MLB: Power Ranking All 30 Managers
Ozzie Guillen may not be long for his role as manager of the Chicago White Sox, as frustration mounts and Guillen grows ever more estranged from GM Kenny Williams. The Florida Marlins remain hot on Guillen's trail, and it would be little surprise if the team hired him to helm the 2012 team in its first year in a new ballpark.
Guillen might draw some fans in Miami simply on the strength of his connections to the community and his notorious antics on the field and before the microphone. That will not lure the sort of huge crowds the Fish need to legitimize the park, though. To do that, they need to win. Can Guillen do that for them?
Possibly so. Believe it or not, as quirky as he is and as uncomfortable as he sometimes makes members of his own organization, Guillen is one of baseball's best managers. As a group, those men get far too much credit for success, and sometimes they also get too much blame for failures.
Guillen would not turn the Marlins into true contenders, but in a different setting, he could be the difference for some team between winning its division and not.
What if your team needed a new manager? Would Guillen top your candidate list? If not, then who? Here are the 30 current big-league skippers, ranked for your decision-making convenience.
30. Jim Tracy
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Most of the time, managerial differences win or lose fewer than five games over the course of the season. This need not be true, but few baseball men have the courage to do anything too far afield from the narrow path of conventional wisdom. (There's actually a movie coming out on that premise in the near future. You might have heard of it.)
Jim Tracy is not afraid. He is willing to shun both statistical common sense and fundamental logic in the formulation of a lineup, utilization of a bullpen and general day-to-day clubhouse management.
As a result, he achieves a consistently outstanding impact on teams he manages: The Rockies underachieve by six or more games every year just because they have Jim Tracy in their dugout.
When you owe a decade-plus career to Eric Gagne, you might be overrated.
29. Clint Hurdle
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The watershed game of the Pirates' stolen season will be the July 26 Atlanta marathon. The most discussed moment therein will be the terrible call that ended that game in the 19th inning.
What fewer people will remember is that, despite demanding 5.1 innings of reliever Daniel McCutchen, Hurdle never called for his relief ace, Joel Hanrahan. Hanrahan had pitched the two previous days but had piled up just 25 combined pitches in those outings. If nothing else, as soon as McCutchen got into trouble in that inning, Hurdle should have given in and called for his bullpen ace.
That common flaw—a rigid adherence to an archaic, destructively hierarchical bullpen structure—is not the sole reason Hurdle is here. He's also an obnoxious presence, the kind of skipper who demands a lot from players and gets maximum effort, but who also goes too far with his intensity and his efforts to be gregarious.
28. Mike Quade
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Quade has spent time pointing fingers at the Cubs' best long-term asset, Starlin Castro. He has spent time arguing with umpires, getting tossed seven times this year and being justified in his arguments less than half the time in those instances.
He has brutally mismanaged the team's already sketchy pitching staff and is a big reason a team with 80-plus win talent will not even win 75.
This was his first year at the top step of a big-league dugout; it will be his last too.
27. Jack McKeon
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It had been so long since McKeon managed an MLB team that, when he took over as Marlins skipper this season, no one really remembered what kind of game he ran.
A half-season later, we have only one firm reminder: McKeon has led the Marlins to sacrifice bunt more often than any team in the National League.
That's not always bad baseball, but given that the Marlins (Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez and company) rely much more on power than on-base skills to score runs, it makes no sense. McKeon is old and unlikely to be back in 2012, but he sure didn't help the Fish win games during his brief return to action.
26. Ned Yost
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It takes a special manager to get fired with 12 games left in a playoff hunt, but Yost turned the trick after a tumultuous couple months in Milwaukee in 2008.
Incidentally, the Brewers went on to win that race, and it may not be coincidence that they did it without Yost. He really abdicates the duty of a manager to handle the clubhouse and get the most possible out of the talent therein.
Worse, he's a crummy tactician. Yost has the Royals laying down more sac bunts than any team in the AL, and for a team with five hitters exceeding a .460 slugging average, that only hurts their scoring chances.
