Managerial Madness
by Keith Glab,
November 19, 2006

After the Oakland A's hired Bob Geren, all of the outstanding managerial vacancies this offseason have been filled.  A total of five new managers will enter the 2007 season with no previous major league managerial experience.  Let's break down who the winners and losers of these hot potato swaps were, beginning with Mr. Wheelhouse himself, Bob Geren.

Oakland Athletics - C

Old - Ken Macha
New - Bob Geren

I'm not sure what Ken Macha did to get fired, as he posted a .568 winning percentage with Oakland, and just this year led them to their first postseason win since 1990.  I'm surprised that sabrmetrician Orel Hershiser could not land the managerial role with the team that supposedly looks at stats more than any other (maybe I shouldn't be, since he's just high-profile enough to divert attention away from Billy Beane, the Star of the Show).  And I'm not sure how Bob Geren's career OBP of .283 correlates with the organizational philosophy of getting on base above all else.

On the other hand, managers often do not manage as they played.  Ozzie Guillen preaches getting on base and doing the little things well while he was a horrible percentage player himself.  Don Baylor was a big beefy slugger who became obsessed with small ball (AKA Baylor Ball) once he became a manager.  Maybe Geren's familiarity with the Oakland organization has altered his views on hitting.

And actually, poor players have a pretty good track record as managers.  So do catchers, as they are knowledgeable on both sides of the ball.  In the end, I don't think that the talkative Geren will be as successful as Macha or Hershiser would have been, but he's also not the worst choice in the world.

Texas Rangers - A

Old - Buck Showalter
New - Ron Washington

The Rangers should get an A simply because they ditched Showalter and guaranteed themselves a World Series title next year.  But the hiring of Ron Washington even adds to that success.  Gary Matthews Jr. was second on the Rangers with 58 walks last year, and he's leaving as a free agent..  Sounds to me like this team needs a manager who'll preach taking walks and waiting around for the three-run homer, especially given the ballpark in which they play.  Enter Ron Washington, who brings the same things to the table as Geren does minus the catching experience.  But while Geren's not going to have much of an impact on his team's philosophy, Waddhington just might in Texas.

Washington Nationals - D

Old -  Frank Robinson
New - Manny Acta

Would it surprise you to learn that Frank Robinson had three .500 or better seasons out of five with the Washington/Montreal franchise?  It surprised the heck out of me when I noticed it.  This guy succeeded despite low payrolls, a poor minor league system, and possibly even ownership conspiracies against the team. I don't know much about Acta except that he was part of an impressive Mets team last year, but I find it hard to believe that he could match the unexpected success of F-Rob. 

Florida Marlins - B

Old - Joe Girardi
New - Fredi Gonzalez

I promised not to write any more on Girardi.  Fredi Gonzalez joins Acta as a third base coach from the NL East becoming manager with a different NL East team - good news for Art Howe for next year.  The tough part for Fredi is that if the Marlins do poorly this year, he'll be blamed, but even if he leads them to the postseason people will say that the pieces were already in place.     

Chicago Cubs - A

Old - John B. "Dusty" Baker
New - "Sweet" Lou Pinella

Dusty was a disaster for the Chicago Cubs, ands no matter what he has said publicly, he's got to be glad to get away from the first city to scrutinize and question him in his managerial career.  Almost any replacement would have been an improvement here, but it's a double bonus that the hiring of Pinella gets him out of the broadcast booth, where he sounded remarkably like Sewer Urchin from The Tick.

But ever since being hired, Lou has said all the right things.  He's downplayed curses, vowed to investigate the problems with day games, and emphasized On Base Percentage.  To that end, he brought along hitting coach Gerald Perry, who worked with Lou on those Seattle Mariner ballclubs that finished either first or second in OBP for the first three years of this decade.   

And with Lou, talk is not just talk.  No one took him seriously when he vowed that the Devil Rays would not finish in last place in 2004, but that's what happened.  Justified or not, Cub fans have somewhat loftier expectations for their team.  Pinella has a good enough track record to raise those expectations even higher, and unlike Baker before him,  his skill level matches his reputation.  

San Diego Padres - D

Old - Bruce Bochy
New - Bud Black

If you're not a Padres fan, you might not realize that Bruce Bochy had been longer-tenured with the Padres than Joe Torre had been with the Yankees and Tony LaRussa had been with the Cardinals.  While his career winning percentage is nestled just under .500, Bochy is renown for exceeding the expectations for his team.  His Padres have survived numerous fire sales and still won the NL West one out of every three years he's managed.

I had a lot of respect for Bud Black before last year.  But some of the responsibility needs to fall on him for the decision to keep pitching Bartolo Colon despite his torn lat muscle.  Kelvim Escobar seemed a much healthier lad before getting to Anaheim.  And Jeff Weaver had the worst stretch of his career under Black's tutelage.  He might be a better manager than a pitching coach, but even still, he's no Bruce Bochy.     

San Francisco Giants - A

Old - Felipe Alou
New - Bruce Bochy

Bochy's aforementioned talent at exceeding expectations will be tested this year, as expectations for his new team could not be much lower.  He won't, however, have the "misfortune" of dealing with Barry Bonds' ego, something that Alou was often criticized for mishandling.  It seems to me that Felipe did a pretty good job of keeping Bonds happy and of winning whenever he could keep Bonds healthy.

But Bonds isn't the issue now.  The question is, who is the best manager to take a bunch of scrubs and misfits and get them to play competitive baseball.  And Bruce Bochy is the answer.    

Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith resides in Chicago, Illinois and can be reached at