5 candidates to take over the Braves after Bobby Cox

Earlier today we offered 5 reasons Bobby Cox should step aside. Some of you then asked the logical follow-up: OK, genius, who would you hire to replace him? Here, presented in order of preference, is my short list:

1. Brad Mills, Red Sox bench coach: He has apprenticed beside Terry Francona, who’s  the second-best manager in baseball — Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire is the best — and who was Mills’ college roommate. He’s steeped in the Sox system of  numbers-crunching, which would surely delight the stat geeks on DOB’s blog, and has been known to use the word “sabermetrics” in conversation.

2. Jose Oquendo, Cardinals third base coach: He’s considered the first choice to succeed Tony La Russa in St. Louis, but nobody’s sure when La Russa will leave. Oquendo is a key player liaison, having built an alliance with the taciturn Albert Pujols. (Ah, but you’re asking: Could he get along with Yunel Escobar? Probably.)

3. Dave Duncan, Cardinals pitching coach: There’s a spotty history for pitching coaches as managers. Roger Craig was a good one, Ray Miller less good. (And Leo Mazzone, the best pitching coach ever, never got a managerial sniff.) But the belief in St. Louis is that Duncan, La Russa’s longtime No. 2, wants out: He’s said to be angry at the local media over the treatment of his son Chris, whom the Cardinals traded to Boston last month. And it’s worth noting that Duncan wasn’t actually a pitcher himself. He was a catcher for the Oakland A’s of the early ’70s.

Who'd be the best choice?

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4. Terry Pendleton, Braves hitting coach: If the Braves stay in-house, he’s the guy. He’s respected by the players — Jeff Francoeur’s flight to Texas for instruction shouldn’t be viewed as a consensus opinion — and beloved by the brass. He’s a hard worker who played under two of the best managers ever in Cox and Whitey Herzog, and he’s also a bit of a hard nose. (He rides a Harley!) Which, coming after the gentle ways of Bobby Cox, might not be a bad thing.

5. Scott Ullger, Twins third base coach: If Gardenhire is the best — and he is — why not grab his chief lieutenant? Ullger is a lifer in the Twins’ system and has managed in the minors. Plus, you have to admire a guy whose official bio reads: “Experience: A lot.”

553 comments Add your comment

UGA ALL THE WAY

September 21st, 2009
2:18 pm

Sorry, but i might be the only one to say it but Terry was a good player and is already in good with the team and the Braves organization. He’s the guy i would have follow Bobby.

Bama Aaron

September 21st, 2009
2:18 pm

I wouldn’t put Pendleton in the top 5. I’ve seen no real proof that he’s much of a hitting coach, regardless how much Braves brass likes him. And if you can’t do your current job you have no business getting the promotion.
If I have to choose from those guys I’ll take Mills.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:20 pm

I’d like to see them look outside the chain. That’s why I have TP only fourth on the list.

Joey

September 21st, 2009
2:21 pm

Really hung up on the number 5, huh Mark? Why not Greg Maddux? Supposedly one of the smartest guys to ever throw a baseball for a living….

Tale of Woe

September 21st, 2009
2:21 pm

MB – I take it you were not considering current managers. Though you lost me with TP. I haven’t seen enough from him. How about Ned Yost?

Chief Nock A Homa

September 21st, 2009
2:24 pm

In the poll, where is the selection for “other”??

I don’t like any of these choices…

Who else you got???

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:24 pm

Why would you hire someone whose previous team fired him as it was about to make the playoffs? Is there a brighter red flag?

Gary

September 21st, 2009
2:24 pm

Yeah, but some things TP showed as a player was his understanding of defensive alignments and offensive situations such as when to bunt, when to hit and run, and when to just flat out steal. You never saw TP making mental errors in the field and he has always had the leadership quality. He is the obvious choice and would make a smooth transition since the players and organization know him well.

Gardenhire worked under the underrated Tom Kelly for years in the Twins organization and was the only choice to replace Tom when he decided to retire. Pendleton has the same resume with the Braves and I bet would be a very good manager.

macdwolfpack

September 21st, 2009
2:25 pm

Mark, nice writeups and I think timely conversations.
I totally agree that 1-it is time for a move, and 2-the next Manager should come outside the system. I don’t know if they could entice him or not but I’d also inquire of the current Marlins Manager Freddie Gonzalez. Freddie has his team above the Braves in t he standing without spending nearly as many bucks as the Braves have. He also appears to be able to handle young players as well.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:25 pm

I don’t think Maddux has any desire to manage.

matt_t

September 21st, 2009
2:25 pm

What about Fredi Gonzalez? He’s done quite well down in FL with no payroll, could Atlanta pry him away from Florida?

Escobar Rocks

September 21st, 2009
2:25 pm

Brad Mills would be my choice only because he has apprenticed under Francona. Terry Pendleton….ugh…no thanks. I think the Braves have become kind of stale so maybe an outsider with fresh ideas would be a welcome change.