25. Fredi Gonzalez
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One thing Bobby Cox did not do well during his long and spectacular tenure in Atlanta was handle pitchers. Whatever you think of Leo Mazzone, whose success was too often dismissed as the product of working with three Hall of Famers, he kept those guys on the field and helped Cox manipulate the bullpen better than Cox ever did after Mazzone left.
Hyped as a Cox disciple who would carry forward the Braves legacy, Gonzalez has proven to share that insensitivity to hurlers' needs. He has worked Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens into the ground and might be on the verge of doing the same thing with Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.
Gonzalez has also struggled to find a batting order that makes sense, spending half the season playing the wrong guys or batting them in the wrong places.
On the other hand, he does not seem to have Cox's knack for appeasing veterans without coddling them or for developing young players. So he has that going for him.
24. Brad Mills
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Houston's roster is a mess. No one could have done much with it.
Mills' reputation, though, is a bit of a problem. Somehow, just two years into the gig, he is known as a rancorous, brooding personality. Far from being grateful for his big break in the game, Mills seems to resent the predicament he has waded into.
Veterans don't like him much. Houston's pitchers don't like him at all. He often leaves them out to get knocked around, apparently trying to preserve his bullpen. Although several teams have more qualified pitchers for the task, no one in the NL has as many 100-plus-pitch outings from starting pitchers this season.
23. Terry Collins
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When Sparky Anderson got his first managerial job, with Cincinnati in 1969, the headlines in Cincinnati read, "Sparky Who?" At 35, Anderson was young, but he had very little experience in and around the big leagues. He was derided for his outsider status. One of his own players called him a "minor-league motherf-----" when Anderson ruffled some feathers.
That worked out all right, though. Anderson went on to one of the best managerial careers in baseball history, winning three World Series and six pennants. Ever since, teams have tried to find the next Sparky.
Last winter, the Mets and Cubs sought out guys without the usual résumé of even rookie managerial candidates, and the experiments have flopped badly.
Is it the end for Collins? Probably not. Is it his fault the Mets are not much good? No, at least not entirely. Still, it may be a while before another high-profile job goes to such a low-profile manager.
22. Dusty Baker
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Baker probably owes over half his managerial success to the good fortune of working with Barry Bonds for the first 10 years of his career in the dugout. Since Baker left the Giants after 2002, we have clearly seen a few things:
1. He overworks pitchers, often to the point of causing serious injury. Ask Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Harang.
2. He has failed to establish a positive track record of developing young position players. Whether or not this stems from an excessive devotion to veteran talents, it remains true that players like Corey Patterson, Hee-Seop Choi and Drew Stubbs have struggled to win Baker's confidence and to develop their tools to full effect.
3. Sacrifice bunts and Baker go together, period. That has remained true even as Baker has taken the reins in Cincinnati, where power and speed have been the cornerstones of his offense each year.
21. Davey Johnson
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Compared to the McKeon hiring, bringing Johnson aboard in Washington was an inspired stroke. Walking into a delicate, difficult situation, Johnson has comported and acquitted himself well in the dugout. He could actually be back in 2012, though it's no sure thing.
Johnson's ability to convince even young players to put their trust in him has been an impressive facet of his tenure here.
20. Don Mattingly
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Having the best position player and (arguably) best starting pitcher in the NL should make a .500 record the worst-case scenario. Obviously, that's no guarantee, but the Dodgers still messed things up this season.
Ill prepared for the injuries that piled up as the season progressed, the team left Mattingly's inexperience at the top step—and occasionally unsteady hand on the big wheel—on full display.
19. Tony La Russa
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If there is an indelible Tony La Russa image, it's the one at left. As much as any manager since Sparky Anderson, La Russa has revolutionized bullpen management. If Anderson invented the modern bullpen, La Russa made the final innovations that brought into being the modern closer.
For a long time, he did everything else well too. La Russa might have appeared much nearer the top of the list a half-decade ago.
Since then, it has become apparent that La Russa genuinely prefers certain kinds of players who are not good for a team (the Ryan Theriot models) and that he is out of touch with the culture of the modern game—if his fascination with Glenn Beck weren't proof enough, the calamitous rift that eventually drove Colby Rasmus out of town ought to be.
