New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)
Boone and Rojas headline list of at-risk managers
NEW YORK — Down to the nitty-gritty time in baseball and the at-risk managers watch list is on with a number of underperforming teams, none more so than the Yankees and Padres, preseason favorites to win their divisions but now scrambling just to get into the postseason.
In fact, you’d have to say both Aaron Boone and
Luis Rojas are on the atrisk list, given the Yankees’ disappointing season (even if they do manage to eke out a wild card) and the uncertainty of the Mets’ front office in the aftermath of a season marked by chaos and controversy as much as anything. Other managers with reason to be concerned because of the performance of their teams this year include San Diego’s Jayce Tingler, the Twins’ Rocco Baldelli, the Diamondbacks’ Torey Lovullo and the Reds’ David Bell.
Evaluating each of their statuses:
Boone: In the final year of his four-year deal, it’s telling that there’s been zero talk of an extension. He’s faced heavy criticism all season long both for so many of his managerial decisions (most of which are probably the product of the analytics department) and the perception that instead of being able to light a fire under his players he’s been too much of an apologist for them. Fair or not, if the $203 million Yankees fail to make the postseason, he’s definitely gone - and most likely gone even if they do. (Remember Joe Girardi in 2017?) Somebody has to take the fall for this team but it most likely won’t be the architect, Brian Cashman, who, unlike Boone, has another year on his contract.
Rojas: Unfortunately for him, the first half of the season, in which the Mets were in first place as late as Aug. 13, was a bit of a tease for Steve Cohen, in that the rest of the NL East — especially the Nationals — grossly underperformed at the same time Jacob deGrom was performing otherworldly feats. Without deGrom it was going to be a really heavy lift for the Mets to make the postseason. Still, Rojas has endured his share of criticism for a number of decisions — most notably pitching to the Marlins’ Bryan De La Cruz back on Sept. 8, which had Mets fans calling for his firing right there. His claim of ignorance regarding the Francisco Lindor/Javy Baez/Kevin Pillar “thumbs down” caper didn’t especially serve him well insofar as having control of his clubhouse. In all probability, however, his fate will be decided by whoever Cohen and Sandy Alderson bring in as the new Baseball Operations chief.
Tingler: Last winter Padres GM A.J. Preller made a series of splashy trades and signings, augmenting his starting rotation with former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove, and locking up Fernando Tatis Jr. to a 14-year/ $330 million contract, making for the highest payroll ($175M) in Padre history along with the greatest of expectations. But after leading the NL West up until the end of May, the Padres have struggled the last three-plus months, falling 19 games behind the division-leading Giants. Granted, they’ve been beset
with injuries, especially to the starting pitching, but you have to wonder if maybe now Preller is having some regrets about passing on Buck Showalter two years ago in favor of Tingler, then the Cubs bench coach whose only managerial experience was a year in the Dominican summer league. He did hire a couple of Showalter’s former coaches, Wayne Kirby and Bobby Dickerson, but he apparently wanted a manager who would be beholden to his analytics department, rather than a proven winner and veteran hand who would know how to guide this inexperienced Padre team through these tough times.
Lovullo: It was understood going into this year the Diamondbacks were a team in transition and were probably not going to be competitive with the Dodgers, Padres and Giants in the NL West. But nobody envisioned them being this bad — a 100-plus loss team, with the third worst run differential (minus 201 as of Friday) in the majors. A team that set a record, losing 24 consecutive road games; a team that, as of Friday, was 21 games behind the dysfunctional Colorado Rockies. Once GM Mike Hazen fired Lovullo’s hitting coaches, Darnell Coles and Eric Hinske, back in June and the D’backs continued playing badly, it seemed rather inevitable they wouldn’t be renewing Lovullo at season’s end, despite the fact that he’d won NL manager of the year honors in his first year with them (2017).
Baldelli: Like Lovullo, Baldelli won a manager of the year award his first year on the job with the Twins in 2019 and his players love him. Unfortunately, they didn’t play well for him this year and the Twins, who were expected to compete for a third straight AL Central title in a weak division, were one of the most disappointing teams in baseball. Baldelli received heavy criticism for his game management (although again it’s not clear how much of those decisions were the analytics department), but the last thing GM Thad Levine thought this year was that he’d be trading away his best pitcher, Jose Berrios, at the July 31 deadline.
Bell: After holding firm in second place in the NL Central from July 3-Sept.
12, and giving team owner Bob Castellini hopes of his first Red October since 2012, the Reds have been slumping badly down the stretch and had fallen behind the Cardinals for the second wild card. But even if they don’t make the playoffs, Bell looks to be safe to get his 2022 option picked up, because his dad, Buddy Bell, happens to be Castellini’s special assistant.
One other manager to keep an eye on is Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde, who continues to preside over the worst team in baseball now with three straight 100-loss full seasons. Orioles GM Mike Elias, has so far refused to say whether he’ll pick up Hyde’s option for next year, which tells us he may be looking for a scapegoat for his own embarrassing stewardship.