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Which New Manager Inherited the Best Situation? Fan Debate
The 2011-2012 Major League Baseball offseason prepares to close and Spring Training 2012 will soon begin. More deals and free agent signings will occur throughout Spring Training and heading into Opening Day. As we watch which players went where, we can overlook the new managers that some teams have hired. As the 2012 season begins, which team's new manager has inherited the best situation? To answer this, I considered more than just team strength; I also considered fan expectation.
The Boston Red Sox said farewell to Terry Francona after the Red Sox collapsed in September 2011. Clubhouse concerns and injuries may have contributed to the fall, but on the field, they just played bad baseball. They went from A.L. East leaders on September 1 to blowing a nine-game lead in the Wild Card to the Tampa Bay Rays. In addition, they lost their closer Jonathan Papelbon although they did replace him with Andrew Bailey, a good closer himself.
I put Valentine fifth because he has to come right into the tough A.L. East and recoup his new team to try to beat the New York Yankees, whom I predict will repeat as division champions. The Red Sox still have plenty of talent, but they could lose Carl Crawford to open the season.
The Chicago White Sox finished 2011 at 79-83 and said goodbye to Ozzie Guillen. New manager Robin Ventura, a former White Sox star himself and now rookie manager, comes in after the team lost its ace in Mark Buehrle and did not do much to replace him. In addition, the A.L. Central champion Detroit Tigers just got better by signing Prince Fielder to slug home runs and Octavio Dotel to shore up the bullpen. That will give the White Sox an even tougher time contending for the division.
If I went by team strength alone, I would rank Dale Sveum's taking over of the Chicago Cubs #5. Huge contracts that did not pan out led to the ouster of GM Jim Hendry in the middle of the season and manager Mike Quade at season's end. The Cubs (71-91 in 2011) bring in Sveum, who helped coach the Milwaukee Brewers to the N.L. Central Division championship last season.
Sveum inherits a much younger team after the Cubs let some veterans go and traded away some others. On the field this year, fans do not expect the Cubs to win much, but Sveum has the opportunity to help rebuild the team from within with the younger players that new GM Jed Hoyer has acquired. Very soon, though, Cub fans will want to see that young talent begin to win. If they cannot, then we may see another manager in Wrigley Field before too long.
Tony LaRussa retired after the St. Louis Cardinals won a very exciting 2011 World Series over the Texas Rangers. New Cardinals' manager Mike Matheny does not get to manage superstar Albert Pujols, but the Cardinals still have more than enough talent to win the N.L. Central, especially since the Brewers have lost Fielder and may begin the season without N.L. MVP Ryan Braun. The Cardinals brought in Carlos Beltran and still have dynamite pitching led by Chris Carpenter. They should have a healthy Adam Wainwright to strengthen the rotation even more. This is a good place for a rookie manager to begin his new career. I put Matheny at #2 because a team's repeating as champions is not an easy task, especially when replacing the winning manager with whom the players have valuable chemistry.
The Florida Marlins finished in last place in the N.L. East, and they made many changes including manager. Now the Miami Marlins with a new skipper, they also brought in Buehrle, closer Heath Bell, and shortstop Jose Reyes to go along with Mike Stanton and Hanley Ramirez. New manager Ozzie Guillen also has a new stadium, which should help draw fans, especially if the Marlins contend, and they should. They have not drawn many fans for the past few years. Energized fans can bring out more effort from the players, and the cycle can repeat. The N. L. East now has four legitimate contenders, making for a good situation for Guillen. Even if they do not make the postseason, they have a better foundation for the next few years.
Baseball fans are ready for a new season. Let's play ball!
Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, and Miami Marlins Active Rosters (linked above), from team sites.
Major League Baseball, 2011 Regular Season Standings, mlb.mlb.com.
Ronald Blum, AP Sports, Spring Training Starts with Sluggers in New Places, sports.yahoo.com/mlb, February 11, 2012.
Raymond became a baseball fan at a very young age. He played baseball through high school and soon after became a varsity coach. He currently coaches Little League in Florida. Raymond previously produced radio sports talk shows and hosted a weekly baseball radio call-in show.
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