They call it the Silly Season in NASCAR. It is that time right after the stock car season ends, in which drivers and pit crews began jumping from one team to another, the sport's version of free agency.
What happened last week could be described as Major League Baseball's version of the Silly Season for managers.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who was under contract through next season, demanded an extension even though his team had been one of the biggest underachievers in the game this year. Owner Jerry Reinsdorf told him no and, two days later, the Marlins traded for Guillen to replace Jack McKeon, the octogenarian who retired for something like the 11th time in his long career in professional baseball.
Then Red Sox manager Terry Francona asked ownership not to exercise the club options for 2012 and 2013 in his contract, opting to take a $500,000 buyout rather than $8.5 million over the next two seasons just so he could ship out of Boston after the Red Sox blew a nine-game lead to the Rays in the American League wild card race during the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season.
It certainly seemed silly for Guillen to think he deserved an extension. And to the average Joe struggling to pay the mortgage and the bills in these difficult economic times, it seems silly for anyone to leave $8.5 million on the table.
The Silly Season should end there, though the Cubs could be in the market for a manager if whomever is hired to succeed general manager Jim Hendry decides to bring in his own man to replace Mike Quade as manager. The Nationals technically have a managerial opening, too, though it seems certain Davey Johnson will have the interim tag removed following a strong finish to the season.
There won't be the craziness of this time last year, when 12 teams were looking for managers. Nevertheless, there will be changes in the future, and we'd be remiss if we did not present our second annual top 10 managerial prospects list. To qualify, someone must not have managed in the major leagues on a full-time basis or have been on our list last year.
A look at this year's top 10 in alphabetical order:
Current position: Indians bench coach
Background: Alomar was a catcher in the major leagues for 20 seasons with the Padres (1988-89), Indians (1990-2000), White Sox (2001-04, 2006), Rockies (2002), Rangers (2005), Dodgers (2006), and Mets (2007), winning the American League Rookie of the Year award and Gold Glove in 1990 while making the first of six All-Star Game appearances. He has been a major-league coach for five seasons with the Mets (2007-08) and Indians (2009-11).
Why he is qualified: Alomar has a great knowledge of the game, as he has been around baseball his entire life. His father Sandy was a major-league second baseman, and his brother Roberto was one of the great second basemen of all-time and was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Alomar has good people skills, is fluent in both English and Spanish, and handles the media extremely well.
Current position: Red Sox bench coach
Background: Hale has been the Red Sox bench coach the last two seasons after serving as the third base coach for four seasons from 2006-09. He coached in the major leagues with the Rangers for four years from 2002-05. Hale was a minor-league manager for nine seasons with the Red Sox (1993-99) and Rangers (2000-01) after beginning his non-playing career as minor-league coach with Boston in 1992. He played in the minor leagues for five seasons with the Red Sox (1982-86) and Athletics (1988), then spent four years as an instructor at the Bucky Dent Baseball School.
Why he is qualified: Francona thinks so highly of Hale that he publicly recommended that the Red Sox promote him to manager at his farewell press conference. That's a pretty good endorsement. Hale also wins high marks for his baseball knowledge and preparation.
Current position: Nationals coach
Background: Jewett was promoted to the Nationals' major-league coaching staff this year after managing in their farm system for two years. Before that, he spent 22 years with the Pirates as a minor-league catcher (1987-90), minor-league coach (1991), minor-league manager (1992-2000, 2003-08), and major-league coach (2001-02).
Why he is qualified: Jewett developed an outstanding reputation in the minor leagues, where he won over 1,100 games, for being a good communicator and in-game strategist. Players like him because his is honest, hardworking, and unpretentious.
Current position: Rays bench coach
Background: Martinez is in his fifth season as the Rays' bench coach. He played in the major leagues for 16 seasons as an outfielder with the Cubs (1986-88, 2000), Expos (1988-91), Reds (1992), Giants (1993-94), White Sox (1995-97), Devil Rays (1998-2000), Rangers (2000), Blue Jays (2000), and Braves (2001).
Why he is qualified: Martinez has learned at the side of Joe Maddon, arguably the best manager in the game today. One of Maddon's pet projects is developing Martinez into a major-league manager. Martinez is considered a very good teacher and has good people skills.
Current position: Braves bench coach
Background: Perez just completed his fifth year on the Braves' major-league staff, as he became a coach after retiring as a player following the 2006 season. Perez caught in the major leagues for 11 seasons with the Braves (1995-2001, 2004-05), Indians (2002), and Brewers (2003).
Why he is qualified: Retired Braves manager Bobby Cox touted Perez as a future manager going back to the early part of his playing career. Perez has a great feel for the game and dealing with people, and it also doesn't hurt that he is bilingual. The only thing lacking is experience of being either a manager or a bench coach.
Current position: Nationals third base coach
Background: Porter has five years of experience as a major-league coach at a young age, three of them with the Marlins (2007-09) and one each with the Diamondbacks (2010) and Nationals. He also spent three seasons working in the Marlins' farm system from 2004-06, one as a hitting coach and two as a manager. Porter spent parts of three seasons as an outfielder in the major leagues with the Cubs (1999), Athletics (2000), and Rangers (2001).
