The New York Yankees will have a new manager for the 2018 season.
After 10 seasons with Joe Girardi at the helm, the organization decided that it was time for a change. The Bronx Bombers feature a young roster with a ton of potential, and are looking for the right candidate to lead them to another World Series championship.
Is it possible that the right candidate was on the team’s coaching staff last season? As the Bronx Pinstripes team examines each potential candidate, we break down the case for first base coach Tony Pena.
Before his coaching days, Pena spent 18 seasons in the big leagues as a catcher. He was a five-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award recipient, and was known for his unconventional catching squat and above-average defense. Over 1,988 games played, Pena posted a slash line of .260/.309/.364.
In 2002 Pena was named the manager of the Kansas City Royals. During his first season at the helm, Pena led the Royals to a 83-79 record, which marked the club’s first winning season since 1994. For his efforts, Pena was rewarded the 2003 American League Manager of the Year Award. Pena’s Royals posted a overall record of 198-285 (.410 winning percentage) while he was in KC.
Shortly after his tenure with the Royals came to an end, Pena became the first base coach for the Yankees. He became the team’s bench coach in 2009, and served in that role through the completion of the 2014 campaign. Pena reassumed the role of first base coach, and has fulfilled the role over the past two seasons.
When Pena resigned with the Royals, Allard Baird, the team’s general manager, held high praise for his former manager. Baird didn’t want the struggles at the end of his tenure to take away from his impact with the organization.
“I don’t want this to tarnish what he’s done in the past for this organization like he did two years ago, as well as being a very large part of a lot of our young players’ development. His willingness to take on young guys, put them in situations and believe in them and send them back out there is a good application in theory but it’s not always easily done. But he did it very well.”
Having been with the organization since 2006, Pena is a familiar face who is well-aware of how the franchise operates. Pena knows the importance of winning in New York, but understands the ongoing ‘youth movement’ that the franchise is going through.
Pena’s ability and willingness to focus on player development could help make him an interesting candidate for the job. Having worked with players such as Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino, Pena is already considered a familiar face for some of the ‘Baby Bombers.’
It’s no secret that the future of the franchise is based off their young talent, so it’s vital that the talent is developed in the right way. Pena is a calming presence who has the ability to ignite a spark when needed, and could be a very valuable mentor as more of the franchise’s youth arrives in the Bronx.
Pena had his fair share of struggles during his only stint as a big-league manager. Other than his 83-win season in 2003, the Pena-led Royals found themselves under-.500 throughout the rest of his tenure with the team.
Since leaving the Royals organization, Pena has been a consistent member of the Yankees coaching staff. Although he has interviewed for multiple managerial openings, Pena has not yet had another opportunity to manage at the big league level.
When Joe Torre left the Yankees, Pena was interviewed as a possible replacement for the job. However, we know how the story goes, as Joe Girardi was given the nod as the team’s skipper. Although he missed out last time, Pena will likely have a second chance to make his case to be the team’s next manager.