Who's on the Hot Seat? Ranking the MLB Managers Most Likely to Be Fired

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 16, 2021

Who's on the Hot Seat? Ranking the MLB Managers Most Likely to Be Fired

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    In an era when front offices are calling more and more shots, the manager spot in Major League Baseball isn't as important as it used to be.

    Still, you'd better believe the manager hot seat still exists.

    When looking around the league, we see at least eight skippers who could lose their jobs after the 2021 season or perhaps even beforehand. Some are in more danger than others, but what they all have in common is that they've fallen perilously short of expectations.

    We've ranked their likelihood of getting the boot on a scale of one to five, with a one indicating a relatively cold seat and a five indicating a scorching seat.

8. Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Derek Shelton didn't have a hard act to follow when the Pittsburgh Pirates hired him after the 2019 season, in which the team's clubhouse fell to rancor en route to 93 losses and last place in the National League Central.

    It's not a good look, then, that Shelton has managed the Pirates to an even worse winning percentage in his two seasons on the job. Perhaps it's something that they've improved from a .317 mark in 2020 to .372 this year, but the latter still has the team on track for its first 100-loss season since 2010.

    It is, however, unclear how much longer Shelton is under contract with the Pirates. There's also the reality that nobody has high hopes for the franchise while it's rebuilding under general manager Ben Cherington, who's on record with his satisfaction with the culture that Shelton has fostered.

    As Cherington said in August, according to Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "One of the things I feel best about this group—and it's fun to be around—is that they're willing to challenge themselves to get better, they want feedback to get better, and they give it back to me too. We all need that."

    So in spite of his record, Shelton is probably safe for at least one more year.

    Hot Seat: 1

7. Chris Woodward, Texas Rangers

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Texas Rangers were fresh off a 95-loss season when they hired Chris Woodward in November 2018, and he immediately made an impression by guiding a turnaround to 78-84 in 2019.

    Since then, it's been ugly. Woodward's Rangers went 22-38 in 2020 and are 54-91 in 2021, which gives them a .371 winning percentage over the last two seasons that ranks ahead of only the Baltimore Orioles among AL clubs.

    At least for now, the good news for Woodward is that he's due to return in 2022. The Rangers held an option for next season and exercised it in March. Firing him wouldn't undo that financial commitment, which means they have at least one obvious incentive to keep him around.

    But even if it's not likely, is it nonetheless possible that the Rangers will fire him anyway? 

    Even setting aside Woodward's recent record, there's also how much the team's roster and front office have changed since his hiring. The former has gotten younger and more inexperienced, while the latter got a new general manager in Chris Young last winter. Such things arguably necessitate new on-field leadership.

    Hot Seat: 2

6. Bud Black, Colorado Rockies

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    As he's the only manager to lead the team to back-to-back playoff appearances, you might make the case that Bud Black is the best skipper the Colorado Rockies have ever had.

    The last two seasons haven't been so good for his reputation, however. Though the Rockies have at least stayed out of last place in the NL West, their .456 winning percentage ranks 11th in the National League during that span.

    Black's situation is made even more complicated by what's going on in the front office. The 2021 season began with Jeff Bridich in charge. He and several of his lieutenants have since departed, leaving former scouting director Bill Schmidt to work as the team's interim general manager basically by default.

    The question now is what Rockies owner Dick Monfort wants to do: Stay internal and officially make Schmidt the full-time GM, or go outside the organization for someone new?

    If Monfort goes through Door No. 1, chances are Black will stay at his post through at least the end of his contract in 2022. If he goes through Door No. 2, the organization's next GM will likely want his own guy in the manager's chair.

    Hot Seat: 2

5. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    In case you're a time traveler from the year 2019 or 2020: Yes, we really are talking about Minnesota Twins manager Rocco Baldelli being on the hot seat.

    Whereas he led the Twins to 101 wins in '19 and 36 wins and a second straight AL Central title last year, things have crumbled for Baldelli in 2021. The Twins have sunk to last place in the division and, at 64-83, are on track for their worst season since 2016.

    The locals understandably aren't thrilled with this turn of events. It's obviously too late for the Twins to attempt to save their season by canning Baldelli now, but there might be a non-zero chance of their doing the deed this winter in hopes that a new dugout general will spearhead an immediate turnaround in 2022.

    But since they're the ones who hired him, it's hard to imagine Baldelli getting the boot after just one bad season unless front office heads Derek Falvey (president of baseball operations) and Thad Levine (general manager) also get it. It is, after all, their roster that's failed Baldelli.

