You are not going to believe me, so I am going to provide the evidence. But here goes: the man that the Boston Globe asks to rank the MLB managers last year, at one point, ranked Bobby Valentine as the fourth best manager in the season. Yes, I remember that the Red Sox hung around .500 even to the midway point, but fourth best job well done in baseball??
To further flavor this conversation, let us remember that Joe Torre is the most successful big league manager of the last twenty years, and is likely the biggest culprit in the USA being out of the World Baseball Classic before the finals. (Bunting in the second inning? Really!?!?!?!)
With that, here is his current ranking:
Over the past few spring trainings, we’ve dabbled in ranking the managers as they are about to enter the season. We take into consideration past performances, plus struggles, rosters, communication, tactical ability, longevity etc. It’s all subjective.
The first-timers we place at the bottom of the food chain. I’ve always said, if you’re one of 30 major league managers, you’re doing something right, so you won’t see any negativity in the comments.
This is likely true, they had to have done something right. However, having done something correct does not make one impervious to criticism.
1. Bruce Bochy, Giants — Granted, in winning championships two of the last three years, he has had superb pitching. But he doesn’t always have the best lineups, yet he performs little miracles.
In his 18 year career as a manager, he is 10 games above .500. He makes constant strange decisions, loves Hunter Pence a little too much, and did not pull any particular strings that lead to a World Series victory. Frankly, he was lucky that the Reds collpased after a 2-0 lead in the Division Series and that Tim Lincecum finally became effective again as a high leverage releiver. Yet, two World Series in three years earns respect, so I’m not going to cry too much here. But, I will say that if Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean are bringing in two out of three World Series’, the rest of the league is slacking.
2. Joe Maddon, Rays — There isn’t a more innovative manager in the game. He combines psychology, communication, data, and common sense to form the epitome of the modern-day manager.
My number one. He aggravates, is kind of an odd ball, and was once almost fired by the Rays, but he fits well with the Rays way. Tamp Bay has something going well right now, but we all know that Voo Doo curses always turn uglier than the blessing is good. Hopefully, their “luck” runs out soon.
3. Buck Showalter, Orioles — A complete manager who sets the tone with his personality and knowledge. Very good in-game manager.
The Orioles were supremly lucky last year. Buck has been fired three times in the last 15-20 years and did not have a job from 2006 until the Orioles hired him. If he were that amazing, would be have just sat out there for that long with no one wanting to touch him with a 10 foot pole?
4. Jim Leyland, Tigers — Like Bochy, more old-school, and it still works. Universally respected.
Looks 90, turns out to be 68. Has a good track record as a manager (save the Colorado experience). He makes series after series of bad decisions that turn out ok Voo Doo.
5. Terry Francona, Indians …bats eyes…. #sighs#
6. Bob Melvin, Athletics — Quickly becoming one of the elite, with two
Manager of the Year awards. Nicely molded a young pitching staff and got optimum performance out of his lineup.
I am biased towards the A’s. After a few rough managerial moves (do not hire your best friend Billy Beane!), this one is working well.
7. Mike Scioscia, Angels — Always high on this list. Very consistent approach
See Jim Leyland (minus the old part…).
8. Joe Girardi, Yankees — Has one championship under his belt and
amazingly won 95 games last year with Mariano Rivera missing most of the season. Knows pitching as well as any manager in the game and has the ability, like Francona,
to handle big stars.
Is it that hard to manage the Yankees? Is it? The level of stress – and this is stressful, I admit – is taking a World Series quality payroll and winning the World Series with it. Girardi has done it one. Torre and McCarthy are shaking their heads.
9. Davey Johnson, Nationals — His roster talent is undeniable, but his father-figure presence on a fairly young team has worked marvelously.
I’ve never been entirely sure what to do with Davey. He beat the Red Sox in ’86 with a tremendous collection of talent in New York, was reportedly run out of Cincinnati for living with his girlfriend (Marge Schott was old school!), never seemed to get a fair shake in Baltimore, and left Los Angeles after an 86 win season. His career win percentage is .586 (Eat that Bruce Bochy!). Why do teams let him go so easily? Either way, the results are there.
10. Charlie Manuel, Phillies — Always a favorite here, Manuel is another old- school guy, managing by what his eyes tell him. Players have always responded to his charisma and street smarts.
Cholly!?!? Tenth??? I mean, he won a World Series… He used to be Manny Ramirez’ hitting coach in Cleveland… (Though come one, could you imagine that conversation? The combined IQ in terms of math, science, literature was likely 122 and in hitting was like 12,564.) I do not get this. I think Manuel is a bad manager and do not want him near my team.
And is there anything funnier than thinking of backwoods, southern Cholly Manuel as “street smart.” Snoop and Dre could likely recruit him for their “posse.”
He seems to be a media darling, so this surprises me. But when you watch the Rangers, you see strange decision after strange decision and come away thinking that the Rangers are winning in spite of Washington’s game tactics.
12. Dusty Baker, Reds — Vast experience managing high-profile players, with the ability to pat a guy on the back and get him to play. His detractors have never liked his bullpen management, but he did just fine with that last season.
Mark Prior. Kerry Wood. Edinson Volquez. You know Dusty Baker is pushing for Aroldis Chapman to go back to the bullpen because he knows that on gameday he cannot help himself and will ruin that arm! By the way, did I mention that strange strike him out, throw him out during game five of the Division Series last year when the Reds were about to come back after blowing a 2 game lead and bow being down in game 5?
How about the fact that Dusty has hit Ryan Hannigan, On Base Machine TM, 8th repeatedly. His .370 career OBP would look much better in the 2 hole front of Joey Votto. Menawhile, the much balley-hooed Brandon Phillips and his .322 career OBP would look good in the 6th hole.
