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Friedman has open mind in manager search

Dodgers president will consider at least 10 candidates for position

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has cast such a wide and diverse net in his search for a manager that it's easy to wonder if he has any idea what he's looking for.

Actually, Friedman knows exactly what he's after. That would be information. That would be ideas. He's looking for a great manager, too, and he'll find one. But he has developed a process that does more than that.

As Friedman goes down an interview list that now has at least 10 names on it, he is going to ask question after question, picking brains, exploring ideas. In doing this, he may have some of his beliefs challenged. Friedman may find out that another organization does something better than the Dodgers.

This is one of the lessons Friedman brought to baseball from his time on Wall Street. He was taught to gather as much information as humanly possible and to keep an open mind about what might be useful. As one of Friedman's former co-workers said, "Andrew never passes up an opportunity to gather information."

Friedman did this type of thing when he hired Joe Maddon to manage the Rays in 2005. Friedman's list included at least 10 names, from Bobby Valentine and Joe Girardi to Terry Pendleton, Bob McLaren and Alan Trammell.

When Friedman left the Rays for the Dodgers after last season, his successor with Tampa Bay -- Matt Silverman -- interviewed 10 men before settling on Kevin Cash.

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In his current search with the Dodgers, Friedman has talked to men from a variety of backgrounds and with varying degrees of experience. Inside the industry, Gabe Kapler has been widely seen as the front-runner for the job from day one.

Kapler played 12 seasons for six teams, including Friedman's Rays in 2009 and '10. He managed Boston's Class A Greenville team in '07 before resuming his playing career.

Friedman was so impressed with Kapler's intelligence, people skills and ambition in their time together that he lured Kapler from a career in television to serve as the Dodgers' director of player development.

If Kapler gets the job, it would be a reminder how much the role of managing has evolved in recent years. There are no walls between the manager and the people above him. More than ever before, it's a collaboration.

Front offices -- OK, the smart ones -- offer their managers a mountain of data on lineups, matchups, defensive alignments, etc. Again, it's to offer a manager the best opportunity to make a smart decision. Rather than managing by feel or by gut, managing today is about quantifying decisions.

As Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said, "Our manager can do anything he wants. But we'd like for him to have a reason for doing it."

If this sounds like managers are less important than they were two decades ago, that would be incorrect. Managing a baseball team is still about dealing with people and about doing the things necessary to get a good, hard professional effort every single day.

It's about creating an environment in which players are allowed to grow and also to put the team first. It's about an atmosphere in which a manager is able to convince his players that every decision he makes is what the skipper thinks is right for the team.

Many teams prefer experienced managers, because the clubs have seen how these managers have handled tough times and uncomfortable situations. Do they keep their poise? Do they maintain the respect of their players?

There's comfort in experience, and Friedman's interview list includes Bud Black -- a guy who has filled out 1,362 lineup cards and developed a sterling reputation for communicating with players and running a game. He would bring instant credibility to the clubhouse and be the safest choice from the candidate pool.

Darin Erstad has gotten an interview as well. He's the University of Nebraska coach and a 14-year big leaguer who was a tough, intense competitor and a consummate professional.

When a young outfielder named Hunter Pence was still figuring things out earlier in his career, the Astros signed Erstad as a free agent at the end of his career. In Erstad, they saw someone a lot like Pence, someone intense and borderline fanatical about his career.

Houston thought Pence would benefit from playing with a kindred spirit, and all these years later, Pence probably would say that Erstad helped him become the player he has become.

Erstad's hiring would not be a surprise to any of the people who played with him or got to know him through the years. Certain guys -- Mike Matheny and Brad Ausmus come to mind -- had a leadership aura around them when they played.

Also on Friedman's list: Bob Geren, Dave Roberts, Tim Wallach, Ron Roenicke, Kirk Gibson and Dave Martinez.

Geren, Gibson and Roenicke have Major League managerial experience. Martinez has been near the top of interview lists for a while. Roberts and Wallach were, like Kapler and Erstad, respected pros during their playing careers.

And there could be others. Friedman has said he'd like to have a manager in place by next month's Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. His challenge, he said, is to get it right.

Maddon is Friedman's only previous managerial hire, so he has set the bar high for himself. But finding the right guy is only part of what this process is about. It's about finding other ways to make the Dodgers better.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.
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