    Possible? Maybe. But it would also be an overreaction that the Pohlad family would be wise to avoid.

    Hot Seat: 3

4. Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Darryl Webb/Associated Press

    You only need to go back as far as 2019 to find a time when Torey Lovullo was regarded as one of baseball's top managers after he guided the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 260-226 record in three seasons.

    That feels like forever ago. It's under Lovullo's watch that the Snakes have deteriorated over the last two seasons, losing 35 of 60 games in 2020 and now 99 games in 2021 to mark the club's worst season since its 111-loss stinker in 2004.

    What's more, Lovullo is a lame duck. The two-year extension that he signed in January 2019 will run out when this season ends, making it that much easier for the team to part ways with him if it desires.

    As Nick Piecoro of the AZCentral.com reported, however, Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall effectively gave Lovullo a vote of confidence in July. In his own words: "I don't think that I could point my finger to the manager and say that it's his fault."

    Ultimately, Lovullo's fate may be tied to that of the guy who hired him, general manager Mike Hazen. And since the GM has at least built a strong farm system, the club's ownership might indeed afford him and Lovullo more patience.

    Hot Seat: 3

3. Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Not unlike Shelton in Pittsburgh, Brandon Hyde is tasked with the thankless job of shepherding the Baltimore Orioles through their own rebuild.

    A key difference between the two skippers, though, is that Hyde has been at it for three years, and things seem to be going backward. The O's lost 108 games on his watch in 2019 for a .333 winning percentage and then improved to a more respectable 25-35 (.417) in 2020. Now, their 46-99 record (.317) has them on track for 110 losses in 2021.

    In June, general manager Mike Elias told reporters that he was pleased with his skipper in at least one respect: "He's got a lot of interaction between staff and a lot of interaction with a lot of corners of our baseball operations departments. All of that, I couldn't be happier with."

    At the same time, Elias wouldn't elaborate whether Hyde was under contract through 2022. This was also before the truly ugly part of the club's season arrived. The O's have lost 33 of their last 42 games, including 19 in a row from Aug. 3 to 24.

    Considering the sorry state of Baltimore's roster, this isn't all Hyde's fault. But if Elias is thinking that Hyde ought to have made at least some lemonade out of the lemons he's been given, well, he's not wrong.

    Hot Seat: 3

2. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Here's another shocker for time travelers from the late 2010s, who know Aaron Boone as the skipper who led the New York Yankees to 100-win seasons in each of his first two years on the job in 2018 and 2019.

    The Yankees have kept winning games under Boone since then, but not nearly with the same sort of frequency. Their 33-27 record in 2020 was a disappointment, and they've more or less remained on that course with an 82-64 showing this season.

    Had all this happened in 2019, Boone could have pinned it on the club's never-ending string of injuries. Yet the injury bug hasn't been as big of a factor in the last two seasons, as Boone's Yankees have underachieved more so because too many of their core players have underachieved.

    To be sure, a manager only has so much power in that regard. Yet Boone's ability to fire up his players is seen as a shortcoming in New York, as play-by-play man Michael Kay noted. In addition, fans want him gone. 

    Because he refused to commit to the skipper beyond 2021 in July, Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner's patience with Boone also seems to have run thin. To save his job, it's likely World Series or bust for Boone.

    Hot Seat: 4

1. Luis Rojas, New York Mets

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    It doesn't bode well for Luis Rojas that his seat seems hot even if you ignore what he's done in two seasons as the New York Mets manager.

    He was an emergency hire after the Mets had to part ways with Carlos Beltran as a result of the Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal in January 2020. That's to say Rojas wasn't the first choice of the club's previous regime, which gave way to a new one after Steve Cohen bought the team in October.

    Unsurprisingly, one of Cohen's first moves was to clean house in the club's front office. What's happened in the front office since then is a long story filled with reprehensible actions, but the relevant part to Rojas' status is that the team will be hiring a new director of baseball operations this winter. That person will likely want to pick their own manager.

    Which brings us, finally, to what Rojas has done on the job. Though near-constant injuries obviously haven't been a benefit, that only excuses so much of the 98-109 record attached to his name. 

    On top of all this, Rojas has been a lame duck ever since team president Sandy Alderson said in the spring the club hadn't picked up the manager's option for 2022. Add it all up, and he sure seems to be a dead man walking.

    Hot Seat: 5


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.