MLB Managers on the Hot Seat for the 2nd Half of 2022 Season

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVJuly 25, 2022

MLB Managers on the Hot Seat for the 2nd Half of 2022 Season

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 13: Tony La Russa #22 of the Chicago White Sox walks back to the dugout after making a pitching change against the Cleveland Guardians during the seventh inning at Progressive Field on July 13, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
    Ron Schwane/Getty Images

    Welcome to the MLB Managerial Hot Seat Rankings, otherwise known as the Tony LaRussa Pink Slip Watch.

    There have already been three managerial changes this season—Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies—which is a bit unusual. There were no managers fired during the 2021 campaign, nor in 2017, and there was just one in-season move in each of 2013, 2016 and 2020. And we've still got more than two months to go until the playoffs.

    But there is a precedent for more than three firings in a single season. Four teams changed managers in 2015, six did so in 2010, seven pulled the plug midway through 2002 and there were nine managerial changes during each of the 1991 and 1988 seasons—back when there only were 26 teams, by the way.

    Maybe Charlie Montoyo getting axed by Toronto was the last one, at least until the offseason.

    Or perhaps we're only one-third of the way through the midseason chopping block.

    In case it's the latter, here's our current top six ranking of MLB managers who could be in danger of losing their jobs before the regular season ends.

    Those last five words—before the regular season ends—are key here. New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone might get fired if they get bounced from the playoffs before the World Series for a fifth consecutive season under his watch. Conversely, lost causes like the Colorado Rockies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals may decide after the season that their current manager has sputtered through too many consecutive losing seasons. But those teams don't appear on our list, as our goal is to identify the managers most in danger of losing their jobs any day now.

    Managers are listed in ascending order of the current temperature of their hot seats.

    Records are current through the start of play on Sunday, July 24.

6. Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 28: Arizona Diamondbacks Manager Torey Lovullo (17) walks back to the dugout during a Baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 28, 2022, at Chase Fields in Phoenix, AZ. (Photo by Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Zac BonDurant/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    If the Arizona Diamondbacks actually fire Torey Lovullo before the regular season ends, it would be a shame. They had a preseason win total of 66.5, good for third-worst in the majors, ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles and Pirates.

    They're on pace to win around 72 games.

    That's not great, but it's better than expected. It would also be 20 more wins than last season, which is quite the year-to-year improvement.

    Then again, we're talking about an Arizona team well on its way to a third consecutive last-place finish in the NL West; one that was 18-15 one-fifth of the way through this season before falling apart at the seams.

    Lovullo led the Diamondbacks to the playoffs in his first season. Under Chip Hale, they went 69-93 in 2016, but Lovullo flipped the script for a 93-69 record in 2017. With what was by Arizona's standards a massive payroll in both 2018 and 2019, the D-Backs remained competitive and finished with winning records but missed the postseason in both years.

    These past two-plus seasons have been rough, though, leaving Lovullo and Seattle's Scott Servais as the only managers who have both been in their current positions since at least 2018 and missed each of the past four postseasons. And up until storming into the All-Star break with a 22-3 record in his last 25 games, Servais was neck and neck with Tony LaRussa for the ignominious title of "Hottest Seat in Baseball."

    Barring a similar 22-3 type of stretch at some point in the next two months, it's unlikely Lovullo will be back with the Diamondbacks in 2023. It's just a question of whether that decision will be made before the end of the regular season.

5. Mike Matheny, Kansas City Royals

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    CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 01: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the Kansas City Royals warms up his pitcher during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field on June 01, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
    Ron Schwane/Getty Images

    For the majority of the nine teams completely out of the postseason picture, what's the point in making a change now?

    There's nothing left in 2022 to salvage, and unless you're hoping to scoop up Joe Maddon, Joe Girardi or Charlie Montoyo on the rebound before another team does, there's no real rush to make a change and put someone new in charge of a sinking ship. (And before you posit that a solid finish to one season should carry over into the next April, allow me to submit the 2021-22 Detroit Tigers as evidence to the contrary.)

    But it feels like Kansas City needs to do something just to prove to the fans that it still gives a darn about trying to win.

    There's always a grace period after winning a World Series, which the Royals did in 2015. But, man, they went from the top of the mountain back to the bottom of the basement in a hurry, and they have gotten way too comfortable down there.

    They didn't even fire Ned Yost after back-to-back seasons with triple digits in the loss column in 2018 and 2019. Maybe they gave him a "retire or get fired" ultimatum behind the scenes, but at least publicly, he was allowed to walk away on his own terms after those consecutive dumpster fires.

