Here’s our annual ranking of major league managers. We combined the opinions of players, managers, general managers, coaches, scouts, and other front office personnel before putting a number next to a name. The opinions are based on track record, as well as last year’s success or failure. As has always been the case, first-year managers are at the bottom of the list.
1. Joe Maddon, Cubs — It’s now two franchises, the Rays and Cubs, that Maddon has managed wonderfully. One of the first, and without question the best, to bring managing into the analytics age, he has revolutionized managing, much as Tony La Russa did decades earlier.
2. Bruce Bochy, Giants — The simple way to evaluate Bochy: results. Three championships in five years, enough said. Almost opposite of Maddon when it comes to analytics, but very much like Maddon in his ability to optimize player performance.
3. Buck Showalter, Orioles — A model of consistency in his approach to team building and discipline. He doesn’t always have the best roster, but he can control the message as well as any manager in the game.
4. Terry Francona, Indians — From the disaster of Philadelphia, to the heights of two championships in Boston, to the depths of September 2011, to the masterful job he often does with a small-market team with few resources, Francona has earned the cachet that comes with being one of the best.
5. Joe Girardi, Yankees — There’s nothing like managing in New York, and Girardi doesn’t get enough credit for what he does with the egos, the aging roster, and the market. He puts team first, and egos are checked at the door. His handling of Alex Rodriguez last season, in what could have been a trying situation, was masterful. Managing through many pitching injuries and still getting the Yankees to the playoffs is also worthy of mention.
6. Clint Hurdle, Pirates — Hurdle doesn’t have the resources of the Cubs or Cardinals, yet he managed to get 98 wins out of his squad last season, and he is expected to have another strong season despite the subtraction of players who no longer fit the roster economically. Great leader.
7. Terry Collins, Mets — The job he did leading the Mets, with a young pitching staff, to the World Series was a testament to the perseverance he’s shown in his long career, as well as the lessons learned.
8. Ned Yost, Royals — The Bobby Cox influence has seeped into Yost’s career. Yost was a coach on Cox’s staff in Atlanta, and now that he’s won his own championship, it’s clear to see how his handling of players is similar to the way Cox did it.
9. Mike Matheny, Cardinals — He has a .579 winning percentage in his first four seasons, making the postseason all four times, and was the only skipper to win 100 games in 2015. And he did it without ace Adam Wainwright, and some other injuries. Strong leadership qualities
10. John Gibbons, Blue Jays — Getting his due after years of perceived mediocrity, Gibbons, who had superior offensive talent as well as David Price, had to manage a very young bullpen in the heat of a pennant race. He also got great production from Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez.
11. Mike Scioscia, Angels — Certainly old school, but a track record of excellence. He demands the game be played the right way and his aggressive style is fun to watch.
12. Bob Melvin, Athletics — Melvin struggled through a poor season last year, but the two-time American League Manager of the Year impressively combines analytics and baseball street smarts.
13. Dusty Baker, Nationals — Tried and true, Baker has managed 3,176 games and been named National League Manager of the Year three times. Out of the game the last two seasons, he will add much-needed stability in Washington after the Matt Williams experiment failed.
14. John Farrell, Red Sox — Two last-place finishes have knocked Farrell down a few pegs, but he has the chance to rise with a team that’s built to win a championship. Farrell’s biggest job is to take the young players to the next level.
15. Don Mattingly, Marlins — Mattingly was never able to get the high-payroll Dodgers to the World Series, but he might have had one of the toughest jobs in baseball dealing with the egos and malcontents in Los Angeles. He gets a second chance in Miami with a much younger roster. But he now has to deal with meddling owner Jeffrey Loria.
16. Jeff Banister, Rangers — Banister, who spent a few seasons as Hurdle’s bench coach, had a strong rookie season, overcoming the losses of Derek Holland and Yu Darvish, as well as the reacquisition of Josh Hamilton and all that came with it. The Rangers won their division in spite of the injuries.
17. A.J. Hinch, Astros — Hinch was always ahead of his time, even during his struggles with the Diamondbacks when he was one of the first to use analytics in managing. He’s finally put it together, using numbers, communication, and his gut to become one of the rising stars in his profession.
18. Paul Molitor, Twins — Molitor exceeded expectations in his first season as the young Twins excelled under his leadership. GM Terry Ryan once again made the right choice.
