Former Padres legend, the esteemed Adrian Gonzalez, participated in interviews conducted as part of the team’s recent quest for a new manager. According to reporters Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee and MLB Network’s David Vassegh, Gonzalez progressed far into the process and was dubbed one of the three final contenders for the position. He was in the running alongside bench coach and eventual hire Mike Shildt.
Among the pool of known candidates, Shildt and Phil Nevin boasted prior experience at the helm of MLB teams. Meanwhile, individuals like Flaherty, Carlos Mendoza (who was subsequently hired by the Mets as their manager), and Benji Gil possessed experience on Major League coaching staffs. In contrast, Gonzalez stood out with his lack of experience as a manager or coach in the big leagues or even in the minors. Having been a former player, Gonzalez, at 41 years of age, brought a unique perspective as an esteemed, 15-year MLB superstar.
The managerial search accounts for an unprecedented historical fact in baseball, as it perhaps marked the first time two former first overall draft picks – Nevin (selected first overall in 1992) and Gonzalez (in 2000) – were involved. Gonzalez indeed lived up to the high expectations of his draft position, with an impressive .287/.358/.485 batting line and 317 homers over his 8046 career plate appearances. His illustrious resume also boasts five All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, and three top-seven finishes in MVP voting. Just recently, Gonzalez became eligible for the Cooperstown ballot, signifying the end of five full seasons since his last Major League game. While Gonzalez may not be a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame, just being on the ballot is a significant nod to his outstanding career.
Given the presence of numerous high-profile stars on the Padres’ roster and past woes within the team’s clubhouse, Gonzalez’s firsthand experience as a top-tier Major Leaguer may have presented particular appeal to the Padres. President of baseball operations A.J. Preller has a lengthy history with Gonzalez, as Preller had just joined the Texas front office when Gonzalez made his MLB debut with the Rangers in 2004.
This scenario catalyzes speculative what-ifs within the Padres’ managerial search. It remains to be seen whether Gonzalez will continue pursuing coaching or managerial roles in the future, either with the Padres or another organization. San Diego held particular appeal to Gonzalez due to his San Diego roots and tenure with the Padres from 2006-10.
With Shildt’s subsequent appointment, the Padres’ coaching staff is now in the spotlight. The Athletic’s Dennis Lin reports that pitching coach Ruben Niebla and bullpen coach Ben Fritz are likely to stay. However, the roles of third base coach and associate manager are open after the departures of Matt Williams and Ryan Christenson. It’s interesting how the “associate manager” role will be handled going forward since it was somewhat unique to the division of duties between Christenson and Flaherty.
Shildt has been with the Padres for the past two years, making his integration as the new manager less of a disruption to the coaching staff. It’s unclear whether Flaherty (who holds the positions of bench coach and offensive coordinator) will return after not being selected as manager. The potential uncertainty extends to first base coach David Macias, who is close with Flaherty. Lin also mentions that Shildt does not plan to bring any coaching hires from the Cardinals, his prior team, to San Diego.
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