During a recent Dodger radio broadcast, longtime baseball color analyst and former Dodger great Rick Monday made a statement that was quite intriguing: “A.J. Ellis will make a great manager someday.”
It has always been widely accepted that former catchers make some of the best MLB managers but it’s probably safe to say that Rick Monday is the first person to make this assessment about the 32-year-old Dodger backstop – thus far, that is.
Why does Rick Monday feel this way about Ellis? He answered this question recently by making reference to a popular television commercial.
“Have you seen the commercial with Mario Andretti and they have a guy get in the back seat of his race car and as they’re going around the track at 200 MPH the guy is screaming?” asked Monday. “And then they show you getting into the mind of Mario and he’s seeing a dandelion with the things coming off in slow motion. That’s kind of what I mean with A.J. Ellis because what he sees is the big picture. It’s not just one little tiny area of the game, he’s seeing big picture.”
Monday says that there’s a lot more to this big picture thing than what the average fan or even the average baseball player may think.
“You have to know the personalities of your guys out there on the field, especially the pitchers,” said Monday. “Some of them you need to pat on the back. And some when you are going to be even remotely critical of you just pat them on the back a little harder. And there’s some guys you have to go up to and very strategically place a size 11 or 12 baseball shoe. You have to know how to get your point across to that particular pitcher at that particular moment. It could be the same pitcher but you’re going to have six or seven different moments or mini plays, if you will, during the game. So understanding that end of it is what I get out of A.J. because he truly does see the big picture. Those are traits that leaders have, traits that managers have, and if they don’t have them they need to develop them.
“Baseball would be better off if A.J. Ellis decides to stay in the game somehow when his playing days are over,” added Monday. “Those are the kind of people that baseball needs to latch onto.”
Rick Monday isn’t the only former Dodger who thinks that A.J. Ellis has the necessary traits and skills that would make him a successful manager when he finally decides to hang up his mask and shin guards.
“I see A.J. being good at whatever A.J. decides he wants to do,” said former Dodger catcher Steve Yeager, who currently serves as the team’s catching coach. “Whether it’s managing or coaching or whatever he chooses to do he will be successful because he is going to be prepared. That’s the way A.J. is, he’s going to be prepared and he’s going to love what he does.
“Being a catcher, and they always say that catchers make pretty good managers, we see the overall view of what’s going on out on the field,” Yeager added. “We see the defense, we see the offense, we see the hitter, we have conversations and communications with the pitchers, so we’re always working, always thinking. And in some cases you’re thinking a couple hitters ahead and a couple pitches ahead, one pitch sets up another pitch, one location sets up another location, so you’re thinking all the time. A.J. does all of these things extremely well and I think he would make a terrific manager.”
Yeager admits that he is biased when it comes to A.J. Ellis.
“A.J. is special to me,” said the 1981 World Series co-MVP. “He is going to be successful at anything he chooses to do when his playing days are over. If he wants to take some time away from the game to be with his family and then come back, I think he’d be a good manager.”
And what does A.J. Ellis think about all of this?
“I love the game of baseball,” said Ellis when asked if managing might be on his agenda when his playing days are over. “I love being at the ballpark every day, I love everything about the game, so definitely when my career is over I do want to stay involved in major league baseball in some way, shape or form in any capacity, but that’s a discussion for another day. Right now I’m focused on this team.”
As both Rick Monday and Steve Yeager pointed out, it is the cerebral aspect of the game that A.J. loves most.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the mental side of the game, the strategy side of the game and (managing) is definitely something that I’d want, but I haven’t sat up and thought about it.”
Sounds like A.J. is seeing the big picture to me.