Life in professional sports is always lived on the edge, a precarious existence in which the smallest twist or turn can affect a player’s or manager’s continued presence in a given sport. Talent, intelligence, and work ethic are just as important as timing, and a career in a sport such as baseball may be defined by simply being in the right place at the right time. The pressures in the game of baseball are many, and it is often the case that failing to live up to unfair expectations results in a player being let go or a manager being fired.
Perhaps the best example of the fickle nature of baseball can be found via inspection into Joe Torre’s managerial career. Before achieving fame and recognition with the New York Yankees, Torre was fired from managing jobs with the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals. His overall record with those clubs was 894-1,003, and his win percentage was a paltry .471. He had never won 90 games in a season before joining the Yankees, but he had lost over 90 games on three separate occasions. When given an opportunity with a ballclub that had some serious talent and financial firepower, Torre was able to excel, winning four World Series titles on his way to election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The fact that a manager may find himself on the hot seat is therefore not necessarily an indictment of his ability to manage or his knowledge of the game; it is simply recognition of the fact that managerial jobs are quite often short-lived, and a losing team will often fire their manager as the first step in vast organizational changes. It may not be fair, but managers often take the fall and serve as an easy organizational scapegoat.
The following 10 managers find themselves in circumstances that may ultimately result in their being let go, and the circumstances are many. It may be the result of high expectations after an offseason of roster changes, or it may simply be the fact that too many losses have piled up over the past few seasons. Whatever the case may be, these 10 managers will find that their place on the bench is quite a bit warmer than they remember from a season ago.
10 Walt Weiss - Colorado Rockies
Of all of the managers on this list, Walt Weiss probably faces the most difficult of circumstances. The Rockies have not had a winning season since 2010, and Weiss has seen his loss totals increase in each of his first two seasons on the bench in Colorado (88 in 2013, 96 in 2014). Despite the atrocious 2014 season, the Rockies made very little changes during the offseason, instead believing that the return of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez from injury will be enough to restore the team to contention.
The pitching staff is particularly bad (again), and Weiss has already clashed philosophically with Senior Vice President Bill Geivett. Tulo has also indicated an openness to change, saying back in August of 2014 that he is “sick and tired of losing,” and that "something needs to change." If things don’t go well early in the 2015 season for Colorado, Weiss will represent the easiest path to change and will very likely be looking for work elsewhere.
9 Ryne Sandberg - Philadelphia Phillies
The Philadelphia Phillies made the mistake of stubbornly holding onto their core players too long, subsequently delaying the rebuilding process. Those aging stars now have much less value on the trade market, and teams around the league have said the Phillies still have unrealistic demands for some of those players, even for the one player -- Cole Hamels -- that has actual trade-market value.
Manager Ryne Sandberg, the Hall of Fame second baseman, took over for longtime manager Charlie Manuel and immediately clashed with some of the veterans he inherited. Sandberg recently aired some of his grievances in the media, which is a serious misstep and not the best way to get the respect of a clubhouse. If the turmoil continues in Philadelphia, Sandberg may be fired despite overseeing a team that seems to have finally accepted it is time to rebuild. The blame should lie squarely with general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., of course, and it may be the case that he finds himself on his way out of Philadelphia as well.
8 Lloyd McClendon - Seattle Mariners
For all of the criticism that Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik has endured, he has actually put together a solid roster that should compete in the AL West, and he certainly has reason to believe that his team should make a deep playoff run. With Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez, the Mariners certainly have the talent to do so, especially with the criminally underrated talents of Hisashi Iwakuma and Kyle Seager in the mix as well. The club has also added slugger Nelson Cruz, which should further raise expectations in Seattle for 2015.
That’s why if the club underperforms, manager Lloyd McClendon might start feeling the heat on the bench. When expectations are high, blame for failing to meet those expectations almost always finds its way to the manager, so McClendon must make sure that his team not only makes the playoffs, but also makes a deep run once there. If not, he could end up being the scapegoat for a season in which the Mariners do not live up to their lofty potential after several offseasons full of high-profile activity.
