Before free agency takes off, the market for new managers went wild with the lure of several coveted after positions. Here, I will look at the six newly introduced skippers.
The 47-year-old Matt Williams was a great player in his own right, but his skills will not transfer well into success as the head of the Washington Nationals. The replacement for legendary manager Davey Johnson needs to be able to assist the young hitters in developing, especially in terms of pitch selection and high averages. Williams will not be the man for that job, and Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Bryce Harper will struggle. We saw the same in Arizona where Williams served as a D-backs coach during years of offense plagued by high strikeout rates. Furthermore, his personality is due to clash with the Nat’s veterans, particularly third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman. It will also be interesting to see how the media focuses on his past use of performance enhancing drugs and his connection to the Mitchell List.
Lloyd McClendon had little success as the Pirates field general from 2001-2005. Granted, those Pirates teams were void of significant talent, but McClendon failed to produce a winning team. With a team like Seattle, McClendon’s contributions will be limited until the roster is revamped. With the current Mariners team, they are perennial fourth-place finishers. Nothing McClendon can do will change this fact, and he is just a filler manager for the time being. When the team does improve, Jack Zduriencik will hire someone else who is more capable of running a contender. McClendon would have been better off remaining in Detroit where he has served as a valuable coach since 2006. Seattle has had a high turnover rate of managers, and McClendon might be the next fatality of a low payroll and questionable player development from the Mariners.
The best offseason hire was the Tigers’ signing of Brad Ausmus. The young former catcher will likely manage very similarly to mike Matheny, who has had terrific results in his first two years managing the Cardinals. Ausmus, who played three seasons for Detroit, will replace the retired Jim Leyland. The Ivy League graduate has big shoes to fill, but can easily earn the respect of the talented team he is to take control of. Out of the new managers, Ausmus looks to be the best fit, and has the best shot of winning a championship his first year.
Rick Renteria lands the most risky, but possibly the most rewarding job. Whoever takes the Cubs to their next World Series will be a hero in Chicago for ages, and management hopes that someone is Renteria. The past three years were spent as the Padres bench coach, but Renteria also has managerial experience in the minors. Like Ausmus for Israel, Renteria managed the Mexican National team in 2013. Reports show that Renteria has great relationships with all his players, especially the Hispanic ones. Hopefully, he will be able to straighten Starlin Castro out in order for him to reach his potential. The problem for Renteria is that the Cubs are still a few years away from being competitive, so he has to pray he isn’t fired prematurely.
The Cincinatti Reds were so frustrated with their early departure in the playoffs that they immediately fired the great Dusty Baker. To replace him, Bryan Price was promoted from Reds pitching coach, where he has turned the staff into one of the best in the league. His familiarity with the team will put him at a great advantage over the other first year managers, but Price will fall short of the leadership qualities provided with Baker.
Hall-of-Fame second basemen Ryne Sandberg took over the reins from Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia during the final stretch of the season. Sandberg, who had a short stint with the Phillies to begin his playing career, closed the season with a 13-10 record. The team signed him to a three year extension, but the Phillies may be in worse shape than previously thought. If he doesn’t contribute immediately, he could be managing a cellar-dweller and rebuilding squad.
Now the question turns to who is on the hot seat for 2014.