Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Managers In Trouble 2007 Season

Mike Hargrove, Mariners: Howard Lincoln, the Mariners' CEO, announced at the end of last season that both Hargrove and general manager Bill Bavasi were on the hot seat. A slow start could lead to quick action; the M's acquired seven new players this off-season, and Ichiro could depart as a free agent next winter if the team does not show improvement. New bench coach John McLaren would be the logical replacement.

Clint Hurdle, Rockies: Owner Charlie Monfort said recently that he expects to retain G.M. Dan O'Dowd for "quite a while," but did not offer the same endorsement to Hurdle, who sacrifices too often and relies too heavily on hot relievers. The Rockies' 76-86 record last season was their best in five years under Hurdle. A .500 record likely is necessary for him to keep his job.

Buddy Bell, Royals. It's a classic fire-the-manager scenario: Bell, in the final year of his contract, is working under a G.M. entering his first full season, Dayton Moore. While no one will confuse the Royals with contenders, it's reasonable for Moore to expect an improvement from last season's 62-100 record; he added six new players, including right-hander Gil Meche and closer Octavio Dotel, and the team's top prospect, third baseman Alex Gordon.

Charlie Manuel, Phillies: Safer than he might appear, considering that Pat Gillick has replaced a manager in the middle of a season only once in more than a quarter-century as a G.M. Still, shortstop Jimmy Rollins has contributed to the Phillies' heightened expectations, calling them "the team to beat in the N.L. East." Gillick added two former managers, Jimy Williams and Davey Lopes, to Manuel's staff, but neither is especially well-suited to handle the day-to-day pressure in Philadelphia.

Eric Wedge, Indians: Club officials do not hold Wedge accountable for the Tribe's regression from 93 wins in 2005 to 78 in '06. Given Wedge's close relationship with G.M. Mark Shapiro, it's unlikely that even a slow start would lead to a change. The hiring of Buck Showalter as an adviser to Shapiro should not be misinterpreted; it would be an absolute shock if Showalter were the Indians' next manager.

Sam Perlozzo, Orioles:: No more excuses: The Orioles, after adding three new coaches, spending $41.5 million on their bullpen and another $29.5 million on Jay Payton and Aubrey Huff, want to see growth from Perlozzo in his second full season. Owner Peter Angelos has never replaced a manager before the end of a season, but a failure to improve significantly on last year's 70-92 mark could spark a change, even though Perlozzo is signed through 2008.

Joe Torre, Yankees: It's virtually impossible to imagine Torre getting fired in the middle of the season; G.M. Brian Cashman, perhaps his biggest backer, is now the team's leading decision-maker. Cashman helped save Torre's job after the Yankees' second consecutive first-round exit last season, but another post-season flop almost certainly would lead to the promotion of hitting coach Don Mattingly or hiring of Joe Girardi.

Terry Francona, Red Sox: Signed through '08 and absolved of responsibility for last season's collapse, Francona will fall under greater scrutiny if the Sox fail to reach the post-season for the second straight year. The team's lack of an established closer makes Francona's job that much more perilous, as does the daily lineup question that figures to arise from the addition of right fielder J.D. Drew. Those issues combined with Manny being Manny . . . stay tuned.

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