18. Eric Wedge
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Wedge is a bad manager in many ways, but the right guy for this time and place. He has been the most responsible steward of Felix Hernandez's arm thus far in the ace's career, has gotten promising results from critical young players and has experience being part of rebuilding programs in Cleveland.
Whether or not Wedge is around the next time the Mariners make the playoffs, he has had a decent first season at the helm and shown all the traits of a good and patient player-development skipper.
17. Bud Black
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Managing in extreme run environments of any kind is a tough task. A skipper has to make trade-offs in those cases, and when they helm a cash-poor team like the Padres, those trade-offs can be painful ones at times.
Black, a smart baseball man from the Mike Scioscia school who understands pitchers and deploys them well, is the right man for the task of helping the Padres maximize their home-field advantage with great pitching. He might look even smarter if he still had Adrian Gonzalez.
16. Bob Melvin
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Melvin has clawed his way to the middle of a profession where extremism is encouraged. He fills a uniform well enough but doesn't do much of note nor bring a special personality with him to the clubhouse.
Melvin is a fine interim manager, but one would hope the A's intend to go another direction this winter when they make a permanent hire.
15. Ron Gardenhire
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Gardenhire does not use his bullpen well. He does not do a very good job of identifying, or at least rewarding, the best hitters in his lineup on a daily basis. He seems to begrudge every walk from starting pitchers, to the point that he overuses pitchers who pitch into too much contact to succeed.
All that said, Gardenhire also has some skins on his wall, and he earned them by consistently getting the most out of the talent with which he had to work and winning a lot of games. The Twins have a real team concept in the clubhouse nearly unmatched by any team in any season.
14. Buck Showalter
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The troubling thing about Showalter's time in Baltimore is the continuation of a pattern that has always partially defined Showalter: He doesn't develop pitchers well. In this case, the galling struggles of once-promising Zach Britton, Brian Matusz and others must count against Showalter.
Even so, he has done a fair job of keeping the clubhouse positive and using his veteran leaders to motivate less established players. Ask J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones or Matt Wieters how they have enjoyed Showalter's approach to the game.
Since he is also an above-average tactician in today's MLB, Showalter's credits slightly outweigh his debits.
13. John Farrell
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Farrell has the credit of the Blue Jays' terrific front office at his back and has done only good things in his first year at the top step of the Rogers Centre dugout.
If he keeps up his solid leadership and continues to smartly defer to some of this clubhouse's characters to keep the team energized, Farrell and the Jays will be in the postseason soon.
12. Charlie Manuel
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The consummate players' manager, Manuel looks to give his guys days off, keeps lines of communication open and gives everyone a chance to do the job to which they are set, starting hurlers included.
The team's quartet of elite pitchers have to love the extra batters they get to face in key situations, when a lot of managers would already have them in the showers.
Manuel makes some tactical goofs, especially when it comes to bunt strategy, but more than makes up for those small failings.
11. Joe Girardi
Girardi has made some strange lineup choices over his years at the helm and probably sets too much store by veteran and icon statuses. Still and all, he has proven to be a smarter and more thorough skipper than he was perceived to be during his time in Florida.
Just as importantly, Girardi is beloved of his players. His gesture in spring training 2009—packing the team up for a day and hanging out at a pool hall instead—perfectly summed up his style, and the Yanks very well responded thereto.
10. Ron Roenicke
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Milwaukee had a strange winter, making it clear with its every move that it intended to compete right away in 2011 but hiring a manager utterly without big-league managerial chops.
Roenicke has responded really well to the challenge, though, acting the part of the grizzled veteran from day one and seemingly demanding the world of his players.
Like mentor Mike Scioscia, Roenicke bunts too much and makes some weird choices, but give him credit for shepherding a stars-and-scrubs lineup through the inevitable slumps that lineup battled.
9. Kirk Gibson
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Gibson was a world-class athlete, a once-in-a-lifetime tools package during his time as a player. That kind of player rarely makes a good manager; it's hard to teach that which comes naturally to us.
