MLB Managers In Review: The Best And The Worst

Baseball | 10/6/21

A Major League Baseball team can have an all-star starting line-up, but the wrong manager can throw a major wrench in the system if the clubhouse isn’t careful. Some managers inspire the players to be their best, while others make the wrong decisions at the worst times possible. These are the best and worst MLB managers.

Worst: Derek Shelton – Pittsburgh Pirates

derek shelton
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

A perennial losing franchise, the Pittsburgh Pirates reshaped the organization in 2020, bringing in Ben Cherington as the new General Manager. Cherington then hired Derek Shelton to manage the team from the dugout.

Hamstrung with one of the least talented lineups in the league, Shelton struggled right out of the gate, finishing the shortened 2020 season 19-41. 2021 hasn’t been much kinder, putting Shelton’s return in 2022 in doubt.

Worst: Brandon Hyde – Baltimore Orioles

brandon hyde
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Brandon Hyde was hired to take over the Baltimore Orioles in 2019 and help rebuild one of the worst teams in recent MLB history. So, how has he done?

The Orioles lost more than 100 games in 2021, and Hyde will have a tough time pitching himself to the O’s front office to bring him back.

Best: David Bell – Cincinnati Reds

david bell
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Reds might have fallen out of the playoff picture at the end of 2021, but we still think David Bell deserves high praise. A year after making the postseason, the Reds lost their three best pitchers, and Bell still almost got them into October.

Finishing barely over .500 might not feel like a win in 2021, but for David Bell and the Reds, it’s quite the accomplishment.

Worst: Chris Woodward – Texas Rangers

chris woodward
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Texas Rangers were not a good baseball team in 2021. In 2020, they were bad, but not this bad. And in 2019, they almost had a winning record. The one commonality in the last three years has been manager Chris Woodward.

We’re not a team owner here, but getting worse every season for three straight seasons doesn’t seem like a very good thing.

Best: Scott Servais – Seattle Mariners

scott servais
Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Seattle Mariners became one of the surprises of the 2021 MLB season, pushing for a playoff spot under the direction of Scott Servais.

The front office put a lot of faith in Servais this year, and he returned their investment with one of the best stories of the season.

Best: Alex Cora – Boston Red Sox

alex cora
Rich Schultz/Getty Images
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Alex Cora returned to the Red Sox in 2021 after missing out on 2020 for his part in Boston cheating in 2018. His return was welcomed with open arms, and also was a key factor in Boston returning to the postseason.

The Red Sox won 92 games this season and upset the Yankees in the AL Wildcard game to advance to the ALDS.

Best: Bud Black – Colorado Rockies

bud black
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Colorado Rockies might not have a winning record, but to be as competitive as they were in 2021 after losing superstar third baseman Nolan Arenado was no small feat. Bud Black has long been one of the most respected managers in MLB, and this season showed why.

The team could have fallen apart. Instead, they posted a winning record at home and might be closer to competing for the postseason than anyone thought.

Best: Dave Roberts – Los Angeles Dodgers

dave roberts
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

With the World Series monkey finally off his back, Dave Roberts led a dominant Dodgers team in 2021 that cruised to 106 wins. In any other division, they would have easily been the top dog.

In the NL West, it got a little more complicated. Still, any time a manager gets his team to that many wins, he’s doing an excellent job.

Worst: Mike Matheny – Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals v New York Yankees
Elsa/Getty Images
Elsa/Getty Images

The Kansas City Royals got off to a blazing hot start in 2021 before fading away into obscurity. Manager Mike Matheny, despite having MVP candidate Salvador Perez on the roster, just couldn’t keep the ship steered in the right direction.

Matheny should have a chance to prove himself again next season, though, as there was enough good in 2021 to keep him off the hot seat.

Worst: Bob Melvin – Oakland Athletics

bob melvin
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The manager of the Oakland Athletics since 2011, Bob Melvin was hoping 2021 would finally be the year he got the A’s past the NLDS. Unfortunately, the team proved in the second half of the season they couldn’t handle the pressure.

