San Diego Padres general manager Josh Byrnes is curious about how the Boston Red Sox manager search will proceed, but he has a better idea than most.
Byrnes was part of the group that interviewed managers after the 2003 season and ultimately hired Terry Francona. During that process, Byrnes helped to formulate a general outline that Theo Esptein, Jed Hoyer and Ben Cherington used while conducting the interviews.
"That's the only time I've been part of it," said Byrnes, who left the Red Sox organization after 2005 to become the GM of the Diamondbacks.
"Theo probably had five or six general topics, and then there are points you want to hit on beneath those topics. Along with Jed, we went around and refined how we wanted the interview to go. It was Theo's nature to be pretty exhaustive. There was even a multiple choice thing in there, which was intended to lighten the mood. It was good. We were careful not to make too much of the interview, but in that particular process those two guys -- [finalists Terry Francona and Joe Maddon] -- stood out. Ultimately, Tito, with his experience doing it in a big market, a year of front office work sandwiched in between and doing it that way, made him the clear choice at that point."
The interviews are obviously important, but Byrnes said the steps preceding the interviews are also crucial.
"There are steps," Byrnes said. "You lay out the criteria you want with the club, the market, the impact on the players, the impact on the fans and the media and the impact on scouting and development. All the things a manager is going to touch. Then you start calling around, asking opinions you trust, and I think that part is a little underrated. A lot of my closest friends and people I knew in the game knew Tito really well, but I really didn't know him and neither did Theo. But he was a name that came up a lot, as did Joe Maddon.
"You want to be aware it's an interview and just one day. You want to be aware of the guy's body of work."
"Theo did a great job of making it an exhaustive process," he said. "We touched on a lot of things. Obviously, everybody talks about the game simulation stuff, and that was fine and part of it. But Tito stood out. He was a very easy guy to talk to, getting his thoughts on the team, winning that market and his experiences in Philadelphia. And he really wanted the job. I think he was hungry to take it. Based on what we heard, he was as advertised.
"You get a feel for his personality. You get a feel for the person. Is it 50 percent? It's a decent chunk, but again, we don't want to be overly influenced by it, either."
Byrnes said the interview process is necessary and helpful, but can't be the only deciding factor.
"You want to put them in situations where they have to respond, but again, some things are hard to simulate in an interview," he said. "You're not going to be able to simulate middle of September in Boston this year, or being down 3-0 to the Yankees. It's hard to simulate things in an interview.
"I think Tito had a really good sense what battles were worth fighting, and when to delegate or let the players handle situations. He had a good sense of reacting enough, and not really overreacting. His sense for a team and sense for individuals was pretty good. I think we felt that in the interview, but until you work with him you don't really see that in action."