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Ranking the 2017 American League Managers

It has become an annual tradition around these parts for me to offer up my thoughts on each and every manager in the MLB. It began as a ranking exercise, becoming one of our most popular posts. Since then, it’s morphed into more of a report card system; an A-F scale, with A reserved for only the cream of the managerial crop, and F standing in for ‘Should be Fired.’

As usual with my mid-winter grades, I won’t offer any score for first time managers, but if a guy has managed elsewhere in the majors he’s fair game, even if this will be the first season with his current team.

Let’s get to it!

American League East

John Farrell, Boston Red Sox: First to worst and back again. And again. And again. Farrell’s Boston teams seem to be either really good or really bad, and that doesn’t reflect too well on the manger. Seems to me, a well run team filled with talented veterans should be able to do a better job of consistently competing. 2017 will be a big challenge for Farrell for many reasons. First, he’ll be trying to string together back to back good seasons, but beyond that, the Red Sox are now so loaded with talent that expectations are going to be sky high. As we’ve seen in baseball many times before (e.g. 2012 Miami Marlins) super teams on paper don’t always pan out. Let’s see if Farrell can get all the parts to mesh. Grade: B

Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: Buck had a very public blunder in the AL Wild Card game when his O’s lost in extra innings without ever having used all-world closer Zach Britton. Despite that, Showalter is still among the game’s best old hands, and guiding the Orioles to the playoffs year after year in perhaps baseball’s toughest division is laudable. His grade is unchanged. Grade: A-

John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays: Gibbons’ Jays put together another great season last year, one that took them all the way to the ALCS before running into the Cleveland Indians. Like Farrell in Boston, 2017 will be an important year for Gibbon’s in Toronto, but for the opposite reason. While Farrell will have to keep his team moving in the right direction despite an influx of new players, Gibbons will be fighting to sustain success that was built on the backs of now-departed stars. As of this writing, we don’t know where Jose Bautista will end up but we know Edwin Encarnacion is gone and Kendrys Morales isn’t a very good replacement. It’ll be interesting to see if the Blue Jays can keep pace. Grade: B

Joe Girardi, New York Yankees: Last year, when discussing Girardi, I wrote: “Every year the Yankees have an old and flawed roster and every year they’re in the thick of things in the AL East. Even when they aren’t great, they are reliably relevant.” Somehow, this remains true. Last season, the Yankees finally became sellers at the July trade deadline and dumped all sorts of high end talent, but they kept on winning and once again finished well above .500. 2017 will be a unique challenge for Joe though as he’ll be guiding a team led by young inexperienced players for the first time since his days with the Marlins. Grade: A-

Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays: After an 80-82 finish in his first season in Tampa, I was optimistic about Cash going forward, but 68-94 and a complete fall from relevance isn’t a good sign. The Rays have less talent and less money than every other team in their division, so they need a creative, aggressive, highly competent manger to squeeze every last win out of their roster. Joe Maddon fit the bill; does Kevin Cash? Grade: C+

American League Central

Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians: The second best record in the American League, the AL Pennant, 1 inning away from a ring, and paradigm-smashing creative bullpen use to boot. He’s not perfect– Michael Martinez did get an at bat in the last inning of game 7 of the World Series, and there are a few things to nit pick– but on balance, this is a guy you want running your team. Grade: A 

Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers: Definite improvement. Ausmus’ third season running the Tigers saw his team get back above .500 and they are trending in the right direction. This will be a big year for Brad as he tries to guide a veteran team back to the playoffs. Key for Detroit is staying healthy, something the manager has no control over, but how he handles the inevitable injuries will be telling. As will his willingness to go to younger, less experienced, less expensive players over underperforming guys with a contract and track record (like Anibal Sanchez). Grade: B-

Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals: Two AL crowns and a championship are on Yost’s Royals resume but 2017 saw the team take a definite step back. Without his vaunted bullpen taking the thinking out of the backend of games, Yost could only guide his team to a .500 record. Now, with the bullpen trio permanently disassembled it’ll be Ned’s biggest challenge to make something happen as his position player core edges closer to free agency. Grade: C

Rick Renteria, Chicago White Sox: Yes, 2017 will be Renteria’s first season managing the White Sox but since he has previous managerial experience, he still get’s a grade. Rick got the short end of the stick on the other side of Chicago in his first go around, getting booted after just one fairly successful season so the Cubs could bring Maddon in, but all reports are that he was well-liked. Chances are, he won’t do a ton of winning on the South Side in 2017 but that won’t be on him, the Sox are rebuilding. Can Renteria guide them to contention ahead of schedule? Grade: B-

Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins: 2015 went really well for Molitor and his Twins. 2016 not so much. Paul had to watch more than 100 losses from the bench last season as things got pretty ugly. I’ve written a number of times before  about the talent the Twins have, so it’ll be on Molitor to try and extract some wins out of it. Given the number of young, really good, but fairly volatile and inconsistent players the Twins have, they’re going to need a strong, steady hand at the helm. I think if Molitor can’t definitely show that he’s that guy next season, the team should go find someone else who is. Grade: C+

American League West

Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers: Bannister won the AL Manager of the Year award in his first season  as a manger in 2015 and then followed that up with more wins and another divisional title. So far so good for Jeff but people will be looking for big things from the Rangers next season so we’ll have to see if Bannister can continue to deliver. Grade: B+

Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners: Scott did a pretty good job for his first time managing at any level last season when he guided the Mariners to 86 wins and a second place finish. The Mariners are in a bit of tough spot though as their window to compete is now but they might not have enough talent to really get there. Maybe Servais can be the difference maker. Grade: B

AJ Hinch, Houston Astros: Year 2 of the Hinch era in Houston didn’t go that great. After a really strong 2015, the Astros dug themselves such an early season hole that not even a strong second half could get them back into the hunt in the AL West. The Astros have all the talent in the world and really should be a force to be reckoned with– if Hinch can’t get them off to a better start next year, maybe someone else should come in and try to light a fire. Grade: D+

Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: The Angels inability to win despite having baseball’s unequivocal best player in Mike Trout continues to be a shame bordering on a scandal. It’s not Scioscia’s fault that there’s very little talent on the roster but he’s now been with the Angels for 17 years and you wonder if it might be time to shake things up a bit. Mike’s grade contains a lot credit for his legacy and ‘lifetime achievement.’ Grade: B

Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s: Bob Melvin is now entering his 7th season with the A’s and 14th as a manger. He has just four 90 win seasons on his resume and hasn’t even won 70 in two years. Plus, the last time he managed a good team, in 2014, they suffered an awful late season collapse. There’s a ton of young managerial talent out there, I think it’s time to give a new guy a shot in Oakland. Grade: D+

-Max Frankel

 

 

 

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