Written by Bobby Mette, Jackman Sports Baseball Writer
2010 was the year of the pitcher. Could this year be the year of the manager? Let’s take a look. Twelve teams changed their skippers either last year or during the offseason. Those teams include the Blue Jays, D-backs, Braves, Pirates, Dodgers, Cubs, Marlins, Brewers, Orioles, Mariners, Royals, and Mets. As you look at a number of those teams, you see some that are either rebuilding or have a bunch of talent and simply haven’t put it all together. Many times we’ve seen managers find success in their debuts with their new teams. Below are a few guys that could sneak their teams into the postseason and could take home the coveted manager of the year award.
First off here are the teams, the managers from last season, and the new managers.
TEAM 2010 Manager (On Opening Day) 2011 Manager
Blue Jays Cito Gaston John Farrell
DBacks A.J. Hinch Kirk Gibson
Braves Bobby Cox Fredi Gonzalez
Pirates John Russell Clint Hurdle
Dodgers Joe Torre Don Mattingly
Cubs Lou Piniella Mike Quade
Marlins Fredi Gonzalez Edwin Rodriguez
Brewers Ken Macha Ron Roenicke
Orioles Dave Trembley Buck Showalter
Mariners Don Wakamatsu Eric Wedge
Royals Trey Hillman Ned Yost
Mets Jerry Manuel Terry Collins
Top 3 managers that will IMPROVE their team.
3. Dodgers- Don Mattingly
Every year the NL West seems wide open, so this year it is there for the taking for former Yankee Don Mattingly. And what better than to replace the former Yankee legend himself, Joe Torre. As long as he’s not replacing him in the Bronx, he won’t have huge shoes to fill since Torre’s years in L.A. were average at best. Donnie has no managerial experience, but how hard is it to decide who is going to play every day? As long as Ethier and Kemp have monster years and Kershaw takes the Cy Young from Doc, he’ll look like a genius. There’s not much else to say other than the fact that he knows the game well, his team has the tools, and it is just a matter of putting it altogether.
2. Royals- Ned Yost
Yes, the Royals. Most of you have probably heard a bunch of rumors about how the Royals are going to be winning the World Series within the next five years because of their unbelievable farm system. You may think that is total bologna, but you better believe it. They will be calling up a lot of these young players by season’s end and they very well could be in the mix of things as early as next year in the mediocre AL Central. Ned Yost is a perfect fit for the Royals. Why? Because while much of the team is going to be full of rookies and young, still developing players, Yost brings to the team a manager who has been there before and knows how to handle managing in the major leagues. Yes, he managed the Brewers for six years and never got them to the postseason, but he took that awful team he joined and made them into playoff contenders (the Brew Crew made the postseason the first year he was gone). However you want to interpret that is fine. Just have you know that Yost managed this team for the majority of last season so he knows his ballclub well. Not this year, but in the years to come, look out.
1. Orioles- Buck Showalter
You absolutely cannot leave him out of the conversation when he managed the O’s to a 34-23 record last season after joining the team. He has a ton of experience as a manager having led the Yankees, Diamondbacks, and Rangers in the past, so he knows how to write those lineup cards day in and day out. Obviously he is in a tough Al East division, but you very well could see the Orioles jump from fifth to third this year. Even though the Red Sox got off to a slow start, they will be battling with the Yankees come season end. But, third place is up for grabs, and if Buck can manage his team to a successful season, the front office may make a few moves next season to get their team to that next level. It should be another fun battle to watch between the Yanks and BoSox, but it could be even more interesting to see how the new skip fares in Baltimore. Don’t be surprised if he adds his third manager of the year award en route to a winning season.
For Cubs fans, what to think of Mike Quade taking over at Wrigley
Personally, I wanted either Ryne Sandberg or Bob Brenly to succeed Lou. Ryno has experience at the minor league level as well as from his playing days. A lot of people thought he was ready, but now he may have to wait some time. Even though we’d be missing Bob doing color on the T.V. broadcasts, I thought he would have been a right fit for the team. Not to mention the fact that he has a World Series title under his belt. The bottom line is that they went with Quade, the guy who has been closest to the major league organization out of the three. One thing I have already noticed about Quade is how he manages the bullpen. Lou was very frustrating at times with some of his decisions, and already I have seen Quade make some interesting calls late in ballgames. Also, Quade is an improvement when it comes to press conferences. Then again, almost anyone would be an upgrade after succeeding Lou. I guess it would have been more exciting to see one of the other guys take over, but after the first week, I can’t complain with how he has done so far. After all, it’s not his fault his players can’t hit with runners on base.
Finally, since nowadays teams want to win NOW (that is unless you’re the Pirates, Marlins, or Royals), the new manager that is most likely to take his team to the World Series is:
Fredi Gonzalez- Atlanta Braves
Now I know what you’re thinking. I just took the best team on the list and said they would have the best shot at it (he’s the only manager to take over a team that went to the playoffs a year ago). Well a manager can’t do it all by himself! Also, you may add that he didn’t do much in Florida, but one thing is for sure. He will NOT tolerate any negative attitudes on the field. Something we saw last year when dealing with Hanley Ramirez. The Braves have all of the right pieces. They have a very strong starting lineup, a pitching staff that could be argued as a poor man’s Philly rotation (see Jackman’s story on the Phab Four), and a couple young closers that could very well fill some pretty big shoes. Youngsters Craig Kimbrel and Johnny Venters will start the season as co-closers and I couldn’t agree more with Gonzalez’s decision since neither of them need that absolutely awful title strapped on them to start their rookie seasons. Since the Mets, Marlins, and Nationals seem to have no chance this time around, and the Phillies have all sorts of problems, the Tomahawks could be flying high when the new skipper in town is shaking his players’ hands at Turner Field.