Top 10 Managers in Major League Baseball
Top 10 Managers in Major League Baseball
Here’s the problem with Major League Baseball managers. No one likes the one they have, at least not for very long.
The only time a fan base truly embraces their manager is when a shockingly successful season takes place – like the ones in Baltimore and Oakland this season. But come talk to me next year about how good managers Buck Showalter and Bob Melvin are if those teams don’t repeat the magic that helped propel them to the playoffs this season.
Major league managers are perhaps the most over-valued entity in sports leadership. Unlike in the NFL, where coaches call plays and manage the clock, and the NBA, where there are multiple substitutions and strategic maneuvers, baseball managers have much less impact on the in-game action.
When things are going good, there is less nit-picking about lineup makeup or pitching changes, or any of the other minor decisions that have some outcome on wins and losses, but not nearly as much to warrant the time spend dissecting them afterwards.
Being a successful major league manager is more about managing the 25 different personalities within a locker room than anything else. Take a look at Bobby Valentine this past year in Boston as an example. Does anyone think that Valentine forgot about baseball strategy during his time in Japan or at ESPN. His failed attempt to manage the Boston Red Sox wasn't about his intelligence as a manager. It was about him being a jerk. The players didn't like him, so they didn't want to play for him, and it showed.
A good manager knows how to balance his clubhouse and not only put his players in a position to succeed (yes, there is some baseball strategy involved in the job), but more importantly, make them want to play hard for him every single day of the long and grueling major league season.
The managers on this list may not be the best strategists in the game, but this isn't football. These guys know how to manage a clubhouse, handle the media, and keep everyone in their locker rooms pointed in the same direction.
That's what managing in the major leagues is all about.
10 - Mike Matheny
Sure, we’ve only got one season to go on, but it was an impressive one for Mike Matheny. The former St. Louis Cardinals catcher took over his former club, having to fill the Hall of Fame shoes of Tony La Russa, his former manager, and took them to the NLCS, despite having lost the greatest hitter of the past decade to free agency in the off-season. That alone gets you on this list.
9 - Joe Girardi
Joe Girardi may not be the best strategist in baseball, but few managers, or people, for that matter, could handle what Girardi has to deal with in the New York media. He learned from the best, having played for Joe Torre, and he’s the perfect guy to handle all of the extras that come with managing the New York Yankees. He may not be on this list if he were the manager of another team, but he’s currently the perfect fit in the Bronx.
8 - Clint Hurdle
Because of their second-half collapses the past two years, Clint Hurdle, and his Pittsburgh Pirates, often get over-looked. But Hurdle deserves a ton of credit for having the Pirates in place to collapse in the first place. Hurdle has done a great job of getting the most out of his limited talent in Pittsburgh, and has excelled in not over-exposing players with limited abilities, using them in the ways that allow them to be at their best.
7 - Charlie Manuel
Charlie Manuel used to get made fun of for being a old country hayseed before he won a World Series in 2008 with the Philadelphia Phillies. He gets bonus credit on top of that title for making five straight playoff appearances. Sure, he makes some mistakes and is still working on that whole double switch thing, but his guys love playing for him, and that’s a major point in his column. He also has just the right mixture of being a laid-back, player’s manager-type while still using a firm hand when Jimmy Rollins has his annual bout with hustling.
6 - Terry Francona
Terry Francona’s hiring by the Cleveland Indians allow him back on this list, which is good, because he’s a great manager. Francona took the fall for a bad season in 2011, when the questionably-motivated Boston media made the Red Sox clubhouse sound like a three-ring circus. In fact, it wasn’t any different than it was while Francona was collecting a pair of World Series rings with knuckleheads like Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar. Francona has a challenge ahead of him with a poor Indians team and may have to adjust his laid-back style a little bit to avoid a repeat of his time with the Phillies.
5 - Jim Leyland
Detroit Tigers fans may be the biggest culprit of the manager abuse that is rampant in major league baseball. Their calls to fire Jim Leyland this season were unwarranted and the Tigers struggles had little to do with his management of the team. Few managers in baseball garner the respect that Leyland does from players, and if you can’t play hard for him, you don’t deserve to get paid to play baseball. The only flaw Leyland has is his penchant for over-valuing old-school abilities like speed and ignoring on-base percentage at the top of the lineup, as evidenced by Quentin Berry’s presence in the two-hole in the World Series.
4 - Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter has created a reputation for himself of being able to turn around struggling teams, but he took that to a new level this year with the Baltimore Orioles. Showalter is a no-nonsense manager who would be a great fit with any young team in need of structure.
3 - Mike Scioscia
Another accomplished manager whose seat got hot this season after failing to meet expectations, Mike Scioscia has proven his abilities as a manager over the past decade, including his 2002 World Series title. Los Angeles Angels fan are getting restless because it’s been ten years, but Scoiscia is still the same manager he was then, and running him out of town would be a huge mistake. After all, he didn’t ask for Vernon Wells.
2 - Bruce Bochy
Bruce Bochy has his critics, but it’s hard to argue with two titles in three years. His players love playing for him and he’s won his titles with rosters that have had holes, yet he’s managed to fill them creatively and effectively. Plus, he has a giant head. That has to be good for something.
1 - Joe Maddon
How is a manager who has never won a World Series title ahead of managers who have multiple? Because, as we said at the beginning of this list, managers only have so much effect. The fact that Joe Maddon has gotten his underpaid Tampa Bay Rays teams to the playoffs shows what a great job he has done and if he can get the Rays to open up the purse strings just a little bit wider, he’ll get his ring.