Hot-Seat Rankings for the MLB Managers Most Likely to Be Fired

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 13, 2022

Hot-Seat Rankings for the MLB Managers Most Likely to Be Fired

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    ST PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 02: Manager Aaron Boone #17 of the New York Yankees looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on September 02, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
    New York's Aaron Boone (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

    If the New York Yankees don't at least make it to the World Series next month, will Aaron Boone return in 2023 as the manager of the pinstripes?

    Is the sixth losing season in seven years under Don Mattingly enough for the Miami Marlins to move on from Donnie Baseball?

    And is there anything Tony La Russa can do to save his job with the Chicago White Sox?

    In the hot-seat rankings that we put together in late July, the goal was to identify the managers most likely to be fired before the end of the season. (No. 2 on that list, Chris Woodward, did get the ax a few weeks later.) But in this edition, offseason moves are also on the table, as we look for the teams most likely to have a new manager before Opening Day 2023.

    That means we're adding in teams with winning records like the Yankees and Brewers, who didn't seem likely to make a midseason move but might make a change if they're not playing deep into October. It also means adding in the likes of the Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, who were already too far gone six weeks ago to even bother with firing the manager but might be seeking a new direction for next season.

    Managers are listed in ascending order of likelihood of not returning in 2023.

Honorable Mentions

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    CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 25: Chicago Cubs manager David Ross (3) walks in the dugout during a regular season game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs on August 25, 2022, at Wrigley Field in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Chicago's David Ross (Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    While they don't quite land in our top six, here are four other managers who might be shown the door this offseason.

    Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers
    75-66 in 2022; 604-545 overall with Milwaukee

    Counsell has led the Brewers to the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, including NL Central titles in both 2018 and 2021. But in seven-plus years, he has won just one postseason series, and this year's team wilted after entering the Aug. 2 trade deadline with a three-game lead in the NL Central.

    Could this be a Dusty Baker in San Francisco/Cincinnati/Washington sort of situation where Milwaukee decides that—while it appreciates Counsell's ability to deliver winning regular seasons—it needs to bring in a closer, if you will, who it believes can actually get the job done in October?

    David Ross, Chicago Cubs
    58-82 in 2022; 163-199 overall with Chicago

    Last year, Chicago went 8-22 in the 30 games leading up to the trade deadline and ended up embracing a fire sale of its many impending free agents. But that wasn't enough for a rapid rebuild, as the Cubs are even worse this year.

    It's only Ross' third year at the helm, and he did hit that home run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. So maybe he'll get one more shot at fixing this mess in 2023. But it wouldn't be a surprise if the Cubs bring in a new manager now that pretty much everyone from that 2016 team is gone.

    A.J. Hinch, Detroit Tigers
    54-86 in 2022; 131-171 overall with Detroit

    Being fired after two years would be a quick hook for a manager who won at least 100 games in each of his final three seasons in Houston, but it has to at least be considered after Detroit had arguably the most disappointing season of any team.

    Bud Black, Colorado Rockies
    61-80 in 2022; 410-439 overall with Colorado

    Before Black took the job, Colorado had suffered at least 87 losses in six consecutive seasons, yet he immediately got the Rockies into the playoffs in his first two years. Since then, however, they have a .443 winning percentage and haven't even sniffed a postseason berth.

    It's not Black's fault that upper management so woefully botched the Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story contract situations, but they had begun to crater even before those guys left for greener pastures. Colorado might fire Black, but that won't fix its teamwide pitching woes.

6. Mike Matheny, Kansas City Royals

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    KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - AUGUST 26: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the Kansas City Royals stands on the field prior to a game against the San Diego Padres at Kauffman Stadium on August 26, 2022 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    2022 Record: 57-84

    Record Since Hired: 157-206

    From the outset, Mike Matheny was a controversial hire for Kansas City.

    He had a great start to his managerial career in St. Louis after taking over for Tony La Russa, but it was way more of a "didn't immediately ruin a good thing that he inherited" situation than one of him turning around a struggling franchise. By his fifth season at the helm, he had turned the great thing into a mediocre, postseason-missing mess. He was eventually fired in year No. 7 when he seemingly lost control of the clubhouse.

