The following are ten reasons why I believe Tony Pena will be the next Yankees manager.
1. I believe that single star player the Yankees have the most concern about going forward is Gary Sanchez. In order for the Yankees, as currently designed, to be successful, they need Gary Sanchez to be great. All the talk of moving Gary Sanchez to first base or designated hitter (because of his defensive failings) are nonsense. Sanchez’s great value comes because he is a catcher. Greg Bird is the first baseman of today and tomorrow. I also don’t believe that the Yankees want their star 25-year old catcher to be a DH. That all seems very clear. Gary Sanchez ranks among the top catchers (at least offensively) in baseball. That becomes a Yankees strength when he stays behind the plate. Assuming those same numbers for a DH isn’t as impressive.
It is imperative that the Yankees work to make Gary Sanchez a better defensive catcher. This is especially true because the Yankees pitching staff, as constructed, is known for being difficult to catch. The optics of passed balls, wild pitches, and such isn’t a good look. Further, it seems clear that Joe Girardi had lost faith or confidence in Gary Sanchez. For any player to thrive, he needs to know that his manager has confidence in him.
Tony Pena, of course, was a catcher – an outstanding defensive catcher with an extremely strong throwing arm. Pena has worked with Sanchez the last two years in the big leagues. Sanchez has developed and improved (in spite of the optics at times) under Tony Pena.
And, while Joe Girardi was also an excellent catcher, it does not seem that he had that student/mentor relationship that Sanchez and Pena seems to enjoy.
Tony Pena would give the Yankees a manager who has absolute trust in one of their most valuable assets – Gary Sanchez. Just as importantly, Pena will be a manager who Sanchez trusts. A player cannot self-actualize if he is doubting himself or his relationship with his manager.
2. If the Yankees go outside the organization for a manager, there is no guarantee that that new manager would keep Tony Pena on the coaching staff. (Except, one would assume, if Rob Thomson was hired.) Knowing his value to the team, I don't believe the Yankees would take the risk of losing Pena. Along those same lines, Pena has interviewed for various other managerial posts due to his excellent reputation in the game. I think the Yankees want to keep Pena within the organization to continue his close relationship to the players. The only way to assure that he stays is to make him the manager.
3. Much of the managerial speculation states that Brian Cashman will hire a manager that he is familiar with – someone with whom he has worked for many years. Tony Pena has been a Yankees coach since the 2006 season. Pena was one of three only candidates interviewed for Yankees manager in 2007; the last time to job was open. (The three who were interviewed were Pena, Don Mattingly, and Joe Girardi). As a follow-up to this, even though he didn’t get the job as manager, Tony Pena continued to faithfully work in any capacity with the team. Actions like this speak, very loudly, to someone’s character. Because he was interviewed in 2007, and because he has stayed with organization for so long, it is apparent that the Yankees' brain trust thinks highly of Tony Pena.
4. Pena is from Latin America and speaks Spanish. Both he and Sanchez are from the Dominican Republic. While that isn't a reason to hire him, per se, the fact that he is multi-lingual and understanding of the Latin experience will be a benefit as many of the Yankees new and upcoming stars (Gleyber Torres (Venezuela), Estevan Florial (Haiti), Miguel Andujar (Dominican Republic), Domingo Acevedo (Dominican Republic), and Albert Abreu (Dominican Republic)) all hail from this region. In addition, the Yankees second biggest concern after Gary Sanchez might be Dellin Betances, another player from the Domician Republic, who also lost Girardi’s trust, and, it seems, his own confidence.
5. Pena has a great reputation in baseball. Most recently, he was the manager of the Dominican Republic National Baseball team in 2017 and 2013. He also has a history of winning, most recently with the Dominican Republic National Baseball Team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. That team was the first to ever go undefeated in the tournament. But this was not Pena’s only managerial success. He also won championships in the Pacific Coast League and the Dominican Winter League. While in Kansas City, Tony Pena won the Manager of the Year Award (2003) for taking a young team and earning success with them. Pena was praised for his abilities to work with young players as their mentor. He is the type of manager who inspires players’ confidence.
6. The Yankees have never hired a minority manager. They are one of the few franchises that have not.
7. Brian Cashman seemingly likes to hire catchers as managers. Since 1996, the only managers of the Yankees were primarily catchers in their playing days - Torre and Girardi. Granted, that's only two managers, but...
As a catcher with a reputation for excellence, Pena certainly understands how to work with pitchers. This is a strong asset in Pena's favor over many of the other supposed candidates for the job.
8. Don Mattingly is the manager of the Florida Marlins. I do not believe the Marlins will make him available to the Yankees. I think Donnie Baseball’s job is very safe, at least until the Yankees hire a manager. New owner Derek Jeter probably won't want the Yankees greatest superstar before him to leave his new franchise to go to the Yankees who are seemingly on the cusp of a world championship.
9. This Yankees team is not a few years away - this team is ready to win now. While there is talk that the Yankees might hire a lesser known name or a manager with no experience, I don't see it. 2018 isn't the year for someone to learn how to manage. 2018 is the year they need to have a person with a track record of success who can move the team forward. They need a steady hand, a rock solid personality, a manger who is respected by the players, and a manager who respects players. That man is Tony Pena.
10. Along those lines, the pressures of the New York media will not come as a surprise to Tony Pena as he has seen it all as a core presence on the team for the last twelve years. That familiarity with the media cannot be over stated. Tony Pena gives the Yankees instant credibility with the media. He is a calming presence who, presumably like Girardi, will able to handle the media demands and not let those pressures impact his clubhouse or players.
While I would have loved to see Joe Girardi remain with this club as the manager in 2018, and beyond, it is clear to me that Tony Pena is the worthy successor to Girardi.
In fact, with all of the positives in Tony Pena's favor, the 2018 season would look very promising with him at the helm.