Mackanin was twice an interim skipper in the big leagues -- with the Pirates in 2005 and the Reds in the 2007 -- but he's never been handed the reins full-time. For the last three seasons, he's been Charlie Manuel's bench coach in Philadelphia, and before Monday, he had been on just one interview to become a big league manager.
With a resume like his, the question that follows him is: "Why not you?"
"I don't know," he said. "I can't answer that."
Later in a 20-minute session with the Boston media, Mackanin joked when asked if he ever wondered what the holdup was.
"I don't ask. My wife asks me all the time," Mackanin said. "Well, of course I've wondered, you know. I don't know. Whatever happens, happens, I'm good with it. I'm happy to have an opportunity just to have somebody listen to me."
Listen the Red Sox did on Monday, and they asked some in-depth questions, too. Mackanin said the process, led by Boston's general manager Ben Cherington, was "a little more extensive, a little more in-depth," than what he had seen before. Cherington described this first round of interviews as a getting-to-know-you process, but his questions were in-depth.
"I can't divulge it. It's like laboratory-tested by the Boston Red Sox," Mackanin said. "It's kind of an interesting little scenario they put you through. Just basically going over strategy in games and things like that. A lot of good questions, a lot of different questions, a lot of outside-the-box questions and inside-the-box questions. When you're not used to talking all day long since 9 in the morning, it gets a little bit tricky."
Cherington said he liked what he saw in Mackanin. Rarely, though, during a process like this would a GM say otherwise.
"I was impressed by him as a person. He's certainly got a good sense of who he is," Cherington said. "He's got a good maturity about him. He's got baseball wisdom. He's been through a lot in this game, all different sorts of jobs and all different sorts of places, and he's got some tricks up his sleeve, I think, because of those experiences."
Mackanin did not get into the Red Sox's demise from this September, declining to address the issue of alcohol in the clubhouse or what actions he would have taken that month if it were his club. He did explain, though, that balance is a key part of his philosophy when it comes to discipline, giving an analogy to parenting.
"I used to tell my son, I wear two caps, one has a D on it, one has a P on it," said Mackanin. "One is for dad, the other is for pal. When I have the P cap on, we're pals, when I put the D cap on, you do what I tell you. There's a juggling act that's involved in that to where you have to have enough discipline, but at the same time let the players play easy."
Balance, too, applied to Mackanin's view of the importance of statistics in making decisions. Hard to expect anything else from someone who's worn so many hats.
As a manager, Mackanin's style would represent a patchwork of influences -- Gene Mauch being chief among them -- but it's one of Mackanin's earliest teachers who would impress Red Sox fans most.
"You know, it's funny, and I should've said this, 1972 was my first year in a big league camp, and I was with the Rangers," Mackanin said. "Ted Williams was the manager. So, I played for Ted Williams. I should've said that from the outset. He was my favorite manager.
"Since then, I've played for Whitey Herzog, Billy Martin, Dick Williams, Bobby Cox, Gene Mauch, Dallas Green, Danny Ozark. I don't want to leave any of them out, but a lot of pretty good managers that had a lot of success. And I've taken a little something from everyone."
The last time Mackanin was an interim manager, he turned around a Reds team that had the worst record in the Majors on July 1, the day he took over. He wasn't kept on, he said, because the Reds were set on a big-name manager. Dusty Baker took over.
"If you believe that you need a big-name manager, I can't convince you otherwise," Mackanin said. "That's just your opinion. I don't happen to believe that is that important."