    Bringing that manager in to essentially rebuild a team that had lost at least 100 games in each of the two seasons prior to his arrival was certainly a decision.

    And it hasn't gone well.

    The Royals aren't quite as bad as they were at the end of Ned Yost's tenure, but they aren't on the verge of breaking through and making the playoffs either.

    What they are is a young team, with the exception of Zack Greinke and Salvador Perez, with minimal power at the plate and basically no reliable arms on the mound. (Though Brady Singer has had a nice breakout season.)

    There's a good amount of potential on this roster beyond just Bobby Witt Jr., but little of it has come to fruition thus far. And at least some of that onus needs to fall on Matheny, who would probably still be playing Carlos Santana and Whit Merrifield every day over the likes of young Nick Pratto, Vinnie Pasquantino, Michael Massey and Drew Waters if the Royals hadn't traded those struggling veterans.

5. Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals

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    WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 17: Manager Dave Martinez #4 of the Washington Nationals watches the game in the fourth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Nationals Park on August 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    2022 Record: 49-92

    Record Since Hired: 315-372

    After winning a World Series, there's an unofficial grace period in which a manager won't be fired for poor performance.

    But how long is that grace period?

    Three years?

    Five years?

    Dave Martinez might be about to find out.

    In 2019, he led the Washington Nationals back from a 19-31 disaster of a start, going 86-43 (including the postseason) the rest of the way and bringing that franchise its first World Series title.

    Since then, however, he has gone 140-223 (.386 winning percentage), and the current season has been a total disaster, liable to result in the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft.

    In fairness to Martinez, he didn't sign Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin or Stephen Strasburg to those backbreaking contracts, nor did he make the decision to trade Juan Soto—a combination of factors that leaves this franchise with no realistic hope of being competitive in 2023 or 2024.

    But with the Lerners looking to sell the franchise and with the roster already getting a hard reboot for the new owner, the next logical step is to bring in a new face to oversee this rebuilding situation.

    If the Nationals do part ways with Martinez, it's a safe assumption he won't be unemployed for long, possibly taking over for either the No. 1 or No. 2 manager on this list.

4. Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    PHOENIX, ARIZONA - AUGUST 11: Manager Derek Shelton #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on from the dugout during the MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 11, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Pirates 9-3. (Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images)
    Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

    2022 Record: 51-88

    Record Since Hired: 131-230

    On the one hand, Pittsburgh hasn't given Derek Shelton much of anything to work with. The Pirates' year-end 40-man payroll in 2021 ranked dead last in the majors, per Cot's Contracts, and they are on track for a fourth consecutive season as one of the three stingiest franchises.

    On the off chance they do bring in even remotely noteworthy free agents, it's usually on cheap one-year deals, and they get traded if they amount to anything (see: Tyler Anderson, José Quintana). Hard for a manager to do much with that.

    On the other hand, that's business as usual for Pittsburgh. This franchise has always been notoriously frugal but never this consistently awful.

    The Pirates have a .367 winning percentage this season, finished last year at .377 and ended up at .317 in 2020. They have also had a Pythagorean winning percentage (what your record "should" have been based on cumulative run differential) below .365 in each of those three years.

    Aside from 2010—when Pittsburgh went 57-105 with an atrocious minus-279 run differential and subsequently fired third-year manager John Russell—these three seasons under Shelton have been the worst of the past 35 years, both in terms of winning percentage and Pythagorean winning percentage.

    Shelton inherited a mess when he took the job in November 2019, but things have only gotten worse. It's time to move on and see if someone else is better suited for turning lemons into lemonade.

3. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees

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    ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 29: New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone (17) in the dugout during an MLB baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels played on August 29, 2022 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. (Photo by John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    2022 Record: 85-56

    Record Since Hired: 413-274

    The New York Yankees have not been to a World Series since 2009.