What about Ned Yost?

I hope that they can keep Chino Cadahia around. He seems to be good for the young Latin players.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:27 pm

Fredi Gonzalez isn’t on the list because he has a managerial job at the major-league level, and guys who do don’t usually jump between clubs. (Bruce Bochy would be the exception.)

Dawgdad

September 21st, 2009
2:28 pm

I think a little Davy Johnson would help this team achieve their potential.

atlwolf

September 21st, 2009
2:29 pm

I think Phillip Wellman should be considered. You know, the guy who once crawled soldier-style to the pitcher’s mound, then lobbed the rosin bag like a grenade at the umpire. The Braves need that kind of fire!

Brian

September 21st, 2009
2:30 pm

There is a reason Dave Duncan has been one of the best pitching coaches in baseball for a long time, and has never been a manager. He probably doesn’t want to be a manager, and pitching coaches very rarely become managers anyway.

I think the most likely outside-of-the-organization candidate is one you didn’t even mention: Fredi Gonzalez.

But I also think the Braves won’t be thinking about this at least for another year.

Gary

September 21st, 2009
2:31 pm

Now while advocate Terry Pendleton just because of the smooth transition factor; another name within the organization might at least deserve some look and that is Eddie Perez. I don’t know but something about Eddie gives me the impression that he would be a very good manager if given the chance. Plus former ML Catchers seem to make very good managers.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:31 pm

Wait a second. We’re sincerely considering a guy because he once went nuts on the field? Really? Then why not hire Milton Bradley (no relation)?

Tale of Woe

September 21st, 2009
2:32 pm

Fredi Gonzalez, Ned Yost, or if Eric Wedge got fired would be my choices.

After that, how about Claudell Washington, Chris Chambliss, or Terry Harper?

Ok, your list will just have to do

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:33 pm

Davey Johnson doesn’t have a job for good reason. He’s not an option.

Brian

September 21st, 2009
2:34 pm

Gary, I agree. I think Eddie Perez is a better and more likely in-house candidate than Terry Pendleton.

Has there ever been any indication from Braves brass that Pendleton is some sort of “successor”? Or is that just an assumption among many fans?

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:34 pm

I’d sure as heck hire Eddie Perez before I’d hire Wellman.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:35 pm

The Pendleton-as-next-in-line has never been addressed by the Braves themselves.

Eric

September 21st, 2009
2:38 pm

My vote is for Terry Forster, Ken Oberkfell,or Bob Horner. Or can we pry Bruce Benedict away from refereeing?

Bama Aaron

September 21st, 2009
2:38 pm

Good point E…Rocks. At this point in time a fresh take on things I think would be very helpful. I have nothing personally against TP, but I think he’s been in the system so long he’d just be more of the same.
Only regret I think I would have is I like current hitting coach and you don’t know if you’d keep him once a change is made.

Bama Aaron

September 21st, 2009
2:39 pm

Good point E…Rocks. At this point in time a fresh take on things I think would be very helpful. I have nothing personally against TP, but I think he’s been in the system so long he’d just be more of the same.
Only regret I think I would have is I like current pitching coach and you don’t know if you’d keep him once a change is made.

Gary

September 21st, 2009
2:39 pm

You’re right, the succession has never been discussed. Add to that the fact that Pendleton has had several managerial interviews and is still the Braves hitting coach. He was even up for the Phillies manager position once they fired Larry Bowa several years ago.

I personally think he would be a good manager, but obviously his managing philosophy hasn’t translated into a job at the Major League level. (look at me already second guessing my first choice). Of course that could be because he is waiting for Bobby to retire so he can be the man in Atlanta.

Bama Aaron

September 21st, 2009
2:40 pm

Sorry for the double post….tried to correct an error before I hit send and couldn’t stop it.

Don Gill

September 21st, 2009
2:41 pm

Enter your comments here How about Dusty Baker. A perfect fit. Don Gill

Brian

September 21st, 2009
2:43 pm

Regarding Fredi Gonzalez, again let’s remember that a low payroll doesn’t mean low talent. The Marlins might have the best player and best pitcher on either team. It is no fluke that that Marlins have a solid team…they have a lot of solid players. Solid players that they will lose as soon as they hit 6 years of service time. But they usually find ways to replace them with more good young players. Great scouting, great development. And yes, a pretty good manager. But he’s not working with some sort of AAA team.

webhead

September 21st, 2009
2:43 pm

TP is one of the reasons Cox should go. Why reward him with the top job? I swear it’s like everybody has taken crazy pills.

MatthewH

September 21st, 2009
2:44 pm

You mention Bochy as the exception (managers going from one major league job to another) Shoudn’t you have counted the current manager of the Yankees?
As for who should manage, I’d go with Dave Duncan (if he wants to manage). What he’s done with the Cardins’ pitching staff (especially a few years ago) is remarkable.
Stay dry.

webhead

September 21st, 2009
2:46 pm

Keep Cox wait two years and then hire Chipper.

