The Philadelphia Phillies didn’t wait for the season to end to decide they wanted to go in a new direction. Pete Mackanin officially became the first of 15 NL Managers to have his fate made public for next season. Just as the Detroit Tigers’ Brad Ausmus was told “It’s not us, it’s you.” for his 2018 status, the Phils’ Mackanin found out the same news prior to Sunday’s regular season finale. Mackanin will be back with the Phillies’ organization as a special assistant to General Manager Matt Klentak.
The early rumors about the Mets’ Terry Collins were spot on. Collins resigned at the conclusion of the season and was given a front office position. Also, not unexpectedly, the Mets let go of veteran pitching coach Don Warthen. The last five Mets managers have been: Collins, Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph, Art Howe, and Bobby Valentine. The hunch here is the Mets will follow the trend and hire a young manager, possibly one with no managerial experience.
What, me worry?
Dave Roberts: The LA Dodgers’ second-year manager is having the time of his life. After leading the Dodgers to 91 victories last season, Roberts is at the helm of a team that finished play with 104 victories. The team got off to a 66-29 mark, which helped them to survive losing 16 of 17 (including 11 straight at one point) in late August/early September. Roberts is one of the favorite contenders for NL manager of the year as the Dodgers seek their first championship since 1988.
Joe Maddon: To Cubs fans, it felt like hundreds of centuries had gone by when the “North Siders” finally won the World Series last year. In actuality, it was the team’s first title since 1908. Though many onlookers, myself included, felt that Maddon was outmanaged by the Indians’ Terry Francona, the Cubs skipper will call Wrigley Field his home for some time to come. When you end a winless streak like that, you are given a lot of slack. It also helps to win your division the next year, which the Cubs did.
Torey Lovullo: In his first year guiding the Arizona Diamondbacks, Lovullo’s team made the postseason (as a wild card) for the first time since 2011. The Dbacks also won 93 games, the third-highest total in the NL and more than the NL Central title-winning Cubs. Lovullo has two years remaining on his contract, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get an extension before or during the 2018 season.
Mike Matheny: Like Counsell, Matheny received a three-year extension prior to this season. After making the playoffs in in his first four seasons as manager, Matheny and the Cardinals have missed out for the last two seasons. They battled into September for a wild card spot but finished the season 10-11 and dropped from second to third place in the NL Central. The Cards are a team in transition.
Clint Hurdle: It’s hard to believe that this one-time Sports Illustrated Cover Boy just completed his seventh season as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ manager, and he’s not done yet. In September, the team gave him a four-year extension that will take him through 2021. The Pirates have some big decisions to make about their future squad, including what to do with Andrew McCutchen. The one-time NL MVP’s play has started to degrade, but he’s still a capable player (.849 OPS-28 HR-88 RBI-11 SB). The Pirates have an option/buyout for 2018 of $14.75M/$1M. The Pirates should pick up the option since, in today’s market, $14.75M is nothing.
Bud Black: In his first year in Colorado, Black delivered the Rockies something he was unable to do for the Padres in eight-plus seasons in San Diego… a playoff game. The Rockies won 87 games to edge out Milwaukee for the second wild card spot. Black had many successful years as a pitching coach with the Angels, and it’s that knowledge and experience that has helped a very inexperienced starting rotation to thrive. Black has two more years on his current deal.
Bruce Bochy: After 10 years and three World Series titles, Bochy’s San Francisco Giants had a clunker of a 2017 season. They finished in the NL West cellar with a mere 64 wins. Nothing went right for the Giants from start to finish – in the final game of the season, two-time Giant Pablo Sandoval hit a walk-off home run. In a case of when good things go bad, the win also cost the Giants the #1 pick in the 2018 amateur draft (the Detroit Tigers now have the pick). Bochy’s deal runs through 2019, but if next year resembles this one, he may be begging to get out of San Fran.
Andy Green: From the theater of the bizarre: The Padres’ manager just finished the second year of his initial three-year contract, but, during the 2017 season, the Padres gave Green a three-year extension through 2021. The Padres won 68 and 71 games in Green’s first two seasons, but in fairness, they were a BAD ballclub. While the Pads had some good young prospects on the 25-man roster this past season, it’s going to be a while before they are competitive in the NL West. Apparently, the front office thinks Green is the man to guide them there.
The Future’s not That Bright
Bryan Price: The NL Central division is really generous with their extensions, as Counsell, Matheny, and Hurdle can attest. The Cincinnati Reds’ Price is fortunate to still have a job. After winning 76 games in his first year (2014) running the one-time “Big Red Machine”, Price’s teams have not reached 70 wins since. But, the team picked up his option for 2018 during the 2017 season. Unless the Reds have some kind of miraculous turnaround, it’s hard to image Price getting an extension next year.
There’s some good talent left in Cincy, but the team should continue its retooling by cutting ties with Billy Hamilton. The outfielder’s 58 steals and 85 runs scored do not offset a .299 OBP (in 633 plate appearances). His at-bats should be given to someone else.
Dusty Baker: The Washington Nationals’ 97 wins were second only to the LA Dodgers’ 104 in the NL. This may be Baker’s best and final chance to win a World Series. He was at the helm when the SF Giants lost to the LA Angeles in 2002, and a year later he was managing the Cubs when the “Bartman game” occurred. And, right now, he is without a contract for 2018.
Baker has had back-to-back 95+ win seasons in his two years in the DC area. The team lost in the fifth and final game of last year’s Division Series to the Dodgers. There is talk that if the team spits the bit early on, Baker could be out of a job. With the Division Series consisting of only five games, that would not be a particularly fair outcome. On top of that, the Nats will be facing the defending champion Cubs, whose rotation consists of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, and John Lackey. No extension prior to the playoffs also means more pressure on the players, with them knowing that losing may cost Baker his job.
Update – 10/20 2:15 pm: Unfortunately, Baker and his coaching staff did indeed take the hit for the Nationals’ NLDS exit. Washington’s previous manager, Matt Williams, didn’t have much experience. The guess is that Mike Rizzo will hire someone who has an experience level between Williams and Baker.
We’ll Let You Know Shortly
Brian Snitker: The Atlanta Braves are in a world of hurt right now. The team finished 18 games under .500 (72-90) but that is the least of their problems. General Manager John Coppolella resigned under duress on Monday, as Major League Baseball investigates the Braves’ front office activity. Special Assistant/International Scouting Supervisor Gordon Blakeley was also ousted for the role he may have played in the infractions that MLB is looking into. John Hart will serve as the interim GM until a permanent replacement is found.
As for Snitker, reports are that he will keep his job and a decision will be made sometime this week. The Braves have had three straight 90-loss seasons, but the team was 59-65 under Snitker when he took over during the 2016 season. If he is back next year, he’ll likely be on a short leash. One thing is for sure, a number of his coaches will not be back in 2018.
Don Mattingly: With more front office personnel removed, Mattingly’s position is still tenuous for the moment. For more on the Derek Jeter/Mattingly situation, please check out The Captain quandary, which takes a more in-depth look into the status of Mattingly’s employment.
For the most part, the NL managing jobs are pretty secure. For the rest, it’s time to get the resume ready.