View From the Center: N.L. Central Managers
Welcome to "View From the Center", where our resident pseudo-expert slash Cincinnati Reds fan Jeff Gentil takes a regular rundown of the topics of interest within baseball's divisional landscape. Last week, contenders and pretenders. This week, managers.
Cincinnati Reds: Dusty Baker is a lightning rod for debate. Some love that he's a players' manager; others have argued his failures with pitchers. However, Baker has won over 1,300 games as a manger so he must be doing something right. This year, the Reds are on top of the Central after finishing fourth last season. But seeing that Baker is in his final season of a three-year deal, unless the team continues to stay at or near the top of the division, they could be looking for a new direction in 2011.
Chicago Cubs: With instability in ownership and Lou Piniella's age and contract situation, the team could be looking for a new manager next season. Sweet Lou's team has not met expectations this year and the club could look to move in a different direction. Piniella has often said this would be his last managerial job. If his team doesn't turn it around, he could be retiring sooner than he anticipated.
Houston Astros: Brad Mills is in his first year as Astros manager. Even though the team is struggling and two of its biggest components - Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman -have reportedly requested trades, don't look for the team to remove Mills. He came to them highly regarded and he will be given a fair chance to keep the job no matter what comes of the Oswalt/Berkman situations.
Milwaukee Brewers: Ken Macha has already been the subject of the firing squad in Milwaukee. As long as the Brewers continue to struggle, that will continue. Just two years ago, the team was in the playoffs and looked like the good times were going to roll in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, that just hasn't happened and the team might have to deal off its best chip - Prince Fielder - to reload the farm system.
Pittsburgh Pirates: John Russell is in year number three in Pittsburgh. Predictably, his teams have not played well. But, in his defense, no manager could improve the Pirates enough to contend as long as ownership continues to trade away its best players and never bring in big name free agents to show their fans they actually want to win. However, it seems as if the Pirates have traded away every big contract and can now start to build from scratch and that may lead to better, more cohesive, teams.
St. Louis Cardinals: Tony LaRussa's resume speaks for itself; multiple World Championships, division and league titles. There likely isn't a more secure manager in the league. And honestly, if the Cardinals were foolish enough to remove LaRussa, they would probably see Dave Duncan leave town as well. And they don't want either of those things to happen.