Longtime Yankees coach Rob Thomson emphasized his ability to speak with players as he became the first person to audition for the New York manager job that opened when Joe Girardi was jettisoned last month.
A 54-year-old Canadian who has been with the Yankees for 28 seasons, Thomson spent a decade as a coach under Girardi. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman cited “connectivity” with players as the reason to part with Girardi.
“I really don’t want to compare myself to Joe. I love Joe,” Thomson said during a media session Thursday, a day after his five-to-six-hour interview. “But I do know this. My strengths are my communication and my trust with the players, and because of that trust we can implement more things into our game, whether it be analytics or sports science, whatever it is. ... I’m intense, but I’m still calm and I’m still poised.
After playing in Detroit’s minor league system from 1985-88, Thomson was hired by the Yankees in 1990 as third-base coach at Class A Fort Lauderdale. He spent five seasons coaching, then managed Class A Oneonta in the New York-Penn League in 1995, his only time as a skipper.
He was third base coach at Triple-A Columbus from 1996-97, became a field coordinator in 1998, director of player development in 2000 and vice president of minor league development before the 2003 season. He served as a special assignment instructor from 2004-06 and major league field coordinator in 2007.
Thomson moved to the major league coaching staff when Girardi replaced Joe Torre, serving as bench coach in 2008, third-base coach from 2009-14 and again as bench coach for the past three seasons.
“I’ve always wanted to manage. I love it,” Thomson said. “Every game I’ve ever watched or been a part, I’ve kind of managed it in my mind.”
He was interviewed Wednesday by Cashman, assistant general managers Jean Afterman and Mike Fishman, vice president of baseball operations Tim Naehring and assistant director of professional scouting Dan Giese.
Thomson’s only previous manager interview was by telephone with Toronto after the 2010 season, when the Blue Jays hired John Farrell. This one was more involved.
“It was tiring. It wore me down,” he said. “I went back to the hotel and I was night-night in a hurry.”
Thomson realizes the job of a big league manager has changed in recent years.
“The analytics and the sports science have gone to a new level,” he said. “It’s not like we’ve never looked at numbers, but the numbers have evolved so much and there’s so much to it and they’re such great tools to have. It’s like watching video — it’s another tool to have. And if you’re not paying attention to it and you’re not utilizing the analysts that are upstairs, I think you’re kind of foolish.”
Cashman has not specified how many people he plans to interview or his timetable. Former Yankees David Cone and John Flaherty, both analysts for the team’s YES Network, said Wednesday they would like to be considered. They spoke at the annual dinner of Torre’s foundation.
Thomson says he understands the crucible the Yankees manager often is thrown into in the New York market.
“I know that I’m going to make mistakes, and I know that I’m going to be challenged in the media because of mistakes,” he said. “It’s part of the game. Got it. I’ve made mistakes when I was coaching third base, and it was certainly been well documented. So I’ve been through it before.”
AP | By RONALD BLUM