Of the candidates the Astros have interviewed for their manager position, there are five that stand out.
Astros owner Jim Crane definitely seems to be doing a thorough search for the club’s next manager. After firing AJ Hinch in the wake of the sign stealing scandal, Crane is reported to have interviewed nine candidates (that we know of) and evidently is not rushing to a quick decision.
The candidates all have their positive qualities, but in this tumultuous time for the organization, this isn’t the place for anything less than a home run hire. That doesn’t necessarily mean the hire has to be a fan favorite, it just has to be the right one for the team.
With that in mind, here are my top five candidates to be the next Astros manager, in no particular order.
The Astros could really use an experienced leader at this point, and Showalter has that in spades. He’s a three-time Manager of the Year and has a winning record for his career, which isn’t easy these days (just ask Bruce Bochy). He’s also coming off a strong run in Baltimore, leading the Orioles to three playoff appearances despite the team almost constantly being short on pitching in the AL East.
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Baker is also highly experienced and well respected across the game. He’s also a three-time Manager of the Year with a career .532 winning percentage and a National League pennant to his name. If you’re looking for someone with a track record of success but who’s still hungry for a ring, it’s hard to do better than Baker.
Some Astros fans will sneer at the name, as Banister spent most of four seasons managing the Rangers. But he did a fine job, with the end of his tenure marred by a declining roster. He also got a vote of confidence from former Astro Joe Musgrove. Beyond that, he’s a local product, graduating from La Marque High School and playing at the University of Houston. It’s hard to argue he wouldn’t be a good fit.
Espada doesn’t have the managerial experience that the other candidates have, but he does have familiarity. He served as the Astros bench coach the past two seasons under Hinch, so he’s familiar with the players and the organization. If it’s continuity that Crane is seeking, Espada can provide that, and he’s already been interviewed for managerial jobs before. It’s hard to argue he’s not ready to lead a dugout.
This last spot came down to Gibbons or Brad Ausmus for me, and I gave the edge to Gibbons. He led the Blue Jays in a couple of playoff runs and also has a career winning record. He went to high school in San Antonio and managed some current Astros players in Toronto, namely Roberto Osuna, Joe Biagini and Aledmys Diaz.
For Ausmus, I realize he’s a longtime Astros player and probably has supporters in Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. But his winning percentage as a manager is only .478, and his handling of the Jake Marisnick – Jonathan Lucroy collision last season probably ruffled the feathers of some Astros players. The time just may not be right.