The late Nick Cafardo made it an annual tradition to rank the 30 managers during the offseason. We’re bringing it back for a fourth consecutive year as a tribute to Nick.
Pedro Grifol (White Sox), Skip Schumaker (Marlins), and Matt Quatraro (Royals) are new managers this season and will start at the bottom.
Bruce Bochy (Rangers) is a new manager in 2022 but managed 25 years from 1995-2019. Phil Nevin (Angels) and Rob Thomson (Phillies) were interim managers last season who kept their jobs.
Here are the latest rankings:
1. Terry Francona (Guardians): Cleveland had a luxury-tax payroll of $66.4 million last season, won 92 games, and took the Yankees to Game 5 in the Division Series. Every other team that made the playoffs had a payroll of at least $98 million and the average was $191 million.
As he enters his 23rd season, the 63-year-old Francona is getting better. The Guardians recognized that by signing him to what amounts to a rolling contract for the remainder of his career.
2. Dusty Baker (Astros): It took 25 years with five teams but Baker got the championship he has long been striving for last season. Now 73, Baker decided immediately that he wanted to return. He has been a good fit for Houston over the last three seasons.
Like Francona, the Hall of Fame is waiting once he retires.
3-4: Kevin Cash (Rays), Dave Roberts (Dodgers): Both are excellent managers, perfect for their respective teams and situations. They set the right tone for the clubhouse.
But there is an underlying belief in the game that the front offices of both teams have a heavy influence on in-game decisions. Andrew Friedman ran baseball operations for the Rays before he joined the Dodgers in the same capacity after the 2014 season.
5. Alex Cora (Red Sox): There have been several occasions over the last two seasons when Cora expressed his gratitude to Chaim Bloom and team ownership for giving him a second chance in baseball after his suspension in 2020.
That was genuine. But how long will a championship-driven manager such as Cora want to keep fighting the Blue Jays, Rays, and Yankees with second-level talent? As teams such as the Mets and Padres rise, the Sox have stepped back from the highest level of the game.
6. Brian Snitker (Braves): Atlanta has it figured out. It has a new park in the suburbs anchoring a retail and dining complex that provides year-long revenue. Meanwhile, the best players on a deep and talented roster are signed to long-term contracts.
Snitker has won the NL East five times in a row and is 20-12 in the playoffs the last three years. He needs only 38 victories to be third in franchise history. Job security can be fleeting for managers but he has it.
7-8-9: Bob Melvin (Padres), Bruce Bochy (Rangers), Buck Showalter (Mets): They have a combined 65 years and 10,043 games of managerial experience. All three have high-payroll teams with big expectations.
Bochy returns to the dugout after a three-year break. The Rangers believe his presence can return the team to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
10-11 Aaron Boone (Yankees), Rob Thomson (Phillies): The Yankees fired Joe Girardi after the 2017 season and Thomson was the first candidate they interviewed. The job went to Boone and Thomson decided to start over in Philadelphia as Gabe Kapler’s bench coach.
Boone has been very good with the Yankees, guiding them two first first-place finishes and four playoff berths but no pennants.
Thomson became interim manager of the Phillies in June when Girardi was fired. His demeanor was a perfect fit and Philadelphia went on to the World Series.
This time. Thomson was the right guy.
12-13: Craig Counsell (Brewers), Scott Servais (Mariners): Counsell is 52, went to high school in Wisconsin, and has won 52 percent of his games since becoming manager in 2015.
Servais is 55, went to high school in Wisconsin, and has won 51 percent of his games since becoming manager in 2016.
They’re not the same guy, but it’s pretty close. They’re good managers, too.
14-15-16: Gabe Kapler (Giants), Rocco Baldelli (Twins), David Ross (Cubs): Three former Red Sox players with some pressure to perform.
This will be the fourth season for Kapler and Ross, and the fifth for Baldelli. They are a combined 2-10 in the postseason. The Cubs have an interesting roster after adding Tucker Barnhart, Cody Bellinger, Eric Hosmer, Trey Mancini, Drew Smyly, Dansby Swanson, and Jameson Taillon.
With Carlos Correa finding his way back to Minnesota, the Twins are positioned to challenge the Guardians.
17. Oli Marmol (Cardinals): St. Louis won 93 games last season, winning the NL Central by seven games. But the Cardinals scored only three runs in two home playoff games against the Phillies and were eliminated quickly.
