Managerial breakdown: Who's staying, who's going, who's next?
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One iconic manager's contract is up at a time there have been occasional rumors of discontent.
Another ultra-accomplished manager known for his fun and fiery persona is appearing at times like he's lethargic in what is seen as one of the most fun managing jobs in the game.
And yet another Cooperstown-bound manager may not be an absolute guarantee to return.
Plus, a baker's dozen more managers are looking like they might be in at least a modicum of jeopardy as the season winds down. That brings the total to just more than half the 30 teams where there's at least some managerial intrigue.
A vast majority will likely keep their jobs (and Tony La Russa, Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox are among the many that are more likely to stay than go). Yet, several others -- especially in the non-Cooperstown category -- have to be worried today. Here is a closer look at the managers that have some chance of leaving, not being renewed, never advancing past interim status, or being fired or bought out.
1. Tony La Russa, Cardinals. The iconic La Russa is doing one of his best jobs in his 14th season in St. Louis. But with his contract expiring at year's end and a hint of anger over the handling of the trade of longtime pitching coach Dave Duncan's son and rumors of a touch of discord with a front office member or two, there isn't quite an absolute assurance La Russa will decide to return -- though the likelihood would seem to be that he could put whatever personal differences may exist aside to return to one of baseball's best and best-run franchises. La Russa is known to be enamored managing the traditionally excellent organization in this wonderful baseball city, but it's still possible he doesn't see St. Louis' season as being as perfect as its 84-60 record would indicate.
New Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, who made at least four great in-season moves to help turn the Cardinals into perhaps the National League favorite, said by phone that he doesn't believe there are any lingering issues that would drive La Russa away. Said Mozeliak, "If he wants to back, he'll likely be back ... Obviously, he has to be pleased with where we are."
2. Lou Piniella, Cubs. The accomplished Piniella is the only manager to lead the Cubs to two straight postseasons in a century. But their dismal season seems to be weighing on him. One Cubs employee, who's a Piniella supporter, admitted the brutal seasons appeared to be dragging down Piniella after seeing him trudge through a recent series in New York. Managing Milton Bradley and Carlos Zambrano appears to have taken a toll. Last year the Cubs exercised Piniella's $4 million option for 2010, and he told the Chicago Sun-Times he isn't walking away, so there really isn't any hard evidence he'll be going anywhere. However, Piniella has become adept at leaving less than perfect situations in mid-contract before, as he did in Seattle and Tampa Bay, so it's possible his remark about intending to stay is nothing more than the first stage of negotiation. The Sun-Times also recently said Piniella seemed "resigned" about the team's plight. The biggest question is this: Any chance he himself will resign?
3. Bobby Cox, Braves. He has been thought to have a lifetime position. But surely the Braves people expected much more this year. Speaking generally about the team's record and position, Braves GM Frank Wren said by phone, "We're all disappointed in where we are right now." Atlanta's three-game sweep of the first-place Cardinals notwithstanding, a rebuilt rotation and improved team haven't shown enough in the record so far. Cox has a special, several-decade relationship with club president John Schuerholz, and if Schuerholz has the ultimate call, Cox isn't going anywhere. Others may not be quite as wedded to Cox, though until further notice the assumption remains that he stays in place.
1. Jim Riggleman, Nationals interim. While Mike Rizzo surprised many folks by having the interim tag lifted and becoming the team's permanent general manager, it would be much more shocking than that for Riggleman to get the managing job full time. Nats president Stan Kasten said in a phone interview that Riggleman's under consideration for the job. However, baseball people consider him getting it to be a major long shot (though Kasten pointed out that reports and perceptions about the Nats haven't always turned out to be exactly on the money). Rizzo will want to put his own stamp on the situation with his own choice. Riggleman, fairly or not, has come to be viewed as a solid interim guy while managing baseball's worst two teams two years running (he took over on an interim basis in Seattle in 2008), and Rizzo is almost sure to try to identify someone seen as a more a inspirational choice. It will be interesting to see whether Rizzo goes back to his Diamondback roots to find a manager (Buck Showalter and Chip Hale are names from his past, but there's no inkling he and Showalter are especially close). So far the rumor mill has been incredibly scarce on the whole score.
2. Dave Trembley, Orioles. It wasn't a good sign when Orioles upper management put off a decision on Trembley's incredibly inexpensive 2010 option (believed to be for about $600,000) to gauge the Orioles' finish. Trembley's teams have been weak finishers, and it doesn't help him that Aubrey Huff and George Sherrill are gone in trades, or that top rookie pitchers Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman are being shelved due to innings counts. Trembley was brought in specifically because this is a rebuilding situation, as Baltimore Sun columnist Peter Schmuck recently pointed out. But at this point, there's a decent chance he won't survive to see it through.
3. Cecil Cooper, Astros. The Astros' front office usually does very little, but it still manages to expect a lot. There were rumors of Cooper's imminent demise early in the year, and the team is doing about the same now as it was then (just below .500). The Astros are doing the right thing by playing their few prospects, but that probably won't help Cooper get to .500.
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