Speaking of Managers…

Bill Masse / Photo by Mike Ashmore (2007)

In case you’re wondering about the whereabouts of former Thunder manager Bill Masse, never fear…

Billy has signed on to become the manager of the San Antonio Missions, the Double-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. 

Masse spent two very successful seasons as the Thunder manager in 2005 and 2006, and was ridiculously fired in part due to controversial comments about uber-prospect at the time Phil Hughes in one of the local papers.

“The funny thing with Phil and all that stupid stuff that got blown out of proportion was all I ever wanted to do was do what’s best for Phil,” Masse told me last season.

“My only point that I made, back when I made it, was that if you’re going to bring Phil Hughes to the big leagues, you better build him up to know what it’s like to pitch in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.”

It was hard not to think of Masse when Hughes, pitching into the seventh inning for the first time since a June 18, 2006 start for the Thunder, pulled his hamstring after 6.1 no-hit innings in just his second Major League game early in the 2007 season.

“It’s baseball, guys are going to get hurt,” he said. “It probably could have happened to Phil earlier in the game, who knows. Did Phil Hughes get hurt because he’d never gone seven innings in his professional career? Probably not. But why take that chance?”

Although hindsight is 20-20, it’s hard to argue with his point.

Anyway, he then spent one season as the manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, nearly leading them to a playoff berth last year before ultimately being fired for the second time in two years, this time by the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

His return to Trenton was greatly anticipated by fans and especially the media, but he offered little in the way of inflammatory comments regarding the Thunder.

“Trenton was definitely a place I was looking forward to coming back to,” Masse said. “The situation with me and the Yankees had nothing to do with Trenton.”

Having had a year to look back on everything, he downplayed the Yankee firing.

“It’s minor league baseball, so some people made a big deal about it,” he said.

“I was only here for two years, it’s not like I was Joe Torre and I spent eleven years somewhere.”

I liked Masse a lot, and greatly enjoyed his competitive spirit and brutal honesty.  On a personal note, he always had time for me, and gave me a break if I’d missed his group sessions with the media before the game.  Considering it was my first year of covering the team, that was always much appreciated. 

I think that he can go far in the right organization, but was probably a little too abrasive for the Yankees organization more than anything else.

If I were to pick an All-Thunder team for the 15th anniversary, and that sounds like a blog post if there ever was one, it would be hard not to make either DeMarlo Hale or Ken Macha my choice as manager.  But certainly, Masse and Tony Franklin would receive some consideration as well.  My pick?  Sounds like you’ll have to stay tuned for that…

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com

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5 Responses to “Speaking of Managers…”

  1. Erik Says:

    I liked Masse when he was the manager,He did a great job when he was with Tampa before coming to Trenton.But my vote for Manager of the 15Th Anniversary Team would have to be Tony Franklin for bringing home the HARDWARE!!Ken Macha would be second followed by Masse and Hale.

    Perhaps Masse would have been a coach with the Yankees in the Bronx by now,if thoose comments were never made.But thats the way it happened,I wish him luck with Padres Organization,and glad to see him land somewheres.

  2. thunderbaseball Says:

    Perhaps the manager of the 15th Anniversary Team isn’t as much of a foregone conclusion as I’d thought.

    I’m thinking of doing something related to this for my Opening Day coverage, and I’m going to have to put a lot of thought into my selections. I just never really thought that the manager was something that would require as much thought as the others, but the way you’ve ordered your candidates makes me wonder if that’s how the majority of Thunder fans feel.

    “I’m sure the Ron Johnson era will get some votes,” said the sarcastic man.

  3. steve braun Says:

    Hi Mike. Thanks for bring me up to date on the whereabouts of Bill Masse.

    On your pick for a manager for the 15th anniversary. I have had the oppurtuniy to coach for or get to know several of the Thunder managers you mentioned. You have a very tough job picking just one. Each one had their own style and baseball qualities. They all shared one quality, that is the dedication to the teaching and preparing the players for the major leagues. The Thunder fans have been very lucky to have such fine group of managers run their team.

    Steve

  4. thunderbaseball Says:

    Wow, it’s a privilege to have someone like Steve Braun checking this blog out and posting here. For those who don’t know, Steve was a very accomplished Major Leaguer and Trenton native who was a member of the 1982 World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

    Thunder fans might know him best as the hitting coach on the 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2004 incarnations of the team. It’s an honor to have someone such as Steve posting here, and I welcome his input.

    I actually remember asking him for an autograph on several occasions at the ballpark back when I first started going to Thunder games during that 1999 season.

    You can check out Steve’s site at http://www.stevebraunbaseball.com/

    As for Steve’s comments, he’s certainly correct in that Thunder fans have been blessed to have such a fine group of managers during the team’s history. Of course, this makes the selection of the best manager in team history all the more difficult.

    Macha led the team to their first playoff berth, Hale led them to an incredible 42 games over .500 in 1999, Masse took them back to the playoffs for the first time since that season, and Franklin brought back the first championship.

    Any one of those accomplishments is enough to take home the honors. It should be an interesting decision.

  5. David Mac Says:

    How about Steve Braun, as I remember, being 1-0 as a Thunder manager? Doesn’t that make him worthy of consideration?

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