Managers burdened by big expectations in '08

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Managers burdened by big expectations in '08

Post  RedMagma on Fri Dec 28, 2007 12:32 pm

Managers burdened by big expectations in '08
Updated: December 28, 2007, 1:38 PM EST

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - For the better part of five years, Clint Hurdle was looking up at .500, surviving as manager of the Colorado Rockies because of an ownership commitment to patience and player development.

A year ahead of schedule, the Rockies won their first NL pennant ever in 2007.

Joe Girardi (Yankees), Clint Hurdle (Rockies) and Joe Torre (Dodgers) will all have demanding jobs in 2008. ( / Getty Images)

And now come expectations for a franchise that had enjoyed only one winning season in the nine previous years. That's because the Rockies not only won 14 of their final 15 regular-season games to claim the NL wildcard, but also swept Philadelphia and Arizona in the first two rounds of the postseason.

And now comes a pressure on Hurdle that didn't exist before. Now comes the feeling he has a team ready to win, and stumbles along the way will force a new accountability for Hurdle in dealing with failures.

Hurdle, however, isn't alone among managers who will be under scrutiny in 2008.

# Joe Torre moves to the Dodgers, and a whole new challenge. Don't forget, before being hired by the Yankees, Torre was just another managerial failure turned broadcaster, having been fired by the Mets, Cardinals and Braves. With the Yankees, his self-confidence allowed him to ignore the New York flap, avoid starting a public battle with owner George Steinbrenner and enjoy a success that has now earned him the description of future Hall of Fame inductee.

He faces a role reversal with the Dodgers, where the influence of the Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams types that kept the Yankees focused is missing. The Dodgers are the modern-day Boston Red Sox of three decades ago, a fractured clubhouse where the young and old players are constantly bickering. The Dodgers need a take-charge manager, which isn't Torre's style.

# Joe Girardi replaces Torre with the Yankees, and has the opposite challenge. Girardi had a one-year managerial apprenticeship in Florida, where he was at odds with the bulk of club officials virtually the day he took the job because of his controlling personality. He not only took his complaints public, but verbally dressed down owner Jeffrey Loria in front of the players from the dugout during a game, apparently unaware that Loria was his only backer in the organization.

Now he moves to the Bronx, where the players understand the game and don't need micromanaging, the owner and his sons don't stomach employees sassing them and Girardi's thin skin will have to toughen or be pierced by the media and fans.

# Lou Piniella gets a second year with the Cubs, who went to the postseason last year but were swept by Arizona in the first round. Cubs fans want more and want it yesterday. They aren't impressed with modest success. Ask Piniella's two predecessors, Don Baylor and Dusty Baker. They made postseason appearances early in their stints, but the honeymoon was short-lived.

# Ned Yost came under pressure during Milwaukee's second-half fold in 2007. The Brewers need to rebound early in 2008 or the questions about Yost's status will become a daily topic in the Brew City.

# Tony La Russa finally decided to return in St. Louis. But long-time associate Walt Jocketty isn't the GM anymore and, so far at least, third baseman and antagonist Scott Rolen remains. Never fully appreciated by Cardinals fans, La Russa is now walking on the tightrope without a net.

# Willie Randolph was blamed by Mets fans and media for the team's collapse a year ago. Well, little has been done to improve the roster, particularly the rotation, so there's little reason to expect the Mets to reach the levels their fans expect, which gives little hope for Randolph's survival.

# Charlie Manuel took Philadelphia to the postseason, but the Phillies were swept by Colorado. Now fans want a World Series experience, and the country-smart Manuel is expected to produce or else.

# Ozzie Guillen of the White Sox got an extension last year, and owner Jerry Reinsdorf is among the most loyal in the game. Guillen, however, is just one slip of the tongue away from putting White Sox management into a no-choice situation.

# John Gibbons has survived in Toronto, but he is in the final year of his contract. Barring some kind of a miracle, Gibbons figures to be the scapegoat for GM J.P. Ricciardi this time around.


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