BravesFan79

September 21st, 2009
2:47 pm

Why is Floridas manager not in your top 5?
Id go with Mills and Ullger second tho.

MatthewH

September 21st, 2009
2:49 pm

sorry- should read “Cardinals’”

NYCBrave

September 21st, 2009
2:51 pm

Hi Mark, always enjoy your column. Why is Gardenhire the best manager in baseball?

Loveofthegame

September 21st, 2009
2:53 pm

Fredi Gonzalez was given a 3 year contract extension after he won the 2008 manager of the year award,,,so he is contracted to the Marlins through the 2011 season,,,, I dont think the Marlins would grant the Braves the right to talk to him

SC Ace

September 21st, 2009
2:53 pm

The fact that Wellman kept his job in spite of that well-publicized tirade should say something about the man’s abilities and the regard the Braves have for him. I recall DOB writing about Wellman getting the September coach call-up last year because Mississippi had a great season – he indicated that Wellman genuinely seemed well liked and well respected by the players who had played for him down there. You can’t say the man wouldn’t bring a bit of fire. Besides, you’re talking about an organization replacing the man who has the most career ejections in history.

That said, I like the idea of giving Eddie Perez a bigger role.

Brian

September 21st, 2009
2:53 pm

In addition to Bochy and Torre, Dusty Baker left the Giants to take the Cubs. Tony LaRussa left the A’s for the Cardinals. Leyland left the Pirates for the Marlins, and the Marlins for the Rockies. Piniella left the Mariners for the Devil Rays. In none of these cases was the manager fired. It happens more often than you’re letting on, I think, Mark.

Brian

September 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

Sorry, Piniella was “traded” to Tampa. He was a little different.

Gary

September 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

Also, let’s remind everyone that Freddie Gonzales is not only not on Mark’s list for his reason above, but also for the fact that the Marlins signed him to an extension before the season began. He isn’t leaving Florida, especially with a new stadium coming and all that talent.

I like Freddie and think of him as a great manager in the making, but the Marlins are not letting him go, especially to a division and region rival like the Braves.

Also Matthew, Giradi was fired by the Marlins and then hired a season later by the Yankees. Bouchy is the only recent manager to up and switch teams. Dusty Baker was in 2003 as well.

And please do not ever, ever…..mention Dusty Baker and Braves manager in the same sentence. That would be the end of Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson. Dusty has a nice streak going of killing young pitchers.

F-105 Thunderchief

September 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

“Why would you hire someone whose previous team fired him as it was about to make the playoffs? Is there a brighter red flag?”

Well, it’s the Brewers’, spawning ground of the inept Bud Selig. So, I’ll mix semaphores and take that red flag with a grain of salt.

Nittany Lion

September 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

Don’t hire TP. I don’t want him getting a hold on Freeman. He can’t do his job as a hitting coach let alone a manager. Francouer gets sent down. Chipper has bad year, Mac has an 0-20. Do you want want him influencing young talent at the major league level?

BravesFanInFL

September 21st, 2009
2:56 pm

Fredi just signed an extension, so he’s probably out of the mix anyway. The best thing TP ever did was steal an MVP from Bonds. TP has not been able to solve hitting issues young players have had, i.e. Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francouer, etc. Outside the organization is the only way. Gardenhire would have won 100 games this year with this team, I say get his go-to-guy: Ullger.

tripp

September 21st, 2009
2:58 pm

What is Biff Pocaroba doing these days? Or Andres Thomas…. he would be a good hire.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
2:58 pm

Gardenhire has a small-budget team in the playoff hunt every year — and often in the playoffs. He’s terrific.

Inya

September 21st, 2009
3:00 pm

Brad Mills by a mile. He’s not only respected and admired by his peers and the players, he doesn’t let sentamentality get in the way of doing what’s right and what’s needed. (Bobby Cox’s biggest weakness). We need new blood from other organizations to instill some urgency and fire in this team. I’m tired of people saying the Braves act “professional”. That’s called apathy, and it’s infecting some of the older Braves right now. Let’s get it done JS & FW!

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
3:00 pm

Torre had rejected the Yankees’ offer of an extension and was no longer under contract when he took the Dodger job.

pstlparks

September 21st, 2009
3:02 pm

If that is all that’s out there we may as well keep Cox and be a “wait til next year” team a few more years.

Mark Bradley

September 21st, 2009
3:03 pm

One other thing: I’m always perplexed when I suggest successors for Bobby Cox, and some of the same folks who want Cox out come up with names like Gonzalez and Yost and Chipper and Maddux. Are you saying you like the Braves’ way of doing business but you just don’t like Cox? Otherwise, why not look outside the ol’ org?

Just asking, mind you.