Thursday, September 9, 2010

Managerial Carousel


        By Ross Newhan

        So Joe Torre, his Dodgers swept by the San Diego Padres to bury the last of their post-season visions, says he wishes there was more he could have done to help his team do better.

        A preamble to his retirement?

       We can't be sure yet.

       It's pretty safe to say that Torre does not want to go through another season like this one---the owners' divorce undercutting the team's financial ability to strengthen the roster and the disappearance of Manny Ramirez undercutting the team's offense, contributing to major second half slumps by Andre Eithier and Matt Kemp, although it is time both of these players stand on their own two feet.

      One thing is for certain: Whether Torre returns or not, there will be a major turnover in managers, adding to the turnover that has transpired during the season.

      Florida, Arizona, Seattle and Baltimore all fired their managers, and the Chicago Cubs were left with a vacancy when Lou Piniella retired.

      What we know is that one managerial giant, Piniella, has left for good, two more, Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston, will soon join him, and both Torre and Tony LaRussa may decide to join the parade.

      Fourteen managers are in the last year of their contracts or have club options that have yet to be exercised. Jerry Manuel of the New York Mets, Ken Macha of the Milwaukee Brewers and John Russell of the Pittsburgh Pirates are in jeopardy, as are the interim managers in Florida, Seattle and Chicago, where the Cubs face something of a public relations backlash if they don't elevate Ryne Sandberg, who didn't let his Hall of Fame stature get in the way of accepting a minor league managing position in preparation for managing in the majors.

     In Los Angeles, should Torre step down, the failure of Don Mattingly to have managed in the minors, could come back to haunt the hitting coach who has always been considered Torre's successor. There is suddenly a groundswell of support for Tim Wallach, who has been managing the club's triple A team in Albuquerque.

    Meanwhile, Kirk Gibson, who succeeded the fired A.J. Hinch in Arizona, is expected get a full season at the helm, Buck Showalter has already received a multi-year opportunity in Baltimore, and Fredi Gonzalez, who was fired in Florida, is the leading candidate to succeed Cox in Atlanta. It's the usual game of musical chairs, but this year some of baseball's most celebrated conductors have already or could decide they have played long enough.

    * * *
    The final three weeks of the season will determine the respective managers of the year.

    Bud Black of the Padres had a lock on it in the National League, but Bruce Bochy of San Francisco and
Charlie Manuel of Philadelphia have moved into contention.

    In the American League, Ron Gardenhire of Minnesota and Ron Washington of Texas would seem to be the leading candidates.

   At least, all of those contenders are among the few managers whose jobs are safe.


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