Which new manager has the toughest job?
Quick trivia question: Who is the only manager in baseball who has had his current job for more than 10 years? The answer? Cleveland’s Terry Francona, who was hired in October 2012 to take over for Manny Acta. Every other manager has been on the job for fewer than 10 years. In fact, more than half of the managers in baseball have had their current job for fewer than five years: a whopping 11 have managed their team for only one season or less.
This is to say: Managing is a tough job, and it’s an even tougher job to keep.
This offseason, there has been relatively little turnover: There are just four new managers heading into the 2023 season. (There were two managers who took over midseason last year: John Schneider in Toronto and Rob Thomson in Philadelphia, who only steered his team to the World Series after taking over in June.) Each of the new managers is facing his own unique challenges: After all, if there were no challenges, the job wouldn’t have opened in the first place.
Let’s take a look at each of these four new managers and their new gigs: What they’ve got, what they need, their biggest challenge and a reasonable expectation for 2023. I’ve ordered these based on my best guess of the likelihood of each manager spearheading an immediate turnaround.
Chicago White Sox
New Manager: Pedro Grifol
Previous Experience: Bench coach for the Royals
What His Team Already Has: The White Sox perpetually feel like a team that has underachieved, that its glory days never really happened, and all told, that’s not a terrible situation for a new manager to walk into. They still have all the young talent that got us excited about them in the first place, and they’re all still under 30. Most managers would be pretty happy to hand in a lineup card featuring Tim Anderson, Andrew Benintendi, Luis Robert, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, Andrew Vaughn and Yasmani Grandal. They also have the guy who finished second in AL Cy Young Award voting last year in Dylan Cease. This might still be the most talented team in the division?
What His Team Needs: Honestly, a reset. Tony La Russa made some high-profile missteps and was a target for those outside (and sometimes inside) the organization, but the notion that he was a befuddled old man wasn’t fair: He did get this team to the playoffs in 2021, before getting waylaid by injuries (and his own illness) last year. This team still is a little top-heavy, which makes it particularly vulnerable to injuries, and the bullpen has some question marks (as does the back of the rotation), but more than anything, the White Sox needed a palate cleanser. Grifol is clearly meant to be just that.
Biggest Challenges: Grifol is, from all accounts, a smart guy, but it’s not like his résumé is that sterling. He just served as bench coach for a losing team -- a team, it should be noted, that hired someone other than him as its new manager. The White Sox have underachieved in a fairly wide open division. Can you count on a first-time manager to fix that right from the get-go? With the team leader, José Abreu, now in Houston?
Reasonable Expectations: The White Sox are running out of time to win with this core. Grifol is here to lay down some new groundwork, but more than anything, he’s here to win -- now. If he wants to hold onto this job for a while, he needs to win a division title. Maybe not this year, but soon. This year would be nice, though.
New Manager: Bruce Bochy
Previous Experience: Manager for Padres and manager for Giants, with whom he won three World Series
What His Team Already Has: Names! The Rangers certainly have them: Jacob deGrom, Marcus Semien, Corey Seager. Heck, the fact that Bochy is in charge is a testament to how much the Rangers value big names: There aren’t many bigger names as a manager than a guy who has won three World Series. The lineup is intriguing, and the rotation has five established big league pitchers, too. Perhaps most important, Bochy has a front office that has clearly shown it’s willing to spend to get better. After all, Bochy is here.
What His Team Needs: That lineup still looks a little thin -- though it’d be less so if Josh Jung hits like we thought he might as a prospect -- and they sure are counting on deGrom for a lot of innings when, well, he hasn’t really shown he can handle a lot of innings. The Rangers are an extremely top-heavy team in a sport that has increasingly seen teams that value depth stand out from the crowd.
Biggest Challenges: You bring in Bruce Bochy when you have a team that has the talent to win but just doesn’t know how to win: That’s why you need a three-time champion manager. But the Rangers don’t look like a team that looks that ready to win. Also, Bochy has been out of the game for a while now, and he wasn’t known as the most progressive, inventive manager in the first place, particularly at the end of his tenure. He has clearly shown he is a terrific postseason manager. But is he going to get that chance in Arlington?
Reasonable Expectations: After the Astros, every team in this division has some real question marks. And maybe deGrom is fantastic all year and wins the Cy Young. If that happens, and Seager and Semien play to their peak potential, you can dream on a playoff berth. But finishing behind the Astros, Mariners and Angels again feels like a distinct possibility.
New Manager: Skip Schumaker
Previous Experience: Bench coach for the Cardinals, first-base coach for the Padres
What His Team Already Has: Well, the defending NL Cy Young Award winner (Sandy Alcantara) is an excellent start. The rotation is supposed to be the strength for the Marlins, even with Pablo López now in Minnesota, and the Marlins have done what they can to improve the offense, bringing in Luis Arraez and Jean Segura. The Marlins also have a video game cover star in Jazz Chisholm Jr. around whom to build.
What His Team Needs: Some help defensively, first off. The additions have helped out the Marlins offensively, but now essentially half the lineup is playing out of position. This is, theoretically, something that Schumaker should understand: He moved from the outfield to second base in the middle of his career and handled it halfway decently, all told. The bullpen has some questions as well, though trades for Matt Barnes and A.J. Puk help. Also: They might need to play in a different division. That would help, too.
Biggest Challenges: The NL East is a problem, but the bigger one is the lack of success this organization has had in general. Only one full-time manager in Marlins history, Jack McKeon, had a winning record with Miami, and the most recent skipper, Don Mattingly, had a .430 winning percentage in seven seasons. If Schumaker puts up that win percentage, he’s not making it seven seasons, that’s for sure.
Reasonable Expectations: In this juggernaut of a division, a playoff push would be awfully ambitious. But the Marlins could challenge for the .500 mark, at the very least, and start to look like a team that’s ready to make a real move in this division. Because it has been quite a while since they have done so.
Kansas City Royals
New Manager: Matt Quatraro
Previous Experience: Bench coach for the Rays
What His Team Already Has: More intriguing young players than you might think. Bobby Witt Jr. -- who was good last year, if not as great as Royals fans thought he would already be -- is the linchpin, but there are a lot of interesting young hitters here, from Vinnie Pasquantino (25) to Kyle Isbel (25) to MJ Melendez (24), with more coming up the pipeline in the next few years. But most important, Quatraro has a front office that seems aligned with him and ready to, at last, try something new -- as evidenced by the fact that they hired someone from the Rays’ organization. For a while now, the Royals have been iconoclastic, for better or worse, generally valuing things like batting average and speed more than advanced analytics that have guided some more successful franchises (like the Rays). There may be some real value in finally getting with the program.
What His Team Needs: Pitching, as it always does. It’s nice to have Zack Greinke back, but that he’s still the “ace” of this team tells you all you need to know. The bullpen is a little bit more interesting with Aroldis Chapman in the mix, but there aren’t even close to enough arms to compete in this division.
Biggest Challenges: Quatraro is a young-ish manager brought in to usher in a new era of Royals baseball, but the usher-in-a-new-era era tends not to last much longer than a year or so. Eventually, fans want the team to win, especially when it has been half a decade since it did. This is a very winnable division in the years to come, and the Royals’ (and Quatraro’s) challenge is establishing themselves as the future of the AL Central before anyone else can.
Reasonable Expectations: The playoffs are probably out of reach this year, but there is more talent here than there is in Detroit, at least. And the Royals are young. You want to see improvements from the young players … and then maybe a run in 2024.