It doesn’t help that the front office for the A’s has been criticized for purposely trying to drive fans away to force a move out of the city.

Best: Gabe Kapler – San Francisco Giants

gabe kapler
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images
Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

A season-long battle against bitter NL West rival Los Angeles Dodgers has turned Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler into one of the best in MLB. No one expected the San Francisco Giants to compete in 2021, let alone with more than 100 games.

The next question for Kapler will be to prove in 2022 that his first full season in SF wasn’t lighting in a bottle.

Worst/Fired: Luis Rojas – New York Mets

luis rojas
Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

We’ll be stunned if Luis Rojas is brought back in 2022 to manage the Mets again. Under his watch, the team went from a World Series contender at the beginning of the season to a basement dweller.

Rojas seemingly lost the team around the middle of the season. The offense went dormant, which made things tough on the pitching staff. Even trading for middle-of-the-order bats midseason failed to get things back on track. After the final game, the team declined to pick up his option.

Best: Charlie Montoyo – Toronto Blue Jays

charlie montoyo
Cole Burston/Getty Images
Cole Burston/Getty Images

Powering their way to a winning record in 2021, the Toronto Blue Jays relied on the guidance of Charlie Montoyo to guide them through the NL East. Montoyo has done a great job leading a team that only recently was allowed to play in front of crowds at home.

With a talented core that should keep the team competitive for years to come, Montoyo’s next big leap will be to sail through the postseason to the World Series.

Worst: David Ross – Chicago Cubs

david ross
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The 2021 season couldn’t have gone worst for the Chicago Cubs if they had tried. The team started strong before hitting a major losing streak. Manager David Ross failed to find any way to stop the bleeding, leading the front office to trade away Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, and Anthony Rizzo at the trade deadline.

After the All-Star Break, the Cubs continued to sink with Ross, posting one of the worst records in the league.

Worst: Aaron Boone – New York Yankees

New York Yankees v Los Angeles Angels
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

How does a manager with a 92 win season and a postseason appearance get a “WORST” rating? When you manage the Yankees, the expectations are simply higher.

Aaron Boone’s 2021 Yankees were a very flawed team that nearly tanked midseason before clawing its way back into the playoff picture, losing the AL Wildcard game to the Boston Red Sox.

Worst/Fired: Jayce Tingler – San Diego Padres

jayce tingler
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The San Diego Padres were supposed to be World Series contenders. They were supposed to rival the Los Angeles Dodgers for NL West supremacy. Instead, they’ve struggled to play .500 baseball.

Manager Jayce Tingler’s tenure in San Diego might not last long as the front office looks for someone to blame for the disastrous season. A few days after the season ended, he was fired.

Worst: Dave Martinez – Washington Nationals

dave martinez
G Fiume/Getty Images
G Fiume/Getty Images

Before winning the World Series with the Washington Nationals in 2019, Dave Martinez was on the verge of being fired. Two seasons later and the team has cratered but he still has a job.

Washington has one of the highest payrolls in MLB and failed to win more than 70 games in the 2021 season. Will Martinez survive another year?

Worst: Torey Lovullao – Arizona Diamondbacks

torey lovullo
Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

For the first three years of his managerial career in Arizona, Torey Lovullo was headlining a surprising era of prosperity for the Diamondbacks. Then the shortened 2020 season hit, followed by a somehow even worse 2021 season.

Has Lovullo built enough goodwill within the organization to stick around for another season? We’ll no doubt find out soon enough.

Worst: Terry Francona – Cleveland

terry francona
Ron Schwane/Getty Images
Ron Schwane/Getty Images

A down season for one of the best managers of his era, Terry Francona was not able to overcome the odds in Cleveland, leading the team to an 80-82 record – his first losing record with the team since taking over in 2013.

Of course, not everything bad that happened in 2021 was because of Francona. The longtime manager was forced to step away from the team in July to address health issues. Hopefully next season he bounces back better than ever.

