It's that time of year again when MLB managers begin dropping like flies from their respective teams who have most likely failed this season.
Terry Francona will no doubt be the most coveted skipper in all of baseball.
Francona wasn't considered to be a top-flight manager early in his career, so it was a surprise when the Red Sox hired him in 2004.
He certainly didn't disappoint, bringing the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years, and in the process, overcame an 0-3 deficit to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Francona ended up winning two rings with Boston and has shot to the top of the MLB when talking about the best managers in baseball.
He has proven to be a loyal, player-friendly manager who has a great sense for the game. He would be a huge draw for free agent players to join him wherever he goes and brings a great resume with him, most importantly having had success in a tough baseball town like Boston.
He is no doubt the best option out there by far, but there is more than one team in need of a good manager. So here are four other managers who may be taking over some of the MLB manager vacancies next year.
Joe McEwing was one of the more beloved players in the MLB during his baseball career. He wasn't the most talented, run producing player, but his love and knowledge for the game was apparent to coaches and players alike. His hustle was second to none.
Before being traded to the New York Mets from the St. Louis Cardinals, Tony LaRussa was so impressed by McEwing's qualities, he requested a pair of spikes from "Super Joe" before he left for New York.
McEwing is currently the manager of the White Sox Triple-A team, having worked his way up from Single-A. In 2009, Baseball America named McEwing the top managerial prospect in the South Atlantic League.
Despite his impressive minor league resume, McEwing has flown under the radar league-wide but was considered as one of the candidates for the Chicago White Sox job. However, he could be a top candidate in other places as well.
McEwing's big-league experience, including playing every position on the field with the exception of pitcher and catcher, combined with his minor-league success as a manager, makes McEwing a top-flight candidate for any job in baseball.
There is no doubt if he doesn't get his chance next year, eventually he will.
You will never find a bigger fan of Clint Hurdle than myself. He has become well-known as a manager who gets the most out of his teams
Recently, Hurdle actually had the inept Pittsburgh Pirates believing they could be a playoff team. At the trade deadline, the Pirates were buyers for the first time in who knows how long and were near the top of the NL Central before a late-season slide that cost them a playoff appearance.
The Pirates went 72-90, a record that doesn't show just how impressive Pittsburgh was under Hurdle for much of the season. It was a 15-game improvement from 2010, and it was the Pirates' best record since 2004.
Before his time in Pittsburgh, Hurdle made a name for himself with the Colorado Rockies, taking a team without a whole lot of talent to a few playoff appearances and a World Series showdown with the Boston Red Sox in 2007.
Hurdle may still be the manager of the Pirates, but would no doubt leave if a more encouraging situation arose for him. We've seen what Hurdle can do with a little talent; I'd be interested to see what he can do with a more talented team.
Bobby Valentine is one of the more colorful managers in baseball. His antics hit their peak, when shortly after being thrown out of a game as manager of the New York Mets in 1999, Valentine reappeared in the dug out with a mustache and glasses, trying to hide from umpires.
His sense of humor can be questioned, but his success cannot be.
Valentine's first full season as manager of the Mets was in 1997, leading the Amazin's to a 88-74 record, a 17-game improvement from the year before. In six full seasons, Valentine led the Mets to five winning years and it wasn't until his last year in Flushing that the Mets finished with a losing record with him on the bench.
Valentine helped manage the Mets to two consecutive playoff appearances as well as making it to the 2000 World Series, where they would fall short to the Yankees.
Valentine's chances will be hurtm however, having been involved in "The Whartongate Affair," where Bobby V. spilled the beans on insider opinions about the Mets' players and their management. It has no doubt shaken the trust for Valentine with other MLB teams.
Put that aside, Valentine has had enough success to be considered a top choice to manage someplace in the near future. His loose style, player-friendly attitude and big-game experience will make him a great pick-up for any team in baseball.
Not to mention, if you have a Japanese player, Bobby V. picked up the language in his time as a manager in Japanese baseball.
What can you say? Bobby V. is international.
It seems every year we talk about possible candidates for MLB managerial openings, the great Ryne Sandberg's name is always thrown into the conversation.
Sandberg was a Hall of Fame player as the second baseman for the Chicago Cubs for his entire career. His knowledge of the game from his great career has carried over onto the bench as manager.
The former Cubs' second baseman worked his way up from Single-A to Triple-A as a manager in Chicago's minor-league system, having had success at every level.
He was named as the Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year in 2005 while still in the Cubs organization.
Sandberg always desired to be the manager of the Cubs as his first MLB managerial job. After being passed up for Mike Quade in 2010, Sandberg left the organization and is no doubt available to any big-league club that wants him.
Sandberg is currently the manager of the Phillies Triple-A affiliate. After Sandberg took control for the 2011 season, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs were 80-64, the team's best record in its four year history. Sandberg's minor-league club made it to the Governor's Cup in 2011, the team's first time doing so, but lost the series 3-1.
Sandberg has had a ton of success in his managerial career so far and is no doubt in the minds of general managers around baseball. His future as a manager in the MLB is almost certain at this point.