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May 6, 2010

Contractual Matters

Managerial Maneuverings

by Jeff Euston

If you’re in the market for a question you might use to win your next bar bet, you probably couldn’t go wrong with this one: Who preceded Mike Scioscia as manager of the Angels? If your answer was "Terry Collins," you’re close. But wrong.

For the correct answer, you have to turn back the clock more than a decade, before Arte Moreno, before even the Rally Monkey, to the era of Edison International Field. After 85 victories and a second-place finish under Collins in 1998, the Angels regressed in 1999, falling into last place in late May and remaining there for the rest of the season.

Collins’ intense managerial style was not particularly well-received by veteran players, and some objected when general manager Bill Bavasi considered extending the manager’s contract. Nevertheless, with the Angels’ record at 30-38, the club announced in late June that Collins had signed a new two-year deal worth about $900,000. The team responded by losing 44 of the next 65 games, putting the Halos on pace for the first 100-loss season in franchise history.

On Sept. 3, with the team 28 games behind first-place Texas in the American League West, Collins resigned, just 10 weeks after signing his extension. He reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the club, but the damage was done. At season’s end, Bavasi was replaced as GM by Montreal executive Bill Stoneman, whose immediate task was hiring a permanent manager. After a month-long search, he chose Scioscia, who was selected from a group of finalists that included the interim manager who had rallied the Angels to a 19-10 finish: Joe Maddon.

Scioscia has now served as the Angels’ skipper for 11 seasons, giving him more seniority with one club than any other active American League manager. Among all active managers, he trails only Bobby Cox (21 seasons in Atlanta) and Tony La Russa (15 seasons in St. Louis).

With a contract that keeps him in Anaheim through the 2018 season, Scioscia also enjoys far more job security than any of his peers. No one else is signed beyond 2012, and 15 managers—half in the game—are now in the final guaranteed year of their contracts.

That raises the possibility of multiple managerial changes, if not now, then after the season ends. Though no manager has been fired to this point in the season, at least four have been replaced in-season in each of the last three years. Two clubs, Toronto and Atlanta, are assured of new on-field leadership for 2011, as both Cito Gaston and Cox will retire this fall and become consultants for their clubs.

A more recent World Series-winning skipper, Joe Girardi, is without a contract beyond 2010, a product of the no-extensions policy of Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner. Like Derek Jeter, Girardi will play out the final season of his current deal, and only then begin thinking about his next contract.

A number of other high-profile managers face uncertainty as well. Joe Torre, Lou Piniella, La Russa, and Dusty Baker all are in the final years of their deals.

Torre, who turns 70 in July, has indicated he is not ready to retire. The Dodgers have stumbled out of the gate amid the ongoing McCourt divorce drama, a cut in payroll, GM Ned Colletti’s public criticism of Matt Kemp, and speculation that Torre could wind up back in New York with the Mets once his stint in Southern California ends. Torre began his managerial career as a 36-year-old player-manager for the Mets in 1977.

Piniella, whose 2010 option was picked up by the Cubs before the 2008 playoffs, has both hinted at retirement and continuing to manage beyond this season. With the Cubs’ new ownership group spending "Year One" evaluating all aspects of the organization, everything is up for discussion, from Wrigley Field to Carlos Zambrano’s role to Piniella, the first manager to lead the club to three winning seasons since the early 1970s. Adding to the uncertainty, Sweet Lou reportedly will receive an offer from the Yankees to work as a consultant after he retires.

It didn’t take long for the intrigue to begin in Cincinnati, where Baker reportedly asked the club for an extension in late April. Baker quickly denied the report, and the Reds and GM Walt Jocketty continue to keep their options open. The Reds have a record of 165-186 in Baker’s three seasons.

La Russa turned down a multi-year offer from St. Louis last fall, preferring instead to sign a one-year extension. La Russa has said the Cardinals’ job would be his last, though he has shown interest in an advisory or consulting role once he stops managing.

One manager thought to be under pressure as the season began was the Mets’ Jerry Manuel, whose deal runs through 2010, with a club option for 2011. A 3-7 start did not help, but the team has rebounded and now sits just 1.5 games off the pace in the NL East. The team's recent 12-5 run has not been enough to earn Manuel a contract extension, however. GM Omar Minaya said this week that Manuel’s contract situation will be not be addressed until after the season ends.

Similarly, Texas manager Ron Washington had a shaky beginning this season, the final year of his contract, with the public disclosure that he had used cocaine last season. Rangers officials and players rallied around Washington this spring, and the club holds a slim lead in the AL West. Washington’s reputation as a players' manager will only help him, but the Rangers will likely need to approach 2009’s 87-victory mark to prevent a change.

The Padres’ hot start puts manager Bud Black in line for at least another year. Last August, San Diego awarded him an extension with a 2011 club option that now seems all but certain to be exercised. Oakland’s Bob Geren and Milwaukee’s Ken Macha will likely need strong finishes to ensure their clubs pick up their 2011 options.

Meanwhile, three smaller-market managers hope to hold on to their jobs.

When the Orioles exercised their 2010 option on Dave Trembley’s deal last October, a league-worst 7-20 mark was not what they had in mind. With a .404 winning percentage (179-264) since taking over midway through the 2007 season, Trembley’s prospects are bleak.

In Pittsburgh, Pirates manager John Russell has somehow cobbled together an 11-15 record despite an offense that has scored just 3.4 runs a game and a pitching staff that has allowed 6.8 runs a game. Despite 95 and 99 losses in his first two seasons, Russell’s relationship with the Pirates’ core of young players could buy him more time.

Kansas City’s Trey Hillman notably did not receive an extension during the offseason after the Royals added four years to GM Dayton Moore’s deal in late August. With the Royals’ rebuild moving in fits and starts—and sometimes unexpected directions—Hillman likely will have to show some measure of progress, like avoiding 90 losses, to return.

--- 

Here is the contract status of each of the 30 major-league managers:

Signed through 2010 (9): Dusty Baker, Cincinnati; Bobby Cox, Atlanta; Cito Gaston, Toronto; Joe Girardi, New York Yankees; Trey Hillman, Kansas City; Lou Piniella, Chicago Cubs; Joe Torre, Los Angeles Dodgers; Dave Trembley, Baltimore; Ron Washington, Texas.

Signed through 2010 with 2011 option (6): Bud Black, San Diego; Bob Geren, Oakland; Tony La Russa, St. Louis; Ken Macha, Milwaukee; Jerry Manuel, New York Mets; John Russell, Pittsburgh.

Signed through 2011 (5): Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota; Fredi Gonzalez, Florida; Jim Leyland, Detroit; Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia; Don Wakamatsu, Seattle.

Signed through 2011 with 2012 option (4): Bruce Bochy, San Francisco; Terry Francona, Boston (and 2013 option); Brad Mills, Houston; Jim Riggleman, Washington.

Signed through 2012 (4): Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox; A.J. Hinch, Arizona; Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay; Jim Tracy, Colorado.

Signed through 2012 with 2013 option (1): Manny Acta, Cleveland.

Signed through 2018 (1): Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels.

Jeff Euston is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jeff's other articles. You can contact Jeff by clicking here

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