Brian Cashman promised he would be “open-minded” going into the process, and five interviews into his search for Joe Girardi’s replacement, the candidate pool reflects that.
On Saturday, Dodgers third-base coach Chris Woodward became the fifth to interview for the job of Yankees manager, joining Rob Thomson, Eric Wedge, Hensley Meulens and Aaron Boone. Meulens, Boone and Woodward all interviewed this week, starting on Thursday, after Cashman returned from the general managers’ meetings in Orlando, Florida.
More interviews are expected, though managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said last week that he expects fewer than 10 to be interviewed.
The members of this group to this point could not be much different in terms of their experience.
Thomson is a baseball lifer who has been with the Yankees for 28 years. Wedge is the only candidate to this point with big-league managing experience, having done so for the Indians and Mariners.
Meulens played in the majors and overseas, speaks five languages, managed the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic and won three World Series titles with the Giants as their hitting coach.
Boone, a current ESPN analyst and former major-leaguer who hasn’t coached or managed at any level, comes from a baseball family. His grandfather, father and brother also are former major-leaguers.
Woodward, the youngest of the group at 41 years old, played parts of 12 years in the majors with five teams, including two with the Mets in 2005-06, and has been Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ third-base coach the last two seasons. He also managed New Zealand’s WBC team.
What do they have in common? Not surprisingly, all praised their respective skills in relating and communicating with players, the primary reason Cashman felt it was time to move on from Girardi.
“That’s probably my biggest strength, as a person, is the communication and the desire to show people what I’ve learned,” Woodward said Saturday after his interview.
Woodward learned most recently under Roberts, who — along with the man he faced in the World Series, Houston’s A.J. Hinch — is considered the template for the “modern” manager. That is, an energetic voice who embraces analytics but with a human touch, especially when it comes to translating that information to players.
“The way he navigated the front office with the players,” Woodward said of what he took from watching Roberts, whom he called “a special human being.”
“[He had] constant conversations with people upstairs, with his players, just to get a feel for how everybody was feeling and what made the most sense to win baseball games. Players at times would get frustrated because they weren’t playing as much as they thought they should or they weren’t pitching as much as they thought they should, but then people started to realize this is a recipe for success . . . He’s relentlessly positive, that is what I take the most. He had a good way of explaining why we were doing what we were doing.”
Woodward said of analytics, “you’re a fool if you don’t understand the importance of them,” a positive in that the Yankees have the largest analytics department in the majors. But, he said, there has to be more to it than that.
“There’s a lot of teams that use [them], but really, the special sauce comes in when you’re able to actually relay it to the players,” Woodward said. “The most important aspect is the players on the field. So you can have the smartest people in the world, but if the players don’t buy in, it doesn’t really factor in.”
Woodward said it would be an “honor” to lead the Yankees, whom he called “the greatest organization on the planet.”
“I think I’m qualified [because of] my experience as a player, as a coach, my ability to lead,” he said. “I really value culture and process and all the things that kind of separate great teams from the mediocre ones. Managing this team would be a dream come true.”
Candidates interviewed for the Yankees’ managerial job:
Rob Thomson, Yankees bench coach
Eric Wedge, former Indians and Mariners manager
Hensley Meulens, Giants bench coach
Aaron Boone, ESPN analyst
Chris Woodward, Dodgers third-base coach