The Candidate Collection: Some Local Flavor

Ok, it's time to look at three more candidates, including two familiar names:

  • Nationals third base coach Pat Listach.
  • Former Astros manager Cecil Cooper.
  • Rangers hitting coach and former Rockies manager Clint Hurdle.
Follow the jump for scouting reports on all three, then vote in the poll below!

Pat Listach: 

The basics: Listach spent six years in the majors from 1992-97, and was the 1992 AL Rookie of the Year. After his playing career, he served as a coach in the Cubs' minor league system for six years, including a brief run as interim manager of the Iowa Cubs in 2002. He managed in AA or AAA for the Cubs for three seasons from 2006-08, and has spent the last two years coaching third base for the Nationals.

Brewer connection: Listach was a Brewer from 1992-96.

Scouting report: As it turns out, we have two scouting reports on Listach. The first comes from Patrick Reddington of Federal Baseball.

Pat Listach came to Washington in 2009 on the recommendation of now-retired Cubs' Skipper Lou Piniella, who called then-Nats' GM Jim Bowden to suggest the former major league infielder for a position after Listach had coached and managed in Chicago's system, winning the '08 Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year award in his final year with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate. Listach came to D.C. as part of a group of coaches hired after Manny Acta's first season on the Nationals' bench when Acta's handpicked staff was jettisoned in favor of a staff selected by both Mr. Acta and Bowden. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan reported at the time in an article entitled, "As a Coach, Listach Wants Low Profile", that Mr. Piniella had, "...viewed Listach as one of the game's rising managerial stars, but didn't have room for him on his staff."

Brought in to work with the team's infielders and coach third base, Listach was hired because of his experience, at a relatively young age, as a manager/teacher who could help mold the sort of young talent the Nats were moving toward fielding. When Acta was removed as the team's Skipper, Listach remained as part of the staff of Acta's bench coach Jim Riggleman, who'd assumed the managerial duties on an interim basis before being given the full-time position. It's hard to judge someone as a third base coach, you never even notice them unless they mess up and send a player they shouldn't or hold a runner up as a throw sails over the cutoff man or catcher, but there's no doubting Listach's passion for his job and commitment to his players.

The clearest example occurred during the brawl Nats' outfielder Nyjer Morgan started by charging Marlins' right-hander Chris Volstad this summer after Morgan had been thrown at for the second time in a late-August game. As Morgan was leveled and then momentarily pummeled by several Marlins, the first man into the pile to protect Morgan was the Nationals' third base coach, Mr. Listach, who leapt into the melee to attempt to end the barrage of fists aimed at the prone Nat. Listach was suspended for his actions, and took his punishment, but it did nothing to hurt his reputation as a passionate, player-friendly coach. He'll be missed by the Nats if he moves on. 

The second report comes from Joe Aiello of View From The Bleachers:

What impresses me about Pat Listach, like other players that have taken a similar route, is that he’s been willing to start at the bottom and work his way through the minor leagues. For some big leaguers, that concept seems foreign and a bit repulsive. Pat spent three years in the Cubs system, two at the Double A level and one at the Triple A level before landing a job with the Washington Nationals as a third base coach. With Ryne Sandberg in the system right behind him, his chance of landing a Major League manager position was slim, despite the fact that he earned PCL manager of the year honors in 2008. I had a chance to speak with Pat when he was managing with the Diamond Jaxx in his first year. He seemed like a pretty good guy and was kind enough to give a blogger an interview. It’s hard to say what kind of manager he’ll be, but someone willing to work their way up is alright in my book.

Cecil Cooper:

The basics: Cooper was a five-time All Star, three-time Silver Slugger and two-time Gold Glove winner over a 17 year major league career stretching from 1971-87. After spending some time as an agent, Cooper returned to coaching in the Brewer organization, and managed the Indianapolis Indians for three seasons from 2003-2005.

The Astros hired him away to join Phil Garner's staff in 2006, and when Garner was let go Cooper took over the reins and managed until September of 2009, when he was fired. He had a 171-170 record with the Astros.

Brewer connection: Cooper was a Brewer from 1977-87, and as mentioned above he both coached and managed in the Brewer organization for much of the last decade.

Scouting report: We have another double-barreled scouting report here, with both halves coming from The Crawfish Boxes. First, here's Stephen Higdon:

My first thought is "Oh, that sucks," which probably says enough right there.

Cooper, aside from being a poor tactician, could not handle the pressure of being a big league manager. Instead of being a calming shield for his players, he routinely threw them under the bus to the media. At points, you almost felt bad for him (until you remembered he was being paid tons of money to manage your team).  Sometime during the 2009 season, the players made their own shirts that said "Really?" They were in reference to the players' continual frustration with Cooper's management of both the games and the players (keep in mind that the first half of 2009 was actually really good for the Astros).