    It's not the longest drought in franchise history—they missed out on every Fall Classic from 1982-95 and went from 1903-20 before playing in their first—but 12 consecutive years without an AL pennant is not the so-called "Yankees Way."

    And if that drought extends to a 13th year after this team started out 61-23, Aaron Boone will likely be looking for a new job this winter.

    To Boone's credit, the Yankees have been consistently solid during the regular season. They won the AL East in 2019. They should win it this year. And they got into the postseason as a wild-card team in each of 2018, 2020 and 2021.

    Only the Dodgers (443) and Astros (424) have won more regular-season games than the Yankees have since the beginning of 2018.

    That type of sustained success would be a much-welcomed change for well over half of the MLB franchises.

    Not for the Yankees, though.

    In the Bronx, that .601 regular-season winning percentage is worthless when juxtaposed with Boone's 11-11 postseason record. And if after five seasons he still hasn't been able to guide the very expensive Yankees roster to at least a World Series appearance, why bother bringing him back for a sixth year?

2. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins

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    ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 04: Don Mattingly #8 of the Miami Marlins makes a pitching change against the Atlanta Braves in the eighth inning at Truist Park on September 4, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Brett Davis/Getty Images)
    Brett Davis/Getty Images

    2022 Record: 57-82

    Record Since Hired: 431-576

    This is Don Mattingly's seventh season as the manager of the Miami Marlins, and, well, the team hasn't gotten any better under his tutelage.

    It did go 31-29 in 2020, sneaking into the postseason as the NL's No. 6 seed and even upsetting the Cubs in the Wild Card Round. And because of that two-month period of semi-success, he got to come back for another two seasons.

    This will presumably be his final year, though.

    Only Detroit and Baltimore (415 wins each) have won fewer games since the beginning of 2016 than Miami's 431. And as far as the current season goes, it's only because of the head-to-head matchups with Washington that the Marlins don't have the worst record in the majors. They've gone 12-1 against the Nationals compared to 45-81 against everyone else.

    And this season, they have gone from arguably unlucky to downright terrible.

    Through 57 games, Miami was 27-30 with a plus-28 run differential. (Such is life when you lose 15 of your first 20 one-run games.) This seemed like a team that could turn a corner and make a postseason run. (For what it's worth, Seattle was 27-32 with a negative-11 run differential at that point in time.) But since June 11, the Fish have gone 30-52 with a minus-132 run differential.

    But, hey, at least Mattingly stays out of Sandy Alcantara's way and just lets that ace do his thing. He may at least help bring Miami its first-ever Cy Young trophy before he gets sent packing.

1. Tony La Russa, Chicago White Sox

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    KANSAS CITY, MO - AUGUST 9: Manager Tony La Russa #22 of the Chicago White Sox during the first game of a doubleheader Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on August 9, 2022, in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    2022 Record: 72-69

    Record Since Hired: 165-138

    It's mystifying that there have been four managers fired this season, yet Tony La Russa still has a job overseeing what has been the biggest disappointment of the year.

    La Russa has been away from the team since August 30 because of heart-related issues, and it cannot bode well for his future in Chicago that the White Sox have finally figured out how to score and win in his absence.

    In 13 games with Miguel Cairo as the temporary manager, Chicago has gone 9-4 with a plus-32 run differential, winning four consecutive series against Kansas City, Minnesota, Seattle and Oakland, surging to within 2.5 games of Cleveland in the AL Central.

    Conversely, Chicago had lost nine out of 11 prior to the start of La Russa's absence and had fallen to 63-65 with a year-to-date run differential of minus-43.

    Granted, La Russa was at the helm while the team battled through a litany of injuries. Cairo has had the luxury of managing a team that has been mostly healthy, save for Tim Anderson still on the shelf following finger surgery. But La Russa also made a bunch of mind-boggling decisions with the injury-ravaged roster and just never seemed to bring the best out of anyone.

    Unless he returns to the dugout soon and leads the White Sox to both an AL Central title and at least an ALCS appearance, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which La Russa—who turns 78 in October—will still be managing the White Sox on Opening Day 2023.


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