Anymore, given the on-field requirements of patience and virtue and the off-field realities of plummeting revenues and instant gratification, there’s nothing quite like being a big league manager. Unless it’s being an unemployed big league manager.
One usually becomes the other, the way it’s always been, unchanged regardless of the peripheral issues of bad economy/ownership/luck/timing/baseball.
Therefore, it’s never too early for a cup-check on the top-step climate out there, which is to say, “Hey, the Royals started it.”
As usual, the observations are a three-game sweep – one way or the other – from irrelevance. In the meantime, here are the managers you should at least be thinking about:
Manager: Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox
Record with White Sox: 527-483
2010 record: 15-22
Recent indignity: The Sox have won one series in three weeks, that against the Royals, who just won two-of-three in Chicago.
Killing him: Of the many comeback/emerging players on his roster (Gordon Beckham(notes), Mark Teahen(notes), Juan Pierre(notes), Alex Rios(notes), Carlos Quentin(notes), Andruw Jones(notes)), only Rios (.318, 7 homers, 18 RBIs) and Jones (9 homers, 19 RBIs) are semi-regular contributors to a flailing offense, and therefore unable to save an underachieving starting rotation.
Mitigating factors: GM Kenny Williams took flyers on so many players, he risked total failure and, so far, he’s come close to that. In spite of the spring Twitter dust-up, Williams and Guillen are close as brothers.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Joey Cora
Defcon: 3 (1 is imminent attack, 5 is peacetime).
The view: Good or bad, Guillen is the personality of the franchise and one of the most forceful leaders in the game. When the White Sox get around to making changes, Guillen will be part of the solution.
Manager: Lou Piniella, Chicago Cubs
Record with Cubs: 281-241
2010 record: 16-22
Recent indignity: Since a three-game winning streak in late April/early May, the Cubs have lost nine of 12, including five of six to the Pirates. They’ve averaged 3.75 runs in the stretch, including the 14 they scored in one game in Cincinnati.
Killing him: Derrek Lee(notes) and Aramis Ramirez(notes) are scuffling, which doesn’t help, but the Cubs would be winning more games if the bullpen May ERA wasn’t 6.06 and the staff May ERA wasn’t 5.38. Carlos Zambrano(notes) is only marginally better in the middle of the game than he was at the start of it.
Mitigating factor: Bounce-backs from Geovany Soto(notes), Alfonso Soriano(notes) and Kosuke Fukudome(notes), along with the usual May ascent from Lee and Ramirez, could bode well for the Cubs, assuming the pitching gets any better.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Alan Trammell
The view: The ever-likeable, ever-combustible Lou is in the final year of his contract, so there’d be little to gain from an in-season switch. The Cubs’ issues are personnel related, not strategy/effort related.
Manager: Dave Trembley, Baltimore Orioles
Record with Orioles: 184-270
2010 record: 12-26
Recent indignity: Scored three runs over consecutive losses to the Indians, the first of which featured the O’s magically transforming a 2-0, ninth-inning lead into an 8-2 loss.
Killing him: If they’re not the worst offensive team in the league, they have only the Mariners to thank.
Mitigating factor: The Orioles have actually been kind of OK since their 2-16 start – they’re 10-10 since, including the three-game sweep of the Red Sox that likely will stand up as the highlight of their season.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Cal Ripken Jr.
The view: This isn’t fair, particularly since Trembley is the kind of spirited baseball lifer the game needs more of. But, sheesh, 12 wins in mid-May is 12 wins in mid-May.
Manager: John Russell, Pittsburgh Pirates
Record with Pirates: 145-215
2010 record: 16-21
Recent indignity: The back-to-back home losses, both shutouts, to the Reds didn’t look good. The fact they’ve been outscored by 93 runs, the largest deficit in baseball, suggests a collapse is coming.
Killing him: The Bucs are next-to-last in the NL in runs scored and 15th in team ERA.
Mitigating factor: Hey, they’ve been outscored by 93 runs, they’re five games under .500 and they’re in third place in the NL Central. The John Russell statue ought to be unveiled any day.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Gary Varsho
The view: Really, does it much matter anymore? As Jim Tracy kept the seat warm for him, and Pete Mackanin for Tracy, and Lloyd McClendon for Mackanin, and Gene Lamont for McClendon, and Jim Leyland for Lamont, Russell’s simply a stoic guy in a bad situation that shows little sign of changing.
Manager: Fredi Gonzalez, Florida Marlins
Record with Marlins: 262-261
2010 record: 20-18
Recent indignity: We’d have to go with the long, chummy hug from owner Jeffrey Loria.
Killing him: Imagine if the Marlins had gotten a real return on Miguel Cabrera(notes) and Dontrelle Willis(notes) 2½ years ago.
