Saturday, September 18, 2010

MLB'S Medicare Managers

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

When Joe Torre (70) decided to retire as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers Friday, the 2010 MLB season has watched three of the greatest skippers step aside. This marks a changing of the guard for the Grand Old Game.

There could be more managers that find themselves filing for Medicare as well, as they're all over 60-years old. This means that the landscape of managers will show an entirely different look in 2011.

Torre has been replaced by Don Mattingly (49) but will leave the game with four World Series Titles and to date, has 2,318 wins which is fifth all-time.

Managing under the late George Steinbrenner from 1996-2007 may have added years to his life, therefore in retrospect, Torre could pass for 80, but there is no doubt that his accomplishments in the Bronx have him labeled as a Future Hall of Fame Manager with his next stop, Cooperstown, NY.

Have we seen the last of Torre?

I'd like to believe we have but for some reason, as good as he looks, I have a gut feeling if the Chicago Cubs call, Joe's cell phone will be on and he'll be listening. While it appears as though he's accomplished everything in baseball, winning a World Series with the Cubs would be the equivalent to multiple titles anywhere else because of the 102-year championship drought.

Speaking of the Cubs, Lou Piniella (67) retired in August to be with his ailing mother but his 1,835 wins and one World Series (1990) title with the Cincinnati Reds, will certainly earn him consideration for Cooperstown. Here is another guy that worked with Steinbrenner and had success with the New York Yankees, Reds, Seattle Mariners and Cubs. He also did the dirty work for Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon.

I think Piniella needs a couple years to recharge, but between himself and Torre, I believe that Joe would likely manage again and Lou lands behind the microphone as a color analyst. Piniella leaves the game as the 14th winningest manager.

In a perfect world, it would be great to see the Atlanta Braves send Bobby Cox (69) into retirement with his third World Series title. But I have a feeling that the man who is the fourth winningest manager with 2,496 to date, plus holds the All-Time record with ejections (158) will come up short.

I predict that the Philadelphia Phillies will be back in the Fall Classic for the third year in a row.

But nobody can take away the his major league record of 15 division titles, 14 with Atlanta and one with the Toronto Blue Jays. I'll bet few people realize that Cox won a World Series ring in 1977 when he served as the late Billy Martin's first base coach for the New York Yankees before his managerial career.

Martin taught Piniella and Cox and they have all put on animated shows when they're tossed out by the umpires and all three won the World Series as a manager.

When Cox retires after the end of the season, he has agreed to stay on as an advisor for team baseball operations for the next five years.

Toronto Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston (66) reaped the benefits from Cox's work in Canada winning two World Series Titles in 1992-93. The baseball strike in 1994 prevented Gaston from winning three championships in a row, but to date, Gaston is the Blue Jays winningest manager with 809 triumphs. There is talk that he might retire but nothing is official as of yet.

St. Louis Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa (65) may still have a lot of piloting left though his future in Missouri is up in the air. He is currently the third winningest skipper with 2,626 victories. He trails John McGraw (2,763) and Connie Mack (3,731). It's hard to believe that Mack's career record was 3,731-3948-76 with a .486 Pct.

LaRussa is only one of two managers to ever win a World Series title in both leagues leading the Oakland A's in 1989 and the Cardinals in 2006. The other was Sparky Anderson who won with the Cincinnati Reds in 1975, 76 and Detroit Tigers in 1984.

LaRussa is second all-time for games managed with 4,773 trailing only Mack who had 7,755. Even though I doubt he'll break Mack's win total, he definitely won't eclipse his losses mark.

The baby of this group is Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker (61). He is the first African American Manager is Reds history.

He ranks 26th in all-time wins with 1,397 and has had successful stints with the San Francisco Giants, Cubs and now the Reds. Although he recently turned down a contract extension and is in the final year of his three-year contract, I have a feeling that since the Dodgers managerial position has been filled by Mattingly, Baker will be managing off of I-75 in Southern Ohio if he doesn't retire.

The Reds currently lead the NL Central with an 83-65 record, six games ahead of LaRussa's Cardinals.

So now the question remains, what men will be filling out line-up cards in the future?

I will toss out some names of managers that could be good fits in certain places.

Former Tigers Manager Alan Trammell (52) has been under the tutelage of Piniella working with the Cubs since 2007. Learning from Piniella and Anderson should be enough for Trammell to resurface again, but this time with a much more competitive team. There is no way that Trammell would accept another rebuilding job as he did with Detroit where he posted a 186-300 mark and a .383 winning percentage.

