Every season, there are a group of Major League Baseball managers that are on the hot seat, and some more than others. Here are five managers who could feel the heat this season.
Mickey Callaway, New York Mets
Callaway’s first trial as an MLB manager was a disaster. Last season the Mets looked poised to, at the very least, compete for a Wild Card seeding. But after a strong start to the season, they faded, couldn’t push runners across the plate, and missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
Whether it be mismanaging his bullpen, tip-toeing around Yoenis Cespedes‘ heel injury — which was a bizarre series of events — or the Mets’ lack of success, Callaway endured a tumultuous season. But the Mets anemic offense made it impossible to solely put the team’s struggles on the manager’s shoulders.
Callaway barely kept his job after last season’s debacle. Sandy Alderson hired him, but Brodie Van Wagenen is now running the show in Queens. And if the Mets miss the playoffs, or chaos ensues again this season, Van Wagenen may move on from Callaway.
Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Francona is one of the most highly regarded managers in MLB. He has won two World Series championships, was a part of the Indians’ turnaround earlier this decade, and is essential to their three consecutive American League Central titles.As the 2019 @MLB season nears, @RPStratakos takes a look at five managers who could be on the hot seat this year.Click To Tweet
The AL Central likely works in the Indians favor again this season. Outside of the Minnesota Twins, no team poses a threat to the Indians at the top of the division, and the Twins have a pitching staff devoid of depth anyway. But the Indians have continually been unable to take advantage of their championship window — which one could argue has closed.
The Indians blew a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series, a 2-0 lead to the New York Yankees in the 2017 ALDS, and were swept by the Houston Astros in last season’s ALDS. Francona can’t be excused from their 2016 and 2017 playoff collapses. Another first-round exit could be all management needs to turn the page.
Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
The National League Central is loaded. The Milwaukee Brewers were one game away from going to the World Series last season; the Cubs have won 92-plus games in each of the last four seasons; the St. Louis Cardinals added Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller to a ballclub that won 88 games last season; the Cincinnati Reds had one of the most productive offseasons in the sport. But the Pirates have a talented roster too.
They have an under-the-radar outfield with Corey Dickerson, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte, as well as a reliable starting rotation headlined by Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, and Chris Archer. The Pirates also went 43-33 against NL Central opponents in 2018, which is impressive. It’s a matter of whether they can take care of business outside of the NL Central.
The Pirates haven’t reached the NLDS since 2013 and sported some competitive teams in that time span. This is an organization that has shown commitment to many players and coaches in recent memory, but, at some point, changes will be made if they continue to produce underwhelming results; that may come by jettisoning Hurdle.
Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
Since winning the World Series in 2016, the Cubs have been eliminated in the NLCS and the NL Wild Card Game. Last season they lost the NL Central division lead in late-September, lost a Game 163 tiebreaker to the Brewers and two days later the NL Wild Card Game to the Colorado Rockies.
The Cubs positional core remains in place and their starting rotation is still a reliable bunch. Plus, the return of right-hander Yu Darvish should further weaponize their pitching staff. Sure, the Cubs bullpen may be an area of concern in the wake of Brandon Morrow‘s elbow injury, but Maddon has one of the most talented rosters in the sport at his disposal.
Baseball is changing, and Maddon isn’t the prototypical analytical manager. He was a vital reason for the Cubs’ rise to prominence in 2015, but if they disappoint this season, he could be looking for a new team to manage, or potentially retirement if his ways are no longer valued in the sport.
Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals
Martinez took over for Dusty Baker last season, and it didn’t go as the Nationals envisioned. While they were in the thick of the playoff race for the bulk of the season, the Nationals ultimately missed the playoffs, finishing 82-80 — which was their worst record since going 80-81 in 2011.
Throughout the season Martinez fielded several lineups to no avail and made questionable decisions with his pitching staff, most notably taking starting pitchers out of games early. But his management of the team’s bullpen was also brought into question.
The Nationals will have plenty of competition in the NL East this season, but they have a deep roster capable of returning to the playoffs. With that said, if they don’t do as such, or are eliminated in the first round yet again, significant changes could be in store. Baker and Matt Williams each lasted just two years, and Martinez could hold the same fate if the Nationals don’t go on a deep playoff run.