Five managers enter final season under contract
A year ago, Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura declined an extension of his contract.
Not this time.
Ventura, who had the 2014 season remaining on his original contract, agreed to an extension, leaving five managers heading into Spring Training in the final guaranteed season of their contract.
Fredi Gonzalez of Atlanta and Ron Washington are in the final years of deals that do not have options. Ron Roenicke of Milwaukee and Clint Hurdle of Pittsburgh both have deals in which the club has options for 2015, and Kirk Gibson's deal with Arizona includes options for '15 and '16.
Ventura is the seventh manger to be given an extension this offseason.
Earlier this offseason, Kansas City re-signed Ned Yost through 2015, the New York Yankees signed Joe Girardi through '17, the New York Mets signed Terry Collins through '15, Don Mattingly was given a three-year extension by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Walt Weiss signed a three-year extension in Colorado, and Ron Gardenhire was given two additional seasons by Minnesota.
Hurdle could be next to tack years onto his deal. A year ago, Hurdle had a contract guaranteed for 2013, with an option for '14, before the Pirates announced that Hurdle's deal had been guaranteed for '14 and he had an option for '15.
A year ago, 11 managers went into the regular season in the final years of contracts. Six are returning in 2014: Collins, Mattingly, Yost, Weiss, Gardenhire and Girardi.
Charlie Manuel was dismissed midseason by Philadelphia, Dusty Baker was let go by Cincinnati after the season, and Eric Wedge declined a one-year extension in Seattle. Jim Leyland in Detroit and Davey Johnson in Washington both retired.
Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Buck Showalter of Baltimore are the most secure managers in terms of contract length, with both signed through 2018. Girardi and Mike Matheny of St. Louis are both signed through '17.
Celebrate all three
Tony La Russa's decision to have a blank hat on his Hall of Fame plaque makes sense. La Russa got his first chance in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, managing that team for eight years. To this day, White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf remains one of La Russa's closest friends.
In Oakland, La Russa established himself as one of the game's top strategists, winning three American League pennants and the 1989 World Series. He also originally signed as a player with the A's, who were in Kansas City at the time. Ten of his 15 seasons as a player were spent with that organization, including five of the six years in which he spent time in the big leagues. He has continued to make his home in the Oakland area.
La Russa spent the longest duration of his managerial career in St. Louis, winning more games (1,408) in his 16 seasons with the Cardinals than any manager in franchise history. The Cardinals won three National League pennants and two World Series during his tenure there.
End of an era
There have been 680 men who have managed a big league game, and five of the top 15 in terms of victories have retired since the end of the 2010 season, including Leyland (No. 15) this offseason. La Russa (No. 3) stepped down after '11. Bobby Cox (No. 4), Joe Torre (No. 5) and Lou Piniella (No. 14) all retired in '10. Along with those five, Baker (No. 16) is not managing this season.
That leaves Bruce Bochy as the leader in victories among active managers. He is No. 21 on the all-time list with 1,530 wins. Among active managers, Scioscia is second (38th all-time) with 1,233 victories; Showalter is third (43rd overall) with 1,163 victories; Terry Francona is fourth (49th overall) with 1,121 overall, and Gardenhire is fifth (60th overall) with 998 victories.
Francona, now with Cleveland, and Bochy of San Francisco are the only active managers who have won two World Series. Francona won both of his with Boston. Girardi, Scioscia and John Farrell of Boston are the only other active managers who have won a World Series championship.