Mitigating factor: Great expectations from tiny payrolls. Considering he replaced a (fired) manager of the year in Joe Girardi, Gonzalez has done nice work in his three-plus seasons in Florida, improving the Marlins from 71 wins in ’07 ($31 million payroll) to 84 wins in ’08 ($22 million payroll) to 87 wins in ’09 ($37 million payroll). Just about the time Loria was dismissing speculation he was down on Gonzalez’s work, the Marlins swept the visiting Mets over four games.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Carlos Tosca
The view: Move along, nothing to see here.
Manager: Ken Macha, Milwaukee Brewers
Record with Brewers: 95-104
2010 record: 15-22
Recent indignity: The Brewers have lost six in a row, all to the Braves and Phillies, and were outscored, 50-20, in them.
Killing him: The pitching staff, perceived to be soft coming into the season, has been worse than they imagined. Trevor Hoffman(notes) (11.08 ERA), LaTroy Hawkins(notes) (9.26 ERA) and Doug Davis(notes) (7.56 ERA) deserve special mention.
Mitigating factor: Well, the beer’s cold! Macha fought off speculation he was at odds with the clubhouse to put together some wins earlier in the month, but it’s gotten ugly lately.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Willie Randolph
The view: Not only is Randolph standing nearby, but so is Dale Sveum, who took the wheel just in time to steer the Brewers into the playoffs two years ago.
Manager: Jerry Manuel, New York Mets
Record with Mets: 143-150
2010 record: 18-20
Recent indignity: Since the Mets went to 14-10 and were in first place in the NL East on May 1, they are 4-10 and have lost five in a row, the last four in Florida. They went from first to last in 15 days, a neat trick even in the middle of May.
Killing him: The offense hasn’t been all that special, given David Wright’s(notes) strikeouts, Jason Bay’s(notes) one home run, Jose Reyes’ slow re-entry and the absence of Carlos Beltran(notes). Of greater concern, however, is the starting rotation, which has been a wreck behind Johan Santana(notes) and Mike Pelfrey(notes).
Mitigating factor: Beltran’s knee, Oliver Perez’s(notes) command, Wright’s wild swings, Jeff Francoeur’s(notes) batting average.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Ken Oberkfell
The view: The core issues have not changed since Shea Stadium, since Willie Randolph, since Omar Minaya – wait, he’s still there – since 2006. Manuel just happens to be the guy standing there.
Manager: Ron Washington, Texas Rangers
Record with Rangers: 261-263
2010 record: 20-18
Recent indignity: Tested positive for cocaine last summer, a humiliation made public in spring training. Just lost three in a row in Toronto.
Killing him: With any help from Rich Harden(notes) and Scott Feldman(notes), the Rangers would have a pretty decent rotation. They haven’t helped much, however, and that, along with Julio Borbon’s(notes) sophomore woes, have kept the Rangers mediocre.
Mitigating factor: The Rangers lead the AL West, though it’s because they’re the only team with a winning record. Remember, Nolan Ryan set the bar at 92 wins.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Jackie Moore
The view: Washington will need years to smooth the damage of the cocaine revelation, but it does not seem to have harmed his ability to run the clubhouse. Whether the club can play to Ryan’s expectations appears to be the greater factor.
Manager: A.J. Hinch, Arizona Diamondbacks
Record with Diamondbacks: 73-98
2010 record: 15-23
Recent indignity: In nine days, the Diamondbacks allowed at least 13 runs in three different games. They’ve lost eight of nine.
Killing him: In case you hadn’t heard, the bullpen is struggling just a little. Its ERA is – ready for this? – 7.68. The next worst bullpen is in Milwaukee, where the ERA is almost two runs better.
Mitigating factor: The rotation hasn’t been a whole lot better, though without Brandon Webb(notes) that was to be expected. Hinch has another 2½ years on his contract, and management has to recognize there is no greater manager killer than a bad bullpen.
Knee-jerk replacement candidate: Kirk Gibson
The view: GM Josh Byrnes doesn’t seem the reactionary type, especially since he surprised everyone with the Hinch hire (and four-year contract) to begin with.
Manager: Don Wakamatsu, Seattle Mariners
Record with Mariners: 99-100
2010 record: 14-23
Recent indignity: The Mariners have lost 12 of 15 and are struggling to keep up in a very winnable division.
Killing him: The offense is awful and brush fires have sparked in places both predictable (Milton Bradley(notes)) and not (Ken Griffey Jr.(notes)). While it was obvious the Mariners lacked power, and therefore easy ways to score runs, few predicted the end-to-end flaccidness of league worsts in runs, on-base percentage and most of everything else.
Mitigating factor: Wakamatsu is the same bright, energetic character that pushed the M’s to a 24-win improvement in 2009. He’s handled the Bradley and Griffey situations firmly. And he went five weeks before getting his first win from Cliff Lee(notes).
Replacement candidate: None required.
The view: Jack Zduriencik believes in Wakamatsu and says he believes in this team. He likely wouldn’t get talked out of one by the other.