The Yankees open a series with the Angels tonight, out in Anaheim, which gives us a matchup of high-profile catchers turned managers: Joe Girardi vs. Mike Scioscia.
The old adage is that catchers make the best managers, as they can relate best to both pitchers and position players. Of the 30 current skippers, 10 had at least some catching experience in either the minor leagues, the major leagues or both.
Who are the best of this group? To determine this list, I utilized my reporting over the years (regarding players' and executives' impressions of managers) and Baseball Prospectus 2011, which includes some handy managers' statistics.
The list, please:
He never made the big leagues as a player, but he spent seven seasons as a catcher in the minors. It's fun envisioning him going to the mound for a conference:
Leyland: Let's start this guy with a deuce. He's gonna be looking for a fastball.
Pitcher (coughing): Will you please put out that cigarette?!
All you need to know about Leyland is that even Gary Sheffield liked playing for him. In addition to having a good handle on his players, Leyland also is credited with having a nice touch when it comes to bullpen deployment. With one World Series title (1997 Marlins) and another Fall Classic appearance (2006 Tigers) on his resume, he's proven that he knows what he's doing.
We often credit Andrew Friedman for putting together such an amazing Rays roster with so few dollars, but Maddon - whom Friedman hired - also deserves a healthy share of the acclaim.
Maddon is quite quirky; whenever I see him, I expect him to be wearing some sort of crazy, mad scientist's contraption on his head, like Jeff Goldblum's character in "Cats & Dogs."
But his players sure do seem to buy what he's selling, whether it's a new hairdo or the now legendary "9=8" pep talk of 2008. And while his moves often defy convention, they work out often enough.
He has the most seniority on this list, having managed every year since 1995. He began his managerial career in San Diego, and after 2006, the Padres, under new management - the team president was some guy named Alderson - let him slide over to the Giants in the NL West.
Bochy scored major points with his guiding of last year's Giants to the World Series crown. If you look at the roster of that club, as we've discussed many times, we see a championship-caliber pitching staff but absolutely not a championship group of position players. Yet he kept trying different combinations, not worrying about salary or status in the instances of Aaron Rowand and Pablo Sandoval.
I used to have him higher when I made a list of all managers back in 2008, but this is a case of some numbers working against him, particularly last season. As BP reports, the Angels' 66.7 percent stolen-base success rate was the worst in all of baseball, and the same went for their 54.5 percent sacrifice success rate.
However, this is a good time to stress that I consider all five managers on this list to be very good at what they do. The bar is set high. Scioscia has accomplished plenty in his managerial run, now entering its 12th season (all with the Angels). For one thing, although not everyone is convinced a correlation exists, the Angels have outperformed their Pythagorean record for seven straight seasons.
Bullpen management is unquestionably Girardi's greatest strength, and that's quite important. He largely sticks to his principles of usage, and it's no coincidence that his relievers have, for the most part, stayed healthy.
The "room for improvement" area would clearly be dealing with people. He has to take a hit for the Jorge Posada meltdown; was hitting him ninth, as opposed to seventh or eighth, really so crucial? And we'll see how he deals with the declining Derek Jeter moving forward.
Again, though: If we were to rank all 30 managers, Girardi would easily place in the top half, and perhaps even the top 10.
The non-placing catchers-turned-managers on this list: Atlanta's Fredi Gonzalez, Oakland's Bob Geren, Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, Seattle's Eric Wedge and Kansas City's Ned Yost.
--Have a great day.