Mike Matheny became the 5th MLB manager fired this season today…and the Royals the 7th team to need a new skipper (Tony LaRussa reportedly voluntarily stepped down…but I think there was a good chance he’d have been fired if he hadn’t). Don Mattingly came to a “mutual agreement” with the Marlins…whatever.
In every case the basic reason is failing to meet expectations. In most cases, those expectations were unrealistic, but that doesn’t make the former manager any less unemployed. Let’s run down the list (so far).
Mike Matheny: Dayton Moore, President of Baseball Operations, was fired a few weeks ago, so this was pretty much inevitable. Whoever is the new person responsible for roster construction is guaranteed to want their own guy as the dugout manager…and that was never going to be Matheny. He was hired in 2019 after the Royals suffered through a 103 loss season. They have been in a full blown tear-down and rebuild project since 2017. This year they have a roster full of rookies—at one point starting 6 of them. That is not a recipe for short term success, yet some pundits baffled me by calling them a sleeper pick for contention prior to the season. Clearly the owner bought into that level of expectation. On the other hand, Matheny was known to not be a great managerial tactician when he was with the Cardinals on a team full of talent. As such, I thought he was an odd hire at the start.
Tony LaRussa. He stepped down due to his health. It seems telling, though, that the GM had an opportunity to say “Sure, he’s family” when asked if the White Sox would have brought him back had he not resigned and instead answered by dismissing the question as “hypothetical” (which, of course it was, everybody knew that) and that the situation “played out as it played out.” That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. The ChiSox sustained a lot of injuries, had some key players regress, and missed the playoffs after being favored to win the division.
Chris Woodward. The Rangers spent $500M on 3 free agents. They were more than 3 players from contention, but that kind of money is guaranteed to raise expectations no matter how unfounded. Now we will see if the team spends more this offseason.
Joe Maddon. The Angels continue to field bad teams despite having two of the best players in baseball. Shohei Ohtani only signed a one year deal, so a trade next season is likely if the Angels front office can’t talk him into signing a long term deal. If that happens, I’d expect a full tear down and rebuild to be in the offing…and we should then all contribute to a free Mike Trout campaign. Meanwhile, at the start of the season, they were a team with two transcendent stars, and a bunch of AAAA players, poor drafts, poor free agency efforts, and few short term prospects. At the end of the season they are…exactly the same. Phil Nevin served as the interim manager and has now been hired full time. Good luck to him, he’s going to need it.
Charlie Montoya. The Blue Jays began the season believing they would win the AL East. Instead, the Yankees started out red hot, and by June Montoya was out of a job despite having the team in playoff position. They finished the season still in second place but safely in the playoffs.
Joe Girardi. Phillies ownership found their slow start intolerable, leading to Girardi being the first skipper forced to walk the plank this year. They did have a winning record the rest of the way and did make the playoffs. I’ve seen articles using that as a “See? They did the right thing!” justification of the move. I disagree that it’s res ipsa loquitor—they would likely have improved their play anyway, and they did improve their pitching at the trade deadline. What is certain is that in April they were better than the Marlins and Nationals but worse than the Mets and Braves, whereas in October they are better than the Marlins and Nationals but worse than the Mets and Braves.
Don Mattingly. He had been with the Marlins 7 years, had only one winning season—the pandemic-shortened 2020. Nobody really thought the Marlins were suddenly going to be a winning team this year, but a change in leadership at the end of the season was no surprise.