The three finalists the Rays chose were Cash, Don Wakamatsu (the Royals bench coach, who previously had managed in Seattle) and Raul Ibanez (who at the time had just concluded his playing career). Ibanez would later withdraw from consideration, take a TV job and now work in the Dodgers front office.

The other seven candidates the Rays considered were:

Manny Acta
Craig Counsell (who withdrew and eventually got the Brewers job)
Doug Glanville
Barry Larkin
Charlie Montoyo
Ron Wotus

The Rays and Cash will get the chance to face all three this season:

vs. Mets and Callaway: July 6-8 in New York
vs. Nats and Martinez: June 5-6 in Washington, June 25-26 at the Trop
vs. Phillies and Kapler: April 13-15 at the Trop