The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
MLB managerial roller coaster is busy again this offseason

For the second year in a row, there will be a significant turnover in major league managers. For the 2023 season, seven managers were in their first full season. This fall has seen another dip on the roller coaster ride involving managerial jobs, since eight teams will realize a change in managers for the 2024 season. Think about it, half of the 30 MLB teams will have made a change in only two seasons.

With these turnovers, it’s been interesting to watch the direction each is taking in naming its replacement. Let’s go back and review some history of manager selections in the last dozen or so years and how it is affecting decisions today.

When AJ Hinch first became manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, it raised a lot of eyebrows about how wise his selection was made, since he had never coached or managed in the minors or majors. He opened the door for future managers, who also didn’t have prior experience. Mike Matheny followed in 2012 with the St. Louis Cardinals. With no prior experience, he turned out to be very successful during his first four seasons with the Cardinals, winning three division championships and one NL pennant in 2013.

At about the same time, baseball analytics were becoming mainstream within major-league organizations. Many front office positions in baseball operations were being filled with MBAs, data scientists, and software engineers, rather than the traditional baseball lifers who went into front office jobs after substantial playing or managerial careers. The “Moneyball” craze had taken hold.

As a consequence, general managers and their staff began to consider prospective manager candidates they thought would embrace baseball analytics concepts and steer the implementation. The result was a trend in younger, inexperienced managers who generally accepted the influence of their front office in setting daily lineups and using data-driven strategies in game situations.

In addition to Hinch and Matheny, some of the other “newer style” managers in 2023 included Aaron Boone, Rocco Baldelli, David Ross, Gabe Kapler, and Scott Servais. They had all been major-league players, some had worked in front office jobs, but none had managed a team at a minor-league or major-league level before their first assignment.

But there remained a number of “old school” managers in the game, those who weren’t ready or willing to embrace these new approaches to the game. They came up through the more traditional path of managerial careers. They didn’t speak the analytics “language.” They operate more on past experience, gut instincts, and decision-making norms that had been around for decades. Some of these in 2023 included Buck Showalter, Dusty Baker, Terry Francona, Bud Black, Brian Snitker and Bruce Bochy.

That’s not to say “old school” managers can’t operate effectively in today’s game. 73-year-old Baker won the World Series with the Astros in 2022, and 68-year-old Bochy came out of retirement to lead the Rangers to their first-ever World Series championship in 2023. They successfully managed to bridge the gap with front offices by having analytics applied through their coaching staff who could implement the new approaches. Snitker, who was 60 years old in his first managerial job in 2016 with the Braves, captured the World Series in 2021. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Angels’ veteran manager Joe Maddon reportedly clashed with his front office over how to manage the team, and he was dismissed 56 games into his third season.

So, let’s look at each new manager selection for 2024.

New Astros manager Joe Espada came up through the traditional path to his first major-league manager’s job. He served as a major-league coach with the Marlins and Yankees before becoming the bench coach with the Astros. Espada, 48, had previous experience as a manager in the Puerto Rican Winter League and the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He had previously been interviewed by several major-league clubs for a manager’s job.

The Chicago Cubs returned to an experienced manager to replace David Ross, who had never held a managerial position prior to his Cubs assignment. Craig Counsell leaves the Milwaukee Brewers after nine seasons to replace Ross, who had a .480 winning percentage in his four seasons. Counsell went from a front office job with the Brewers to his first managerial job at any level in 2015.

Pat Murphy replaces Counsell as the Brewers’ manager. It is his first permanent major-league manager’s position. (He was interim manager with the San Diego Padres in 2015). He had a distinguished career as a college head coach, including stints at Notre Dame and Arizona State. Murphy, 64, spent the last nine seasons as bench coach for the Brewers.

The Cleveland Guardians are taking the youth route in replacing long-time manager Terry Francona, who retired after 11 seasons with the club. New 38-year-old manager Stephen Vogt retired as a player after the 2022 season and spent 2023 as bullpen and quality control coach for the Seattle Mariners. He seems like a huge gamble for a team that has made the playoffs in six out of the last eight seasons.

First-time major-league manager Carlos Mendoza takes over for Buck Showalter with the New York Mets. At age 43, this is Mendoza’s first managerial assignment. He spent 15 years in the New York Yankees organization, including the last four seasons as bench coach. A native of Venezuela, Mendoza is bilingual, which will come in handy with the Latino players.

71-year-old Ron Washington will return to the managerial ranks after ten seasons, replacing the Angels’ Phil Nevin. Washington managed the Texas Rangers during 2007-2014, when he became the winningest skipper in Rangers history. He won back-to-back AL pennants in 2010 and 2011. Since 2014 he has been third base coach for the Oakland A’s and Atlanta Braves. He is well-known for developing infielders.

The San Francisco Giants are replacing four-year manager Gabe Kapler with Bob Melvin, who was manager of the San Diego Padres last season. Kapler had epitomized the “new style” managers, gaining attention after leading the Giants to 107 victories in 2021, but falling to .500 during the next two seasons. This will be Melvin’s fifth major-league manager’s job.

The San Diego Padres have yet to name Melvin’s replacement. The team decided to defer their selection until after Thanksgiving, following the death of Padres chairman Peter Seidler last week. There are several experienced managers available, including Don Mattingly, Joe Maddon, Mike Matheny, and Joe Girardi.

At the end of the day, most major-league owners care more about wins than what type of manager they hire. But then you have a few teams like the Oakland A’s or the Kansas City Royals, where it doesn’t matter who the manager is—they don’t spend enough money on their rosters to produce playoff-caliber teams.

It’s a pretty good bet current managers Oliver Marmol (Cardinals), Pedro Grifol (White Sox), Bud Black (Rockies), Dave Martinez (Nationals), and Aaron Boone (Yankees) will be among those on the hot seat if they produce similar results next year.

And the roller coaster keeps on rolling.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)