The challenge this season will be breaking in Willson Contreras as catcher after Yadier Molina held the job for 18 years.
18. A.J. Hinch (Tigers): Hinch was 481-329 in five seasons with Houston and made the playoffs four times. He is 232-304 in four seasons with Arizona and Detroit with no playoff appearances.
The Tigers are rebuilding under new general manager Scott Harris and it’ll be the final season for Miguel Cabrera. Hinch has a lot on his plate.
19-20: Brandon Hyde (Orioles), John Schneider (Blue Jays): Hyde is a 6-foot-2-inch guy with a beard who was a catcher in the minors and is 49. Schneider is a 6-3 guy with a beard who was a catcher in the minors and is 42.
They both have teams on the rise, too.
Schneider and Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush were teammates with the Chatham A’s in the Cape Cod League. When Bush was elected to the CCBL Hall of Fame in 2011, he asked Schneider to be his presenter.
21-22-23-24: Bud Black (Rockies), Torey Lovullo (Diamondbacks), Dave Martinez (Nationals), Phil Nevin (Angels): The pressure is on these managers to turn things around.
Colorado hasn’t had a winning season since 2018, although that’s more on the front office. Arizona had a 22-game improvement last season after a disastrous 110-loss season in 2021. As the talent level rises, more will be expected.
Washington is 92 games under .500 since winning the World Series in 2019. As the Nationals’ rebuild continues, is Martinez the right fit? Los Angeles was worse under Nevin last season (46-60) than they were under Joe Maddon (27-29), but he kept the job. With the team for sale, how long will that last?
25-26-27: David Bell (Reds), Mark Kotsay (Athletics), Derek Shelton (Pirates): It’s hard to measure success when the franchise always seems to be rebuilding or unwilling to spend.
Maybe they’re good managers, but it’s hard to tell.
28-29-30: Pedro Grifol (White Sox), Skip Schumaker (Marlins), Matt Quatraro (Royals): Grifol inherits a solid roster from Tony La Russa, although the leadership and offensive production of José Abreu will be missed.
Schumaker takes over a team stuck behind some big spenders in the NL East. Quatraro is the latest Rays coach to get a chance at managing as the Royals start over.
BRING ON THE BEAR
Alfaro could catch on with Sox
The signing of catcher Jorge Alfaro to a minor league contract this past week wasn’t big news. But it could prove to be a smart decision by the Red Sox.
Alfaro, 29, has started 384 games in the majors behind the plate and has a .701 OPS over seven seasons.
Reese McGuire, who the Sox have essentially crowned their starter, has 179 career starts and a .683 OPS.
Alfaro is going to strike out a ton and is disdainful of walks. But he has a powerful throwing arm, runs extraordinarily well for a catcher, and has great exit velocity when he does make contact.
“El Oso” — The Bear — is a colorful figure with his long, flowing hair. He could be fun to watch.
Alfaro also was named MVP of the Dominican Winter League championship series after helping lead Licey to the title. He homered twice in the five-game series. He’s listed on Colombia’s roster for the World Baseball Classic.
A few other observations on the Red Sox:
▪ Baseball America released its list of the top 100 prospects and the Sox had Marcelo Mayer (10), Triston Casas (29), Ceddanne Rafaela (71), and Miguel Bleis (88).
Because Japanese players are considered rookies and have prospect status, Masataka Yoshida was No. 87.
That’s alarmingly low for a player in which the Red Sox invested $105.4 million. The consensus across the industry is that the Sox overpaid for Yoshida.
New Mets righthander Kodai Senga, who was signed for $75 million, is 16th.
▪ Zack Kelly pitched the 2014 and ‘15 seasons at Division 2 Concord University in West Virginia after he graduated from high school. The team’s coach was Andrew Wright.
Kelly transferred to Newberry College after his sophomore year. Wright also left, taking a job at the University of Charleston.
For Kelly, it was the start of a long process that led to his making his major league debut with the Sox last season. Wright left Charleston after the 2019 season for a low-level position with the Yankees and is now minor league field coordinator of the Red Sox.
“He was a great coach,” Kelly said. “It’s crazy that all this time later we’ll both be with the Red Sox.”
▪ Spring training starts in three-plus weeks and Bobby Dalbec is still on the roster. That’s a surprise.
The 27-year-old infielder doesn’t have a spot in the lineup with Casas at first base and Justin Turner the designated hitter. Dalbec is also not a great fit for the bench.
