Not one manager has been fired this season, making it a very unusual season indeed. If we can get to the end of the regular season without one pink slip, which seems quite possible now, it would be the first time that’s happened since 2006.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we will get to 2018 with the very same set of 30 managers. That isn’t going to happen.
No less than a trio of skippers are thought to be on the lukewarm-to-hot seat. That could make this more of normal year; an average of 3.5 managers per year have been fired just in-season over the past decade.
By my estimation/count, a fortunate 13 managers would seem to have basically zero chance to lose their jobs: A.J. Hinch, Joe Maddon, Bud Black, Dave Roberts, Craig Counsell, Torey Lovullo, Andy Green, Jeff Banister, Rick Renteria, Buck Showalter, Mike Scioscia, Kevin Cash and Terry Francona (assuming his health continues to be good). Cash will be back according to his bosses, while the others are obvious.
Of the remaining 17 managers, many of them range from very likely to be back to extremely likely to be back. Others are only in some question due to regime changes, either in baseball ops or at the ownership level, or potential contractual issues. And a few very veteran managers have their own calls to make.
The three managers who seem to be in serious jeopardy are the Tigers’ Brad Ausmus, the Mets’ Terry Collins and, perhaps to a somewhat lesser degree, the Reds’ Bryan Price [editor’s note: The Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Saturday that Price would return for the 2018 season]. At this point, it would not surprise a soul if any of those three weren’t retained (or perhaps retired, in Collins’ case) – though Price might have the best chance of the three to make it back, based on interviews with folks around the game. (None of the teams’ higher-ups in question has commented or apparently is commenting.)
One scout suggested a reason why fewer managers are fired these days.
“Many of the decisions are being made now by the front office,” that scout noted. “It’s hard to fire someone who isn’t making the call.”
That could be it. Or maybe they simply are hiring good people.
Anyway, there is still a trio of fine fellows on the hot(ish) seat, maybe one or two others who seats are lukewarm, a few with interesting contractual considerations and one or two other 60-something skippers who have their own calls to make.
The Dreaded Hot Seat
1. Brad Ausmus, Tigers. Word was going around at the midway point that perhaps ownership was readying to make a change, but that GM Al Avila suggested they wait until the end of the year to assess things. That seemed to be the right way to go. However, the end of the year is approaching, and things haven’t gotten much better with the team. It’s hard to pin this year on Ausmus when underperformance from youngsters (Nick Castellanos) and even superstars (Miguel Cabrera) have derailed things. But this was probably a make-or-break year for Ausmus, anyway. The guess here is that he might do better the second time around, as happens so often.
2. Terry Collins, Mets. Collins has outdone all expectations after he was the choice over Bob Melvin and Chip Hale, getting to the 2015 World Series and setting the record for games managed by a Mets manager. And good for him. He has shown he can be a player’s manager, and a very good one at that. And this isn’t his fault, either, as injuries have piled up beyond belief. However, with his contract up, it seems hard to see them re-upping (and it isn’t a good sign that no Mets people will comment on his situation). He said when he signed the deal he only wanted two years at the time, so that could help ease the news of the likely breakup.
3. Bryan Price, Reds. Sources outside the organization suggest the team is at least thinking about it, though several people around the team either were unaware or wouldn’t say (they may just be good secret-keepers). The team has an option on him, and there’s a new GM in Dick Williams, though team owner Bob Castellini has historically made some of these calls, anyway. While there’s a little better feeling about the team — the positional group looks good, there’s finally some hope to form a young rotation (more on that in the NL notes) and the drafts continue to be good — there are hints the Reds are at least thinking about a change.
Likely Back (We think, for now)
4. Brian Snitker, Braves. Braves president John Hart and GM John Coppolella have been pretty supportive, and there’s no reason to think the team was ready to do any better than this. Not yet, anyway. However, there’s a little drama at the top of the team hierarchy, according to a report in The Athletic, though there’s no reason to suspect that will change the thinking on the manager, which seems mostly positive at this point. There were times the higher-ups questioned certain things (i.e. Snitker was very candid when removing Jim Johnson from the closer role two days before the trade deadline), but the team has been much better with Snitker, a beloved longtime company man, overall. The team holds an option, and if they do want to make a change, there are two good ready-made veteran candidates in house: Ron Washington and Bo Porter.
5. John Farrell, Red Sox. The Red Sox have looked dreadful much of the last week or so, but their playoff ticket is already basically punched thanks to another slide by the Yankees. Farrell has done fine overall, but he takes a lot of heat and it might be worth noting that he wasn’t the hire of the current regime (though it might not, too). Most likely the only thing that could put him in jeopardy is a second straight postseason disaster. Things aren’t ever easy in Boston. So this may be one to keep an eye on come mid-October, depending how things go come playoff time.
