In the last year, baseball has lost several of its most mockable managerial minds: Dusty "I [Heart] Veterans" Baker, Mike "Stallin', Not Ballin'" Hargrove, Jerry "Snuh?" Narron. And so it is with a heavy heart that we present our annual ranking of fellas who shouldn't be permitted to manage the night shift at a day care center, much less a heavily scrutinized collection of 13-times-over millionaires. R.I.P., Dustbag.
10. Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins (last year's ranking: 2): His boosters tend to confuse "stability" with "ability"—a reasonable error, given the extra two consonants and all. Gardenhire lacks lineup logic and, whether or not he's following orders from upstairs, refuses to play younger players until they've completed a season-long apprenticeship on the bench. The Twins' success should be attributed to their impressive player-development carousel, not Gardenhire's gosh-gee-almighty leadership.
9. Lou Piniella, Chicago Cubs (last year: out to pasture): Sure, the Cubbies are winning, but they seem to be doing so in spite of Piniella's too-frequent player moves (the Felix Pie/Angel Pagan/Jacque Jones center field shuffle, the mix-and-match approach to both middle-infield positions) and you-all-suck rants. His volcanic temper now inspires giggles rather than awe—"hey, look at that crazy old screw trying to punt third base into the bleachers!," etc. Sweet Lou belongs on a nice enclosed porch with a bottomless pitcher of lemonade.
8. Bob Melvin, Arizona Diamondbacks (last year: 5): Shouldn't these young prospects be developing just a bit faster than they are? You'd think so, given that the sexy stat heads have made the D'backs the sexy pick for the sexy NL pennant. Melvin just… We don't know what he does, actually. This may be part of the problem.
7. Ken Macha, Oakland Athletics (last year: unranked): Listed here less due to overt signs of incompetence than due to the manager's limited role within the A's organizational framework. Unlike other skippers, the guy behind the wheel in Oakland is subject to civil and criminal penalties if he bunts, steals, hits and runs, changes the batting order, visits the pitcher on the mound, departs from a set bull pen usage pattern, fills out the lineup card in blue rather than black ink, or otherwise improvises from the Moneyball script. Macha, in fact, could probably disappear for a week without anybody noticing.
6. Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (last year: unranked): Everybody loves ol' Joe, and nobody questions that he walked into a situation only slightly less calamitously awful than the Middle East. But jeez, the D-Rays seem actually to have become more anarchic under his watch. B.J. Upton may finally be realizing his potential, but he and his fellow 2009 supadupastars fail to hit the cutoff man, run out ground balls, or tuck in their shirts. There's less organizational order here than in most communes, and the only place to point the finger for that is at the manager.
5. Ron Washington, Texas Rangers (last year: off the radar): One of the 184 people in the Rangers organization who might charitably be described as "overmatched," a list that also includes GM Jon Daniels, owner Tom Hicks, and the entire starting pitching staff. Washington is a worthy addition to your cocktail party's guest list, owing to his friendliness and the sheer force of his personality, but he doesn't have any idea how to construct a functional batting order.
4. Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox (last year: hero of the universe): A great guy to have around when things are going rosy, owing to his bluster and straight-talkin' swagger. When they aren't? Not so much. Ozzie just can't help himself: If he sees a fielder dogging it or a pitcher backing away from a challenge, he is incapable of keeping it in the clubhouse; he simply must rip the guy a new orifice or three in the most public manner possible. The goodwill from the 2005 title will run out within a few months, and all the Chisox will have left is a bunch of old guys and a bigmouth skipper who seemingly goes out of his way to traumatize the young ones.
3. Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies (last year: unranked): Upon suggesting to Philadelphia fans that maybe, just maybe, the coma-calm Manuel might not be the one responsible for dooming the Phils to almost-ran status, we had to seek federal protection. The worst thing about the entire ordeal? They were right. Manuel is impossibly slow to yank a pitcher who's off his game and equally unwilling—or unable—to light a fire under a struggling slugger's behind. He's the managerial equivalent of a frozen computer.
2. Buddy Bell, Kansas City Royals (last year: 4): Even if the Royals have showed a little fire in recent weeks, he's only here to babysit until someone smarter and less set in his ways becomes available. He has likely heard this directly from management. Poor Buddy Bell. Poor, poor nice-guy Buddy Bell. We want to give him a hug and a bowl of warm soup.
1. Phil Garner, Houston Astros (last year: unranked): Where to begin? With his insistence on keeping Craig Biggio and his .288 on-base percentage in the leadoff slot, thus forcing still-promising young'un Chris Burke to an unfamiliar position and then the bench? With his curious decision to yank Brad Lidge from the closer role after a single blown save, then his stubborn refusal to reinstate him until he completed a series of agility and cognitive drills? Garner, for all his lauded scrappiness, seems incapable of admitting that he is wrong about anything—his bull pen pecking order, the way he lines up his starters, you name it. As a result, the 'Stros keep losing games for the same reasons, night in and night out. This must be inordinately frustrating for Houston fans to watch.