Dalbec had 33 homers, 95 RBIs, and an .819 OPS over 156 games from 2020-21, so the ability is there. But last season’s meltdown leaves him with little trade value. At this point, a return to Triple A Worcester seems likely.
▪ The only Sox players under contract for 2025 are Yoshida, Rafael Devers, Trevor Story, and Garrett Whitlock. In theory, they could be well-positioned to sign Juan Soto.
▪ Shortstop prospect Matthew Lugo was named Rookie of the Year in the Puerto Rican winter league. Infielder Edwin Díaz, who was signed to a minor league contract by the Sox this past week, was the league MVP.
Díaz, 27, played 48 of 50 games for Caguas and had a .793 OPS. He has yet to make it past Triple A in his nine-year professional career with Oakland and then Houston last season.
Lugo, 21, was a second-round pick in 2019 who is likely to open the season in Double A. He also played for Caguas.
▪ The Red Sox were one of six teams that exceeded the luxury-tax limit and were fined by Major League Baseball. The Dodgers, Mets, Padres, Phillies, and Yankees made the playoffs. The Sox went 78-84 and were taxed $1.2 million, according to the Associated Press.
The real cost was the Sox received two fourth-round draft picks for losing qualified free agents Nate Eovaldi and Xander Bogaerts instead of two picks after the second round.
▪ In what could be bad news for radio and television announcers down the road, the Sox signed an 18-year-old righthander from the Netherlands named Stijn Van Der Schaaf.
Announcement for Hall on deck
The Hall of Fame will unveil the results of the BBWAA voting on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on MLB Network. Any player with the required 75 percent would join Fred McGriff in the class of 2023 and be inducted on July 23 in Cooperstown.
McGriff was a unanimous choice by the Contemporary Era Player Committee in December.
Scott Rolen and Todd Helton are over 75 percent based on the ballots revealed by voters so far. In previous years, those numbers have tended to shrink when all of the ballots are revealed. There were 394 ballots cast last year.
So far there have been four blank ballots cast, which is allowed by the Hall of Fame. But because the results are based on a percentage, a blank ballot devalues the vote of other writers.
If a voter truly feels no player is worth selecting, simply don’t cast a ballot. To me, the object is to select those players you feel are worthy, not sabotage those you feel aren’t.
It appears the only newcomers on the ballot who will return next year are Carlos Beltrán and Francisco Rodriguez. They are well over the required 5 percent to remain on.
Barry Bonds had his number retired by the Giants. The Red Sox inducted Manny Ramirez into the team hall of fame. Roger Clemens has a good relationship with the Sox and Astros. But another vestige of the Steroids Era, Sammy Sosa, remains a pariah with the Cubs. Sosa hasn’t been invited to any fan events or been honored at Wrigley Field since his retirement in 2007. The Cubs say he’s not eligible for their hall of fame until next year. “I think there are two sides here,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said. “I’d like to get this behind us as well, but I want to be thoughtful about it and do it in a way that’s respectful to both the people that love Sammy and people that respect the game, too.” Cubs great Ryne Sandberg suggested Sosa needed to apologize, presumably for his PED use. “There was a little problem there with the way Sammy played the game,” Sandberg told reporters this past week. “And if that’s a roadblock, that’s a roadblock.” Sosa has consistently denied drug use. He spent 10 years on the BBWAA ballot for the Hall of Fame and topped out at only 18.5 percent … MLB promoted umpires Lance Barksdale, Dan Bellino, Chris Conroy, Adrian Johnson, James Hoye, Alan Porter, and Todd Tichenor to crew chiefs for the coming season. Porter and Johnson are the second and third Black umpires to become crew chiefs. The first, Kerwin Danley, retired after the 2021 season … The Rays signed former Red Sox righthanders Heath Hembree, Colten Brewer, and Trevor Kelley to minor league contracts. Hembree, 34, has pitched 10 seasons in the majors … Happy birthday to Alan Embree, who will be 53 on Monday. The lefthanded reliever had a 16-year career that included 211 games with the Red Sox from 2002-05. Embree only had four saves for the Sox but was tremendously valuable. Embree appeared in 11 games in the 2004 postseason, helping lock down eight victories, including getting the final out of Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees in New York. Embree also got two outs in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the World Series. Embree faced Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu, John Olerud, Carlos Delgado, Luis Gonzalez, and Bernie Williams 139 times in his career. They were 20 for 122 (.164) and struck out 29 times.