In addition to the normal preparation for the season, spring training is an opportunity for all major leaguers – and their skippers – to escape the winter weather and enjoy a warmer climate. But for some managers, it’s a bit hotter than they’d prefer. Here are seven who are already feeling the pressure to succeed.
7. Bryan Price
Over the past few months, Cincinnati parted with their fireball closer, their slugging third baseman, as well as two key starting pitchers (and nearly saw Brandon Phillips go to Washington). Even with Phillips and fellow veteran Joey Votto, an inexperienced rotation makes the Reds’ roster one of the worst in baseball. There is, frankly, nowhere to go but up. So, if Price can conjure up any semblance of hope, it might keep him in town.
6. Don Mattingly
Soon after he left the pressure cooker that was Los Angeles, Mattingly joins the circus in Miami. How soon we forget that this is the franchise that let go of Mike Redmond in mid-season and replaced him with Dan Jennings, a GM with zero managerial experience. The Marlins have certainly upgraded many times over from who was previously heading the dugout. However, the schizophrenic behaviors of this team over the past few years, under the watch of owner Jeffrey Loria, shouldn’t make any manager feels safe. Logic and reasonable expectations are thrown out the window.
5. Fredi Gonzalez
Bobby Cox’ successor isn’t exactly following in his footsteps. After a division crown in 2013, the Braves began to struggle. But stumbling gave way to an all-out freefall last summer. Atlanta went 8-20 in August, lost 12 straight, and came in at 67-95. Regardless of lineup quality, it was a dreadful showing – both in the players’ lackluster effort and in Fredi’s continued failures to properly manage the pitching staff. Will Gonzalez be a part of this rebuilding effort – or a victim of it? The answer to that is anyone’s guess.
4. John Farrell
The 2015 season was a tough one in many ways for Farrell. His Red Sox only mustered 78 wins despite the varied additions in the previous offseason. But that challenge paled in comparison to the one he faced in August, diagnosed with stage 1 lymphoma. Now healthy, Farrell is hoping the club feeds off the added energy of his return along with the arrival of David Price. A mixture of seasoned veterans and promising youngsters has all the makings for a Red Sox revival before a demanding fan base.
3. Robin Ventura
Determining the leash length for a first-time manager usually depends on upper management and team outlook. When Ventura completed his initial season on the bench in 2012, the White Sox were 85-77 and missed out a playoff berth by three games. The future for both the club and the manager looked bright. But it only went down from there: a 63-win campaign in 2013 has been followed with 73 and 76 victories, respectively. Now with Todd Frazier firmly in the middle of the order to go along with a Cy Young-worthy ace in Chris Sale, the Sox are due for an improvement. Winning the AL Central, headed by the defending champs, is realistic – but it shouldn’t be a requirement. Nabbing one of the two Wild Card spots should be the bar that Ventura needs to surpass in order to remain in Chicago.
2. Mike Scioscia
No current manager in baseball has enjoyed a longer tenure with the same club. In his 16 seasons, Scioscia led the Angels to five AL West titles, three ALCS appearances, and a World Series triumph in 2002. But in the four years since Mike Trout has been in a Halos uniform, there has yet to be a single playoff victory. And in what was a very winnable division last year, L.A. came in third place – just short of a Wild Card. New general managers usually want their own hand-picked skipper in place. If the Angels underachieve again in 2016, recently-appointed Billy Eppler will have good reason to make a change.
1. Walt Weiss
Looking to put money on the first manager to be fired in ’16? Here’s your man. Weiss is in the most precarious of spots. His power-hitting outfielder is the subject of trade rumors on a regular basis – which won’t cease until he’s gone from Denver. He has a pitching staff that – due to a combination of atmosphere and mediocre talent – allowed a whopping 844 runs last year. With the Dodgers, Giants and Diamondbacks as the clear front-runners in the NL West, it would be a surprise if he makes through the entire year.