Nick Cafardo made it a yearly exercise in the offseason to rank the 30 managers. For the third year, we’re bringing it back as a tribute to him.
There are three new managers. After a three-year break, Buck Showalter was hired to bring order to the wayward Mets. The Cardinals made the surprising decision to fire Mike Shildt after a 90-win season and replaced him with 35-year-old bench coach Oliver Marmol.
Mark Kotsay is now managing the Athletics after Bob Melvin was allowed to leave to become manager of the Padres.
What makes a good manager? It goes beyond championships. The Dodgers had a luxury-tax payroll of $258.3 million last season and the Orioles $60.1 million. So Brandon Hyde can’t be judged the same way as Dave Roberts.
Consistency counts, as does the ability to work in concert with the front office and give the players the information they need to succeed.
As coaching staffs grow, the ability to effectively delegate responsibilities is important.
Here’s one view at where the managers stand with spring training hopefully on the horizon:
1. Kevin Cash, Rays: Tampa Bay has a .597 winning percentage the last four seasons and is 15-15 in the postseason despite a small payroll, smaller crowds, a constantly changing roster, and stiff competition in the American League East. The Rays transcend their payroll with innovation and a reliance on analytics. It only works if the players buy in, and Cash makes that happen.
2. Dave Roberts, Dodgers: Los Angeles won 104 or more games three times in the five full seasons Roberts has managed. Yes, he has every advantage, but Roberts keeps a team of stars focused on the big picture.
3. Terry Francona, Guardians: Francona managed only 109 of a possible 222 games the last two seasons because of assorted ailments. But he has recovered well and is ready for what would be his 22nd season as manager. Francona is the benchmark for a modern manager with his people skills and knowledge of the game.
4. Alex Cora, Red Sox: After much internal debate about whether to bring him back after his suspension in 2020, Cora led the Sox to 92 wins and fell two games short of the World Series despite a roster battered by COVID-19 and inconsistent pitching. Cora is the right person to manage the Sox. He understands how to win in Boston, and that’s not easy.
5. Brian Snitker, Braves: Turns out an often-overlooked minor league lifer was a smart choice to manage. Snitker has led the Braves to four consecutive division titles and last season the World Series. Alex Anthopoulos remade the roster in midseason, allowing the Braves to bounce back from a 52-55 start. But Snitker’s calm in the storm made a difference.
6. Dusty Baker, Astros: He is 13 wins shy of becoming the 12th manager with 2,000. Baker also has guided the Astros to a 124-98 record the last two seasons after taking over a team that was in turmoil. At 72, his managerial career is missing only a World Series title.
7. Bob Melvin, Padres: The magnanimous Athletics let Melvin jump to the Padres without requiring compensation. San Diego is a perfect spot for Melvin, who has managed 18 seasons on the West Coast and inherits a deeply talented team that won only 79 games last season.
8. A.J. Hinch, Tigers: Much like Cora, Hinch returned from suspension and showed how good he was at his job by leading the Tigers to 77 wins. He’s a good fit for a team on the rise.
9. Buck Showalter, Mets: After a sour ending in Baltimore, Showalter took three years off and worked for ESPN. He’s in a perfect spot with the Mets. Showalter understands New York and will give a talented roster some discipline.
10. Aaron Boone, Yankees: He has won 60 percent of his games in four years and made the playoffs each time. That would earn you plaudits with 29 other teams, but there was speculation Boone would be fired last season. Boone is an excellent manager who keeps his composure in tough times. Other clubs can only hope he gets canned so they can hire him.
11. Tony La Russa, White Sox: La Russa defied skeptics by leading the White Sox to 93 victories after coming out of retirement. But they were wiped out of the Division Series by the Astros, getting outscored, 31-18, in four games. La Russa predicted last season that his team would be even better this year.
12. Gabe Kapler, Giants: San Francisco won 107 games last season, a product of smart roster management by Farhan Zaidi and Kapler’s leadership on the bench. The Giants have 14 coaches and embrace new ideas. Another 107-win season would be a lot to ask, but Kapler has found a home.
