Wednesday, February 2, 2011

BD Hot Stove: NL Managers | Baseball Digest

BD Hot Stove: NL Managers | Baseball Digest

Yesterday the hot stove focused on the managers in the American League. Today let’s take a look at the National League group, all of whom wish their jobs were as secure as Bruce Bochy’s is right now.

NL West

Bruce Bochy is indeed riding high as he prepares to head to Scottsdale, AZ for spring training. This past fall Bochy guided the San Francisco Giants to their first World Series title in 56 years. After finding success in San Diego, Bochy moved up the left coast to take over the Giants in 2007. The first couple of years were rough (143-181), but with Tim Lincecum’s arrival things turned around, leading to last year’s 92-win season and the title. Bochy signed a two-year deal prior to the 2010 season that included a club option for 2012. That should be picked up any day now, unless Bochy and the Giants agree to a new deal (and that’s what I would bank on).

Don Mattingly has known incredible success as a hitter. He was an AL MVP, batting title champion, homered in eight straight games… and I could go on about “Donnie Baseball” and his hitting and fielding prowess. But a new challenge lies ahead for the one-time Yankees great. Mattingly enters his first season as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, a title he has never held at any level. He’s guaranteed two years with an option for 2013. Though he was not the people’s choice (a Los Angeles Times poll showed 63% of voters favored Triple-A manager Tim Wallach to take over the club’s reins), Mattingly should be completely safe this year. The drawbacks could be a change in ownership once the McCourts are done doing battle or if the team gets off to such a horrendous start (ask former New Jersey Devils coach John MacLean of the NHL about that) that he’s let go.

Bud Black had the San Diego Padres in first place in the NL West for 131 days until a September fade kept them from a post-season appearance. The success Black had with the overachieving Pads won him the 2010 NL Manager of the Year Award. He also signed a contract extension that will keep him in San Diego through at least 2013 (the deal includes club options for 2014 and 2015). “Stay classy San Diego!

The Colorado Rockies looked like they were down and out in 2009, so they fired manager Clint Hurdle and brought in Jim Tracy. The team caught fire under the new skipper, winning 74 of 116 games (.638) and made the playoffs as the wild card. Tracy was rewarded with a three-year deal and the NL Manager of the Year Award. But the team stumbled out of the gate last year and never played better than four games above .500 for any month. While Tracy should be safe, if the team has a similarly poor season, Tracy just has to look at Hurdle, who led the Rockies to the World Series in 2007, to see what can happen.

NL Central

66-yr old Tony LaRussa enters his 33rd year of managing because he wanted to. The combative skipper has won seven division titles in his 15 years in St. Louis, and took home the game’s top prize in 2006. But things are not as rosy for LaRussa as they once were. The press isn’t as quick to defend him as they once were, he’s grown more ornery with age, has had more run-ins with his players, and some of his off the field actions have upset ownership and the fans (a DUI arrest, speaking at a Glen Beck rally). LaRussa is also at a stage where he’s not sure he wants to manage any more. A great Cardinals season could change all of that, but I believe LaRussa will retire after this season.

Dusty Baker is a conquering hero in Cincinnati as his team preps for the up-coming season. Baker led the Reds to their first division title in 15 years. Unfortunately, the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Phillies, but Baker’s team is pretty much intact for 2011 and has excellent shot at repeating their division superiority. The Reds’ success led two a new two year contract that was announced at the end of the 2010 regular season.

The Houston Astros have had a lot of changes in their 25 man roster and their managers over the last few years. They’re hoping they can keep Brad Mills around a while longer than his predecessors. The rookie manager led the offensively challenged team to a 76 win season. Owner Drayon McLane rewarded him by picking up his option for 2012 and adding a club option for 2013. Mills should be safe at home for the foreseeable future.

Clint Hurdle to should have at least two to three years at the helm of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite the Bucs’ woes since their last winning season (1992), ownership has only changed managers during the season once (2005) and each manager has been in Pittsburgh for at least two years. Hurdle has some wonderful up and coming players to work with, but not so wonderful pitching depth and a tough division to deal with, but he’ll have a few years to see what he can do.

When Lou Piniella retired after 125 games as Cubs manager last season, Mike Quade stepped in and stepped up his chances to manage in the majors. Quade’s Cubbies went 24-13 in his interim tenure and after interviewing with others for the permanent job was rewarded with a two year contract. Barring a disaster, he’ll have a chance to try to work with Carlos Zambrano on his anger management for a couple of years.

NL East

Ownership may be selling off a good chunk of its interest, but New York Met fans are glad to see GM Omar Minaya and manager Jerry Manuel no longer running the show. Sandy Alderson replaced Minaya in October and, after an extensive search, hired Terry Collins as his new manager in late November. Collins returns to a major league managerial gig for the first time since he was fired after 133 games as the Angels manager in 1999. That was the only year that Collins’ run teams (Astros ’94-’96, Angels ’97-’99) finished lower than second place. With stability needed, Collins should get the two full years of his contract (and possibly the club’s option for 2013) to prove his selection was correct.

Charlie Manuel won the World Series in 2008, won the pennant in 2009, and has been at the reins of four straight division winning Philadelphia Phillies clubs. Manuel doesn’t have a contract past 2011, but recently told WIP radio that “I think it’s just a matter of time.” With a rotation of Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels, and Blanton, there will be plenty of pressure to at least reach the World Series. Anything less could end the affable Manuel’s tenure in Philly.

Jim Riggleman is in the last guaranteed year of a two year contract (there’s a club option for 2013) as manager for the Washington Nationals. With Jayson Werth’s free agent acquisition and a number of young hyped prospects on the way, Riggleman must improve on last season’s winning percentage (.426) to last the season.

Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria can be pretty volatile when dealing with his employees (just ask Joe Girardi or Fredi Gonzalez), so it was no surprise that Edwin Rodriguez was given just a one year deal to manage the team. Rodriguez became the first Puerto Rican born manager in the majors when he replaced Gonzalez after 70 games last season. The team played .500 ball (46-46) the rest of the way to help earn Rodriguez the permanent job after Loria had flirtations with Bobby Valentine and others. It would be no shock to see Rodriguez replaced during or after the season no matter how the Marlins do.

Speaking of Fredi Gonzalez, he starts the job he was being groomed for when he was Bobby Cox’s bench coach in Atlanta. The venerable Cox retired after 29 years as a manager, 25 of which were in Atlanta in two different stints. Gonzalez kept the Marlins competitive in 2008-2009 before a falling out with Hanley Ramirez helped lead to his downfall in southern Florida. He’ll now have a chance to skipper the Braves for the next three seasons (there’s also a club option for 2014) and possibly beyond, just like his mentor.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Apparently Lou Piniella is not done with baseball just yet. The 67-yr old was set to retire as Cubs manager after the 2010 season, then cut it 37 games short to be with his ailing mother. The SF Chronicle’s John Shea has learned that Piniella is set to become a special assistant with the SF Giants.

The Rays have signed infielder Felipe Lopez to a minor league deal. He’ll have a chance to compete for a utility spot during spring training.

In a minor league move the Yankees have sent right-hander Adam Olbrychowski to the Nationals for outfielder Justin Maxwell. The Yankees then designated Jordan Parraz for assignment to make room for Maxwell on the 40-man roster.

The NY Post’s Joel Sherman reports that the Mets are talking to the Angels about dealing Carlos Beltran.

The Indians are reportedly in negotations with right-handed free agent Jeremy Bonderman.

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