19. Kevin Cash, Rays — It’s always hard to assess a manager in a market where expectations are somewhat checked by budget constraints. As a former catcher, Cash runs a good pitching staff, the bread and butter of all Rays teams. We’ll see how well he continues to navigate through a tough AL East.
20. Brad Ausmus, Tigers — The Tigers decided not to give up on Ausmus, a highly intelligent young manager who had a horrible season. Ausmus is back on a short leash, one more year on his deal. He has a chance to be the Tigers’ long-term manager with a good season. Observers say the game isn’t as fast for him as it was when he first took the reins two years ago.
21. Pete Mackanin, Phillies — Mackanin doesn’t have the sexy name, but he can manage. Sometimes executives look for excuses to bring in their own guy, or someone with name value to excite the masses. But as Ryne Sandberg came to realize in Philadelphia, that doesn’t always work.
22. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves — Gonzalez has had to preside over a rolling roster the past two seasons. In such a setting, no manager can be properly evaluated. His past, however, suggests an evolving manager, one who had problems handling bullpens that he overcame.
23. Robin Ventura, White Sox — Ventura has never been in the elite category of managers, but he has a very good pitching staff that may help him get there. GM Rick Hahn tried to improve the offense, and we’ll see if that gives Ventura the ability to put everything together.
24. Chip Hale, Diamondbacks — His first foray into managing was mostly a success. Now GM Dave Stewart has given him the players to compete for the NL West title.
25. Craig Counsell, Brewers — Counsell has a team that will be accused of tanking it in order to gain better draft position. He is a bright guy who has had many experiences in baseball. It’s going to be frustrating for him.
26. Bryan Price, Reds — Price was given a pass after the Reds sold off their contending team, and he is now left with a rebuild. He needs to be able to overachieve with a changing roster.
27. Walt Weiss, Rockies — Weiss has such a tough situation because the Rockies have never been able to sustain a strong pitching staff (they were the only team last season that didn’t have a pitcher strike out 10 in a game at least once), and they traded veterans Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson. Weiss has never had the chance to show what he is as a manager.
28. Dave Roberts, Dodgers — Roberts’s high energy and positive nature might be what it takes to navigate a challenging roster. Getting Yasiel Puig to achieve his potential is imperative.
29. Scott Servais, Mariners — He’s never been a manager, but he is a highly respected baseball guy who should be able to figure it out and follow the analytics to make sound decisions on the field.
30. Andy Green, Padres — A well-respected coach in Arizona. The Padres feel he was the best choice for their rebuilding effort. He’s a high-energy positive thinker.
Apropos of nothing
1. Ruben Amaro Jr. will start his field career as a first base coach with the Red Sox and eventually wants to manage. But his final act with the Phillies as GM was leaving them with a revamped roster that could pay dividends for years.
Amaro was often criticized for not pulling the trigger on a Cole Hamels deal, but once he did, he got what many believe to be the equivalent of a Herschel Walker-like package (in the words of ESPN minor league guru Keith Law).
The Phillies receive the Rangers’ top catching prospect in Jorge Alfaro, righthander Jake Thompson, outfielder Nick Williams, as well as righties Alec Asher and Jerad Eickhoff. Law ranked the Phillies as having the sixth-best minor league system, up from 25th last year, based mostly on the moves Amaro made before he left.
2. I’d like the see the return of AL and NL presidents. They could be used in a variety of ways, from figureheads to another set of ears and eyes for commissioner Rob Manfred. As long as the DH rule stays the way it is, the leagues will be perceived as different. You have no shortage of candidates, including Joe Torre for the AL and Joe Garagiola Jr. for the NL.
3. Sad to learn of the death of old friend Tom Singer of MLB.com, one of the best and most consistent baseball writers for more than four decades.
4. Ryan Hanigan has picked up where David Ross left off in terms of being a solid veteran who provides great wisdom for the pitchers. He also sees that trait in David Price.
“I played with David in Tampa for a year and I got to know him pretty well,” said Hanigan. “You can talk about his stuff all day long, but it’s more than that. He’s such a gamer, competitor.
“When you watch him pitch, you can see the focus he has with every pitch. It’s like life or death for him. He throws one, he misses. You can tell he wants to execute every single pitch he throws.
