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American League

Grading All 30 MLB Managers

Its been said that after 162 regular season games, you are who you are. With only around 10 games left in the 2014 season, we definitely have at least a pretty good sense of which teams are the real deal and which need total makeovers. As usual, a couple of teams came from nowhere to contend and a couple of favorites have already made October tee times.

As the focus begins to shift to the offseason for the 20 teams that won’t get to play extra baseball, front offices around the league will be evaluating their managers in the coming weeks. Some teams will inevitably decide to make a change while others will consider a contact extension. Luckily for them, I’m here to help.

What follows is my ranking of all 30 Major league managers, on a scale of Great Manager to Fire this guy.

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]AL EAST[/colored_box]

Buck Showwalter, Baltimore Orioles: Well we start with an easy one. Buck might win manager of the year and his team has run away with what was supposed to be a good division. Excellent bullpen management coupled with the admiration of his team and city.  Grade: A

Joe Girardi, New York Yankees: Honestly, I think this season’s terrible Yankee showing rests more on the shoulders of GM Brian Cashman than Girardi, but I have a whole other post planned around that. Many think Joe didn’t handle Jeter’s farewell tour very well and that may be true. He’s also struggled with some other aspects of lineup construction (Brett Gardner batting 3rd with Jacoby Ellsbury 1st?) and pitching management over the last few months. Really, he was dealt a crappy hand with all the injuries and lack of depth, but he didn’t do much with what he had. Grade: C

John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays: There are rumors that Gibbons might go after this season and that might be the right move. His team started off red hot but simply faded into irrelevance. A better manager would have at least presented the appearance of trying to do something about that. Grade: D

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays: Maddon is considered one of baseball’s best and he hasn’t had a season like this in a while. Even though everything went wrong for them, the Rays never rolled over and there have been random weeks over the last few months where they actually seemed like they might get back in the thick of things. They won’t of course, but Maddon is definitely safe this offseason. Grade: B

John Farrell, Boston Red Sox: Last place to World Champs back to Last place. Weird 3 years in Boston. The 2014 Sox might actually finish with a worse record than Bobby V’s dysfunctional team two years ago. Not good. They also haven’t shown any of the fight the Rays have, seemingly resigning themselves to last place back in July. Farrell’s still safe. The World Series victory bought him a pretty long leash. Grade: D

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]AL CENTRAL[/colored_box]

Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers: The Tigers were supposed to run away with the Central, instead they are fighting for first in the last days of the season. Plus, Joe Nathan with his 5 ERA is still the closer due almost entirely to Ausmus’ stubbornness and lack of creativity. Grade: C

Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals: It seems sometimes like Yost is actively working against his players. The team is good almost in spite of him and he has legitimately cost them games thanks to nonsensical in-game strategy and bullpen decisions. His idiotic comments last week about saving Kelvin Herrera for the 7th because that’s ‘his inning’ while the game slips away in the 6th (despite the fact that Herrara had faced more hitters in the 6th than ‘6th inning guy’ Aaron Crow) sealed it for me. The Royals can be good again next season, but only with a competent manager at the helm. Grade: F

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians: The Indians are currently 5 games over .500 and no where near the playoff hunt. That seems about right for a team with this talent level. A middling season from all involved. Grade: B

Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox: Ventura’s team wasn’t really supposed to compete this season and they didn’t. They have the presumptive rookie of the year though and some really good left handed starting pitching. The bullpen was a catastrophe and that rests at least a little on Ventura’s shoulders.  Last year was also a disappointment and I’m becoming a bit suspicious of Robin. Grade: C

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins: After a long stretch of constant relevance, the Twins haven’t been a factor in a long time. The roster isn’t very good, but I think its time they get some new blood in there and try a new strategy. Thing is, I think they think that too. Grade: D

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]AL WEST[/colored_box]

Mike Scoscia, Los Angeles Angels: If the Angels had had another down year, I think there was a legitimate chance that Scoscia would have been out. Instead, a huge second half handed them the division by more than 10 games and Scoscia can once again be lauded in managerial circles. Grade: A

Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s: This one is very much in flux. If I had written this 2 months ago, Melvin would have been my manager of the year pick. Now his team is collapsing. They have been among the worst in all of baseball of late and might not make the playoffs. I’ll give him a B for now but it has the potential of really dropping if they can’t sneak into October. Grade: B

Lloyd McClendon, Seattle Mariners: I thought this was one of the stupidest hirings in the last decade when Seattle made it. Nothing in McClendon’s past made him seem like anything but a seriously below average manager. He has proven me wrong this season with his Mariners seriously in the playoff hunt. Grade: A

Houston Astros: Not much to grade here. Bo Porter was fired a few weeks ago and Tom Lawless has taken over. The Astros are way better than they were supposed to be and still playing well. Combined Grade: B

Texas Rangers: Same deal. Ron Washington quit for personal reasons a while back and Tim Bogar has taken over. The Rangers were still really really bad this season. Grade: C

 

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]NL EAST[/colored_box]