In Gibson's case, though, the added street cred of two World Series rings and one famous moment of extreme toughness has helped him win the clubhouse and rally the troops to a cause.
Once Arizona reaches the postseason, Gibson's tactical inconsistency might be on display, but for now, he has had a heck of a season.
8. Ron Washington
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Washington refuses to use Neftali Feliz in any spot but the opponent's last at-bat, with the Rangers nursing a small lead. He may be more stubborn on that point than any manager in the game.
Fortunately, though, Washington has a genius for a GM. Jon Daniels learned somewhere (1982, perhaps) that a manager with one major flaw can be transacted around. By beefing up the bullpen so well, Daniels left Washington little opportunity to hurt the club.
Nor is Washington all bad, anyway. He's good at filling out the batting order, tending to put guys in good spots to succeed and keep them there long enough to see how it will actually work.
Most importantly, Rangers could do anything for Washington. Their overwhelming support helped him survive his positive drug test in March 2010, and their dedication makes Washington that much more valuable.
7. Jim Leyland
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Leyland's first gig was with the Pirates, where he had Barry Bonds through Bonds' formative years. Leyland learned two things, however difficult the lessons were:
1. A superstar sometimes needs some extra rope. It's not ideal, but a top producer cannot be limited in all the same ways as his teammates are, regardless of how much a skipper tries.
2. When you have that kind of true impact superstar, stay out of his way and let him win you games. Removing pitchers to protect them and platooning hitters only makes sense if those guys are fringe talents in the first place. A true stud deserves to be ridden.
The first lesson is the reason the Tigers still have future Hall of Fame first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The second is the reason Leyland lets Justin Verlander pitch so much. Both are reasons the Tigers are headed for October again. Leyland is an underrated genius.
6. Bruce Bochy
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Bochy has managed around Brian Sabean in San Francisco, sort of like an anti-Washington. Bochy is stoic, always thinking and creative enough to change the game sometimes.
Until Freddy Sanchez got hurt, Bochy was playing Sanchez at second base and Mike Fontenot at shortstop in order to infuse the miserable lineup Sabean built with a bit more punch.
Bochy's brilliance is also reflected in his reticence to bunt. Giving away unnecessary outs is no way for a light-hitting squad to push across runs, especially not this one, so Bochy has resisted conventional wisdom and stood strong.
5. Manny Acta
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Aside from being the only big-league manager whose Twitter account is worthwhile, Acta also has the intensity and discipline to win in Cleveland. He brings experience working with teams not yet fully in contention.
His attitude and personality are as important as his tactical choices, although he makes mostly good ones on that front as well.
4. Ozzie Guillen
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Guillen is in a bad place right now with the White Sox. He does not see eye to eye with management, is mired in another losing season and told the media his team quit on him.
Still, this is the top managerial "prospect," if you will, a guy whose creativity and willingness to address the problem as it presents itself makes him valuable in an MLB dugout.
Guillen plays a smart and often daring brand of baseball, and freed from a front office that seemed to openly sabotage his vision for team-building, he could be great again someday very soon.
3. Mike Scioscia
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Every year, Scioscia's teams outperform their expectations. Scioscia is maybe the best and most flexible user of bullpen pitching in the league. He's great at almost everything.
He could easily top this list for sheer tactics and clubhouse character. The only reason he doesn't: the fact that he ran Mike Napoli out of town so Jeff Mathis could play even more behind the plate.
2. Terry Francona
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Francona misses the top spot only because he has it a little too easy in Boston. Managers never need to have a heavy-handed role in a Red Sox clubhouse, where the veterans mostly take care of keeping everyone loose and focused.
Francona is a great tactician and, in every respect of the job as it's done there, is dominant.
1. Joe Maddon
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Despite advanced age and those professorial glasses, Maddon is a big part of the heart of the team. He brings energy, comedy, fuel for the competitive fire and a great baseball IQ to the table.
Sam Fuld notwithstanding, Maddon is good enough not to fall into the traps of playing those who simply can't cut it, or when he does, he puts them at the very bottom of the order.
The Rays would not be what they are without Maddon.