“And beyond that, what I saw in Tampa Bay, he makes other guys better. He’s out there watching their bullpens. That pitching staff just got better and better. You know David is going to take Eduardo Rodriguez under his belt and get him to the next level.”
5. Congratulations to Brewers third baseman Will Middlebrooks and former NESN reporter Jenny Dell, who are getting married Sunday.
Updates on nine
1. Pedro Alvarez, 1B-DH, free agent — The Orioles are one of the teams trying to fit in the lefthanded hitter, who has reached 30 homers twice in his six seasons, and hit 27 for the Pirates last year. The former third baseman had to abandon that position because of throwing issues. Camden Yards is a good place to hit for power, but bringing on Alvarez would mean Mark Trumbo would have to play the field, and that’s something the coaching staff is leery of. The Orioles also have expressed interest in Dexter Fowler, who would play one of the corners, contribute better defense, and add a speed dimension.
2. Yovani Gallardo, RHP, free agent — Gallardo’s first All-Star season came with the Brewers in 2010 with Rick Peterson as pitching coach. Peterson is Baltimore’s director of pitching development, and it may be a reason Gallardo is drawn to the Orioles. The Orioles made the tough decision that they would be willing to give up their 14th overall pick as compensation to sign Gallardo, and at this writing the details were still being ironed out.
3. Koji Uehara, RHP, Red Sox — Ever wonder why hitters swing and miss at Uehara’s 88/89-mile-per-hour fastball? An analytics person explained it’s all about spin rate. The average major league fastball has a spin rate of about 2,200 revolutions per minute. Uehara’s is 2,700. The hitter sees the ball coming waist high but often swings under the ball.
4. Chris Lee, LHP, Orioles — Lee will be one of the must-see pitchers in Orioles camp. Dan Duquette got him from Houston in exchange for two international signing bonus slots. Lee, 23, throws 97 m.p.h. with a “plus” changeup and slider. His mannerisms remind scouts of David Price.
5. Ian Desmond, SS, free agent — Not sure what is stopping the White Sox from signing Desmond. They have a protected No. 1 pick and would have to give up the 28th overall pick (compensation for losing Jeff Samardzija) to sign a 20/20 shortstop who would excel offensively at U.S. Cellular Field. Desmond would complete their infield remake (they’ve added Todd Frazier at third and Bret Lawrie at second).
6. Shohei Otani, RHP/OF, Nippon — Scouts who watched him throw in Arizona feel he’ll be the next Japanese superstar when he’s posted, although that won’t likely happen soon. He’s 21, throws 101 m.p.h., and hits for power. “He can do both,” said an AL scout. “He’s going to have to make a choice. Either way he’s going to be an All-Star-caliber player as a hitter or pitcher.” The tendency will be to keep him as a pitcher because he lights up radar guns. But he likes to hit.
7. Franklin Morales, LHP, free agent — Scott Boras confirmed a Peter Abraham report that the Red Sox are interested in Morales for their bullpen. Morales had a 3.18 ERA for the Royals last season, and the world champions were pleased with him. He wasn’t re-signed because KC feels Danny Duffy and Brian Flynn should be able to handle bullpen duties from the left side. The Red Sox would want Morales on a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.
8. Jon Lester, LHP, Cubs — The Cubs need to continue to work on Lester’s throwing to bases. Over the last six seasons, Lester has allowed 121 steals. And now the Cubs also have John Lackey, who also has allowed 121 steals over the last six years. What’s interesting is that Lester has had 42 caught stealings in that span, while Lackey has had just 26.
9. James Shields, RHP, Padres — The feeling among a few executives is that Shields could become a trade deadline option. The Padres weren’t able to move him this offseason because teams were scared by the number of home runs he allows, even at spacious Petco Park. But Shields, who pitched 200 innings for the ninth straight year, was by no means a disaster, and if he starts well, his experience will be attractive to contenders.
From the Bill Chuck files: “There has never been a Trump in the majors, but there have been 18 Bernies, including Bernie Williams (the only All-Star) and Bernie Carbo.” . . . Happy birthday, Takashi Saito (46).
Where have all the .300 hitters gone? Baseball-Reference.com lists 202 players in baseball history with career batting averages of .300 or better (minimum 3,000 plate appearances), but that number drops to 45 since 1970 and there are only 10 active players in the group. Only four of the top 50 all-time .300 hitters played after 1970.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.