Scouting reports of AL Postseason skippers online

Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series
Written by: Matt Rothenberg

All five of the American League managers in this year's Postseason have big league playing experience. And on the way to their posts in the dugout, each was the subject of scouting reports that are now preserved at the Hall of Fame.

Among the five – Boston’s Alex Cora, New York’s Aaron Boone, Cleveland’s Terry Francona, Houston’s A.J. Hinch and Oakland’s Bob Melvin – there are 53 major league seasons.

And just as the Wild Card games start the Postseason, a manager’s playing career has to start somewhere. Often, those beginnings are chronicled by various scouts.

The Baseball Hall of Fame’s PASTIME digital repository contains scouting reports for all five American League playoff managers as they were preparing to be drafted into – or working their way to reach – the big leagues. These are just a sampling of what is available, as new reports are added to PASTIME on a regular basis.

Francona, who won two World Series as Boston’s skipper and has taken Cleveland to its third-straight divisional crown, is the son of the late major leaguer Tito Francona. When Francona was a senior at New Brighton (Pa.) High School in 1977, the similarities were evident to scout Brad Kohler at the Major League Scouting Bureau. Kohler noted Terry’s excellent habits and dedication, as well as his love for baseball despite receiving college offers. He went on to say that Francona “shows very little weakness” and “to sum it all up, he can play.”

The Cubs made Francona their second round choice in 1977, but instead he opted to enroll at the University of Arizona, which probably paid off. In 1980, Montreal took him in the first round, and 14 months later, Francona was in the majors.

Melvin was in his fifth major league season – his first with Baltimore – when Alex Cosmidis of the Chicago White Sox scouted him over four games. Melvin was a catcher who came up in the Detroit system and played with the Tigers and Giants in the majors before joining the Orioles. He was, at best, a part-time catcher with decent defensive skills and not-so-decent offensive skills, as Cosmidis noted.

Despite taking “a lot of check swings” and “lacking in (the) offensive dept.,” Cosmidis said, Melvin “gives good effort.”

Perhaps that good effort extended to his team, back in the Postseason thanks to a solid summer, going a cumulative 35-17 in July and August.

The Major League Scouting Bureau thought Cora would be a utility player at the least, and the Brewers’ Russ Bove had Cora pegged as a sixth-round pick as he finished his collegiate career at the University of Miami in 1996. Bove did note that Cora had “plus baseball instincts” and that he “has flair.” The Dodgers must have agreed with Bove, as they selected Cora in the third round in 1996 and turned him into a regular middle infielder.

A part-time player through the rest of his career, Cora’s instincts helped him as the Astros’ bench coach in their 2017 World Series title run and then leading the Red Sox to a 108-win season and AL East crown in his first year as a major league pilot.

Boone, also a 100-game winner in his first season as a manager in the big leagues, is a third-generation major leaguer. In 1991, the Cleveland Indians scouts observed that the high school senior had “all the actions and mannerisms of a pro player right now” and that he would be “able to contribute to the team concept.”

A 43rd-round pick out of high school, Boone attended the University of Southern California where he gained additional seasoning. White Sox scout Ed Pebley was a bit critical and skeptical of Boone’s future.

Saying he had “no real pluses,” Pebley thought that if one looks “past his name, good body, and going to (a) big name school” Boone was “just another guy to throw into (an) organization and see if you (develop) down the line.” He was “one of those that will probably go higher than he should (in the draft) just because of name.”

Boone was a playoff hero as a Yankees player, hitting a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS against Boston to send the Yankees to the World Series.

Hinch was a well-regarded defensive catcher coming from the amateur ranks. Mike Larson of the Major League Scouting Bureau remarked about Hinch’s “good aptitude” and that he “knows how to catch.” In 1992, as a high school senior, Hinch “didn’t show many flaws” and he was a “leader” with “smarts behind plate,” according to Dennis Cardoza, an Expos scout.

Despite his smarts and knowing how to catch, Hinch’s bat never came around and his playing career quickly dissipated. His knowledge and teaching abilities came in handy, however, as he worked his way through the Arizona front office and into his first managerial post. He joined the Padres’ scouting department before taking the Houston pilot position, where he led the Astros to a world championship.

Matt Rothenberg is the manager of the Giamatti Research Center at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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Part of the BASEBALL HISTORY series