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Ranking the 2017 National 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. First, this started as a ranking and became one of our most popular posts. Since then, the manager reporting has morphed into a grading system on 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 his first season with his current team.

Let’s get to it!

National League East

Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals: The first yer of the Dusty Baker era in DC went pretty well all things considered. Dusty did some Dusty things when it came to bullpen management and managing his pitchers’ workload but he handled that Trea Turner situation well. The Nats won 95 games and walked to the AL East crown but the team still couldn’t get over that NLDS hump. Until Baker does that, his job in Washington is incomplete. Grade: B

Terry Collins, New York Mets: Collins was dealt a really tough hand this year, losing most of his vaunted starting rotation and some key position players to injury. Because most of their best and exciting players were not playing, there really wasn’t all that much excitement for the team beyond their Wild Card loss to Madison Bumgarner‘s Giants. However, Collins to continues to ably guide this team to more wins than the roster should be able to produce. That they even got to the playoffs missing most of their starting staff is a feat, as was Collins’ ability to seamlessly integrate a guy like Jose Reyes, who transitioned to  new position on the fly. Grade: A-

Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins: Tough year in Miami, for all sorts of reasons. Normally, I’d talk about Giancarlo Stanton‘s various maladies and another sub .500 showing from a team that is perenially on the outskirts. But there was obviously a lot more going on here and Mattingly should get credit for guiding his team through some really tough times. Grade: B

Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies: Mackanin’s first full season managing a big league team went…..ok. 71-91 certainly isn’t good but given the dead dollars on bad contracts that the team was lugging around, things could have been a lot worse. I question some of Philly’s roster moves this winter but that’s not on Mackinin. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get this team rolling a little faster than expected, a la Terry Collins, or if, as I suspect, it is destined to remain in the middle of the pack. Grade: B-

Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves: Last year, Freddie Gonzalez was the recipient of this grade for the Braves before he was dumped mid-season in Atlanta. Snitker is the guy who got the gig and was tasked with guiding the Braves through a total rebuild. Atlanta’s 68 wins were tied for the second least in baseball but not too much of that can be hung on Snitker, the team was the least talented in just about every game it played. Next year will be a big test for the Braves and Snitker as they edge closer to contention. Grade: C+

National League Central

Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs: 103 wins, a divisional crown, and one of the most exciting ways to end a 108 year World Series Drought imaginable. Maddon’s unorthodox approach and willingness to try new things keep him one step ahead of everyone else. Typically, I’d view blatant bullpen abuse like dramatically overusing Aroldis Chapman as a negative against a manager but, as heartless as it may be, squeezing every last drop out of a pitcher you know won’t be back next season in the last games of the World Series is the type of ruthless thing you’d want your manager to do in that situation. Maddon is the best manager in baseball. Grade A+

Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals: 86 wins was actually a disappointment for the Cards last season, especially considering they missed the playoffs. It’ a little hard to tell if Matheny is really a big part in the Cardinals’ recent run of success or if he’s just filling a chair because somebody has to. He certainly didn’t seem to help all that much during some really tough stretches in 2016. Matheny seems like a guy whose got some pretty good job security for now, but if the Cards finish near .500 next year, he could be on the hot seat. Grade: B

Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates: Pittsburgh, like St. Louis, had an uncharacteristically (at for the last couple seasons) down year. The Pirates were back below .500 and their star players didn’t play very much like stars. I think Hurdle is safe in Pittsburgh thanks to guiding the team’s resurgence in the first place, but he need to work a little magic next year to get the Pirates back to their winning ways. He’s a good manager but the strikes me as a team that could be special in a hurry if it had a great one. Grade: B

Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers: 73-89 actually doesn’t seem so bad for this Brewers team. They need pitching, they need a deeper lineup, and mostly they need time. Counsell isn’t in a bad spot for a second year manager as he’ll have the chance to hone his skills and learn the trade without the spotlight and pressure that comes with competing, especially because the three teams ahead of Milwaukee are all substantially better than it. Next year, Milwaukee should be hoping for marginal improvement, and Counsell seems capable of delivering that. Grade: B-

Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds: Bryan Price still has a job? Really? Sure the Reds have put truly non-competitive teams during his tenure but Price really doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who can cope with going 207-276 in his managerial career. He lashes out at reporters, makes stupid comments, and inspires no confidence or trust. When you’re rebuilding, you need a steady hand reassuring players and and fans to trust the process. Price isn’t that. Grade: F 

National League West

Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers: Manager of the year in his first season, Roberts guided a Dodgers team that used 4.7 million starting pitchers all the way to the NLCS, falling to the buzzsaw that was the Cubs. A pretty good debut for a guy with no prior experience. Roberts has a tough job ahead of him as the Dodgers have sky-high expectations and about 100 outfielders who all feel they deserve to start. However, so far, so good. Grade: A-

Bruce Bochy, San Fransico Giants: Once again, Bochy and the Giants were in the mix, making hte NLDS before falling to the Cubs. Sure, it may seem like Bochy has the easiest job in the league in October, just hand the ball to Madison Bumgarner and sit down, but managing the innings of your best player is really tricky. Plus, just nursing this team into October with all the key injuries they sustained to guys like Hunter Pence was an accomplishment. Grade: A-

Bud Black, Colorado Rockies: With Walt Weiss gone after a handful of mediocre seasons, Bud Black will try his hand at solving the enigma that is winning at Coors field. Black has managed more than 1300 MLB games and has lost more than he’s won. The Rockies are a good team with a lot of talent that’s trending in the right direction but thie hire seems uninspired. Perhaps scarred by their experience with Weiss, a first time manager, Colorado went in the other direction, picking a guy who has showed over many years that he’s just sort of an average manager. Grade: C-

Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks: Finally moving on from Chip Hale, the new Dbacks front office regime went with a highly regarded coach looking for his first crack at managing. I love the hire but can’t offer a grade until Torey has a chance. Grade: Incomplete

Andy Green, San Diego Padres: Green’s first crack at managing didn’t go so well, the Padres lost 94 games. The Padres were also a bad, bad team and nobody could have won very much with that roster. Things will arguably be worse next season as San Diego has almost no pitching to speak of. Good luck, Andy. Grade: C+

 

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