Matt Williams, Washington Nationals: Lets be careful equating the National’s success this year with the success of their first year manager Williams. The Nats are maybe the most talented team in the MLB top to bottom and should have been expected to play well no matter who was at the helm. There were some bumps in the road with lineup construction a few months ago and I don’t think Williams has done a great job with Bryce Harper either on or off the field.  That said, Williams gets credit for not screwing everything up and I’ve liked his bullpen flexibility lately. Grade: B

Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves: The Braves have under-preformed terribly this season and there have been lots of anti-Gonzalez rumbling among the Braves’ fans. Some still aren’t over the way last season ended, with the game slipping away while Craig Kimbrel waited in the bullpen. On top of that, Gonzalez’s stubborn continued use of BJ Upton near the top of the lineup has flummoxed many. There could be a lot of movement in the Braves front office and coaching staff this winter, and Gonzalez should be part of it. Grade: F

Terry Collins, New York Mets: All indications are that Collins will be back for next season and that’s a good thing. The Mets are a young team and they benefit from the steady veteran hand of Collins. Next year will be a big one for the Mets as all their young pitching will finally be ready and they are smart not to risk rocking the boat with a new manager. The Mets haven’t had a great year but they aren’t a very good team and Collins has guided them to slightly more success over the last couple seasons than was expected. Grade: B

Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins: Speaking of exceeding expectations.  The Marlins were supposed to be awful again this year, but instead have been hanging around the fringes of pseudo-contention for most of the summer. Redmond has guided the Marlins despite losing their best pitcher, Jose Fernandez, early in the season and their best hitter, Giancarlo Stanton, last week. Good job this year by Redmond and the Marlins. Grade: A

Ryne Sandberg, Philadelphia Phillies: It all started with a fight with star shortstop Jimmy Rollins back in Spring Training and it’s been pretty much downhill from there. The Phillies have been bad this season and there have been rumblings about organizational unhappiness with Sandberg, who is in his first full season managing. Recently, Dom Brown publicly voiced some displeasure with the way he’s been used. Not good. Grade: D

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]NL CENTRAL[/colored_box]

Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals: The Cards struggled all summer and only recently took over control of the division.  This isn’t the usual powerhouse Cardinals team that we’ve come to expect headed into October and there are concerns about the workload of closer Trevor Rosenthal. A good season for Matheny, not great. Grade: B

Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates: Hurdle continues to be a good fit in Pittsburgh, guiding a historically inept franchise to two consecutive winning seasons and with any luck two straight playoff berths. Not everything is rosey as there are some real concerns about his bullpen management and offensive strategy. Grade: B

Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers: Like the A’s, the Brewers have collapsed. After a great start, they have been really mediocre for most of the season and now likely won’t make the playoffs at all. Roenicke is starting to build a reputation as a profoundly average manager. Grade: C

Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have been a bit of a disappointment in Price’s first season. They’ve had their share of serious injuries, but have never really been relevant. The plan in Cincy is to try again with the same core next season so we’ll know a lot more about Pryce by this time next year. Grade: C

Rick Renteria, Chicago Cubs: The Cubs were always going to finish last this season but they have had some really positive moments with the arrival of Jorge Soler and Javy Baez. The Cubs future looks bright and the Cubs players have spoken well of their first year manager. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Rick when he’s got a more well rounded team. Grade: B

[colored_box color=”eg. blue, green, grey, red, yellow”]NL WEST[/colored_box]

Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers: Is it only me that thinks that the Dodgers should have a much bigger division lead? They’ve had some issues with the back of their rotation and I really don’t like the way Mattingly has handled his outfield logjam. He clearly likes Joc Pederson, but he hasn’t yet found a way balance the other four guys who can each make a case to start in the outfield. They need some routine for how all that’s going to work. Grade: B

Bruce Bochy, San Fransico Giants: Bochy finally bit the bullet and moved Tim Lincecum to the bullpen in what was the right move for the team overall. Bochy has led the Giants to a real shot at the Wild Card despite some rotation issues. He’s going to have a real challenge heading into October with Angel Pagan banged up and the offensive fire power of some of his league opponents. Grade: A

Bud Black, San Diego Padres: I’ve written before that Black needs to go in San Diego, but the reason isn’t really anything that happened this year. The Padres are in third place despite a really bad first half and a terrible offense. They aren’t a good team by any stretch but they’re way better than the next two we have to cover. Grade: C

Walt Weiss, Colorado Rockies: The Rockies are a dysfunctional mess. Granted, most of their problems are above Weiss’ head but they haven’t been very good on the field at all either. The Rockies have a real shot at 100 losses this year and that does not reflect well on Walt. Colorado needs to clean house, from the manager all the way up to ownership. Grade: F

Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks: The Dbacks fully expected to challenge the Dodgers for the division this season but that couldn’t be farther from what actually transpired. Arizona never recovered from their 0-2 start in Australia and has been a mess all season. They will in all likelihood lose 100 games and there is no excuse for it. Moreover, the Dbacks have a terrible reputation for some archaic on field beanball philosophies and some subtle racism in personnel decisions. I’m sure MLB is thrilled that Tony La Russa is now in the fold in Arizona because this team has the potential to be a major embarrassment for the league. Grade: F

 

-Max Frankel

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