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A postseason dud notwithstanding, Rocco Baldelli’s first season as a major league manager was a huge success.
Baldelli led the Minnesota Twins to a regular season record of 101-60 and their first American League Central title since 2010. They withstood a late-season challenge from the three-time defending division champion Cleveland Indians before being swept by the New York Yankees in three games in an AL Division Series.
The San Diego Padres are on the verge of hiring someone who could be the National League version of Baldelli. Multiple sources are reporting that the Padres have decided on Texas Rangers player development coach Jayce Tingler to replace Andy Green, who was fired with eight games remaining in the season.
Tingler, like Baldelli, is young as both are 38. Also, like Baldelli, Tingler has a varied background in his professional baseball career.
Tingler spent four seasons playing center field in the minor leagues from 2003-06 with the Toronto Blue Jays and Rangers. Following his playing days, Tinger stayed in the Texas organization.
Among Tingler’s duties have been managing at the lowest levels of the farm system in the Arizona Rookie and Dominican Summer leagues, serving as the minor league field coordinator, a one-year stint as an assistant to general manager Jon Daniels and three seasons on the major league coaching staff.
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A.J. Preller was Daniels’ right-hand man with the Rangers until becoming the Padres’ GM in 2014. Thus, Preller knows Tingler well.
In fact, the industry perception is that Preller made a convincing argument to hire Tingler to ownership, which wanted a more seasoned manager such as former Rangers skipper and current Atlanta Braves third base coach Ron Washington.
It remains to be seen how Tingler will fare as a major league manager. The same questions surrounded Baldelli at this last year when the Twins hired him to replace Paul Molitor, a Hall of Famer and Twin Cities legend.
One of the main concerns was if Baldelli was too young for the job. Unlike Tingler, Baldelli had not managed at any level.
However, Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey and GM Thad Levine believed Baldelli’s other experiences would help him adjust to managing. Baldelli worked in Tampa Bay’s baseball operations, minor league and scouting departments after injuries brought an end to a once-promising playing career with the Rays when he retired in 2010.
The Padres were 70-92 in 2019, extending their streak of losing seasons to nine. The franchise also hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006. Worse, the players seemed to quit on Green in the second half of the season when the Padres went 25-47 after having a 45-45 record at the All-Star break.
Yet Tingler walks into an enviable situation as the Padres have plenty of young talent on their roster, a group that includes left-hander Joey Lucchesi, right-handers Chris Paddack and Cal Quantrill, catcher Francisco Mejia, second baseman Luis Urias, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., and center fielders Manuel Margot and Franchy Cordero among others.
Tatis has the look of a generational talent and Paddack could blossom into a No. 1 starter next season following a strong rookie year. Yet when the 2020 preseason predictions start being made, it’s doubtful many will pick the Padres to capture the NL West, which has been won by the Los Angeles Dodgers each of the last seven years.
However, few thought the Twins would win the AL Central this year under such a young manager. They did and long-suffering Padres’ fans might be able to find some hope in that.