    The Royals then brought in Mike Matheny, hoping that the winning record in each of his seven seasons in St. Louis would translate the 241 miles from Busch Stadium to Kauffman Stadium.

    That hasn't been the case, though.

    Matheny is 42 games below .500 in his two-plus seasons with the Royals, currently jostling with the A's for the worst record in the American League. And as far as run differential is concerned, the Royals are on pace for the second-worst season in franchise history. The worst was 2005—a season in which they had three different managers.

    They already traded away Carlos Santana. They're going to trade away Andrew Benintendi soon. Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier might also be on the trading block. Kansas City is hitting the reset button, which might as well include an in-season change at manager too.

4. Phil Nevin, Los Angeles Angels

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 12: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels and interim manager Phil Nevin #88 look on from the dugout during the game against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 12, 2022 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    "Hey, moron, the Angels already fired their manager."

    Touche.

    But did you know there have been five cases since 1990—Orioles in 2010, Royals in both 2005 and 2002, Angels in 1996, and St. Louis Cardinals in 1990—of a franchise having three different managers who each called the shots for at least 10 games in the same season?

    Or that this wouldn't even be the first time the Angels had such a season involving Joe Maddon?

    Back then they were the California Angels, but they started out 52-59 in 1996 before Marcel Lachemann resigned. He was replaced by John McNamara, who managed for 14 games before being hospitalized for a blood clot. Joe Maddon then became the interim manager for a bit, going 8-14 until McNamara was able to return to the dugout for the final 14 games.

    To be sure, "interim manager hospitalized" is a lot different from "interim manager fired," but MLB's most recent three-manager season actually was a double firing. The 2010 Orioles got rid of Dave Trembley after a 15-39 start, and then replaced Juan Samuel with Buck Showalter after the former went 17-34 as the interim manager.

    It's rare, but it happens.

    And if the Angels want Shohei "free agent after next season" Ohtani to believe they're actually committed to winning games and making the playoffs, firing Phil Nevin and his .316 winning percentage would be a good way to deliver that message.

    It's not Nevin's fault that Anthony Rendon suffered a season-ending injury, that Taylor Ward drastically cooled off from his hot start, that Jared Walsh can't hit the broad side of a barn in the past month or that Mike Trout is now injured and wasn't quite hitting at his usual levels of excellence before getting hurt. All the same, they're averaging an atrocious 3.1 runs per game since he took over for Maddon.

    It would stink for Nevin. Getting fired two or three months into your first MLB manager gig—in which you had two of the best players in all of baseball and still struggled to win a single series—is a stench from which a coaching career may never recover. But keeping Ohtani (and, you know, the entire fanbase) happy is more important than setting up your interim manager for long-term success.

3. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins

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    ATLANTA, GA - MAY 28: Miami Marlins Manager Don Mattingly looks on before the Saturday afternoon MLB game between the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins on May, 28, 2022, at Truist Park in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    It's rather surprising that Don Mattingly has lasted this long in Miami.

    In franchise history—which only goes back to 1993, but still—no previous manager had ever made it four full seasons with the Marlins. Yet, there sits Donnie Baseball, midway through his seventh season at the helm with merely a .435 winning percentage since 2016.

    Mattingly was named NL Manager of the Year for leading the Marlins to a 31-29 record during the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign, but feel free to ask Paul Molitor or Mike Shildt how long that award gives you immunity from being fired. Molitor lasted just one more season with the Twins after being named AL MOY in 2017. Shildt won NL MOY in 2019, made the playoffs in both 2020 and 2021 and was still let go in October 2021.

    And while the Marlins' year-end record surely won't be as bad as it was in 2019 (57-105), this has been arguably their most disappointing season under Mattingly.

    Sandy Alcantara is well on his way to the NL Cy Young. Out of nowhere, Jon Berti is the best base stealer in the majors. Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Garrett Cooper were both All-Stars. Pablo Lopez should have been one too.

    But the Fish have lost 21 one-run games, and they are 17 games below .500 against teams not named the Washington Nationals. This in spite of an Opening Day payroll 39 percent higher than where Miami opened the 2021 campaign.

    There's still an outside shot this team could make the playoffs, which, depending upon whom you ask, is either a reason to stand pat with Mattingly until they fall hopelessly out of the wild-card picture or a reason to make a change right now in hopes of righting the ship. Either way, Miami firing Mattingly before the end of the regular season wouldn't be much of a surprise.

