The Yankees have a choice to make regarding their managerial search (other than the main one), one the Phillies have already made: Go with the safe choice, the guy touting his communication skills and baseball acumen, or do what the Phillies did, and go with the hyper-focused nutritionist who has invented a way to taste ice cream without eating it.
For the Phillies, the safe choice was Dusty Wathan, a guy from their own system who had been around the young players populating the big league roster while they were farmhands. Wathan will serve on wild card Gabe Kapler’s coaching staff, but as we all know, didn’t land the managing gig himself. For the Yankees, the safe choice would be 54-year-old Rob Thomson, their bench coach under Joe Girardi who recently told reporters that he knows how to “get through to his players,” something for which Girardi was said to have lacked (though he did repeatedly state it was an aspect of managing that he believed to be crucial).
But the Yankees haven’t sorted all that out, even though we’re on the verge of December and all, and we’ll likely be hearing about who could be running the show in the Bronx as they interview everybody from Eric Wedge to to Aaron Boone to Carlos Beltran for as long as this goes on.
In the mean time, the Phillies are still on the hunt for coaches to fill out their staff. And they’ve targeted Thomson.
At 54, the Canadian-born Thomson would not be the Phillies’ most elder recent coaching hire this off-season (that would be Rick Kranitz at 59), a time when repeated youth injections are coursing through the franchise. When Girardi was stricken with a respiratory infection in 2008, Thomson’s first year on the job, his bench coach took over, becoming the first Canadian MLB manager since 1934 (That would be the year of Pirates manager George “Mooney” Gibson, who hailed from London, Ontario). Thomson also served as third base coach for the Yankees, and was the one whose alarmed face and flailing arm sent Mark Teixeira home after Luis Castillo’s infamous dropped pop-up during a 2009 Yankees-Mets game. He’s also got a 2009 World Series ring.
It’s a new managerial day in Philadelphia, and there’s no hiding that Gabe Kapler has a strong personality. It’s easy to imagine all sorts of situations unfolding, or the motivations behind each interview, conversation, or penetrating stare as the Phillies assemble a coaching staff. But for now, we just look at Thomson for who he is in the context of his own career: a coach who knows how to appeal to players, as he did in 2008 when he and Girardi, determining that the pre-season had dragged on for too long, took the Yankees to a Florida pool hall for a two-on-two tournament to cultivate communication between coaches and players, as well as players and players (Mariano Rivera and Phil Coke won).