Friday was a dark day for baseball. We lost one of the last old-school, “rub some dirt on it” managers when the Reds decided to part ways with Dusty Baker following their loss to to the Pirates in the National League Wild Card game.
It means the following managerial jobs are open: the Cubs, the Reds, the Mariners and the Nationals.
Based on some speculation, we might also see managerial changes with the Rangers, Angels and possibly the White Sox. (Maybe.)
Meanwhile, Joe Girardi’s contract with the Yankees is up at the end of the month, while the Dodgers have yet to exercise the option for 2014 on Don Mattingly. The Cubs have been heavily linked to Girardi and reports surfaced last week the Nationals tried to get permission to speak with him.
Late Friday, the New York media reported the Yankees offered Girardi a new deal that would pay him over $4 million annually. Now the Chicago Tribune is reporting the Cubs would trump any offer by the Yankees, paying Girardi (and his binders) over $5 million per year.
Girardi holds all the cards. Does he want to go back to an uncertain Yankees team that might not have Robinson Cano and still has the A-Rod circus to deal with? Or will he leap to go back to his hometown Cubs or try to take the Nationals to the World Series? Girardi already won a World Series in New York as a manager. Every year in the Yankees dugout appears to add another five years on his physical appearance. Does he want to sign himself up for three more years of stress?
The chance to go home to Chicago and make a lot of money is something you’d have to strongly to consider, although the Nationals job is much more appealing. (We’ll get to that.)
As of now there are four definite openings. Should Girardi leave New York, Chicago is probably the least-appealing job to take since you’re dealing with so much uncertainty along with constant media pressure. The Yankees have had two managers since 1996: Joe Torre and Girardi. It feels like the time is right for a guy to last only a month or two in the Bronx dugout, even without George Steinbrenner calling the shots.
On the other end, with the talent and money the Dodgers have, it would easily be the best job. With the Dodgers in their first NLCS since 2009, Mattingly would appear on line for an extension, although his risky move of pitching Clayton Kershaw on short rest Monday night could have changed that instantly. Who knows, maybe Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles owners have their eyes fixed on Girardi, too?
Those two aren’t officially vacant yet, so let’s rank the four that are:
There are a couple big negatives at Wrigley. One you have to deal with Theo Epstein and his stamp on the organization. Second your job security remains tied to younger players like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Lastly, you’re in a division with the Cardinals — the model National League franchise. That doesn’t seem very appealing, unless you’re very fond of ivy. Someone, though, will have visions of being the first World Series winner at Wrigley since 1908 and foolishly take the job. Girardi is probably too savvy to take this post.
Cincinnati is a strange team. Lots of good parts — Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce — but something is … missing. Maybe a new manager is that something. Like the Cubs you’re locked in a division with the Cardinals.
If we used the divisional opponents as a downside for the Cubs and Reds, it should be for the Mariners, right? Oakland keeps winning with a low payroll. The Rangers shouldn’t fade. Maybe the Angels get their act together. Seattle has upside for its next manager to grow along with the team. The M’s are building around Kyle Seager (25), Nick Franklin (22) and Mike Zunino (22) along with 20-year-old pitcher Tijuan Walker. You still get to pencil in Felix Hernandez’s name every fifth day. It’s not a terrible job when you look at it long term. Bear in mind Seattle hasn’t finished higher than third in the AL West since 2007.
Expect Washington to pursue Girardi over the next two or three weeks. Remember, the Nationals were everybody’s World Series pick back in March. The season never came together, but Washington finished strong with a 18-9 September. Managing Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg, even if Harper’s “bro-ness” might be overwhelming at times, is a job almost anyone in baseball would want. Washington has talent and will spend money to try to win a World Series, the sport’s ultimate goal. If Girardi doesn’t jump for DC, expect to hear Cal Ripken Jr.’s name to become the front-runner, in the media at least.