[EDIT: A spirited hat-tip the The Wizard of Sox Bronze Titan for pointing me toward the stats that led to a re-formulation of the post.]
It doesn't seem like there will be that much fun to be had from a player-acquisition standpoint this off-season for the Chicago White Sox. Sure, there are glaring holes that demand fixes, but the players responsible for such awful production levels are laughably well-entrenched.
However, the manager opening at least offers the opportunity to ponder a new direction for the franchise.
Of course, the manager can't really change all that much. He is merely the driver of an ambulance that is on fire. But Reinsdorf could not manage to sadly part with both of his surrogate sons in the same off-season, so this will have to do.
Who can drive this thing into the lake before it's too late!?
The huge attention-grabbing development is the Red Sox parting ways with Terry Francona, or vice-versa. Francona is well-revered, loved by Don Cooper, and has won one more World Series than the guy who was just sent packing. Thus, his availability inspires interest.
I, however, get my information on Francona from a possibly-dubious source, disgruntled Red Sox fans.
While the Red Sox readily finished at the bottom of the league in intentional walks and sacrifice bunts, Patrick Sull of Over the Monster describes Francona as someone who didn't go along with this approach easily, and is at heart the same-type of old-school manager who longed to put his fingerprints all over the game via bunting, set plays, and steal attempts with his benefits mostly centering around being a steady, supportive presence in a veteran clubhouse. It's a surprising description, based on how saber-friendly Boston's organization is, but there's an inkling among the fanbase there that he was more of a participant than a true believer.
Given that Kenny Williams hired Guillen after listening to his baseball philosophy for hours on end, he's still probably not looking for a Bill James proxy 8 years later anyway. Perhaps the biggest concern is that Francona commanded a $4 million annual salary near the end of his tenure. This is a discussion of managers after all, men who are mostly going to be as helpless to save a team from multiple regulars cratering as they are at stopping a historic September collapse. If Francona's services require doubling the managerial budget, then it's just as well that he's no longer believed to be on his way to Chicago.
More intriguing, cheap, and mysterious are potential targets Dave Martinez and Sandy Alomar Jr. Both are ex-White Sox players who were well-liked and respected, both hail from organizations and work under managers known for their friendliness to advanced statistics; Joe Maddon and Manny Acta.
If it seems like I have tunnel vision about the manager being saber-friendly, it's because both Alomar and Martinez had highly-regarded Major League careers that lasted more than 10 years, so I'm assuming they're good on the fronts of baseball know-how and being able to earn the respect of the clubhouse.
That said, they're bench coaches (and Alomar only just got promoted to such heights), while that drastically cuts their initial salary, it means their actual tendencies can't be determined much beyond the ringing endorsements of their superiors.
Acta speaks of the prospects of Alomar managing as a forgone conclusion, but it would take quite a lip-reader to understand how in lockstep he's been with Acta over at 1st base.
Martinez however, is portrayed as Maddon's closest confidant, or simply his assistant manager. If perhaps you are an individual who has shunned paying for cable, and are thus watching the MLB playoffs via MLB.TV "companion coverage", and are then choosing to watch the dugout camera for innings on end, you can spy Martinez and Maddon in constant conversation, side-by-side.
There's no reason to suspect he exists outside the margins of Rays' general approach to the game. Should he be hired, strong reflections of Maddon's influence should be expected. At the same time, the Rays led the AL in runners caught-stealing this season, so narratives of managerial wizardry are not immune from tactical errors.
These are small outside observations of two guys who are coveted throughout the league and will both give fantastic interviews, but Martinez should have the advantage for working at a higher level for a more successful regime.
Unfortunately, while it's believed that Martinez is favored, his success may be a hindrance. The Rays won't stop delving deeper into October, and the White Sox want to make a hire sooner than later. God forbid they get into a bidding war over Martinez with the Red Sox in early November. Ack, the horror.
Above all, these are managers, men who probably couldn't save the 2011 roster from itself even if they tried. The White Sox seem to have honed in on some pretty good candidates, purged the most needlessly expensive one from their gaze, and they all have the advantage not presently possessing a grudge with Kenny Williams that affects their decision-making.
It should be easy enough to avoid disaster here.
Immediately prior to posting, I watched Tony La Russa inexplicably send Albert Pujols to his death on the basepaths, and it reminded me that he's been brought up on occasion in manager talks. I would be opposed to his hiring.