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Ranking The Current MLB Managers
Managers don’t throw a single pitch. They don’t take a single grounder, get a single hit, or score a single run. Yet having the right manager is the key to winning. Managers get a lot of credit for their team’s success (Buck Showalter), but when teams fail, managers take a bulk of the blame (Ozzie Guillen). I’ve decided to take a look at the 30 MLB managers and rank them based upon success, managing ability, and who’d I want as my guy if I were starting a team today. This has become sort of an annual tradition and I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a while. Like last year, I won’t be ranking rookie managers who have yet to coach a single MLB game. I’ll give them a chance to prove themselves rather than arbitrarily ranking them, or doing it based on gut feeling alone.
- Bruce Bochey, San Francisco Giants- Previous Ranking (9) : If you win two world championships in three season you must be pretty close to the best manager in baseball. Bochey has dealt with major injuries to key players without missing a beat. Last season, he lost his closer after only two appearances and still won the Series. Additionally, it has become the Giants’s style to make key additions mid-season and Bochey has done a masterful job integrating big name players while in the middle of a playoff push. Most importantly, Bruce kept his team motivated even when they lost one of their best hitters to steroid suspension and while their division rival was adding some of the best players in the game seemingly every week.
- Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles- Previous Ranking (8): Buck took a team with no starting pitching, no excitement, no energy, and the toughest divisional opponents in baseball and won 93 games, made the playoffs, and pushed the Yankees to a decisive Game 5 in the ALDS while galvanizing a fan base. He and his team gutted out a ton of one run games and extra inning affairs, often thanks to Buck’s incredible handling of the bullpen. There is talk that he might be getting a much deserved extension.
- Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s – Previous Ranking (27): Similar to Showalter, Melvin took a team that no one expected to do anything and won the AL West ahead of powerhouses Texas and Anaheim. He won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2012, and was really the only guy who could have finished above Buck that wouldn’t have sparked vitriolic word-riots across the interwebs.
- Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals- Previous Ranking (15): I said last year would be a test for Davey Johnson. It was, and he passed with flying colors. He guided a young, inexperienced team to the best record in the NL and had to get a difficult 19 year old with an attitude to buy into the system as well. Great job by him last year but, in his final season as manger, it’s time to push the Nats over the top.
- Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays- Previous Ranking (1): Last year’s top manager didn’t disappoint but didn’t make the playoffs either. He’s still baseball’s Bill Belichick, running circles around lesser mangers with his new age thinking and appropriate reliance on advanced stats. He continues to take teams with payrolls dwarfed by his competitors and win games over them.
- Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians- Previous Ranking (NR): Baseball’s Bill Cowher is back from the broadcast booth. The Collapse in Boston cost him his job but he still won two titles with a cursed franchise. If he wants to win one in Cleveland this year, he’ll really have to channel his inner Showalter/Melvin.
- Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals- Previous Ranking (NR): His first season as manager was also the Cards’ first season post-Albert Pujols. Matheny didn’t miss a beat, guiding a team short its top pitcher in Chris Carpenter and with a newly-minted Ace in Adam Wainwright, all the way to the NLCS.
- Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox- Previous Ranking (NR): In his first season managing, Ventura spent most of the year in first place. Though the team faded at the end, they lead the vastly superior Tigers for most of the year, an impressive feat. Also, Ventura deftly handled the emergence of Ace Chris Sale.
- Joe Girardi, New York Yankees- Previous Ranking (10): A-Rod slumps, media hoards, injuries to CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Michael Pineda, and MAriano Rivera, playoff drama, and a team-wide offensive meltdown–Girardi had to deal with just about everything last season, including integrating a former superstar (Ichiro) into a backup role and benching the highest paid player ever. The team still won 95 games and made it to the ALCS.
- Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels- Previous Ranking (5): A disappointing season despite a very talented roster. Scoscia lost some front office power this year too. He’s still a top 10 manager, however.
- Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies- Previous Ranking (3): Same deal for Manuel, a disappointing 2012 has bumped him down the list but he’s still been amazingly successful in Philly and handled the disaster that was last season (not his fault, injuries, bad luck, and underperformance) well.
- Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers-Previous Ranking (4): I thought the Tigers underperformed last season. They were way too talented to squeak into the playoffs with only 88 wins. They got to the Worlds Series however.
- Terry Collins, New York Mets- Previous Ranking (14): The Mets lack of talent caught up with them but for a while there the team was surprisingly competitive.
- Freddie Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves- Previous Ranking (12): I liked the way Freddi rode the wave with Kris Medlen last season. It’ll be interesting to see him manage without the leadership of Chipper Jones in 2013. He fell a couple spots on the list not so much because of anything he did but because of the increased strength of a managerial roster without Bobby Valentine and Jim Tracey on it.
- Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates- Previos Ranking (13): For the second straight year, the promising Pirates faded at the end of the year. I can’t help but think that a better manager could keep that from happening. Take 3 for Hurdle in 2013.
- Ron Washington, Texas Rangers- Previous Ranking (2): The big fade at the end of the year was bad and cost the team dearly in the playoffs. There has been a lot of talk about Washington’s in game managerial issues but it has so far been overshadowed by the team’s successes. Not anymore.
- Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers-Previous Ranking (6): I was super high on Roenicke last winter but a terrible start to the season and some unnecessary bullpen drama has brought me back to earth. I still think he has the potential to be a top manager going forward.
- Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins- Previous Ranking (7): Another miserable summer awaits Ron as the modest pitching improvements wont help the team in 2013 against a strong division.
- Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks- Previous Ranking (11): Kirk has a big year ahead of him. After taking the Dbacks from last to first in his first season, the team was disappointing last year. He has a good roster so this year will show us a lot about Gibson’s acumen in the dugout.
- John Farrell, Boston Red Sox- Previous Ranking (16): He can’t possibly be worse than Valentine. Boston has wanted him at the helm for a while now, let’s see what happens now that they finally have their man.
- Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds- Previous Ranking (20): A 90+ win season was impressive, as was the division crown. I’m a bit concerned about this Aroldis Chapman to the rotation situation as it smells of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.
- Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals- Previous Ranking (21): This is what I wrote last year: “Another guy facing a big year . The Royals finally have all their pieces, let’s see what Yost can do with them.” Still holds.
- Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers – Previous Ranking (18): He had a stellar roster and could have done better last season. 86 wins and missing the playoffs isn’t going to cut it again. He needs to learn from his time in New York with Joe Torre to make this season as successful as it should be.
- Dale Sveum, Chicago Cubs- Previous Ranking (28): I got nothing. The Cubs were terrible but that’s not really on Sveum. He’s likely in for another long summer as Theo Epstein rebuilds.
- Eric Wedge, Seattle Mariners- Previous Ranking (26): Still nothing. The Mariners should be better this year with the additions of Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez (I guess, I’m stretching here. Not sure if you can tell) but they won’t compete. Wedge still hasn’t shown anything to make me rank him higher.
- John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays- Previous Ranking (NR): His only job prior to this one was also with the Blue Jays. They fired him. He has a great team now so this should be interesting to watch.
- Bud Black, San Diego Padres- Previous Ranking (19): I have nothing to say about Bud Black. Sorry, Bud.
Unranked: Bo Porter, Houston Astros. Walt Weiss, Colorado Rockies. Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins.