By Joe Lucia, The Outisde Corner
For as much as we like to talk about managers getting canned early in the MLB season when their teams are struggling...no manager has been fired yet this season. We're three months into the year, and *every* manager is still standing. That seems pretty crazy when thinking about it, but look at the raw stats. There are only three teams with a winning percentage under .400, and one (the Cubs) has a brand new manager and front office in place, and is in full-on rebuilding mode. Of last season's eight playoff teams, only three are under .500, and two of those have been ravaged by injuries. But looking a little deeper at the league, there are a few managers whose teams are just not producing at an acceptable level. Here are five managers who could be fired soon, based on their teams and other factors.
Bud Black, Padres. Bud Black was thought of as an awesome hire by the Padres when they brought him in prior to the 2007 season, when long-time San Diego manager Bruce Bochy took his talents up the west coast to San Francisco. But in Black's five and a half years at the helm of the Padres, they haven't made the playoffs. They've finished above .500 just twice, I know a lot of this isn't Black's fault, with the front office dealing his best player prior to the 2011 season, and his best pitcher midway through 2009. But the Padres have just not performed very well at all, and this year, they sit 21 games under .500 and in last place in the NL West. San Diego isn't a classic baseball market, but Bochy had four playoff appearances in 12 years. Black has none yet. But in addition to those four playoff years, Bochy had seven seasons under .500. This is a very boom or bust franchise, and Black has been pretty much all bust in his tenure with the Padres.
Jim Tracy, Rockies. You know, despite Dan O'Dowd's proclamation that Tracy would be the Rockies manager for as long as he wants, the man is a terrible manager. He took over for Clint Hurdle in 2009, and used an ungodly 74-42 tear to get an extension. His winning percentage has decreased every year since, down to a pathetic .387 this year. A lot of this is on the front office, for giving Tracy a terrible pitching staff to work with. But his ridiculous 75 pitch limit for starters (which by the way, he's stuck to since implementing it) and questionable management techniques have to have him on the hot seat, right? Tracy's Rockies are getting some insane offense this year (most notably from Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler), and they're struggling to win ballgames. It's just unacceptable anymore.
Charlie Manuel, Phillies. Manuel has never finished under .500 in his tenure with the Phillies, but this year, the team is just not doing well at all. Most of this can be pinned on GM Ruben Amaro, who stuck his head in the sand and assumed Ryan Howard and Chase Utley wouldn't miss half the year each, and had no backup plan for either. If it weren't for a career year from catcher Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies would probably be ten games under at this point in time. Manuel's bullpen management this year has been questionable at best, and his bench decisions have also raised questions among Phillies fans. In a loaded division where everyone seems to be clicking on all cylinders, the Phillies are still lagging behind the pack. Frustrations with the media isn't helping matters for Manuel either, and it might be time to send the winningest manager in Phillies history packing.
Ron Gardenhire, Twins. Ron Gardenhire has been extremely successful managing the Twins for the last decade, but last season was by far his worst as manager. This season isn't looking any better. Before last season, Gardenhire's Twins finished under .500 just once, and that was only four games under. Last year, they finished 36 games under, and so far this year, they're 14 under. Again, a lot of that can be thrust onto former GM Bill Smith, as well as the injury bug. But the Twins rotation has been an absolute horror show this year (Scott Diamond leads the team with a 2.67 ERA. Francisco Liriano is second, at 5.30), and despite Gardenhire's regular season success, he's advanced to the ALCS just once, and has won just two games in his last five playoff apeparances. It might be time for Gardy to go.
Ned Yost, Royals. The Brewers sent Yost out the door with 12 games left in the 2008 season, because they were horrified about potentially missing the playoffs despite acquiring CC Sabathia that summer. Yost's win totals in Milwaukee: 68, 67, 81, 75, 83, 83 (fired). Not a huge lineup of success there. The Royals fired Trey Hillman in 2010, and brought in Yost to replace him...and the team's record went from "awful" to "bad". His record stayed largely constant in 2011, his first full season with the team, despite having a better roster. This year, the Royals are slightly improved, but Yost is trotting out an awful lineup that has Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and a struggling Eric Hosmer surrounded with trash, and two young, potential-laden starters have blown out their elbows. It's just not working, Ned. But hey, GM Dayton Moore loves his former Braves, and that's what Yost is..,.so he probably won't be going anywhere.