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New manager rankings: Who's here in 5 years?

@williamfleitch
February 12, 2020

With the announcement on Tuesday that the Red Sox promoted Ron Roenicke to interim manager, there are no longer any managing vacancies in Major League Baseball. It has been an offseason of incredible turmoil in the managerial ranks, with a whopping 10 new managers hired. That feels like a massive

With the announcement on Tuesday that the Red Sox promoted Ron Roenicke to interim manager, there are no longer any managing vacancies in Major League Baseball. It has been an offseason of incredible turmoil in the managerial ranks, with a whopping 10 new managers hired.

That feels like a massive number (one-third of MLB!), but it’s worth remembering that no one hangs on to the job that long anyway. The manager with the longest tenure in baseball right now is Oakland’s Bob Melvin, who was hired midseason back in 2011. But here’s a question for you: How many managers have been in charge of their teams for five full seasons? The answer: Three. Only Melvin, Cleveland’s Terry Francona and Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash have been their team’s manager since the beginning of the 2015 season. That’s crazy, right? A word of advice to new managers: Rent, don’t buy.

But that leads to the question: Will any of these managers make it to five years? So we decided to look at the 10 new managers and rank them in the order they’re most likely to last five years in their current gig. But all told, the odds are against any of them making it.

1) Joe Girardi, Phillies
Working for him: He is a World Series-winning manager who survived nearly a decade in New York, an incredible achievement on its own. He has a team that is desperate to win and has proven it is willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen, including bringing in Joe Girardi. (But not Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson, alas.) Girardi is a manager straight from central casting, and he took his time finding the right job to return to the game. He’s also still only 55, younger than several of the new managers on this list. This one makes a lot of sense.

Working against him: This is Philadelphia. There is zero patience here for a team that has gone nearly a decade without making the postseason, and Girardi won’t benefit from any either. If this goes sideways, no one will make it out alive, not even Girardi.

2) Joe Maddon, Angels
Working for him: Well, he’s Joe Maddon. He’s back in the organization where he spent so many years, here explicitly to get a World Series for Mike Trout while he’s in his prime. Maddon is with an organization that’s willing to spend to win, with substantial urgency from the top down. The Angels have had Trout for eight years and never even won a playoff game. If Maddon can do that just once in the next three years, he should be secure for two more.

Working against him: He’s older -- Maddon would be 70 in that fifth year -- but more to the point: He is a big personality who, as we saw in Chicago, can wear thin on people even when he’s winning. And as a reminder of just how long five years is: It feels like Maddon was in Chicago forever, but he was only there for five seasons. Will he really be able to last that long in a new place without ending a century-long curse?

3) Mike Matheny, Royals
Working for him: The Royals are just starting out a rather extensive rebuild, which means there will not be immediate pressure on Matheny to win games. The Royals could lose 90-plus games the next three years and Matheny’s seat would likely still be comfortable. He also has proven successful in the past; there are four new managers this season who have taken their team to the World Series, and he’s one of them. He also is with a franchise that absolutely does not like to fire managers.

Working against him: Of course, he was with a franchise that doesn’t like to fire managers before, and he was fired. And it hasn’t been lost that the team instantly improved (and ended a playoff drought) the year after he was fired. He claims to have used his time away from the dugout learning to address his deficiencies. We will see.

4) Gabe Kapler, Giants
Working for him: The Giants are just getting their rebuild started -- you can make an argument they have not, in fact, really started yet -- and there won’t be much pressure on Kapler to win immediately. He also seems a more logical fit with the Giants’ brass than he did with the Phillies’, and San Francisco makes more sense than Philadelphia too. This might be the right organization for him.

Working against him: Well, the last time he had a new managerial job, some people wanted to fire him three games in, so there’s that. Kapler tends to be a polarizing figure, for reasons that are not always his fault. He is not the type to recede quietly into the background. He’ll take more heat on a daily basis just for that.