I lived in Cincinnati for four years. I saw some strange things from Dusty Baker. I do not understand him in the least. Neither do Reds fans (or Cubs fans, or Giant fans…).
13. Fredi Gonzalez, Braves — Made a huge improvement in his bullpen management last season and now oversees a very talented lineup and pitching staff.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Just seriously, ask a Braves fan. Ask Craig Calcaterra…
14. Clint Hurdle, Pirates — He has really grown. He can be tough but fair, and brings an enthusiasm to the job despite working in a market that hasn’t had a .500 team in 20 years.
Man, the state of baseball managing is poor, isn’t it?
15. Eric Wedge, Mariners — Hasn’t always been in the best situation roster-wise, but he manages with a firm hand, expecting fundamentals to be executed. Combines a bit of old-school with new-school, and has a great temperament.
The Mariners have won less than 44% of the games Wedge has led them.
16. Ron Roenicke, Brewers — From the Scioscia tree, Roenicke has an even keel about him that seems to bring a comfort zone to players, and he seems more flexible than his mentor.
The Brewers have been solid with Roenicke (.552 Winning Percentage), though he bunts too much. How, exactly, is Wedge better than Roenicke?
17. Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks — Has been able to step back from his natural fiery side and be more understanding of the modern-day athlete, realizing that not everyone plays the way he did.
He seems to have mandated, along with Kevin Towers, the trades of a top 10 minor league pitcher and a high ceiling, established good player (spare me the elite stuff with Upton until he has more than one elite season) for a young good glove, noodle bat at SS and a very good complimentary piece (Prado). Yawn.
18. Ron Gardenhire, Twins — Solid veteran manager, but lately the Twins have fallen on hard times and Gardenhire, in the final year of his contract, could take the fall.
I have never gotten the Twins way. Many guys (David Ortiz, JJ Hardy) do not hit for power for them, but do immediately upon leaving. That said, Gardenhire has no talent now, yet led them to good records with mediocre talent. I don’t love Gardenhire, but making him 18th is a bit what have you done for me lately, yes?
19. Bud Black, Padres — Forget the “pitching coach trying to be a manager.” Now he’s simply a manager who used to be a pitching coach. Black has roster challenges that simply may not be overcome, but the reviews on him from opposing scouts are very favorable.
He has never come in first place and has a .477 win percentage as a manager, has he really overcome the “pitching coaches can not manage” label? The really question is if that label is dumb.
Ventura led a team that was bad the year before to be decent last year. Should we say something nice about that? Nope…just credit the pitching coach who was there the bad year before. Ok…
21. Mike Matheny, Cardinals — Has been able to fill Tony La Russa’s big shoes with a team that always seems to be in the hunt. Articulate, and communicates very well.
Went to the NLCS in his first year as manager. Fit the mold of TLR/Cardinal manager head scratching decision quota/yet still gets tremendous results. Finishes 21st. Cafardo, what is your criteria?
22. Ned Yost, Royals — Plenty of experience, and may finally have a rosterhe can contend with. A solid baseball man who has earned his stripes.
Yup. Ned Yost is a better manager than your Boston Red Sox manager. Should be another fun year in Beantown!!! Remember where the manager we fired ended up on this list? Me either, it was too long ago and too high up this list!
23. John Farrell, Red Sox — He’ll have to prove himself in Boston and, like Black, shed the pitching coach-turned-manager label. While some Toronto players were critical of him during a woeful 73-win 2012 season, he has won over his current Red Sox team. He’s smart and has a presence.
He. Is. Not. Bobby. Valentine. SOLD!
24. John Gibbons, Blue Jays — He had a .500 record in Toronto the first time around (2004-08) and in an unusual situation, the fiery Gibbons is back managing the same team.
At least the Blue Jays downgraded.
Side story, I recently attended a Blue Jays/Red Sox game in Dunedin. Blue Jay fan after Blue Jay fan approached me to talk John Farrell. To a man/woman, they were peeved that he left them, claimed he was a bad manager anyway, told me to “enjoy him,” then went on about how upset they were that he left. Is it like getting jilted by an average lover, like “we were supposed to dump you!” Is it trying to cope with losing someone they liked? No idea, but a weird atmosphere in Jays land north of the border.
25. Don Mattingly, Dodgers — He knows about high expectations, having been a Yankee for so long. These Dodgers have the highest expectations of just about any team in baseball. Mattingly has improved quite a bit from his first year.
Last year, in the article mentioned above, Cafardo named him as the guy doing the best job in baseball. This is a hard fall in a few months. Plenty of speculation that the new owners will axe him if things go bad. Seems hasty, but he is a Yankee, so I only feel so bad.
26. Terry Collins, Mets — Another solid baseball man, who has had an unfortunate roster situation the past few years. With an infusion of younger talent, Collins should do well in grooming players.
Apparently “solid baseball man” is code for he is a nice guy, but not good at his job. Maybe he is good at his job and you can only be so good when you are working for a Wilpon.
27. Dale Sveum, Cubs — Management feels he’s done a great job. He lost 101 games in his rookie season, but there was little he could do about it. A baseball lifer, Sveum lives and breathes baseball.
Theo wanted him, and that makes him better than 27th for me. I’m kidding…kind of…
28. Bo Porter, Astros — Energetic and tough. Good traits to lead a young team.
29. Mike Redmond, Marlins — Excellent track record in Jays minor league system.
30. Walt Weiss, Rockies — After several years as a special assistant in Colorado, Weiss took some time away from the game but was lured back to take the managing job.
We know nothing about these guys as managers, and are rightly ranked as the final three.