Now, if losing the respect of the professional athletes Cooper was managing wasn't damning enough, his strategical miscues certainly were. Cooper was legendary for his blanket "green light" approach to the base paths. It was questionable to have Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence running at will; allowing Carlos Lee and Ty Wigginton to do the same was aneurysm inducing. What was the most questionable was proudly announcing to the national media that you would have your players run at will because every opposing catcher knew it was coming.

Cooper eschewed just about every sabermetric management tactic in "the book," (e.g. sacrifice bunts: always; hit and run: duh). He did, however, love, love, love platoon match-ups. Now, to his credit, the platoon split is the only statistically meaningful split. Cooper, though, had so much faith in the power of the platoon matchup that he once IBB'd Nick Johnson to get to Hanley Ramirez in a high leverage situation (writing about it made me want to break something in my apartment all over again).

A symptom of his platoon-split happy trigger finger, Cooper would pull starters as soon as it kind of sort of made sense to do so if he could exploit a batter's handedness (normally about 90 pitches or the sixth inning, whichever came first). This lead to things like Chris Sampson, one of the most effective relievers in baseball through the first half of 2009, to just about lead the NL in appearances and innings in July; Sampson had elbow surgery in the 2008 offseason. Consequently, Chris Sampson is no longer employed in major league baseball because his arm doesn't work. Sampson is just one example of Cooper's wanton disregard for the health and effective utilization of the bullpen.

In sum, I couldn't be happier that Drayton McLane finally fired him (even if Drayton McLane did give him an extension five months earlier).

Now, here's Evan Hochschild:

My thoughts on him becoming manager in Milwaukee are sort of mixed. On the plus side, he is an ex player, and I know the fans in Wisconsin like him. I myself was born in Milwaukee and my entire family is from there and they remember him well playing for Harvey's Wall Bangers back in 1982. Seeing as how I wasn't born until 1985, and am not a Brew Crew fan myself, that really doesn't matter much to me. I know Bud Selig no longer owns the Brewers, but I'm guessing he has the ear of your current owner. If his relationship with your owner is anything like his relationship with Drayton McLane, I'm sure Selig would have Cooper's back, as they are good buddies. It could be that Cooper has learned how to conduct himself better and how to better project an optimistic and positive outward appearance in his time away from the game.
 
The negatives in my mind are that Coop was a terrible communicator, handled the pitching staff poorly, and generally made a bad team in Houston even worse. I think the tell tale sign of his incompetence was the fact that the 2009 Astros made shirts that simply read, "Really?", in regard to the eyebrow raising deicisions Cooper would make on and off the field. Stories of guys like Felipe Paulino being removed from the starting rotation, but only informing Paulino hours before he was set to start were not infrequent. The bullpen usage issue may be harder to target (if you're looking for anecdotal evidence) but again, I would suggest you look to old articles about him to see what was said during his managerial stint. This season's Astros' team was successful I think in small part to Brad Mills' demeanor. When a club starts 17-34 like the Astros, it's easy to pack it in, and under Cooper I would have nearly guaranteed that would have happened.

Clint Hurdle:

The basics: Hurdle was a ten year major leaguer with four teams from 1977-87, playing primarily in the outfield. He spent six years managing in the minors for the Mets before being named the Rockies hitting coach and eventually being promoted to manager in 2002. He managed the Rockies for parts of eight seasons, going 534-625 and reaching the World Series in his only playoff appearance in 2007.

Hurdle is spending the 2010 season as the Rangers' hitting coach.

Brewer connection: None.

Scouting Report: This comes from Russ Oates of Purple Row:

The simple answer to whether Brewers fans would want Clint Hurdle as a manager is this: great hitting coach, not a good manager. From 1997 through April 2002, Hurdle was the Rockies' hitting coach and in every season before he became the manager the team hit at least .288. Of course, that's pre-humidor, for what it's worth (and, really, how much of that can be contributed to the hitting coach?). 

Anyway, we need to look beyond his losing record in 7 of 8 seasons at the helm. No manager with the type of talent the Rockies had could make those teams winners (outside of Hurdle's one winning season in 2007). Hurdle preaches the fundamentals, which isn't a bad thing. That was one of his big things during his last few years, and in 2007 the Rockies had one of the best defenses in major league history.

But for a pretty good hitting coach, he appeared to get too bogged down in strategy when he became the manager. Hurdle fell in love far too much with the bunt. For that matter, he fell in love far too much with a number of things: the intentional walk to load the bases (maybe confirmation bias, but I always remember that it didn't work out too well for the Rockies), the sac fly, the non-use of pinch hitters. With the latter, he'd keep the starting pitcher in to get an at-bat and then the next inning remove the starter. He was wasting outs. By 2009 he was throwing players under the bus (Troy Tulowitzki) and the players were ready to revolt. 

But even with Hurdle's sometimes mind-boggling strategies, I'd still like to see him get another chance somewhere else. He probably would have a long time ago if GM Dan O'Dowd and the Monforts (the Rockies' owners) weren't extremely loyal to their guys. With the solid core of young players the Brewers have, Hurdle could find worse places to land as a manager.

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