A good spot for Trammell would be Toronto and Blue Jays fans know him well during their AL Eastern Division battles back in the 1980's. If Alan doesn't land there, he could end up rejoining Kirk Gibson's staff in Arizona as a bench coach until a more enticing position opens up.

I do believe that the interim tag will be lifted and Gibson (53) becomes the permanent manager of the Diamondbacks. Gibson is an intense person, lets his players know where they stand, has learned under Anderson and Tommy Lasorda. His fiery demeanor and two historic home runs in a pair of World Series wins for Detroit in (1984) and Los Angeles in (1988) lend plenty of credibility.

Now that Gibson has mellowed over the years with the media, he'll know how to sell his team. He will be an excellent manager with the right talent and the Diamondbacks have been playing well and not quitting against contenders down the stretch.

Over the years, Mattingly has learned from Torre, Martin, Piniella and Dallas Green. With Lasorda in the organization, I'm sure that he'll draw off the Artful Dodger and hire an experienced bench coach. Larry Bowa is still on the Dodgers staff and they've worked together for a few years. I think Mattingly will be fine because he's a blue collar worker and student of the game, in addition to the fact that he's a lifetime .307 hitter, six-time All-Star and nine-time Gold Glove Winner.

Since Cox is remaining with the Braves, this is the reason why former Florida Marlins Manager Fredi Gonzalez (46) turned down the opportunity to interview with the Cubs.

He is the Marlins winningest manager with 276 victories. In 555 games, he led Florida to a 276-279 mark, a .497 winning percentage. He led Florida to winning seasons in 2008 and 2009 despite having the lowest payroll in the major leagues. He is a natural choice to return to the Braves where he served as Cox's third base coach for four years.

Gonzalez succeeded Joe Girardi (45) as Marlins manager on October 3, 2006. Girardi won a World Series with the Yankees in 2009 and if history repeats itself, another former Marlins manager could have huge success with a team that has much more resources to give him tools to win in the postseason.

When Girardi piloted the Marlins in 2006, he was named the Sporting News Manager of the Year for the National League, leading a team with the lowest payroll in the Major Leagues, at $14 million to a 78-84 record which stayed in wild-card contention. This payroll was lower than the salaries of several MLB players. He was fired after the 2006 season because of his tense relationship with Owner Jeffrey Loria.

If the Cubs entice Girardi to leave the Yankees and pay him more money to return to his hometown, then look for the Bronx Bombers to turn to Willie Randolph (56), currently with the Milwaukee Brewers. Randolph is a link to the glory days of the 1970's and his World Series titles under Martin and Bob Lemon would be a good fit. He also won four championships with the Yankees as a coach under Torre to give him six rings with the Yankees. If current Brewers Manager Ken Macha is fired, Randolph could take over since he was a finalist for the position.

If Girardi stays in New York, then it would make sense for the Cubs to either retain Mike Quade (53) as manager for a couple years and move legend Ryne Sandberg (51) up from the farm system to serve as bench coach until he's ready to manage in the major leagues.

Otherwise, just hire Sandberg as the new manager if there isn't a suitable experienced manager available to handle the burden of a 102-year drought.

Sandberg was named the 2010 Pacific Coast League's Manager of the Year for the AAA Iowa Cubs leading them to an 80-60 mark.

With the amount of vacancies that could be open, my instincts tell me that Bob Brenly (56) will be back in the dugout. The current Cubs announcer would be a logical candidate to be their skipper or he can take his 303-262 record and one World Series Title in 2001 in 3 1/2 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks somewhere else.

All of the managers I've mentioned have solid credentials and I would be curious to see how they perform with their next opportunities. Meanwhile, the six skippers in the over 60 club certainly have made great contributions to the grand old game.

Regardless of where these managers wind-up, they can only hope not to land with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who have posted 18 straight losing seasons, the longest in North American Professional Sports. These guys may be good, but they're not miracle workers.
The Pirates are the AAA affiliate for the rest of MLB.

This is a sad commentary because the loyal Pittsburgh fans deserve much more than they've been given, especially from a franchise which has a proud tradition that includes five World Series titles and now a new stadium.

But one thing is for certain, you haven't heard the last of these six men that are going to be getting Medicare. I have a feeling they'll continue to be around the game which is a benefit to all connected with the "Great American Past Time."

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.






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