By MARC TOPKIN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 23, 2005
CHICAGO - Former Astros general manager Gerry Hunsicker seems determined to keep a low profile this week.
But if the Devil Rays are as interested as they seem in hiring him to play a key role in their revamped baseball operations department, they have only to gaze at the Astros to get a sense of what he can do.
As general manager from 1996-2004, Hunsicker helped design and build the Houston team. He probably deserves more credit than he has been getting, though that, as much as anything, is a result of his decision to stay away from the games and the spotlight.
The Rays talked to Hunsicker, 55, once casually about a senior position in their front office and may do so formally this week. He is also considered a strong candidate for the GM job in Philadelphia, more so if Brian Cashman doesn't leave the Yankees.
So it may come down to a lifestyle choice - if he wants to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week for 50 weeks a year as a GM, or if he wants to play a key role in building the Rays and advising Andrew Friedman with time for his other interests, such as golf and thoroughbreds.
"Gerry's a very solid guy," longtime Astros executive Tal Smith said Saturday. "It just depends on the structure of the situation."
Yankees executive Gene Michael may be an attractive alternative. He has experience as a player, general manager and scout and is currently special adviser to the general partners. Philadelphia's Mike Arbuckle could be a possibility. White Sox farm director Dave Wilder is no longer an option.
JUST MANAGING: The Rays appear set to complete the first round of managerial interviews this week when they meet with Angels bench coach Joe Maddon on Tuesday and seek a telephone conversation with Bobby Valentine, still managing in Japan. After that, they are likely to cut the field to a small group of finalists.
Valentine, whose Chiba Lotte team is in the championships, was quoted Saturday by the Associated Press saying he was happy in Japan and has "no other thought" except returning next year for the third and final year of his contract.
That is the right thing to say, but if the Rays, or Dodgers, who also have interest, offer him a job, he likely would leave, and he has a clause in his contract that allows him to do so. When contacted later Saturday by the Times, Valentine said he indeed was interested in exploring the Rays' situation. "I would be excited to talk to them," he wrote in an e-mail.
DUELING VOICES: The Rays' connection to the World Series runs deeper than the former players on the rosters.
Rays TV announcer Dewayne Staats grew up an Astros fan, spent eight years broadcasting their games and is the father-in-law of Houston reliever (and ex-Ray) Dan Wheeler. Rays radio announcer Dave Wills grew up a White Sox fan, spent 10-plus years working on their broadcasts and is close with a number of team officials.
So what do they think of the matchup?
Staats: "As much as the White Sox try to make out of not having been there since 1959, the Astros have never been there. ... It's been really fun on two levels to go to these postseason games and sit in the stands and cheer for this ballclub on a childhood basis and on a family basis. ... It's really been a thrilling situation. ... I'd love to say the Astros are going to do it in five games, but I think they'll have to come back (to Chicago) and level and do it probably in seven."
Wills: "The White Sox were my favorite team for the first 40 years of my life, up until I was hired by the Rays Feb. 1, and now they're my second favorite team. ... I'm still rooting for them to pull out a win for their first one. ... The fans of Chicago deserve it. Well, the White Sox fans deserve it; I don't care too much about Cubs fans. ... I think it will be a fun series, with every pitch meaning something. ... I'm hoping the White Sox win it in six games because I have tickets to Game 6."
MISCELLANY: The Yankees are looking to hire Larry Bowa as third-base coach and Lee Mazzilli as bench coach, and are hoping to land Ron Guidry as pitching coach. ... Orel Hershiser is the latest candidate for the Dodgers' job, joining ex-Rays coach Terry Collins, Rays candidate Alan Trammell, Jerry Royster, Ron Wotus and Torey Lovullo.