One managerial vacancy remains in the major leagues, and it just so happens to be in the dugout of the franchise that pulled off one of the biggest blockbusters in baseball history. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck are about to join the Blue Jays, and Canadian baseball fans can speak credibly about October aspirations once again.
Reyes and Buehrle led the procession of free agents to Miami last winter, as owner Jeffrey Loria (fleetingly) fulfilled his dream of putting a star-studded team in Little Havana. One last-place finish — and one managerial firing — later, they have traded South Beach for Southern Ontario.
Toronto is one of the world’s best cities — welcoming, cultured, diverse, and, yes, starved for winning sports teams. But it hasn’t been viewed as a destination city for baseball in roughly two decades, since the Blue Jays’ most recent postseason appearance in 1993. Now the Blue Jays have turned into a veteran team overnight. Reyes and Buehrle — who hail from the Dominican Republic and Missouri, respectively — may need to be convinced that Toronto is a place where they can win and be merry.
Perhaps Bobby Cox is up to the task.
The 71-year-old is probably a longshot to be the Blue Jays’ next manager. But the notion starts to make sense the more one thinks about it — as, I am told, at least one person in the organizational hierarchy has done.
Cox managed the Blue Jays for four seasons in the 1980s, including the franchise’s first postseason berth in 1985. Cito Gaston was Cox’s hitting coach. Paul Beeston was a high-ranking club executive at the time. Cox, Gaston and Beeston have been friends for more than three decades. Beeston is now the Blue Jays president and CEO. Gaston, who managed the team for 12 seasons before retiring in 2010, is a consultant.
After it became apparent that John Farrell would depart as the Blue Jays’ manager last month, a member of the team management — and we have two strong possibilities — reached out to Cox in an effort to gauge his interest in the job, a major league source told FOXSports.com.
His response, the source said, was no.
But this was before Tuesday.
Could one trade change the mind of a Hall of Fame-bound manager? Beeston or Gaston would do well to phone their friend once more, since it doesn’t appear the Jays are deep in negotiations with any other candidates. After all, grey hair is in vogue around baseball. Davey Johnson — at 69, the oldest manager in the majors — was named National League Manager of the Year, just as news of the Jays-Marlins trade broke Tuesday evening. The American League’s oldest skipper — 68-year-old Jim Leyland — just took his team to the World Series.
Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has indicated that he’s looking for someone with prior managerial experience. Cox, with the most victories of any living manager not named Tony La Russa, certainly has that. As the preeminent players’ manager of all-time, he would be the ideal fit for an evolving Blue Jays clubhouse that turned toxic near the end of this season.
The question is whether Cox wants the grind again.
Cox’s farewell after 29 seasons as a manager (at least, we think that’s what it was) came in the 2010 playoffs, when his Atlanta Braves lost an agonizing first-round series to the eventual champion San Francisco Giants. Then he began a five-year consulting agreement with the Braves, under which he advises the baseball operations department and occasionally works with club president John Schuerholz on business projects.
Fredi Gonzalez, a Cox protégé, is managing the Braves now. They returned to the postseason this year. The organization, by all accounts, is in excellent hands. So would a rested Cox be willing to leave his legacy in Atlanta, if only for a spell, while he chased one last title?
Well, consider what Cox told the Selma (Calif.) Enterprise during a June visit to his hometown.
“It’s more nerve-wracking watching on TV than it was in the dugout,” Cox said, according to the newspaper. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it.”
Enough to manage the Toronto Blue Jays one more time?
The first answer was no. It might be time to ask again.