13. Rocco Baldelli, Twins: The pride of Woonsocket, R.I., can’t be blamed for last season’s 73-89 record. Injuries doomed the Twins, but their window is still open. Baldelli is 36 games over .500 in three seasons and works well with baseball ops bosses Derek Falvey and Thad Levine.
14. Craig Counsell, Brewers: Milwaukee has finished first or second in four of the last five years despite a modest payroll. Counsell doesn’t have a national profile but gets a lot of respect within the game.
15. Joe Girardi, Phillies: Philadelphia is 110-112 in his two seasons and is pushing to contend under Dave Dombrowski. The alternative is wasting Bryce Harper’s prime years. It’s amusing that Girardi was ready to fight Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long during a game last June. Now Long is his hitting coach.
16. Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays: Toronto won 91 games and finished fourth last season. It’s tough in the AL East. Montoyo has a roster any manager would want and now he must make it work.
17. Don Mattingly, Marlins: Only eight active managers have more seasons on the bench than Mattingly, who is entering his 12th. The Marlins are slowly building their talent base, especially with pitchers. Mattingly deserves to see it through.
18. Joe Maddon, Angels: He’s 13 games under .500 in two years with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Injuries have played a big role in that, along with poor pitching. Trout is 30 and the Angels are under increasing pressure to get going after a seven-year playoff drought.
19. Bud Black, Rockies: The Rockies went to the playoffs in Black’s first two seasons. They’ve been in fourth place in the three years since and make a lot of moves that are difficult to understand.
20. David Ross, Cubs: As a rookie manager, Ross guided the Cubs to a playoff berth. Now Theo Epstein is gone and a rebuild is under way under Jed Hoyer. Ross is part of the solution, but it could take a few years unless ownership gets aggressive.
21. Dave Martinez, Nationals: He’ll always have the 2019 World Series title on his résumé. But other than that it’s been a struggle for Martinez in four seasons with the Nationals. Washington started a rebuilding process last season and it’ll be interesting to see if he’s around when it’s finished. This is a franchise notoriously impatient with managers.
22. Scott Servais, Mariners: What had been a nondescript tenure turned last season when the Mariners won 19 of their final 29 games and finished two games out of a playoff spot. Servais is Seattle’s longest-serving manager since Lou Piniella.
23. David Bell, Reds: Here’s a guy with the tough job as Cincinnati slashes payroll. The Reds let Wade Miley go on waivers and don’t intend to keep free agent Nick Castellanos. The National League Central isn’t deep, but the Reds are stepping back.
24. Mike Matheny, Royals: There was a lot of buzz around the Royals before last season. Then they finished 19 games out of first. Matheny has worked well with GM Dayton Moore for two years and it’s time to see progress after five consecutive losing seasons.
25. Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks: Arizona was 34 games over .500 in Lovullo’s first three seasons and is 68 games under in the two years since. The Diamondbacks are buried in a tough division but must make progress for Lovullo to return.
26. Derek Shelton, Pirates: He’s in this for the long haul as the Pirates rebuild. The Pirates lost 101 games last season but were 13-12 over the final 25, so they didn’t quit.
27. Chris Woodward, Rangers: He is back for a fourth season despite being 64 games under .500. Texas spent lavishly on free agents Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Kole Calhoun, and Jon Gray. Ownership expects immediate results. Woodward’s job will be on the line from the start of the season.
28. Oliver Marmol, Cardinals: At 35, “Oli” will be the youngest manager in the game and takes over a win-now roster after five seasons on the major league coaching staff. Yadier Molina (39) and Adam Wainwright (40) will be key to making it work.
29. Mark Kotsay, Athletics: Kotsay is the seventh manager to once play under Francona, which certainly isn’t a wild coincidence. Now 46, Kotsay takes over a team that won 86 games last season but is expected to slash payroll once the lockout ends. This will be his first managerial experience after six years coaching under Melvin.
30. Brandon Hyde, Orioles: Hyde’s 131-253 record over three seasons is a reflection on the Orioles aggressively tanking. But it doesn’t speak well of his ability to get through to the players that the Orioles lost 44 of their final 59 games and were outscored by 164 runs.
