Managers don’t throw a single pitch. They don’t take a single grounder, get a single hit, or score a single run. Yet having the right manager is key to winning. Managers get a lot of credit for their team’s success (John Farrell), but when teams fail, managers suffer a bulk of the blame (Dusty Baker). I’ve decided to take a look at the 30 MLB managers and rank them based upon success, managing ability, and who’d I want as my guy if I were starting a team today. This will be the fourth installment of this list, each one published right around Christmas time, and I’ve been looking forward to writing this post for a while. It’s become sort of an annual tradition here at Off The Bench.
Quick reminder, I also graded each manager’s 2014 performance back in September here.
Last year’s rankings are in parenthesis. (Rookie managers will not be ranked.)
- Bruce Bochey (11)- Before being ranked outside the top 10 last year, Boch was number 1 in 2012 and he’s back atop the list in 2014. Bochey’s Giants won their third World Series Crown in 5 years this season and he absolutely solidified himself as one of the elite coaches in sports. His prowess was particularly apparent in contrast to his World Series opponent Ned Yost, who we’ll see (much) later.
- Buck Showalter (9)- Another rebound, this top 2 is exactly the same as the 2012 list’s. I must have been on to something back then. Showalter guided his Orioles squad to an easy division title in what was supposed to be a very competitive AL East. Couple that with an ALCS appearance and Buck’s penchant for bullpen management and we can comfortably place him near the top.
- Joe Maddon (5)- It’s weird that Maddon climbed the list after a debacle of a 2014 season which led to his departure from the Rays, but it’s true. Tampa started off horrendously but finished surprisingly strongly despite not being in the playoff hunt at all. That speaks volumes about the manager, as does the fact that he was as sought after as any free agent player before signing with the Cubs.
- Mike Matheny (6)- Matheny keeps climbing the list every year because you just can’t argue with his results. He might not be the best tactical manager in the world but his teams consistently make it to the post season and, more importantly, succeed there.
- Terry Francona (1)- Francona had a quiet season with a mediocre team but still won 85 games and coached a surprise Cy Young award winner. Next season will be tough as seemingly everyone in that division has reloaded and intends to go for the playoffs.
- Clint Hurdle (3)- Hurdle has his issues to be sure but he’s helped turn a perennial loser Pittsburgh club into a year in and year out contender in the NL Central.
- Terry Collins (7)- Has anyone else noticed that Mets continue to outperform expectations? They finished tied with the Braves for second place last season in the NL East. Granted, they were waaaayyyy out of first and below .500 but the Mets are far less talented than the Braves and banged up to boot. This year, the Mets may actually have a legitimate roster for Collins to manage. Let’s see what happens.
- Bob Melvin (4)- Melvin falls a bit due to an extremely disappointing collapse towards the end of the year that brought on some discord in the clubhouse. However, it’s not his fault that the middle of the order was messed with mid-season due to trade, plus the injury bug bit hard in Oakland last year.
- John Farrell (2)- So which is the real Farrell–the world champ or the last place finisher? I think both of his first two seasons in Boston were fluky but he’s got a rebuilt team for 2015 and should be able to rebound off of last year’s disaster.
- Joe Girardi (8)- The Yankees missed the playoffs again last year, their second year in a row, but they actually finished better than you’d think. Girardi keeps being handed rosters that feature guys like Kelly Johnson in prominent starting positions and is expected to win. There were serious questions about the way Joe handled the Derek Jeter Retirement Tour and they were well founded, but now, for the first time in 3 seasons, the Yankees have no vanishing legends for Girardi to contend with. (But he might have a reappearing one in A-Rod…)
- Mike Scoscia (14)- The Angels ran away with the AL West this season after 2 disappointing years prior. I can’t give a ton of credit to Mike though as this should have been expected with a roster like the Angels’.
- Don Mattingly (12)- Without Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp, Mattingly might finally get to start managing baseball and not personalities. It’s a lot of lost talent though so let’s see if it’s really addition by subtraction in LA or just plain old subtraction.
