His first name is Joe. He was hired with a World Series title on his record. He beat out Buck Showalter for the position to manage a big-market, big-payroll club that simply has been incapable of making the playoffs.
Joe Maddon has much in common with Joe Girardi, including that he now replaces the fired Girardi as the manager on the hottest seat in the sport.
Girardi was the first manager dismissed in 2022, losing his position with the disjointed, dispirited Phillies last week. Who else is in peril?
The hottest seat
1. Joe Maddon, Angels. Through May 24, the Angels were 27-17 and Fangraphs gave them a 77 percent chance of making the playoffs. The 12-game losing streak they took into Tuesday night’s game against the Red Sox dropped LA to a 30.3.
The Angels are the AL version of the Phillies. They also have a franchise record payroll in 2022 and a long postseason drought (Philadelphia has the second longest in MLB, LA is tied for the third longest). Like the Phillies when hiring Girardi, they also bypassed Showalter. Billy Eppler favored Showalter after the 2019 campaign. But by then he was a lame-duck GM with the Angels and owner Arte Moreno wanted Maddon. Imagine how different history would be if…
Now, how badly does Moreno want to protect Maddon? The sides didn’t even negotiate an extension last offseason. Eppler’s successor, Perry Minasian, hired Ray Montgomery as Maddon’s bench coach and – many in the industry believe – Maddon’s heir.
In the best of times, Maddon’s laidback style plays as calming. In the worst of times, it plays as checked out. Do Minasian, who didn’t hire Maddon, and – more importantly – Moreno believe Maddon’s style will resuscitate the talented Angels? Or like the Phillies, do the Angels decide there is too much invested this season not to try to defibrillate with a new voice and go with the bench coach, like the Phils did with Rob Thomson replacing Girardi? It really just seems a question of when – during this season or after.
Warm seats (they are not in imminent danger, but ()
2. Mike Matheny, Royals. You can make an argument that more than the manager should be in play. Dayton Moore was named GM in 2006 and aside from a three-year span culminating in 2015 with a championship there have been no other above-.500 seasons. But that feels like more of an offseason issue.
Keep in mind that Moore hired Matheny, but Moore has taken on more of a global role this year as president of baseball operations with JJ Picollo as GM. There is a relatively new owner in John Sherman. Perhaps expectations were miscast, but there were internal hopes of building toward contention this year. Instead, Kansas City has the majors’ worst record. Just as bad – especially for Matheny’s survivability – is that opposing executives / scouts have reported a bad vibe around the team. Maybe that is just the losing.
3. Don Mattingly, Marlins. He was once a runner-up to Girardi for the Yankees’ managing job (everyone sing “It’s a Small World”). Mattingly is the longest-tenured skipper in Marlins history. On the job since 2016, Mattingly has just one winning season – and that was 31-29 and a playoff spot in a shortened 2020 (which won Mattingly NL Manager of the Year).
He had two allies in an organization that was not unanimously in favor of Mattingly returning in 2022. But they were allies who mattered – CEO Derek Jeter and GM Kim Ng. But now Jeter is gone.
The Marlins had internal expectations this year and were 22-30 as their clutch hitting numbers have been atrocious. The Marlins have played the most one-run games and are 7-15 – a reflection of bad relief or bad bullpen manipulation? Mattingly is not signed for next year. He is probably too well-liked to get axed in-season. But there is a growing sense of inevitability that this is the final Marlin season for the 61-year-old Mattingly and that it can be dressed as mutually agreed upon after the season.
Why do I feel like this could be a landing spot for Yankees third base coach Luis Rojas? He knows the division from his time managing the Mets and is getting rave reviews with the Yankees for his presence, presentation and creativity with modern information. He left both the Rangers and Tigers impressed with coaching interviews last offseason. His brother, Moises Alou, was part of the Marlins’ 1997 championship team. And there is just a strong belief in the game that Rojas will be better in a second managerial stint. Rays pitching coach Kyle Snyder also has admirers who wonder if he would like to take a shot at managing.
4. Davey Martinez, Nationals. He won the World Series in 2019, but the club has been dreadful since and is in the midst of being sold. The possibility exists that a new ownership will want to start fresh with not just a new manager. GM Mike Rizzo has been on the job since 2009 and built a consistent winner that culminated with the championship before this now three-season (and counting) downturn.
There are a few other places in which you wonder – like with Washington – if the head of baseball operations and the manager are on tremulous ground.
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto and manager Scott Servais have cashed in winning seasons in 2018 and 2021 to get extensions. But the Mariners still have the longest playoffs drought (since 2001) within the four major North American sports leagues. If they don’t make an expanded (to six teams in each league) postseason this year could change be afoot?
Reds manager David Bell signed an extension last September through 2023. But the Reds have been dreadful this year. Is a housecleaning that would impact GM Nick Krall a possibility?
The Diamondbacks, after 110 losses last year, are playing better than anticipated. If that continues, GM Mike Hazen and manager Torey Lovullo are safer.
The long-shot flip flop
5. Colorado ownership is known as among the majors’ most loyal, so Bud Black is not in huge laundry. But follow this bouncing ball: the Blue Jays awarded Charlie Montoyo a one-year extension through next season in spring and Toronto is currently in the playoff position. But if the Blue Jays were to stumble, a few executives mentioned the possibility of Black (who has strong ties to Toronto team president Mark Shapiro dating to their time in Cleveland in the 1990s) perhaps being next offseason’s Bob Melvin – Melvin left the eternally penny -pinching A’s for the talented, but underachieving Padres last offseason.
6. Terry Francona (10 years with Cleveland) has the longest current tenure with one team. He would not be fired. But he turned 63 last month and has battled a lot of health issues in recent seasons.
At 77, Tony La Russa is the majors’ oldest manager. His White Sox won the AL Central pretty much unopposed last year. But Chicago is among the most disappointing teams of 2022. White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has bemoaned firing La Russa during the 1986 season as his biggest baseball mistake. So would he go back there? Scouts are underwhelmed by what they are seeing from La Russa and his White Sox.
Dusty Baker will be 73 next week. His ability to stabilize the Astros after the sign-stealing scandal and get them to the ALCS in 2020 and the World Series last year would seem to be a shield, especially since Houston looks as if it will run unopposed to another AL West title. But his name came up from a few executives who question one-year (rather than multi-year) commitments and if he fits the long-term vision of what the Astros want. Let’s not forget: Girardi was not brought back by the Yankees after leading them to Game 7 of the 2017 ALCS.