MLB managers of the hot seat: Who will be fired next?
The end of the long MLB season finally upon us. While some fans will be preparing to watch their teams compete in the playoffs, many, many others will be waiting to see what changes their non-playoff bound teams will be making. And for several of those teams, the first change will be firing their manager.
It’s not always fair that the manager is usually the first to go when a team underperforms. A manager can control lineups and in-game decisions, but he doesn’t control how his players perform, or even who his players are going to be — even though managers are usually blamed for all of that — and more. When it comes down to it, a manager’s job is to put his players in the best position to succeed, which will hopefully lead to winning. Of course, it doesn’t always turn out that way.
Let’s dive into several tiers of managers and examine who could get fired, who won’t get fired, and who has already gotten the heave-ho. And who, like Mike Scioscia on Sunday in Anaheim, is already saying his farewells.
Could be out
Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
Showalter would be at the top of this list even if there hadn’t already been a rumor that he was on his way out. The Orioles finished last in the American League East, which they did in 2017 as well, but they finished 61 games out of first place. You think that’s bad? The Orioles didn’t even win 50 games this season, finishing at 47-115. Not all of that is Showalter’s fault — he didn’t make Chris Davis become MLB’s worst hitter — but with Showalter’s contract up at the end of this season and Baltimore clearly heading toward a rebuild, it makes sense to clean the slate and start over.
Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins
Molitor is a familiar name on these lists. It seems he’s been here more often than not, yet he always manages to hold on. It will be interesting to see if that holds true again this year. Molitor did sign an extension last October. However, the Twins certainly didn’t meet expectations in 2018 after making it to the wild card game in 2017. The front office has a lot to ponder, and Molitor’s status could determine which direction their winter goes.
Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers
You’re not hallucinating. We’re talking about Dave Roberts, the same Dave Roberts who has taken the Dodgers to two straight postseasons, and came within a game of winning the 2017 World Series. Roberts’ contract is up at the end of the 2018 season, and the two sides have yet to hammer out a new deal. While it’s expected that they eventually will (and the Dodgers have a 2019 club option on Roberts they can exercise if they don’t), it’s interesting that the Dodgers haven’t offered him an extension yet. Roberts is well-liked, but he’ll be under the microscope during the postseason. Remember: Everybody thought Joe Girardi would be back with the Yankees this season, too.
Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners
This one might seem even crazier than Roberts when you consider the fact that Servais signed a multi-year extension with the Mariners in July. But Servais and the Mariners were almost 20 games over .500 at the time and in the thick of postseason contention. After they collapsed and missed the playoffs yet again, things could change. We wouldn’t put Servais in the “likely” category here, but Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported Sunday about some of Seattle’s clubhouse issues and explained that Servais isn’t seen as the solution in “some quarters of the clubhouse.”
Could have been fired, but seem to be safe
Gabe Kapler, Philadelphia Phillies
If the Phillies front office had wanted to fire Kapler, they would have had more than enough cause.
Here's that #Phillies stat I unveiled with @MikeMiss975 on @975TheFanatic just now:
I looked at every team that was 15+ games over .500 after 113 games. Not one of them finished with a losing record.
So if the Phillies don't win 2 of their next 4, they'll be the first. Ever!
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) September 26, 2018
That is not the kind of history anyone wants to make. Kapler took a lot of heat over the course of his rookie season for his overly analytical decision-making, constantly playing guys out of position, and his stedfast refusal to say anything bad about his team or players. But despite the Phillies’ second-half swoon and the constant criticism from the media, the Phillies have said that Kapler is coming back in 2019.
Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals
Ned Yost seemingly belonged on this list for many of the same reasons as Buck Showalter: he’s helming a bad, bad team on the cusp of a rebuild. Because wow, the Royals have been atrocious in 2018. For most of the season, they competed with the Orioles for the worst record in baseball, which is not an easy feat. However, the Royals announced that Yost has been given a one-year extension through the 2019 season before Sunday’s series finale, so he’ll be at least a small part of the team’s rebuilding effort.
Mickey Callaway, New York Mets
Callaway had an up-and-down first season with the Mets. After an 11-1 start, the team transformed into the dumpster fire that we’re all so familiar with. The highlight? When the Mets embarrassingly batted out of order on May 9, and they became the laughingstock of MLB for reasons not related to their daffy ownership. But since July 1, the Mets have a better record than the Atlanta Braves. Despite that rocky in-between, the Mets started strong and are finishing strong. And even though front office leadership is in flux, assistant GM John Ricco said that he expects Callaway to return in 2019.
Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals
Martinez’s first year managing the Nationals could have gone worse, but it’s hard to see how. Hired after the team inexplicably fired Dusty Baker, Martinez’s Nationals failed to meet expectations at nearly every turn. Beset by a rash of injuries and an underperforming Bryce Harper, the team fell behind in the National League East almost immediately and never recovered. Drama lurked everywhere as players complained about Martinez’s handling of the pitching staff and reliever Shawn Kelley almost came to blows with GM Mike Rizzo. But Rizzo said in early September that not only will Martinez be coming back in 2019, he hadn’t considered any other scenario.
Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
The Giants are perched on a precipice. The front office tried to keep their competitive window open for one more year with a staff of veterans, but even their even year magic couldn’t save them. While Bochy isn’t directly responsible, he’s the symbol of a Giants team that doesn’t exist anymore. With general manager Bobby Evans recently getting the boot, it looks like the Giants are ready to dive off that cliff on Mount Rebuild. Bochy has one more year left on his contract and will return for the 2019 season, but it’s almost certain to be his last.
Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels
Scioscia and the Angels confirmed Sunday what most everyone knew: This year, the last of his 10-year deal with the Angels, would be his last. He got a nice send-off on the final day of the season and a walk-off win, but behind-the-scenes there’s already chatter about what’s next. There are reports the Angels might be eager to install Triple-A manager Eric Chavez as Scioscia’s replacement.
Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
When a team goes from a playoff regular to a barely-thought-of also-ran, a managerial change is usually in the offing. And after four years at the helm, Banister was fired with 10 games left to play in the 2018 season. Banister was hired in the midst of a multi-year playoff run, and managed to get the Rangers there two more times before the team started to fall off. But in the end, he just wasn’t going to be the right guy to manage a rebuilding Rangers team going forward. GM Jon Daniels said that the team needed a “new voice” in the dugout, and firing the guy with the loudest voice (the manager) is exactly how you do that.
John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
Gibbons’ exit from Toronto illustrates the subtle difference between firing someone and telling them that they’re not coming back next season. Jeff Banister was fired, meaning he left suddenly and managed zero additional Rangers games. Gibbons and the Blue Jays decided that it was best that they move on from each other, and he’s continued to manage and is getting a lovely send-off from the team, the players, and the fans. It’s not a breakup, it’s a conscious uncoupling, and both sides can go forward with no hard feelings. In baseball, that’s rare.
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