Retirement also baseball milestone
Tom Brady never played pro baseball. But he was the last player drafted by the Montreal Expos to retire from pro sports.
Brady was an 18th-round pick by the Expos in 1995 out of Junipero Serra High in San Mateo, Calif. A catcher with a strong arm, Brady decided he would attend Michigan to play football. You know the rest.
Brady’s baseball experience after that was taking a round of batting practice at Fenway Park and throwing out first pitches on Opening Day in 2002, 2004, 2015, and 2017.
Serra High sent Barry Bonds, Gregg Jefferies, Tony Renda, and Dan Serafini to the majors. One of its proudest alums was the late Gary Hughes, a longtime respected scout who spent part of his career with the Red Sox.
Other thoughts on the Red Sox:
▪ Boston.com reported the Red Sox are working with an analytics company, Recentive, to determine the best time to start home games.
This is five years late, but at least they’re trying. Sox games averaged 3 hours 17 minutes last year. So for a 7:10 p.m. start that’s 10:27 before you leave the ballpark, get to your car, and drive home.
The NESN audience is a bigger factor, certainly. But given how long games go, starting 40 minutes earlier will be welcomed by most fans.
The data being collected will be geared toward 2023.
▪ Former Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon backstopped Colombia to its first Caribbean Series championship. The Caimanes de Barranquila defeated the Dominican champion, Cibao.
Leon was 4 for 14 in the series and drew four walks.
Is common sense being locked out?
When the pandemic hit nearly two years ago, MLB and the Players Association embarrassed themselves with a public fight over how the revenue from a shortened season would be divided.
As the rest of the country reeled and deaths mounted, they squabbled over money and fought through the media. Baseball could have gotten started sooner than late July that season, but selfishness got in the way.
It was a stain on the reputation of everyone involved and presumably a lesson that both sides would be wise to act more expeditiously and not allow the collective bargaining agreement to expire in 2021 without a deal being made.
That didn’t happen. Instead, we’re 68 days into a lockout and it’s unlikely spring training will start on time. The sides seem incapable of finding even a small patch of common ground on major issues and are again back to issuing competing statements and sniping at each other through media proxies.
There’s still time to get in enough spring training for a 162-game season. Presumably the league and the union aren’t foolish enough to get to a point where games are missed. But at this point they can’t even agree to have bargaining sessions on consecutive days.
There will be a new CBA eventually. But baseball has a lot of work to do in the next few years improving the product on the field and better marketing its players. Otherwise, the sport risks falling further behind the NFL and NBA on the national stage. Can the league and players work together to achieve this? It seems unlikely.
Fieldin Culbreth, Kerwin Danley, Gerry Davis, Brian Gorman, and Joe West all retired as umpires. West started in 1976 and worked a record 5,460 games. Davis worked 38 years and umped 4,849 games with a record 151 more in the postseason. Laz Díaz, Greg Gibson, Marvin Hudson, Ron Kulpa, and Bill Welke are the new crew chiefs. MLB named Ryan Additon, Sean Barber, John Libka, Ben May, and Roberto Ortiz as new full-time umpires. Ortiz is the first native of Puerto Rico on the staff … Kumar Rocker is working out at Vanderbilt and preparing for the draft. The big righthander was the 10th overall pick last June but didn’t sign with the Mets because team doctors had concerns about his elbow. Vandy coach Tim Corbin suggested Rocker could play for an independent team at some point to show teams he is healthy. The 22-year-old Rocker was 28-10 with a 2.89 ERA with the Commodores and averaged 12.2 strikeouts per nine innings. Being a year older won’t help his cause, but Rocker could get picked in the first round again … Happy birthday to Kaleb Ort, who is 30. He made his major league debut on Sept. 13, facing three batters for the Red Sox in Seattle. Ort was a non-drafted free agent who signed with Arizona in 2016 and was released six months later. The Yankees picked him up then lost to the Sox last winter in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft. Vic Correll is 76. He played one game for the Red Sox in 1972, going 2 for 4 with an RBI against the Tigers on Oct. 4 and catching a complete-game victory by Marty Pattin in the final game of the season. The Sox traded Correll to the Braves in 1974 and he went on to play seven seasons in the majors.