Joe Espada Should be the Blue Jays’ Next Manager

 

The Toronto Blue Jays continue to narrow down their choices for their next manager. Joe Espada should be given the job.

 

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The Toronto Blue Jays continue the selection process to fill the vacant managerial position once occupied by the lovable John Gibbons. While Gibby loved Toronto, and it him, he is not in a position in his career to entertain the idea of a transition period whereby young players start to take over the roster and the workload changes. For Gibby, he would have to change who he is as a person to be the manager the Blue Jays need moving forward. That doesn’t appeal…nor should it.

 

So, rather than force the issue, the Blue Jays will look to fill the spot with someone else. The most recent episode of the Jays From the Couch Radio Podcast featured discussion on what the club should be looking for in their next bench boss. You should check it out, if you haven’t.

 

Essentially, the next manager of the Blue Jays must possess a number of skills including patience, open mindedness, an analytical approach, and a lot more. And, there might not be a better person suited than Joe Espada.

 

Some might tell you that the Puerto Rican-born Espada is bilingual, so that makes him the top choice. This is not even worth clicking on paying attention to. It is such a simplistic way of looking at something that will involve so many facets. Let me show you.

 

Sure, being bilingual will help. 2019 will feature a number of young Spanish players, including Vladimir Guerrero Jr. An ability to relate to these younsgters will be vital to get the most out of them. But, that doesn’t mean that speaking Spanish will be the only thing that propels Lourdes Gurriel Jr.to the next level in his game, or allows Teoscar Hernandez to improve his defensive skills. Language is but one part of a bigger issue. The next manager must be able to relate to players’ cultures. The Spanish culture is so much more rich than its beautiful language.

 

However, there are more cultures in a dugout than that. As the clubhouse gets younger and younger, the manager must be able to work with the youth culture. That means they have to have some aptitude in the Instagram/Twitter/YouTube-verse. As traditional a game as baseball is, it’s players are anything but. The end of 2018 saw a youth movement take over Toronto and 2019 is only going to solidify it. The new manager has to navigate this. Espada is 43, which…ahem…is not old at all.

 

As important as culture is, we are talking about the game of baseball and the manager must be the leader in that regard. In fact, GM, Ross Atkins, is looking for a guy who can not only lead the big league club, but work with the entire organization. This reminds of comments made by Mark Shapiro to Jays From the Couch for the Guide to the 2018 Toronto Blue Jays. Shapiro said that the organization is working toward building a prototypical Blue Jay- a player that, when you see them on the field, regardless of which level, you know they are a Blue Jay. While Shapiro didn’t dive into exactly what that means, it was very clear that he is talking about a shift in organizational philosophy. The next manager has the opportunity to lead that.

 

We know that the Blue Jays are focusing more and more on analytics. However you feel about the use of metrics, it is how they are going about their business. The next manager must be proficient in this area of the evolving game of baseball. Enter Joe Espada. Espada spent a few years as the Yankees third base coach before becoming the Houston Astros bench coach this past season.

 

Now, you might dismiss a third base coach, but in the Yankees organization, he was also their pro scout in 2014. This experience proved to teach him a lot about the changing game: “It really helped me when I got back on the field (to understand) why we shift, why we want to play a four-player outfield. I think it’s been one of the best moves I have done in my career. How you have to be open-minded, progressive for where the game is going.” (via Sportsnet, originally in The Athletic)

 

These are skills he brought to the Houston Astros, who have become one of, if not the, best teams in all of baseball. The Astros are famous for leading the league in their analytical approach. Espada would certainly picked up a few things over the last year that he can bring to a Blue Jays club that is trying to emulate this approach. Consider the following:

 

 

Obviously, the report doesn’t dive into the world of baseball analytics, but it does emphasize the Astros’ use of it. Basically, the Astros are a pain to MLB Commish, Rob Manfred in that they love the shift. This is a team that has thrived on using the myriad of data to their advantage. The Blue Jays would benefit greatly from a manager who is adept at utilizing the mountain of data available. Gibby certainly wasn’t that guy, as much as he tried to dabble.

 

However, there is a stronger case for Espada if you pay attention to the above video around the 1:50 mark. “The Astros have been focused on culture”. They are putting a great deal of their focus into creating the right culture for talented ballplayers to thrive. The goal is to take talented baseball players and provide them with an environment where they support each other playing well. Elevating every player’s game elevates the entire team.

 

Blue Jays management has shown a shift in their thinking in this regard. Whether it is trading away rather talented players that might bring down the team culture, or emphasizing player make up as much as talent when drafting, developing and promoting, Toronto is quietly copying the Astros in their attempt at an organizational culture. Perhaps, this is what Shapiro was referring to when he talked about his vision for Blue Jay players. The experience Espada picked up in Houston’s culture can only help him help them.

 

Joe Espada will get a big league managerial job. Astros GM, Jeff Lunhow, describes what Espada offers thusly: “Experience playing the game, experience in the trenches, coaching in an organization with a good manager. Bilingual, bicultural, really good understanding of traditional aspects of the game as well as the new aspects of the game. A good package overall.” (via above linked Sportsnet article). He will get a big league job sooner, or later.

 

The Toronto Blue Jays would do well to bring him aboard as he’s the perfect manager to help their vision come to life. If they are serious about how they are trying to move the organization forward, the will make Joe Espada their next manager.

 

 

 

 

 

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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.

Shaun Doyle

Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.