Last year, when the Braves started 9-28, they replaced Fredi Gonzalez with Brian Snitker, a move that is credited with revitalizing the club and helping them finish out with a winning record over the second half of the season. But 2016 was weird because that’s the only managerial change that was made mid-season. Typically, we see at least three or four changes over the course of a season, especially when disappointing clubs who had high expectations try to inject new life into the clubhouse and spark a pennant run.
Assuming this wasn’t the start of some new trend where cooler heads prevail and we all realize that replacing a manager is typically nothing more than a placebo for a bad club, however, chances are that we are going to see at least a couple firings over the next few months. Indeed, there are already rumblings about a few guys, and smoke around some others. So who’s vulnerable and is it even remotely fair to consider replacing them?
Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins (16-29)
The Marlins finished 2016 with 79 wins and, even with the loss of Jose Fernandez, had hoped to be able to cobble together a competitive club. Especially if Giancarlo Stanton could manage to put together a healthy season, the Fish had a good enough lineup to make them an intriguing potential wild card pick in 2017. But a lot has gone hell in South Florida. Stanton has been fine. Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour have had amazing starts, and J.T. Realmuto has developed into one of the best catchers in the National League. But Martin Prado and Adeiny Hecchavaria have both been hurt for more than half the year, Christian Yelich has slumped significantly, and Ichiro is showing his age. On the pitching side, the rotation is in shambles and what should have been a strong bullpen has sean terrible performances out of closer A.J. Ramos and off-season acquisitions Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa.
Stanton is increasingly frustrated with all the losing, and with Jeffrey Loria trying to sell the team, maybe the new owners will want to make a change on the field. Mattingly still has two years remaining on the contract he signed before 2016, but Loria fired Ozzie Guillen after just a year at the helm and with plenty of time remaining on his contract. So who knows?
John Farrell, Boston Red Sox (24-21)
Nobody ever said life was fair. Farrell has a championship under his belt, led the Red Sox to the AL East title last year, and is presiding over a club that’s over .500. But the Sox had high expectations for themselves in 2017, and there are increasing signs that he may be losing control of his players. Between the dangerous attempted murder of Manny Machado a few weeks ago and Drew Pomeranz’s very public argument with the skipper after being taken out earlier this week, perhaps the Red Sox need a stronger hand on the tiller. Also, while Dave Dombrowski may have given him a vote of confidence yesterday, Farrell is also not Dombrowski’s guy. That said, Farrell’s hardly to blame for Pablo Sandoval being bad and hurt, the mysterious disappearance of Jackie Bradley, or for Pomeranz’s continued downward spiral. And he’s getting great performances from his bullpen. But if the Sox start devolving into chaos, Farrell’s contract is up at the end of the year, and Dombrowski would have the freedom to bring in his own guy. Like maybe…
Brad Ausmus, Detroit Tigers (22-23)
Despite leading star-laden win-now clubs for the past four seasons, Ausmus’s resume is underwhelming. His Tigers eked into the playoffs in 2014, but haven’t been back. He was on the hot seat last year, but managed to escape. Despite numerous complaints that Ausmus is a poor tactician, and no evidence that he can elevate a team’s play, he’s been given plenty of chances.
It’s hard to believe those chances won’t run out though. Even though he can’t stop the march of time that is currently ravaging Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Justin Verlander, Francisco Rodriguez, and Victor Martinez, and he’s not responsible for the Tigers not having a center fielder, Ausmus has spent years demonstrating that he’s not likely to provide a boost to a club that’s getting dangerously close to utter collapse. But Ausmus is another lame duck, and if the Tigers can’t lift themselves back into contention by the trade deadline, maybe they’ll start at the top as they reshape the club to position for a rebuild.
Terry Collins, New York Mets (19-25)
Honestly, maybe Collins would welcome an excuse to walk away from the Mets at this point. The Mets were heavy favorites to win the NL Wild Card, if not the NL East this year. But everyone is hurt, and apparently Collins isn’t going to be allowed to talk about it. No one seems to be having much fun. And there’s just no responsibility being taken by the club’s ownership for how little has been done to upgrade the major league team over the last two offseasons.
Not that Collins is blameless. He’s the one who poured water on the Matt Harvey grease fire and he’s the reason Michael Conforto had been jerked around so mercilessly before finally breaking through this year. Still, if Collins were to get the boot, it seems likely that he’ll come off with a lot of the credit for the Mets’ strong 2015 and 2016 and little of the stink in 2016. Again, Collins is a lame duck; good news for the Mets, who definitely don’t like to pay any money they don’t have to.
Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies (15-29)
Mackanin was already in place when Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail took over the Phillies after 2015. And with a rebuild underway, they kept Mackanin on so as not to get the stink of bad season on a new guy. Philadelphia was better than expect in 2016, but are on pace to lose 107 games this year. More alarming are the massive steps back taken by Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez. While the Phillies did literally JUST give him a contract extension through the end of 2018, if these young players continue to freefall, there simply is no way to survive that. Either during the year, or at the end, Klentak will let him go and bring in his own guy, who hopefully will be able to get the youngsters who are supposed to be part of Philadelphia’s rebirth back on track.