Why he is qualified: Porter, who was an all-Big Ten defensive back at the University of Iowa, has built a reputation as a rising star in coaching circles because of his confident style. He has also been lauded for being a good communicator.
Current position: Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Phillies) manager
Background: Sandberg has spent five seasons managing in the minor leagues, the first four with the Cubs before leaving the organization when Quade was hired as manager. Sandberg was one of the greatest second baseman in history and was elected to the Hall of Fame following a 16-year career with the Phillies (1981) and Cubs (1982-94, 1996-97).
Why he is qualified: Sandberg has shown he is dedicated to learning the craft of managing, as few people with his credentials would spend a half-decade working in the minor leagues. His low-key approach works well with young players and would seemingly also work in overseeing a major-league club.
Current position: Triple-A Columbus (Indians) manager
Background: Sarbaugh began his professional career as an undrafted free agent in the Brewers' organization in 1990 and has spent the last 22 seasons in the Indians' farm system as an outfielder (1991-94), coach (1995-2003), and manager (2004-11).
Why he is qualified: Sarbaugh is dedicated to the game, and his easygoing nature helps him connect with players. He is also an extremely bright guy with a kinesiology degree from Lamar University. Sarbaugh has a knack for winning, as his teams have finished above .500 in all eight seasons he has managed, and Columbus has won back-to-back International League titles.
Current position: Brewers hitting coach
Background: Sveum has been a versatile member of the Brewers' staff, as he has been the hitting coach for three seasons after spending one year as the bench coach and two years as the third base coach. He also served as the interim manager for the final 12 games of the 2008 regular season and a loss to the Phillies in the National League Division Series after Ned Yost was fired. Sveum was Boston’s third base coach in 2004-05 after one year as a major-league coaching assistant (2000) and three as a minor-league manager (2001-03) with the Pirates. He was a major-league infielder for 12 seasons with the Brewers (1986-88, 1990-91), Phillies (1992), White Sox (1992), Athletics (1993), Mariners (1994), Pirates (1996-97, 1999), and Yankees (1998).
Why he is qualified: Sveum is as old school as they come and believes in hard work and accountability. Yet he does so without being overbearing or having a disconnect with his players.
Current position: Giants bench coach
Background: Wotus has spent 13 seasons as the Giants' bench coach under Dusty Baker and Bruce Bochy after managing in their farm system for seven years from 1991-97. Wotus spent parts of two seasons as an infielder with the Pirates (1983-84).
Why he is qualified: Wotus was a very successful minor-league manager and has more than learned the ins and outs of running a game during his long tenure on the Giants' staff. He is an unassuming guy who doesn't self promote, which has probably hurt him in getting more interviews for managerial positions. However, people who know Wotus are adamant that he has everything it takes to be a successful major-league manager.
Padres right-hander Anthony Bass: "He doesn't have overwhelming stuff, but he kind of grows on you the more you watch him. For a guy who came up from Double-A, he wasn't scared, and I like that."
Giants left fielder Pat Burrell: "It's time for him to hang it up because he has nothing left. I'm glad that he got to play at home for a couple of years and enjoy himself because he was the type of guy who never seemed to being having a good time when he was playing in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay."
Yankees right-hander Bartolo Colon: "I know everyone is focusing on how he faded down the stretch and got left off the playoff roster. You've got to look big picture here, though. He gave the Yankees more than they had the right to expect when they signed him. It was a great signing."
Brewers right-hander Yovani Gallardo: "I think we saw a No. 1 starter blossom in front of our eyes in the first game (of the NLDS) against the Diamondbacks. He was masterful. He threw all his pitches with conviction. He was as confident as I've ever seen him. He toyed with a team that just won its division."
Marlins second baseman Omar Infante: "I know the Marlins have money to spend now with the new ballpark opening, but why spend it on this guy? He's not worth two years and $8 million. You can get guys like him who are a lot cheaper."
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick: "He really took a nice step forward this season and started hitting with power. He's a really valuable guy to have now that he's added pop because he's versatile in the field and you can hit him just about anywhere in the batting order. He's definitely a Mike Scioscia-type player."
Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda: "I know the word is that he's going back to Japan for one farewell season, but there is no doubt in my mind he could make pretty big money as a free agent if he stayed in the United States. He pitched great all year."
Braves right-hander Derek Lowe: "I don't see where he fits with the Braves anymore. They've got too many good young pitchers that they have to make room for in the rotation. Even with so many teams looking for starting pitching, the Braves are going to have to eat a pretty good chunk of that $15 million for next season if they're going to be able to trade him."
Twins first baseman Chris Parmelee: "I was really impressed by this kid in September. He hit the ball hard. I know he hasn't played Triple-A yet, but I don't see any reason to send him there except to hold his service time down, because this kid can rake."
Athletics left fielder Josh Willingham: "He had a heckuva year in an awful ballpark for hitters, but if I were going to sign him as a free agent I wouldn't pay him based on what he did this season. I think it was a career year and he won't put up numbers quite like that again."