So we’ve had five managers lose their jobs since the start of their team’s offseason: Terry Collins with the Mets, Pete Mackanin with the Phillies, John Farrell with the Red Sox, Brad Ausmus with the Tigers, and most recently, Dusty Baker with the Nationals. The Nationals and Phillies positions have yet to be filled and I will briefly discuss their situations. As for the other three teams, the Mets have hired away former Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the Tigers have hired Diamondbacks bench coach Ron Gardenhire, and the Red Sox will make their hiring of Astros bench coach Alex Cora official after the Astros finish the World Series. I talked in the John Farrell article that I linked above about what I think of Ron Gardenhire so I won’t go into too much depth about his hiring with the Tigers. So let’s look over the managerial hires.
Mickey Callaway to the Mets:
This was long overdue. Callaway is, or was, in my opinion the best pitching coach in baseball and now you give him an extremely talented group of starting pitchers that underachieved last season as a whole. It just makes too much sense for the Mets to hire Callaway. He had great success, particularly over the last two or three seasons as the Indians pitching coach. I think he did a great job getting the most he can out of Trevor Bauer, who is a really talented pitcher but can’t seem to get out of his own way. He also did a good job with Josh Tomlin, who would give up bomb after bomb but then when the Indians needed a big game out of him, like in the 2016 postseason, he stepped up and delivered. For the Mets, Noah Syndergaard missed almost the entire season due to a lat issue while Matt Harvey has pretty much disappeared into oblivion and Steven Matz refuses to take the next step. Jacob deGrom was the only member of that super rotation whom I felt had a strong season and even then his numbers were low-end number 2 starter high-end number 3 (3.53 ERA). Callaway is going to be a huge addition to getting this Mets team back into relevance because this is the most talented pitching staff he’s ever had to work with, and that’s really saying something considering the talent he had on that Indians staff.
Ron Gardenhire to the Tigers:
I like Gardenhire a lot, he did a great job with the Twins from 2002-2014 especially considering they never had much of a payroll to work with. The Tigers had one of the highest payrolls in baseball before things went south and they gutted the team. I don’t know if there will be immediate success with Gardenhire in Detroit, but I am confident that he will set the Tigers back on the right track in short time.
Alex Cora to the Red Sox
Alex Cora is a guy I’ve heard a lot of hype surrounding his potential managerial career even while he was still playing. There was a point in the 2007 season where rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia was struggling and Cora, seeing how much talent Pedroia had, worked with him to get better even though it would likely cost Cora his shot at a starting job at second base, which it did. Pedroia, with Cora’s help, went on to win the 2007 AL Rookie of the Year and helped lead Boston to the 2007 World Series championship and he followed that up with the 2008 AL MVP, the first by a second baseman in over 50 years. Basically every single Red Sox hitter took a big step back last season, most notably Xander Bogaerts and Cora seems like the right guy to get these guys back on track to the potent offense they can be.
The Nationals Job
The Nationals got ousted in Game 5 of the 2017 NLDS and it proved to be Dusty Baker’s last game as manager of the Nationals despite easily winning the NL East with a 97-65 record. This has to be a very desirable job in the short term, long term we will have to wait and see. The short term is that this is a LOADED roster, with All Star potential all over the pitching rotation and up and down the lineup. The problem may revolve around Bryce Harper, the Nats superstar outfielder. He is set to hit free agency after the conclusion of the 2018 season and the Nats aren’t expected to be able to retain him. They shelled out a big contract to Stephen Strasburg last year and with the current salaries on payroll, there won’t be the cap space to give Bryce Harper the $300M contract he would likely be able to get. If I’m GM Mike Rizzo, I want to be in win-right-the-fuck-now mode. Bryce Harper’s going to be gone soon and there may be a Phillies-esque contract situation where you may have given out too many huge contracts that it weights your team down when the guys’ skills start to deteriorate. Hell, Max Scherzer signed a 7-year $210M deal, but they’re going to spread the payments out over 14 years. So for 7 years after Scherzer’s contract is up, he will be making $15M a year to not play for the Nationals. Great for Scherzer, awful for the future Nats. You want to at least be like Ruben Amaro Jr and be able to hang your hat on that one World Series title you got when you need to find your next job. For Amaro, that job was first base coach of the Boston Red Sox. But Rizzo has yet to have that manager that gets them over the top. So who fits the bill? Certainly not Brad Ausmus, he had loads of talent in Detroit and couldn’t do better than a 90 win season and a quick playoff exit. The other top candidates that I listed above are all gone. Gene Lamont doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in Detroit. One name I would keep an eye on for these Nats is their current pitching coach Mike Maddux. Maddux’s name was thrown all over the place as a potential managerial candidate when he was pitching coach of the Texas Rangers when they went to back-to-back World Series’ from 2010-11. Those talks never gained much traction and he has yet to get a real gig. The team won 97 games this year so I think an in-house hire might be a good idea in this situation because you want to keep up that regular season success. You just need a guy that can get you over the top. Maddux has potential, but he’s not a sure thing like what Joe Maddon was when he left the Rays and joined the Cubs. It’ll be risky because there has to be some sort of reason why Maddux never got a managerial job, but I think he would be the safest choice for Washington.
The Phillies Job
This has to be one of the most undesirable jobs in baseball. The Phillies are sorely lacking in the talent department and have been for quite some time. They are finally rid of Ryan Howard’s enormous contract and can at long last make some plays for some free agents. The problem will be convincing guys to come play for Philly. First of all, I know this is a little unfair but their reputation precedes them, is finding a guy who can deal with the fans. Philly fans are notorious for being ruthless when things aren’t going well and even when they are, they still find something to boo. That’s probably overgeneralizing, but the fact of the matter is these fans have been starved for good baseball for over 5 years now and those dominant teams of the late-2000’s seems like a long lost memory. I felt that Pete Mackanin got as much out of the lack of talent that the team had as he could, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The Phillies went 66-96 in 2017, second worst record in the NL and they need to find a guy they can trust for the long haul to be part of a rebuild. Philly sports has been known for “Trust the Process” as the 76ers and Joel Embiid have made so popular, and it’s high time the Phillies showed some semblance of a process. They don’t appear to have any direction. Personally, if I’m Team President Andy McPhail, I would clean house and start from scratch. I’d trade every asset I have for top prospects and find a GM with a fresh take on how the organization should be run. That’s basically what the Astros did a few years ago and look at them now. The Phillies really don’t have much going for them and if you’re going to suck, you might as well build towards the future. But who should be the manager for this team? Well the Phillies are amazingly in week 4 of their search, which is bonkers to me. If you’re going to let a manager go, you’ve got to have some sort of succession plan. Hell, Dave Dombrowski was considering his options for next Red Sox manager during the ALDS when Farrell still held the damn job! One guy I think would be perfect for this job is Gabe Kapler. I may be biased because he was a beloved member of the Red Sox teams from my youth, but this guy was neck and neck with Dave Roberts for the Dodgers job a couple years ago. If an organization like the Dodgers is seriously considering you as comparable to as good a manager as Roberts, there’s got to be something to it. I don’t know a whole lot about Kapler’s abilities as an in-game manager, but I do know that he is a likable guy who really helps tie a clubhouse together. He’s currently the director of player development with the Dodgers and you’ve seen what kinds of rookies they’ve turned out over the last couple years as well as some of the breakout seasons they’ve had (ie: Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor). If a guy does that well with developing young talent, then he would be the perfect candidate to lead a rebuild.
Those are my thoughts on the current managerial situations around baseball. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.