This week Beyond Busch will look at the managers who will face off against new Cardinals’ manager Mike Matheny. It is worth mentioning that we know very little about Matheny brings as a manager. We know what he brought to the table as a player, which was an exemplory work ethic. But we’ve only got a couple of weeks of seeing Matheny coordinating spring training to this point. His workouts have been structured, but loose. At this time it seems that he is taking the best of what Tony La Russa left behind and molding it into his own style of running camp. Over the next several weeks we will see him in game action and get a better understanding of how he will manage. He seems to have a great abiltity to interact with his players and it should translate to game situations. We will soon see.
The Cubs made major changes in the front office, bringing in former Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and named him their President of Baseball Operations. He in turn went out and hired Jed Hoyer from the San Diego Padres to be his general manager. They held a lengthy interview process for hiring a replacement for former manager Mike Quade, who Epstein fired in quick time. The process ended with the selection of former big leaguer Dale Sveum. Sveum had coached with the Milwaukee Brewers for the past six seasons. He managed the last 12 games of the 2008 season and guided the Brewers into the post-season. He has taken a no nonsense approach in how he treats the players. He says he is there to manage not make friends, but he is keeping things light too. He is currently conducting a bunting competition and is actually involved in the competition as well. Like Matheny, when there is a new manager taking the helm, we won’t know for certain what his style is, but what we can take from how he runs camp there will be no slacking off if you wear a Cubs’ uniform.
Dusty Baker enters his fifth season with the Reds. He is in the final year of what was a two-year extension. Baker will not answer questions about whether he is a ‘lame duck’ manager. He is intent on making this a winning ball club, and he has the tools to get the job done. Since he has been supplied a team capable of winning the division, it does put Baker on the hot seat. One knock I have with Baker is his stubbornness when it comes to younger players who are visibly better than the veteran he instills in the lineup. This season he has a chance to break that mold with his catching position. Devin Mesoraco is a bonafide prospect and as of now is expected to share time with Ryan Hanigan. Hanigan is not a bad player, but Mesoraco may be the type who can carry a team if given the opportunity. We’ll see how Baker distributes time.
Brad Mills is in his third season as the manager of the Astros. In 2010 the team won 76 games which was more than was expected. Mills received a lot of credit for that and was 6th in National League Manager of the Year voting. 2011 was a season he’d like to forget as the team finished 56-106. Honestly, Mills is not exactly swimming in major league ready talent in Houston. The team is young and Mills was kept on board by new general manager Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow has a great baseball mind and is a good evaluator of talent. It remains to be seen if Mills will be the benefactor of what Luhnow builds or if that honor will go to someone else. Mills has made one significant move so far this spring which I like and that is moving starting pitcher Brett Myers into the closer role. Myers closed some games with the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2007 when he saved 21 games after beginning the season in the rotation. The move shows Mills is willing to take a risk or think out of the box in order to win.
Ron Roenicke is beginning his second season with the Brewers. He was the runner-up in the 2011 Manager of the Year voting after the Brewers won the NL Central Division. He’ll be without Prince Fielder, but must be thrilled to have Ryan Braun to pencil into 162 games this season instead of 112. Braun was exonerated last week after an arbitrator ruled in his favor during a appeal process of Braun’s failed performance-enhancing drug test. All that aside, Roenicke has a great team to work with. He has a solid starting rotation, good bullpen and one of the better lineups in the National League Central. He is in the final year of his contract, but the club has an option for 2013. The Brewers have a good shot of winning the division or at least the wild-card so I believe so long as the team doesn’t fall apart, Roenicke will be in Milwaukee for a few more seasons.
Clint Hurdle is in the middle season of a three-year deal with the Pirates. He had this team in first place in the middle of July last season. There are some great young players on the team surrounded by a few veterans who may provide a lift to get the Pirates back to respectability for an entire season. Unfortunately one piece, A.J. Burnett, who the Pirates just received in a trade from the New York Yankees will be out 8-12 weeks due to a facial fracture suffered during bunting drills earlier this week (Dale Sveum take notice). The Pirates have been building this team through the draft and key international signings. They’re hoping that it all comes together and soon. The Pirates are looking to avoid their 20th straight losing season. Hurdle, who led the Colorado Rockies to the NL Pennant in 2007, may be the man to get that job done.
Here are notes on the remaining MLB managers.
Atlanta Braves – Fredi Gonzalez needs to make sure his team forgets everything about September 2011.
Miami Marlins – The Ozzie Guillen show moves to Miami. It’s a match made in heaven.
New York Mets – Terry Collins has his work cut out for him.
Philadelphia Phillies – Charlie Manuel’s crew is getting older and older.
Washington Nationals – Davey Johnson is my pre-season favorite to win the NL Manager of the Year award.
Arizona Diamonbacks – Kirk Gibson received an extension in November; well deserved.
Colorado Rockies – Will Jim Tracy’s handshake extension be written on paper?
San Diego Padres – Bud Black heads a young team with little hope of a winning season.
San Francisco Giants – Bruce Bochy has the pieces to win this division.
Baltimore Orioles – Buck Showalter has the “privilege” of being in charge of this team for two more seasons.
Boston Red Sox – Bobby Valentine institutes new clubhouse rules for players; he needs a gag rule for himself.
New York Yankees – Joe Girardi needs to get this team to the World Series or he may be working elsewhere soon.
Tampa Bay Rays – Joe Maddon signed an extension through 2015; at least one division championship between now and then.
Toronto Blue Jays – John Farrell is not a household name, being in Toronto doesn’t help.
Chicago White Sox – Robin Ventura takes over for Guillen. Wow, what a change of pace!
Cleveland Indians – Manny Acta has some nice players coming up now.
Detroit Tigers – Jim Leyland’s under a one year deal. He sets the tone here, not GM Dombrowski.
Minnesota Twins – Ron Gardenhire isn’t to blame for 2011.
Los Angeles Angels – Mike Scioscia can out-manage others in his sleep.
Oakland A’s – Bob Melvin has an interesting mix of players thanks to Billy Beane’s peculiar offseason.
Texas Rangers – Does Ron Washington deserve more credit than he receives?