Manny Acta had a difficult relationship with his players in Cleveland, some of whom felt he played favorites. (John Smierciak / Associated Press)
Turn a computer loose on all the managerial facets Dave Dombrowski ideally wants as he hunts for Jim Leyland’s replacement to run the Tigers next season, and you begin to understand something.
That man is going to be very difficult to find in a marketplace that offers no perfect answers.
Dombrowski, as he made clear during Monday’s formal farewell to Leyland, prefers specific pluses from contestants who want to skipper a team as talented as the Tigers.
His list of essential attributes, pretty much essential, includes: Experience. Track record. Tactical smarts. Personality to handle media and public-relations requirements. No skeletons in the closet. And, oh, yes, availability to take, no later than next month, Motown’s golden managerial job.
It is in the timing of Leyland’s retirement that Dombrowski’s search has gotten complicated.
Tony La Russa, who would be the best remedy, repeated Tuesday to The Detroit News he is not interested in any dugout reunions, not even for a single season.
A best guess estimate for when Dombrowski names his new manager is the first week of November.
How the best prospective names and their circumstances appeared Tuesday following a day of national phone-line probing:
Ron Gardenhire, Twins manager
Yes, he has a new two-year contract, calling for $2 million per year, one-half of what Leyland was making But the Twins also hired Paul Molitor on Tuesday as a coach, and Molitor will be a popular choice to replace Gardenhire when and if Gardenhire leaves.
Could that be for Detroit? The Red Sox last year worked out a deal with the Jays to bring John Farrell from Toronto to Boston. Apart from the coaches who worked for him in Detroit, Leyland would make Gardenhire his personal choice to manage the Tigers. And there is little doubt Dombrowski would have been of the same mind had Gardenhire and the Twins parted company, as they nearly did last month.
The difficulty in working out a deal with an intra-division team to bring that rival’s manager to Detroit is complicated further by the fact Gardenhire is going nowhere without his pitching coach, Rick Anderson. And no one at Comerica Park — including Tigers pitchers — is wild about the idea of losing current pitching coach Jeff Jones.
Mike Scioscia, Angels manager
He has a lousy, non-communicative relationship with his general manager, Jerry Dipoto, which has made his future with the Angels murky. Scioscia does, however, have a hot line to Angels owner Arte Moreno. Scioscia also wants to remain on the West Coast. And should the Dodgers job open, as could happen, he might be allowed his freedom from a $27 million contract to work in L.A.
The Tigers would love to grab Scioscia. And his contract would be no serious problem for Ilitch. But his disinterest in moving from the West Coast makes any move to Detroit even less likely.
Don Mattingly, Dodgers manager
Still on thin ice in L.A., where he and general manager Ned Colletti aren’t enjoying the happiest of times. Mattingly has the profile and cachet Ilitch loves. But he never managed prior to taking the Dodgers job, and some tactical errors during this autumn’s playoffs likely made Tigers scouts cringe.
Mattingly’s bench coach, Trey Hillman, was fired by Colletti on Tuesday, further chafing a relationship that looks as if it could be doomed. The question: While fans enjoy familiar names, is this familiar name of potential interest to Dombrowski? Mattingly’s playoff gaffes would suggest no.
Manny Acta, former Nationals, Indians manager
Has all the credentials. But had a rugged time with the Indians and was fired, in part, because of communication issues. Players also weren’t happy that Acta was disinclined to back them up in umpire squabbles.
Had some “favoritism” claims levied against him, as well, in Cleveland. A fair amount of baggage will accompany him to any interviews with Dombrowski.
Tony Pena, former Royals manager
He was a distant runner-up to Joe Girardi for the Yankees job, and was also a runner-up to Bobby Valentine with the Red Sox, which is a little like finishing second to Darth Vader.
Pena, though, has a problem that extends to his days with the Royals. He was subpoenaed in a neighbor’s divorce matter that turned progressively ugly. Pena is now a Yankees coach.
Jim Riggleman, former Cubs and Nationals manager
Now managing the Triple A Louisville Bats. Left the Nationals in 2011 following a midseason contract squabble. Riggleman turns 61 next month and has an interesting resume. He was considered by the Reds to replace Dusty Baker before Bryan Price was hired.
Nothing suggests Dombrowski is intrigued, particularly when Riggleman has been accused of some past indifference to pitch counts and pitching ailments.
Jim Tracy, former Dodgers, Pirates, Rockies manager
Has the experience. Proper managerial personality. And is only 57. Dombrowski wants no on-the-job learning during the 2014 stint and might want to hear what Tracy has to say.
Brad Mills, former Astros coach
A definite name to keep in mind as Dombrowski ponders an even wider group of applicants. Mills is Indians manager Terry Francona’s third base coach. He was bench coach for Francona in Boston.
He is 56, well-regarded, and the kind of candidate who could sneak into contention.
Dombrowski is expected to talk with at least some of the above names. The list could broaden. Managers with little, or no, experience could always be considered, which is where a long-shot such as Brad Ausmus could yet surface.
Or, of course, a GM and an owner could yet decide to make La Russa the offer a stubborn ex-manager might finally agree is too good to resist.