5) David Ross, Cubs
Working for him: Cubs fans love him -- even though he only played two years for them -- and he has an obvious connection to the franchise and fan base. We’ve seen on television that he’s a good communicator, which is a large part of the job of manager. He also seems sure to be more in sync with head of baseball operations Theo Epstein than Maddon was by the end.

Working against him: The Cubs are entering a period of transition, one that is unpredictable and a little confusing. Does Ross get to manage Kris Bryant this year, or does Bryant get traded? What happens the year after that? It’s tough to figure out what direction the Cubs are going at this particular moment, and that’s the sort of chaos and uncertainty that never bodes well for managers.

6) Derek Shelton, Pirates
Working for him: Like the aforementioned Royals, the Pirates are starting a rebuild, and you can’t really blame the manager for what’s about to happen. People like Shelton. He will need that good will.

Working against him: The Pirates, frankly, are unlikely to contend for a couple of years. It won’t be Shelton’s fault, but the problem is eventually people end up blaming the manager anyway. Remember Bo Porter? The former Astros manager was assigned with taking all those losses back in the day before Houston turned things around. Once all the losing is over, teams tend to want a new manager to transition into their next period of contention. It’s tough to survive reconstructions like this.

7) Jayce Tingler, Padres
Working for him: He’s widely respected throughout the game and is a fresh face for an organization that could use one. He has lots of young talent, and the advantage of a front office that is very much motivated to win in his first year. If the Padres do well this season, after years of losing records, Tingler will receive much of the credit for the turnaround.

Working against him: The Padres’ front office is not exactly locked in for the next decade: A.J. Preller hasn’t had a winning season since taking over late in the 2014 campaign, and Padres fans and ownership are understandably ready to see results. If the Padres flop this year, Preller could be gone, and one of the worst ways to have job security as a manager is to have your general manager fired. If the Padres struggle this year, no one may survive it.

8) Luis Rojas, Mets
Working for him: The hiring and then firing of Carlos Beltrán turned into a bit of a debacle, and Rojas is well respected in the organization, having managed many of the current players in the Minors. Also, he’s Felipe Alou’s son, which should earn him some benefit of the doubt. The team is trying to win now and might be a little underrated heading into the season. If Rojas can corral the team into a playoff spot, he could even become a bit of a local hero.

Working against him: The Mets have had 23 managers in their history (including Beltrán), and just three of them -- Davey Johnson, Bobby Valentine and Terry Collins -- ever made it five full seasons. Rojas is entering a perpetually tumultuous situation, with the club currently being put up for sale. Who knows what the Mets will look like in five years?

9) Ron Roenicke, Red Sox
Working for him: The Red Sox seem to be working toward becoming a more stable organization, no longer wildly fluctuating between incredible teams and last-place ones. Chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has a plan in place, and he’s going to stick to it. Hiring and firing managers every year would be disruptive. Sure, Roenicke is an interim manager, but if the Red Sox surprise and win 95 games next season -- unlikely but not impossible -- the temptation to keep Roenicke will be intense.

Working against him: Well, that "interim" is a big word. The Red Sox might have good reasons for holding off on any full-time labels until MLB finishes its investigation of the team’s culpability in the illegal sign-stealing scheme, but interim is interim. The expiration date is right there in the title. Plus, Roenicke would be 68 by the time his theoretical five-year stint ended.

10) Dusty Baker, Astros
Working for him: He’s one of the most beloved managers in the game, and he has an incredibly talented team. People do not love the Houston Astros right now, but they love Dusty Baker; if he wins this year and keeps winning, there will be enormous pressure to hang on to the one person with the team no one associates with the sign-stealing scandal.

Working against him: Well, he’s 70, but more to the point, he’s only on a one-year contract now. (There’s a club option for a second season.) Baker is not just a baseball manager this year; he’s also here for crisis management. The Astros need him to get them through this scandal. And there is also the chance that he wins a World Series -- the Astros are still very good, after all -- and decides to hang ’em up once and for all now that he'd have that elusive ring.

Check back with me in five years on this piece. I wouldn’t be surprised, honestly, if none of them are still in charge of their current teams then. Tough job, managing.