7 Robin Ventura - Chicago White Sox
Ventura may be another victim of raised expectations after the flurry of offseason moves made by the Chicago White Sox. The Sox acquired Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland A’s and have Cuban sensation Jose Abreu coming off an impressive debut season in which he slashed .317/.383/.581 with 36 homers and 107 RBI. The team also brought in former Yankees closer David Robertson as well as outfielder Melky Cabrera, so there should be no doubt that the team has very high aspirations for 2015. Even with all of the additions, Ventura is still working with a team that is coming off an 89-loss season, so he may ultimately fall victim to unreasonably high expectations. Anything short of the playoffs for the White Sox could mean the end of Ventura’s managerial reign in Chicago.
6 Brad Ausmus - Detroit Tigers
Ausmus has had a great deal of success in his first two seasons as manager of the Detroit Tigers, but there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the ballclub that might have an impact on his job security. Justin Verlander had a wretched season in 2014 and seems unlikely to ever regain his status as one of the best pitchers in baseball, and slugger Miguel Cabrera will be coming off of offseason ankle surgery, not to mention the fact that Max Scherzer has departed in free agency. David Price has said he is comfortable in Detroit now, but with one year remaining on his contract, he is likely to face season-long questions about his impending free agency. Ausmus will have to manage all of this while dealing with an improved AL Central, yet the Tigers are still a team that expects to be back in the playoffs in 2015.
5 Ned Yost - Kansas City Royals
Coming off of a magical season in which the Kansas City Royals took the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the World Series, Ned Yost will still find himself on the hot seat yet again in 2015. There was some speculation early on in the playoffs that an early exit for the Royals could cost Yost his job, and even though he recently signed an extension through 2016, there are still questions about his in-game managerial skills and his tendency to come off as surly at times. It should be somewhat telling that the Royals did not look to lock up Yost long-term, instead merely ensuring that he would not be tagged with the dreaded “lame duck” status in 2015. The World Series run has brought Yost some leeway, but there is still the strong possibility that Yost could come under fire if the Royals suffer from a World Series hangover and underperform in 2015.
4 Don Mattingly - Los Angeles Dodgers
Entering his fifth year at the helm of the Los Angeles Dodgers, it seems like there has not been a season in which Mattingly has been secure in his position as manager. The team’s record has improved each season and Mattingly has had to manage some seriously oversized egos in the Dodgers clubhouse. With the presence of a new front office headed by Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, it is fair to say that Mattingly will be closely evaluated by club executives during the 2015 season. To his credit, Mattingly has expressed an openness to change and new ideas, so perhaps he will fit in well with the sabermetrically inclined and innovative front office in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have World Series aspirations this season, so if the Dodgers fall short, Mattingly is the one who is likely to take the blame.
3 Terry Collins - New York Mets
Managing in a major market such as New York there is always bound to be intense pressure and media scrutiny. Terry Collins is well aware of this, having already acknowledged the fact that he is likely on the hot seat for 2015, saying, "I've done nothing for the last four years but preach to our fan base to be patient, and I've been trying to be patient. Well, I think we've got the pieces. It's time to step up."
With what is shaping up to be one of the best rotations in baseball -- one that will benefit from the return of Matt Harvey and the possible debut of highly touted prospect Noah Syndergaard -- Collins is managing a team that features the best collection of talent the Mets have had during his time as manager. Expectations are always notoriously high in New York, so it is very unlikely that Collins will be able to survive yet another losing season in 2015.
2 Ron Roenicke - Milwaukee Brewers
Roenicke oversaw one of the biggest collapses in all of baseball a season ago, and there were many that doubted whether Roenicke would be able to survive the offseason after such a disastrous end to what began as a promising season in Milwaukee. Roenicke will have to prove that the six-week disaster that took the Brewers out of playoff contention was nothing more than an aberration instead of a trend. If the Brewers get off to a slow start or suffer from a similar collapse in 2015, Milwaukee will likely be looking to replace Roenicke in short order.
1 Bud Black - San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres have been the story of the offseason, with general manager A.J. Preller acquiring outfield sluggers Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers while also maintaining the only strength of last season’s ballclub: the starting rotation. With all of the moves that Preller has made, expectations are exceptionally high for the team managed by Bud Black, who will have to integrate all of the new players while also competing in one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball. Preller has demonstrated time and again this offseason that he will not hesitate to make a bold move, and if the Padres fail to meet their lofty expectations, Black may very well be shown the door.
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