2. Chris Woodward, Texas Rangers

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 03:  Manager Chris Woodward #8 of the Texas Rangers looks on before a game against the New York Mets at Citi Field on July 03, 2022 in New York City. The Mets defeated the Rangers 4-1. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    After a fire sale at last year's trade deadline, the Texas Rangers went all-in this offseason in hopes of expediting a rebuilding process five years in the making. They spent $325 million on Corey Seager, $175 million on Marcus Semien, $56 million on Jon Gray and orchestrated a handful of other deals that didn't cost in excess of the gross domestic product of Tuvalu.

    Well, they almost went all-in.

    They still let Chris Woodward keep his job in spite of a 160-224 record (.416 winning percentage) in his first three seasons calling the shots.

    Texas missed the postseason by 18 games in 2019. It had the worst record in the AL in 2020. It lost 100-plus games in 2021 for what was the first time in nearly half a century. And it inexplicably decided that leaving Woodward in charge of a much higher-paid roster was the way to go.

    And what do the Rangers have to show for their loyalty to Woodward?

    A worst-in-MLB-by-a-mile 5-21 record in one-run affairs, which are theoretically the games in which a manager's decision-making and general competence are most critical.

    Because of those constant failures in one-run games, the Rangers are nine games below .500 in spite of a plus-four run differential. Every other team with more runs scored than runs allowed is at least two games above .500.

    So, did that pink slip get lost in the mail, or...?

    At this point, the Rangers are the biggest unknown heading into the trade deadline.

    Are they going to trade away impending free agents Martin Perez and Matt Moore, or will they spend even more in pursuit of the fleeting dream of a postseason berth?

    Are they going to ride it out with a manager who has never finished a season with a winning record, or will they give someone else a chance to prove themselves capable of winning a nail-biter every once in a blue moon?

    Our guess is they'll sputter into the trade deadline on the road against the Mariners and Angels, will get what they can for Perez, Moore and others, and will show Woodward the door before the regular season ends.

1. Tony LaRussa, Chicago White Sox

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    ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 27: Chicago White Sox manager Tony La Russa (22) watches from the dugout during an MLB baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels played on June 27, 2022 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    It's hard to fathom that 10 percent of MLB teams have already made a managerial change this season, yet Tony LaRussa still has his job with the Chicago White Sox.

    Based on preseason win totals, Chicago opened the season as the biggest favorite to win its division, expected to win 11 more games than its closest challenger in the AL Central. And while that technically could still happen, the ChiSox are currently in third place in what is very much not one of the four best divisions in the majors.

    To be sure, injuries have played a big part in their struggle. At the All-Star break, Jose Abreu was their only hitter to appear in at least 75 of the 92 games played. Getting a combined 67 games played from Eloy Jimenez and Yoan Moncada in the first half certainly wasn't in Chicago's 2022 World Series blueprint, nor were the IL trips for Tim Anderson and Yasmani Grandal or the handful of minor injuries Luis Robert has endured.

    Paying Lance Lynn and Dallas Keuchel a combined $36.5 million for 15 pre-All Star break starts with a 7.68 ERA wasn't part of the plan, either.

    But from the moment on June 9 when LaRussa—already very much on the hot seat with a sub-.500 record one-third of the way into the regular season—intentionally walked Trea Turner with a 1-2 count and was then immediately burned by a Max Muncy three-run homer, we have been incessantly wondering if today is the day the White Sox finally make a change.

    However, they've had quite the knack for saving his job right when it looks as if he's at the end of his rope.

    Chicago opened July at 35-39 with a three-game series at San Francisco. Had the team gotten swept by the Giants, LaRussa very likely would have gotten canned. Instead, it was the White Sox pulling off the sweep.

    And then back down to four games below .500 after losing the first game of a July 12 doubleheader, they had two games at Cleveland and four games at Minnesota left before the All-Star break. Go 3-3 or worse in those games and that's maybe the end of the line for LaRussa. But they reeled off five wins in those six games, clawing back to .500 and back into the AL Central race.

    How many more lives does this cat have?

    These next two-and-a-half weeks might provide the answer.

    Chicago's next 19 games are against the Royals (seven), Rangers (four), Tigers (three), A's (three) and Rockies (two). That's quite the opportunistic stretch against non-playoff teams, and the White Sox simply must capitalize by winning at least 13 of those games. So, if they get out to a rocky start or at any point need a jolt to try to get back on the right track, keep an eye out for a press release from Guaranteed Rate Field.

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