- Mike Redmond (25)- It seems like it took Mike a while to get his footing in Miami but he did a great job last season. The Marlins won only 77 games but they actually outperformed expectations, especially once they lost Jose Fernandez early in the year. They’ve reloaded this winter and aim to challenge for at least the Wild Card.
- Matt Williams (NR)- There were some serious hiccups along the way, many of them Bryce Harper related, but the Nats cruised to the divisional crown. It’s all for naught though if they keep falling apart in the playoffs.
- Brad Ausmus (NR)- Ausmus took a great roster and won 90 games. They held off Kansas City by 1 game and then lost in the ALDS. It was good debut season for Brad. Good, not great.
- Lloyd Mclendon (22)- Yes, Lloyd was shockingly good last season. I gave him an A grade back in September, but I can’t get over the fact that he was so bad for so long before 2014. The Mariners are good and poised to compete in 2015 but we’ll see if people start talking about Lloyd the way they talk about Ned Yost now. Speaking of Yost….
- Ned Yost (16)- Yes, I know Yost’s Royals made it to game 7 of the World Series and yes, I know what I said about Mike Matheny earlier, but I truly believe that Ned Yost costs his team wins. Yost’s dogmatic and inflexible bullpen and lineup management puts Ws in the L column when the manager fails to react to the context of a specific game or in game situation. The Royals are a good club, clearly, but let’s remember that they didn’t win their division last season. I think they could have with a more competent manager.
- Robin Ventura (19)- Ventura plummeted down the list last season and didn’t do much to improve his stock this year. The White Sox were out of it from the get go but had one of the league’s best starters and sluggers, so that’s good. Next year will be different though, as Chicago has gone gangbusters this winter and Ventura will be expected to guide the Sox to the playoffs.
- John Gibbons (21)- The Blue Jays were once again a non-factor last season despite winning 83 games. Gibbons keeps getting talented rosters and doing almost nothing with them. This season will be a test as the Jays are going for it in the East and have improved their roster. If this season is another disappointment, I’d bet Gibbons is gone.
- Bryan Price (NR)- The Reds were plagued by injuries last season but were largely irrelevant from day one. Price’s first season was less than inspiring and I’m not sure the Reds will be a lot better in 2015. I think the verdict’s still out on Price so let’s wait a bit.
- Ron Roenicke (18)- I was super high on Roenicke after his first season and again part way through this year when the Brewers seemed to be cruising to an unlikely divisional crown. Instead, Milwaukee collapsed and finished in third place and out of the playoffs. I think it’s clear that Ron is a below average manager.
- Fredi Gonzalez (10)- So it looks like Fredi is the guy on this year’s list with the biggest tumble. The Braves expected to compete with the Nats but instead finished 17 games out, and under .500. After previous playoff disasters and some rumbling from the fan base, I thought that a GM change in Atlanta might spell the end for Fredi. Instead, he’ll be back for 2015 but I don’t think that’ll be good for the Bravos.
- Bud Black (20)- Black seems to be a Padres institution at this point but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. The team has made a million changes this offseason but has kept Black, though I’m not sure why as he did nothing with the roster they’ve had in place for the last couple yeas. Now that the Pads are better, we’ll see what Black can do. Don’t be shocked if San Diego has someone else at the helm this time next year.
- Walt Weiss (24) – Well at least Walt is consistent. The Rockies were once again irrelevant this season and if it wasn’t for the peculiarities of their ownership and management situation, Weiss would likely have been shown the door.
- Ryne Sandberg (NR)- It all started with Sandberg getting into a public spat with star shortstop Jimmy Rollins in spring training and ended with a last place finish and some rumbling from a few of his players about his management style and in game decisions. I think Sandberg could be a good manager but it might take him a stint on the MLB network and another gig before he achieves that promise.
AJ Hinch (Houston Astros), Paul Molitor (Minnesota Twins), Kevin Cash (Tampa Bay Rays), Jeff Bannister (Texas Rangers), Chip Hale (Arizona Diamondbacks)