20 questions the Blue Jays should ask managerial candidates

Ross Atkins, general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, attends a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018. (Chris Young/CP)

Toronto Blue Jays decision makers have determined what they want in a manager: someone ‘tough, smart and passionate’ who can push the organization forward by communicating and innovating.

In the abstract, those qualities sound great. The hard part is deciding who has the right combination of those traits.

Considering the impact a manager can have on an organization, the stakes for the ongoing managerial search is high. An effective question during an interview can reveal something about a candidate’s experience or line of thinking.

Keeping that in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 20 questions I would ask a Toronto Blue Jays managerial candidate. The questions aren’t intended to trip candidates up, because the Blue Jays aren’t expected to take on an adversarial tone in interviews. Rather, they’re designed to reveal what you can’t see on a resume.

My questions are just for fun–and are entirely the product of my imagination. So to John McDonald, Chris Woodward, Sandy Alomar Jr. or any other candidates who may be reading this, don’t expect to be asked them if your name is called and don’t let them distract you from your own prep work.

On At the Letters, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans inside the Blue Jays and around MLB with news, analysis and interviews.

GENERAL EXPERIENCE QUESTIONS

Q: What are some times that you’ve innovated in your role? When people objected, how did you respond? What did you learn?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills… how progressive is the candidate?

Q: How have you helped people grow professionally? What did you learn from those experiences?
Purpose: determine the candidate’s ability to develop others

Q: How have you delegated in your past roles? What responsibilities would you delegate as Blue Jays manager?
Purpose: determine the candidate’s willingness to rely on others

INTER-PERSONAL EXPERIENCE QUESTIONS

Q: Tell me about a time that two players on your team were in conflict with one another. How did you handle it? Would you handle it the same way next time?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills, ability to learn

Q: Think back to a player who frustrated you. Bad body language. Too much time playing video games. Selfish play on the field. Whatever it was, how did you handle it? What did you learn?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills, ability to learn

Q: Can you think of an experience where you had to tell a veteran player he was going to lose playing time to accommodate younger players? What did you learn from that?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills, ability to learn

Q: When you’ve faced public criticism in the past, how did you respond? What did you learn?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills, ability to learn. How self-assured is the candidate?

Q: What about criticism behind the scenes? What’s the biggest blow-up you’ve had with a player? If the same situation arose again, would you respond in the same way?
Purpose: assess communication, inter-personal skills, problem-solving skills, ability to learn

MLB-baseball-Toronto-Blue-Jays-Giles-pitches-against-Red-Sox
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ken Giles. (Fred Thornhill/CP)

BASEBALL OPINION QUESTIONS

Q: Who do you consider the best manager in baseball? Why?
Purpose: determine what the candidate values in a manager

Q: How do you assess Teoscar Hernandez as a defender now? How do you view him as a defender going forward?
Purpose: a few questions like this would help assess the candidate’s preparation (in this instance they would hopefully realize Hernandez had a poor defensive season despite good speed and a strong arm)

Q: Under what circumstances would you recommend using the ‘opener’ strategy?
Purpose: assess the candidate’s strategic thinking

WHAT-IF QUESTIONS

Q: A player tweets or says something racist, sexist or homophobic. He meets the media with the intention of apologizing, but doubles down instead. Now it’s national news. What do you say publicly? What do you do behind the scenes?
Purpose: assess the candidate’s problem solving, communication skills

Q: Troy Tulowitzki says he’ll pack up his bags and go home if he’s not playing shortstop. At the end of spring training he’s healthy, but you prefer Lourdes Gurriel Jr. at short. What do you do?
Purpose: assess communication skills, determine how the candidate would incorporate input from other departments

Q: The 2019 opening day roster is announced and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. isn’t on it. What do you tell the media?
Purpose: assess communication skills

Q: As you’re boarding a plane for a West Coast trip, a front office member emails you video of a 2019 draft prospect from your hometown, asking for your scouting input. You’re interested but exhausted. What do you do?
Purpose: assess boundary-setting ability, communication skills

Q: A player considered ‘soft’ by fans and media says he needs a couple days off. You could really use him. What do you do?
Purpose: how far would the candidate push a player? … what resources does he consider to help the player?

Q: Someone from the training staff tells you that they’ve noticed that a player’s not using his lower half as much as usual and may be hurt. The stats tell you he’s 10 for his last 23. How do you respond?
Purpose: assess the candidate’s problem-solving skills

Q: Five minutes before first pitch, your starter’s back tightens up. He can’t pitch. What options do you consider as you look to cover those innings?
Purpose: assess the candidate’s problem-solving skills

Q: If you become the next manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, what would you do to ensure you’re ready on Day 1 of spring training?
Purpose: understand the candidate’s off-season vision and preparation

Q: Professionally speaking, what does success look like to you?
Purpose: determine how the candidate self-evaluates

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