The MLB season is underway, and managers across the game are busy devouring scouting reports and stat sheets, watching pitch counts, calling for sacrifice bunts, and orchestrating double switches in an effort to win games – or, in some cases, to simply keep their jobs.
While the role of a big league manager can be overstated, as in-game strategy isn’t nearly as important to the outcome of a particular game or a full season compared to the level of talent he has at his disposal, one decision can directly impact whether a game is won or lost.
With that in mind, here is a ranking of all 30 MLB managers for 2016.
Note: Career records referenced are through 2015 season
30. Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners
Career Record: 1st season in Seattle
It’s far too early to tell whether or not Servais will be a good or bad manager, but the first-year skipper ranks No. 30 on our list because he has the least amount of experience – and is therefore the most unknown – among this year’s new crop. Servais hasn’t managed at any level, but was chosen by longtime friend and current Seattle general manager Jerry DiPoto to replace Lloyd McClendon to lead the Mariners in 2016. Servais will have the benefit of a talented roster, as well as veteran big league manager Manny Acta on his staff, which should help his transition to the bench.
29. Andy Green, San Diego Padres
Career Record: 1st season in San Diego
Green has never managed in the big leagues, but he has a strong track record for success at the minor league level that includes a Pioneer League title in 2012 with the rookie league Missoula Osprey and two Southern League Manager of the Year awards when he skippered the Double-A Mobile BayBears in 2013 and ‘14, which helped him earn a promotion to third base coach in Arizona. Green, 39, has the toughest hill to climb among first-year managers, but he has a very bright future and could very well shoot up this list in the coming years.
28. Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Career Record: 1st season in Los Angeles
There are no easy jobs for a first-time major league manager, but taking over the Los Angeles Dodgers may be one of the toughest. With one of the largest payrolls in baseball, not to mention being located in one of the biggest markets in the country, the pressure is on to win and win now. Of course, that also means that Roberts will have an advantage compared to other first-year managers because the roster is already talented, and the farm system is well stocked.
27. Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers
Career Record: 61-76 (.445), 2nd season in Milwaukee
Called on to replace Ron Roenicke early in the 2015 season, Counsell enters his first full season as the manager of the Brewers. He had never managed, and instead took over after a stint in the club’s front office. Don’t expect Counsell to work miracles in 2016, but he has a strong analytics background that should come in handy as the small-market Brewers rebuild.
26. Bryan Price, Cincinnati Reds
Career Record: 140-184 (.432), 3rd season in Cincinnati
It’s not a good sign when a manager is best known for an expletive-laden blowup at the media, but that’s the case for Price, who enters 2016 following two largely disappointing seasons at the helm of the Reds. Injuries and trades hurt last season, but a 64-98 record (second worst in baseball) was a major disappointment. Entering the last year of his contract and having been handed a roster projected to finish at the bottom of the NL Central, it would be a minor victory if Price lasts the entire season in Cincinnati. It would be a miracle if he hangs on to his job through to the end of the rebuilding cycle.
25. Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies
Career Record: 90-104 (.464), 2nd season in Philadelphia (37-51)
This is Mackanin’s third stint as a manager in the majors, though he’s never skippered a team through an entire season. In 2005, he spent 26 games on the bench for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and then was the Reds manager for 80 games in ‘07. A member of the Phillies staff since 2008, Mackanin took over for Ryne Sandberg in Philadelphia with 88 games to go last season and was able to make the team more competitive even as the front office traded away veterans and brought up rookies. As a result, Mackanin was offered the opportunity to stay with the rebuilding Phillies and should complete his first full season at the helm.
24. Walt Weiss, Colorado Rockies
Career Record: 208-278 (.428), 4th season in Colorado
One of a manager’s most important responsibilities is handling his pitching staff, and there is no tougher task than doing so in Colorado. Last season, the Rockies posted a 5.04 ERA, which ranked last in the National League. And, despite the presence of one of the best fielders in the game in third baseman Nolan Arenado, Colorado ranked among the worst defensive teams in baseball. The pitching and fielding woes are more of a front office issue than any major shortcomings on the part of Weiss (and the altitude certainly doesn’t help), but the Rockies haven’t had a winning season since 2009. Weiss may need to post a .500 or better record to keep his job.
23. Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox
Career Record: 297-351 (.459), 5th season in Chicago
While the White Sox have posted disappointing losing records in three straight seasons, Ventura has helped Chicago improve its win total in each of the last two years. However, the club has underachieved and Ventura has been criticized for his in-game strategy – specifically how he has overextended his starting pitchers as a whole, and rookie Carlos Rodon in particular – as well as his team’s inefficiencies in almost every other area. If the White Sox don’t challenge for a playoff spot, the front office may run out of patience with the former star player-turned-manager.
22. Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers
Career Record: 164-159 (.508), 3rd season in Detroit
Ausmus looked like a good manager in 2014 when he guided the Tigers to 90 victories in his first season at the helm. Having some of the game’s brightest stars – Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander specifically – certainly helped. However, when Cabrera and Verlander both missed time due to injury in 2015, Ausmus’ reputation took a hit as Detroit limped to a 74-87 finish. A former catcher, Ausmus also has received criticism for the way he handles his pitching staff, especially by leaving starters in too long. Rumored to be on the chopping block late last year, Ausmus survived, but 2016 is a make-or-break campaign.
21. Chip Hale, Arizona Diamondbacks
Career Record: 79-83 (.488), 2nd season in Arizona
Two years ago the Diamondbacks won just 64 games – the fewest in baseball - and entered the 2015 season with largely the same roster and understandably modest expectations. However, Hale helped to give the club a jolt in his first year as manager, as the team improved to 79-83. He has a quick trigger with pitchers (particularly with relievers) and bunts more than some would prefer, but Hale pushed many of the right buttons last year, and with an improved roster, Arizona could contend in the NL West this season.
20. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays
Career Record: 80-82 (.494), 2nd season in Tampa Bay
Anyone would have had a difficult task replacing Joe Maddon in Tampa, but Cash did as well as could be expected in his first season as the manager of the Rays. In fact, Cash won more games in his first season (80) than Maddon (61), and even improved Tampa Bay’s record by three wins compared to Maddon’s final year (77) with the Rays. The youngest manager (38) in the majors, Cash showed great instincts for the job while dealing with injuries to a thin pitching staff and a couple of puzzling late summer trades. He has a bright future ahead of him.
19. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
Career Record: 701-664 (.513), 6th season in Atlanta (425-385)
Many things have changed over the past two years as the Braves entered a full teardown and rebuild. However, Gonzalez returns for his sixth season on the bench after succeeding the legendary Bobby Cox. It’s never easy to replace a Hall of Famer, and Gonzalez has taken a lot of heat from fans during his tenure, specifically for the way Atlanta has struggled down the stretch – dating back to an historic collapse in his first season in 2011.
But, Atlanta’s 2015 breakdown wasn’t Gonzalez’ fault as injuries and trades took their toll. The Braves got off to a surprisingly strong start last year, and were 42-42 after 84 games, which earned Gonzalez a contract extension, but working with a depleted roster, Gonzalez and the Braves went 25-53 the rest of the way. With the franchise still in transition, expectations are modest for 2016, but Cox and the rest of the front office appear content to keep Gonzalez in the fold over the full rebuilding effort.
18. Paul Molitor, Minnesota Twins
Career Record: 83-79 (.512), 2nd season in Minnesota
Molitor’s first season as a big league manager was a surprising success. Though the Twins struggled down the stretch, Molitor guided a young club to a strong start – a 50-40 record through 90 games – and secured the first winning season for the franchise since 2010 after four straight campaigns of 92 losses or more. Players respect Molitor’s Hall of Fame playing career, and he’s done a good job of relating to a young clubhouse while also embracing much of the analytics popular with small-market front offices.
17. A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros
Career Record: 175-199 (.468), 2nd season in Houston (86-76)
Hinch’s second opportunity to manage at the big league level went much better than his first, when he left the Arizona front office to lead the Diamondbacks, only to be fired after 212 games without the benefit of a full season. Last year, Hinch was tabbed to succeed Bo Porter in Houston. Hinch utilized his assets – including a Cy Young winner, a strong bullpen and talented, young lineup – well and immediately helped the Astros climb out of the AL West cellar to claim a Wild Card spot earlier than almost anyone anticipated.
16. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins
Career Record: 446-363 (.551), 1st season in Miami
Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Dodgers never won three straight NL West titles until Mattingly came along, yet he never appeared fully comfortable in Dodger blue and decided to walk away at the end of last season. He wound up in Miami, and can hopefully give some stability to a franchise that has gone through eight skippers in five seasons, including last year’s somewhat embarrassing experiment with general manager Dan Jennings swapping his executive role for a uniform. Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez give Mattingly two remarkable building blocks, but time will tell whether or not he can turn the Marlins into a consistent winner without the huge payroll he benefitted from in Los Angeles.
15. Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers
Career Record: 88-74 (.543), 2nd season in Texas
2015 AL Manager of the Year
Banister inherited a Rangers team that lost 94 games in 2014. The first-year manager didn’t get off to a sparkling start with the club, which went just 9-16 start in its first 25 games and sat nine games out of first place in the AL West on July 22, but Banister helped turn the club around and win the division with a red-hot 45-25 finish. As a result, Banister was named AL Manager of the Year. It was just the fifth time in history that a first-year manager received the honor.
14. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox
Career Record: 400-410 (.494), 4th season in Boston (246-240)
2013 World Series champion (Red Sox)
It’s difficult to get a read on Farrell. One of just six active managers to win a World Series ring as a skipper, Farrell has posted three losing records in his other three years in Boston, and also failed to finish above .500 in his two seasons with the Blue Jays. Last year, Farrell missed time as he underwent cancer treatment and the team played its best under bench coach Torey Lovullo, posting a 20-15 record after Farrell took leave on Aug. 25. Lovullo, who signed a two-year contract extension over the winter, is the obvious heir apparent should Farrell’s health continue to be an issue, or if the team underachieves again under his watch.
13. John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays
Career Record: 557-542 (.507), 9th season in Toronto
Gibbons led the Blue Jays to the AL East title in 2015, which was the first division title and playoff appearance for the franchise since back-to-back World Series wins in 1992-93. In his ninth season on the bench in Toronto (and in his second stint as skipper), Gibbons benefitted greatly from the acquisitions of Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowititzki and David Price (as well as the development of sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion in earlier years). However, he also helped groom a young crop of talented contributors such as Kevin Pillar, Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez to get Toronto over the hump.
12. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics
Career Record: 886-862 (.507), 6th season in Oakland (393-354)
2007 NL Manager of the Year (Diamondbacks)
2012 AL Manager of the Year (A’s)
Despite last season’s disappointing 68-94 season, Melvin was given a two-year contract extension through the 2018 season and remains one of the most respected managers in the game. Last season’s team struggled more from a lack of talent from trades gone wrong – specifically the one that shipped eventual AL MVP Josh Donaldson to Toronto – than Melvin forgetting how to manage. A true extension of the front office, Melvin works well with GM Billy Beane and is quite capable of guiding Oakland back to the right side of .500 – so long as Beane and the rest of the decision-makers give him enough to work with.
11. Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals
Career Record: 1,671-1,504 (.526), 1st season in Washington
1993, ’97, 2000 NL Manager of the Year (Giants)
Baker has had some success as a first-year manager. In 1993, Baker’s first season as a major league skipper, he guided the Giants to 103 wins. He also led the Cubs to 88 victories in his first season in Chicago, and though he got off to a much slower start in Cincinnati (74 wins in 2008), Baker eventually turned the Reds into contenders in the NL Central and claimed two division titles while managing the club to 90 or more wins three times in six seasons.
Though Baker wasn’t the Nationals’ first choice (Bud Black was offered the job, but reportedly turned down a low ball, one-year contract), he could turn out to be the right choice. Baker has a history of overseeing superstars in tough clubhouses, which might come in handy in Washington. And, though Baker has faced his fair share of criticism over the years, he has a winning history and is expected to be an improvement over Matt Williams when it comes to managing within the game. The hope is that Baker can help the talented Nationals reach their full potential.
10. Terry Collins, New York Mets
Career Record: 838-850 (.496), 6th season in New York (394-416)
Collins has long been seen as a good, but not great manager. But, after overseeing four consecutive losing seasons with the Mets, Collins turned the corner by guiding New York to the World Series in 2015. As a result, Collins earned a contract extension. Great players have a big impact in making a manager look good, and as long as Collins has the benefit of the most talented starting rotation in baseball at his disposal, he’ll continue to be one of the top 10 skippers in the game.
9. Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals
Career Record: 925-971 (.488), 7th season in Kansas City (468-469)
2015 World Series champion (Royals)
It’s very rare for any manager to survive a complete rebuilding process and come through on the other side with a world championship. However, Yost did exactly that with the Royals. Yost, who oversaw three losing seasons from 2010-12 before helping the club post a winning record in each of the last three years, also did it while being often criticized by Royals fans and baseball analysts for riding his starting position players too hard, and pulling his starting pitchers too quickly. Of course, things have worked out very well as Kansas City has won two consecutive AL pennants and won it all in 2015.
8. Joe Girardi, New York Yankees
Career Record: 813-636 (.557), 9th season in New York (735-561)
2006 NL Manager of the Year (Marlins)
2009 World Series champion (Yankees)
The Yankees haven’t been to the postseason since 2012, yet Girardi seemingly has more job security than his predecessor, Joe Torre, ever did. Part of the reason is that Girardi has been able to lead New York to a winning record in each of his eight seasons on the bench in the Bronx despite being handed some of the weakest rosters in recent franchise history. In 2015, the skipper received great praise for handling the club’s pitching staff – much as he did as a longtime catcher. Of course, the longer the Yankees go without a World Series title, the more heat Girardi will likely face from fans.
7. Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels
Career Record: 1,416-1,176 (.546), 17th season in Los Angeles
2002, ’09 AL Manager of the Year
2002 World Series champion
Few managers are able to survive clashes with the club general manager, but Scioscia – who has been at the helm for the Angels for 17 consecutive seasons, which gives him the longest-running tenure among his peers – outlasted Jerry DiPoto last summer. DiPoto was actually the third general manager of the Scioscia era, which includes a World Series title and seven trips to the postseason (though only one over the past six years).
An old-school manager whose resistance to advanced analytics was a factor in the tug-of-war with DiPoto, Scioscia has always helped himself by putting together a strong staff, and he’s also long been one of the best at helping groom his coaching staff for managing opportunities. Two more potential candidates return this year in Bud Black and Ron Roenicke.
6. Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals
Career Record: 375-273 (.577), 5th season in St. Louis
The Cardinals are arguably the most consistent franchise in MLB, and Matheny has been a big part of that consistency over the past five seasons. Matheny has guided the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first four seasons on the bench – a first in big league history. He helped the club win the National League pennant in 2013 and won 100 games last season, giving St. Louis the best record in baseball, as well as a third straight NL Central title. During that span, the 46-year-old Matheny has utilized a young and ever-evolving roster. He’s not perfect, and has drawn criticism from the analytics community for sub-optimal bullpen management, but it’s hard to knock the overall results.
5. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates
Career Record: 965-1,004 (.490), 6th season in Pittsburgh (431-379)
2013 NL Manager of the Year (Pirates)
An old-school manager at heart, Hurdle may have changed more over the last four seasons than any other manager in baseball. Hurdle has embraced the front office’s desires to capitalize on its meager payroll capabilities by relying heavily on analytics – particularly on defense – to snap a 20-year string of losing. Now, the Pirates are on a different kind of streak: the club has made three consecutive trips to the playoffs.
Combined with his strong presence in the clubhouse, and his history of success in Pittsburgh and previously Colorado (where he led the Rockies to the World Series), Hurdle is one of the top five managers in the big leagues.
4. Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles
Career Record: 1,340-1,242 (.519), 7th season in Baltimore (461-409)
1994 (Yankees), 2004 (Rangers), ‘14 (Orioles) AL Manager of the Year
Showalter has had success in each of his four stops as a skipper, having earned Manager of the Year honors with three separate clubs and winning 100 games with the Diamondbacks in 1999. In Baltimore, Showalter helped the O’s snap a streak of 14 straight losing seasons with a 93-win campaign in 2012 and a trip to the postseason. Baltimore hasn’t had a losing season since, but was dangerously close at 81-81 last year. Showalter is one of the best in baseball when it comes to handling a bullpen, and he has a reputation for extreme attention to detail that helps his teams overachieve on the field.
3. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians
Career Record: 1,287-1,142 (.530), 4th season in Cleveland (258-227)
2013 AL Manager of the Year (Indians)
2004, ’07 World Series champion (Red Sox)
Francona suffered through four losing seasons as the manager of the Phillies from 1997-2000, but earned a reputation as one of the best skippers in baseball with the Red Sox – and rightly so. In his first season in Boston, Francona and the Red Sox broke through for the franchise’s first World Series title since 1918, and added another three seasons later.
Francona fell out of favor in 2011 despite never winning fewer than 89 games with the club and after a year off landed in Cleveland where he promptly guided the Indians to their first winning season and playoff appearance in six years. Though the Tribe have posted dwindling win totals over the past two years, Francona has the Indians in position to make it back to the postseason in 2016.
2. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants
Career Record: 1,702-1,682 (.503), 10th season in San Francisco (751-707)
1996 NL Manager of the Year (Padres)
2010, ’12, ’14 World Series champion (Giants)
A surefire future Hall of Famer, Bochy has more World Series titles than any other active manager in baseball and he’s only now capping his first decade on the bench in San Francisco. Prior to joining the Giants, Bochy led the Padres to the 1998 NL pennant and won three NL West titles in 12 years. While he has had plenty of talent at his disposal, including Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, Bochy also has a tendency to do less with more by getting the most out of his young players and is a master when it comes to managing a bullpen.
1. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs
Career Record: 878-794 (.526), 2nd season in Chicago
2008, ’11 AL Manager of the Year (Rays)
2015 NL Manager of the Year (Cubs)
With an out-of-the-box approach to the job by utilizing the talent at his disposal creatively in the lineup and in the field, Maddon helped turn the Tampa Bay Rays from a stumbling expansion franchise into a formidable contender in the American League. In his first year in Chicago, Maddon quickly helped the Cubs win 20 more games in 2015 than they did the previous season, winning NL Manager of the Year honors in the process.
Maddon has more talent at his disposal thanks a Cubs front office that is forward thinking like the Rays but with much, much deeper pockets. With a young, star-studded roster guided by Maddon, the sky is the limit for the Cubs in 2016 and beyond.
— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasIAllen.
(Joe Maddon photo courtesy of Getty Images)