Being the manager of a major league team is a tough, strange gig. The organization hands you a crop of players, and it’s then your job to transform them into a cohesive unit capable of achieving great things. It takes a deft touch, finding ways to relate to – and earn the respect of – your player, the ability to manage sometimes strong personalities, and finding ways to both motivate and get the most out of your team. Some are obviously better at it than others, and find great success. Others – well – not so much, and they often find themselves out of work.
Baseball, like every other sport, is a results driven industry. It’s the wins and losses that matter more than anything else. The organization’s higher-ups tend to not look at injuries or other outside factors that may have led to a team underperforming. When things go well, managers get a lot of the credit. But when they don’t, they tend to get all of the blame. Baseball is often a black and white world where, fair or not, shades of gray do not apply.
We’re not even a full quarter of the way into the 2014 season and we’re already hearing rumblings about managers whose jobs might not be safe. It’s obviously far too early yet to say, with any sort of certainty, which managers are in danger of getting pink slipped. But there are some skippers with teams that had expectations coming into the season – and have gotten off to a slow start – whose seats might be feeling a little warmer already.
6. Don Mattingly – Los Angeles Dodgers
Though Donny Baseball just signed a three-year deal, he’s far from perfectly safe. The heat on Mattingly probably isn’t as intense as it is on some other skippers, but he’d be foolish to not notice that his backside is getting a little warmer. And Mattingly is no fool. Expectations in Los Angeles are higher than Snoop Dogg. Higher than Snopp Dogg and all of his friends even. But those sorts of expectations are inherent when your payroll is a little over $235 million.
On paper, the Dodgers have one of the best rotations in the National League. They have arguably, the best bullpen in all of baseball. And they have power up and down their lineup. With all of that going for them, you wouldn’t expect the Dodgers to be hovering around .500 – which is where they’ve been all season so far. The new Dodgers ownership group isn’t shelling out all of that money for a team that’s barely breaking even. This team was built to win now, and if they don’t, Don Mattingly will likely be the one to take the fall.
5. Terry Collins – New York Mets
Skipper Terry Collins signed a new two-year extensions last season, which would make you think he’s got a measure of job security. Well, think again. Though it’s with the Mets, the pressure to win in New York is still high. GM Sandy Alderson and team owner Fred Wilpon both publicly expressed the belief that the Mets, as currently constructed, can and should win 90 games. This is a bad thing for Collins.
It’s a bad thing simply because the Mets, as currently constructed, likely aren’t capable of winning 90 games. Though they have some real talent on the roster, they also have some real glaring holes on the team as well, especially in their rotation. The Mets aren’t coming close to contending this season. Alderson and Wilpon have some unreal expectations and Collins looks to be the one who is going to pay the price for it.
4. Joe Girardi – New York Yankees
There is, perhaps, no other city in the Majors that has higher expectations than New York. And there is perhaps no other team where the pressure to win is greater than it is with the New York Yankees. There really is no more difficult place to play in the league. When you win, you’re a legend. And when you lose, it’s not safe for you to walk the streets at night.
It can’t help that Girardi that the Yankees missed the playoffs last season for only the second time in nearly two decades. Even worse is that they’ve gotten off to a relatively slow start this season and are only a few games over .500 at this point. Though they have one of the highest payrolls in baseball, this rosters is filled with aging stars on the downside of their careers. Should they miss the playoffs for a second straight season, Girardi is going to feel the heat and may find himself getting pink slipped.
3. John Gibbons – Toronto Blue Jays
It’s tough to not feel a little sorry for John Gibbons. He plays in arguably the toughest division in baseball and despite having a boatload of talent, and the expectations that come with it, Gibbons couldn’t keep his team healthy enough to be competitive in 2013.
This season, the Blue Jays seem to be in even worse shape. Though they have All Star talent on their roster, they have more than a few holes as well. R.A. Dickey heads their rotation, but the talent level on the pitching staff drops off radically after him. The Jays are most likely not going to make the postseason and Gibbons is likely going to get the boot when they don’t. Not because he’s a bad manager, but because Toronto doesn’t have the talent level to match their expectations, let alone the talent level to compete in that division.
2. Kirk Gibson – Arizona Diamondbacks
As a player, Kirk Gibson was tough as nails, took no grief from anybody, and had a no-nonsense attitude. As a manager, he hasn’t changed a bit and his Arizona Diamondbacks have taken on his personality. They’re tough, feisty and scrappy, but they are in a division with the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers and are likely to be third best in the National League Western Division for some time to come.
Gibson gets the most out of his team that he can, but that has translated into back to back .500 seasons. With a payroll of about $110 million – the highest in team history – Arizona was expected to finally get over the break-even hump and perhaps, even challenge for a division title. But some Spring Training injuries have put a dent in their pitching staff, and the D-Backs, currently well below .500, aren’t likely going to meet management’s lofty expectations for the team. Combine that with his abrasive personality, and the friction with the team’s front office, and it would be a surprise if Gibson made it through the entire season with his job.
1. Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels
The longest tenured manager in the Bigs, Mike Scioscia is enormously respected around the league. Having been the Angels’ skipper since 2000, Scioscia has guided them to their only World Series title, and helped transform the franchise from perennial losers into a very real, very serious team that can’t be taken lightly anymore. He’s built a perennial contender. Though, one that has underperformed for quite a while now.
Over the last few seasons, something has gone terribly wrong at the Big A. Despite dropping enormous sums of cash on some of the best players in the game, like C.J. Wilson, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton, the Angels have missed the playoffs for four consecutive years, and haven’t been able to crack .500 for very long at all this season. The Angels have arguably, one of the most talented rosters in baseball. But so far this season, they haven’t been able to do any better than breaking even. That’s not going to fly with team owner Arte Moreno. Not when he’s sporting one of the league’s highest payrolls. As beloved and respected as Scioscia is, for as much as he’s done for the organization, if the Angels don’t make a real push this season, and don’t start making that push very soon, his long-standing tenure with the Angels is going to come crashing to an end in very short order.