Best: Craig Counsell – Milwaukee Brewers

craig counsell
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

In 2021, Craig Counsell continued to prove he is one of the best managers in MLB. He led the Brewers to another division title and 95 wins, another dominant season for the skipper.

At some point, he’ll have to find a way to get the Brewers to the World Series, but for now, he’s sitting comfortably in his position.

Best: Dusty Baker – Houston Astros

dusty baker
Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images
Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Houston Astros are once again kings of the AL West thanks to manager Dusty Baker. Originally brought in to stabilize the franchise after they were caught in a huge cheating scandal, Baker is now indispensable as the man calling the shots from the dugout.

At 72-years-old, the only question we have is how much longer Baker has before he calls it a career.

Best: Brian Snitker – Atlanta Braves

brian snitker
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

It would have been easy for the Atlanta Braves and manager Brian Snitker to fold after losing superstar player Ronald Acuna Jr. for the whole season.

Thanks to Snitker, and a few bold trades from the front office, the Braves kept chugging their way to a postseason birth and NL East crown.

Best: Tony La Russa – Chicago White Sox

Cincinnati Reds v Chicago White Sox
Ron Vesely/Getty Images
Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The Chicago White Sox season nearly fell part on manager Tony La Russa before it even really began. The “old school” manager clashed with one of his “new school” players and created a fracture in the locker room.

La Russa created his own problem, but also successfully navigated his way through it, leading the White Sox to the playoffs.

Best: Mike Shildt – St. Louis Cardinals

mike shildt
Duane Burleson/Getty Images
Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Before the Cardinals rallied off 17 straight wins to push themselves into the postseason discussion, the job Mike Shildt has done would have been a “worst.”

When the team needed to win, he found ways to get them to win and will likely earn some Manager of the Year votes as a result.

Worst: Joe Girardi – Philadelphia Phillies

joe girardi
Sarah Stier/Getty Images
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

The Philadelphia Phillies are a team full of superstars that just can’t seem to get over the hump, which is a big problem for manager Joe Girardi. Bryce Harper might be starting to regret signing with the team soon.

The Phillies haven’t made the playoffs since 2012, however, so Girardi should be given a third season to right the ship.

Worst: Don Mattingly – Miami Marlins

don mattingly
Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Miami Marlins made a surprise postseason appearance in 2020 under manager Don Mattingly, but 2021 has seen the team return to the basement. In five seasons in Miami, Mattingly only has one year of winning baseball.

The question is, how does Don Mattingly still have a job? If the Marlins are serious about rebuilding the roster and competing, then Mattingly has to go.

Worst: Rocco Baldelli – Minnesota Twins

roco baldelli
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images
Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

The Minnesota Twins were supposed to be bash their way to the postseason and be a World Series contender in 2021. Instead, they traded Nelson Cruz at the trade deadline and finished well below expectations.

Rocco Baldelli, as the manager, gets the blame, but it’s hard not to look at the season as an entire team failure.

Best: A.J. Hinch – Detroit Tigers

aj hinch
Steph Chambers/Getty Images
Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Another manager forced to miss a year for a cheating scandal, A.J. Hinch bounced back in 2021 with the Detroit Tigers. The team didn’t finish the season with a winning record, but they did enough to give fans hope for the future of the franchise.

Hinch previously led a rebuild in Houston that culminated with three straight 100-win seasons. Can he do it again in Detroit?

Worst: Joe Maddon – Los Angeles Angels

joe maddon
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Sorry Angels fans, but Joe Maddon was a stone-cold disappointment in 2021. On a team featuring Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Anthony Rendon, a winning record and a postseason appearance should be easy.

Trout was hurt, but Ohtani played at an MVP caliber level to make up for it. The Angels need to find a fix fast before their big stars demand big changes.

Best: Kevin Cash – Tampa Bay Rays

kevin cash
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images
Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Kevin Cash has been with the Tampa Bay Rays since 2015, and 2021 might have been his best season ever. A World Series disappointment in 2020 hasn’t been a blemish for Cash.

The 2021 Rays won 100 games, the best record in the American League, and the third-best record in MLB.