Very Likely Back
6. Bob Melvin, A’s. Legendary president Billy Beane has been quick to change out the players, but when it comes to managers he’s very reasonable and patient (though Art Howe may disagree). The team obviously is in a rebuilding state, so there’s no way to blame Melvin. Beane also seems not to mind having an intellectual equal in the manager’s seat (Cal Berkeley for Melvin). And word is, he has nothing to worry about.
7. Scott Servais, Mariners. Even with a strong positional nucleus and after all their trades, they look like they could be headed for a .500 season. However, the injuries to the rotation have been devastating (Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly never got going, and Felix Hernandez has twice been on the disabled list), so there’s a reasonable excuse. The big thing to consider is this, though: Servais is probably GM Jerry Dipoto’s best friend in baseball, beyond being the handpicked choice. Though you hear rumblings from parts of the clubhouse and other corners of the organization, it’s fair to say he’s extremely unlikely to go.
8. Mike Matheny, Cardinals. He’s averaged 94 wins, never won fewer than 86 games and generally continued the Cardinals tradition of annual contention, but their connection to the “Cardinal Way” has slipped a bit the past two years. If you listen to the internet, Matheny is a target of the saber set. However, he is said to remain well-respected within the organization, and the guess here is he comes back. He also has two more years to go on his deal.
9. Dusty Baker, Nats. GM Mike Rizzo is on record saying he wants Baker back (via ken Rosenthal). But his contract is up, and that carries the potential to be an issue. Baker, even with incentives he will make again for making the playoffs, is making barely half what he made in Cincinnati, and his son just started as a player at Berkeley. The Nats ownership is generally terrific, but they don’t seem to believe in paying managers very much (the Bud Black negotiations blew up over money), so you never know.
10. Don Mattingly, Marlins. Mattingly, who has two years to go on his contract, has done a terrific job with his low-key style, helping to keep the Marlins on the cusp of the NL wild card race. The only small question would be the regime change, assuming it occurs by October or so. Derek Jeter obviously knows Mattingly well from their Yankees days, and while Jeter didn’t necessarily love everyone there, there’s no reason to believe their relationship wasn’t solid. Anyway, it’d make zero sense to make a change.
11. Paul Molitor, Twins. The new baseball ops leaders Derek Falvey and Thad Levine wanted to give Molitor the year to see how things went, and no matter what happens in September (and their closing schedule is about the easiest in the game, anyway), the Twins have outpaced expectations by a long shot. Molitor’s also picking up admirers. “He’s one of the better (managers) in the league,” one rival GM said. Would have been tough to fire a Hall of Fame player from St. Paul, anyway. So it’s a good thing there’s absolutely no reason to do it.
12. Joe Girardi, Yankees. Girardi seems to have the support of his higher-ups, and while they haven’t won a World Series since 2009, he does a solid job. The fans love his over-the-top on-field tantrums (more on that in AL notes) and the bosses don’t seem to mind them much, either, though it’d be nice if he acted like he was enjoying the job more.
13. John Gibbons, Jays. Toronto’s had a very disappointing season, but Gibbons earned the trust of the new regime last year and received a multi-year extension this spring. Injuries to their very best players and the disappearance of Tulo gave them no chance this year. Not his fault.
14. Pete Mackanin, Phillies. He was extended through 2018 during the year, and while that isn’t serious money for such a rich club, no one could seriously blame Mackanin for the Phillies’ rough season (they were even 6-12 during Rhys Hoskins’ unreal first 18 games, which included a record 11 homers – more on that in NL notes). Mackanin’s even-keeled style fits their young club; the real question is whether they will keep him around when they may be ready to win in 2019, following the big winter of free agency when the Phillies carry the potential to go on a spending spree.
In Their Court
15. Clint Hurdle, Pirates. Word is, it’s up to Hurdle whether he wants to come back. The extension is supposedly waiting for him, and for GM Neal Huntington, whose contract is also up. There’s nothing solid to indicate he’d retire, but he’s an interesting cat, so you never know. It’s been a long year, between the Jung-ho Kang triple DUI case and the Starling Marte PED ban (after they’d replaced iconic center fielder Andrew McCutchen with him, which is never easy, either).
16. Ned Yost, Royals. The plan seemed to be for Yost to manage one more year, then possibly retire. Yost’s bosses love him (why not? He got the Royals to consecutive World Series). He’s already accomplished a lot, they look like they’re in for a rebuild and the season can be a grind, but he’s in good shape and there’s no real reason to think he won’t be back.
17. Bruce Bochy, Giants. He’s a legendary manager who’s a Hall of Fame lock, and deservedly so. But this has been one long season, and he’s had some health issues, so a few are wondering if he might hang ‘em up – however, those close to him say, no chance. “I think he’ll manage ‘til his contract is out. He’s such a competitor,” one friend says. “He was just dealt a bad hand this year.”