Which skippers may be on firing line?
The contracts alone tell you that few managing jobs should open this offseason.
Only the Astros currently are looking for a manager. Only the Reds’ Dusty Baker and Tigers’ Jim Leyland are in the final years of deals. The end of the 2013 season, when 13 managers will be on expiring contracts and four more will be on club options, figures to produce significantly more turnover.
Still, I always bet the over when it comes to teams changing managers. And as the 2012 season approaches its frantic conclusion, I’m betting the over again. There is simply too much at stake.
Indeed, managerial subplots abound in each of our MLB on FOX games on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET: Rays at Yankees, Nationals at Braves, Tigers at Indians. Six of the seven clubs with the highest Opening Day payrolls are in danger of missing the postseason.
One of those teams, the Red Sox, already has blamed its players, sending three of its highest-priced underachievers to the Dodgers. Of course, that doesn’t preclude the Sox from also blaming their manager, Bobby Valentine.
While it’s always possible that teams such as the Yankees, Angels and Tigers would react calmly if they failed to make the playoffs or were eliminated quickly, does anyone seriously think that none of those teams would make a move?
Please. Owners change managers as easily as some players change girlfriends — and wives.
So, without further ado, here is a list of skippers who, fairly or not, could be managing for their jobs over the next two-plus weeks:
Joe Girardi, Yankees
General manager Brian Cashman, not Girardi, put together the Yankees’ older, risk-filled roster. But if the Yankees fail to win the AL East, Girardi would be the one who blew a 10-game lead.
The late George Steinbrenner would not have wanted to hear excuses for such a collapse. Hal Steinbrenner, the Boss’ son and team’s managing general partner, supposedly is more rational. Then again, missing the postseason with a payroll of nearly $200 million surely would test a man’s emotions.
Girardi, who is under contract through 2013, has exhibited strain lately, snapping at a fan who heckled him as he conducted a postgame interview in Chicago, getting into a chest-to-chest argument with a columnist from the New York Post.
The truth is, Girardi is a good manager who doesn’t deserve to be fired. But what if the Yankees decided that they wanted to start anew, wanted someone like say, Terry Francona?
Might be a good idea for Girardi to win the division.
Jim Leyland, Tigers
Until last season, when the Tigers won the AL Central and advanced to ALCS, Leyland’s Detroit teams had a history of second-half fades. The current team, on the other hand, has yet to really even get started.
The signing of free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder created unrealistic expectations for a club that is top-heavy offensively and a mess defensively. But this is still the most talented group in the AL Central.
If the Tigers fail to reach the postseason, it will be reasonable to ask whether Leyland, 67, adequately connected with his players.
This is his seventh season in Detroit. Sometimes a team just needs a new voice.
Mike Scioscia, Angels
Scioscia is signed through 2018, which is almost akin to being manager for life. But if the Angels don’t make the playoffs after adding free agents Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, then trading for Zack Greinke — hoo boy.
The consensus is that owner Arte Moreno would not take kindly to such failure; the question is how he would react. Scioscia publicly disagreed with first-year GM Jerry Dipoto’s decision to fire longtime hitting coach Mickey Hatcher.
A bigger power struggle could be looming.
How about Sciosica to the Dodgers, Don Mattingly to the Yankees? Fun to think about, but extremely unlikely. The Dodgers are negotiating a contract extension with GM Ned Colletti and likely will do the same with Mattingly no matter how their season ends.
Bobby Valentine, Red Sox
The only question is who will replace him.
If the answer is John Farrell, the Blue Jays will need a manager. But if the answer is not Farrell, the Red Sox could be in scramble mode.
Scioscia and Baker might be too old school for the Boston front office and too sensitive for such a rabid market.
The Sox more likely would seek a Farrell type: younger, more progressive, a solid working partner for GM Ben Cherington.
Ozzie Guillen, Marlins
Club president David Samson didn’t exactly give Guillen a ringing endorsement in an interview with MLB.com, saying: “He’s had a disappointing season. I think (that’s the way he feels) in his mind, too. It just didn’t turn out the way we thought it would when we drew it up.”
Some with the Marlins believe that the season began to sour when Guillen made his controversial remarks about Fidel Castro in April, earning a five-game suspension from the club. As that theory goes, Guillen changed, becoming more subdued. And the team never recovered.
Manny Acta, Indians
The Cleveland front office isn’t keen on scapegoating managers, particularly when it bears responsibility for putting together such a woeful team. Alas, Acta is leaving the Indians little choice.
The Indians have won six games — six! — since Aug. 13. They are 6-22 during that span, worse than even the sad sack Astros, who are 8-19.
Francona, who was a special assistant with the Indians in 2001, remains close with team president Mark Shapiro and GM Chris Antonetti. No matter: Francona likely will have better options, and he earned $4 million per season during his final contract with the Red Sox. The Indians wouldn’t want to pay him anywhere near that much.
Fredi Gonzalez, Braves
No longer at the top of this list; probably will not belong on it all unless the Braves stage another epic collapse.
As it stands, the Braves lead the NL wild-card race, holding a 5 1/2-game cushion with 18 to play. If they play .500 the rest of the way, they will finish with 90 wins.
Things easily could go awry in the postseason, either in the one-game elimination or a potential division series matchup with the Nationals. But Gonzalez, who is signed through 2013 with a club option for ’14, should be safe.
Two-plus weeks from now, after the conclusion of the regular season, we’ll know much more.