MLB

Five MLB managers on the hot seat early in 2017

Apr 6, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Kansas City Royals manager Ned Yost walks back to the dugout in the sixth inning against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. The Twins beat the Royals 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s barely the third week of regular season play of 2017 so take some of these discussions with a grain of salt.

Disregarding the small sample size introduced to us so far, there are still some concerns surfacing for teams around the MLB world.

From a team that should easily dominate its way into postseason play once again to a team that simply can’t hit, the skippers representing each roster should be a tad bit nervous.

Here are five managers that are already on the hot seat.

John Gibbons, Toronto Blue Jays

Apr 1, 2017; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays manager John Gibbons gives a press conference before the game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Of all the strange starts for the teams spending time in the loss column, this might be the most strange.

The Toronto Blue Jays lost their power-packed slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the Cleveland Indians during the offseason. And as much as the gain of Kendrys Morales may have seemed beneficial, the loss of EE was rough.

The three-time All-Star spent eight seasons with the Blue Jays and finished with a .268/.355/.562 line. His numbers were said to regress once he landed on the Indians. He, of course, spent most of his career playing at a hitter’s park in Toronto and you have to add the fact that he’s over 30, a number that is considered “old” in professional athlete years. However, the message surrounding the addition remains a positive one.

Manager John Gibbons recently spoke to the Times Colonist and said he is expecting a lot of productivity from Morales.

“I think he’s going to have a monster year for us, I really do,” Gibbons said. “You look back at the beginning of the season, shoot he was barrelling just about everything. He had a lot of tough luck. He can have a lot more (hits) than he’s got right now.”

Third baseman Josh Donaldson has a recurring injury on his calf. Lately, he has mentioned he hasn’t had any type of issues this week, but this nagging injury continues to surface. Since being acquired by the Jays from the Oakland A’s in 2015, he was named American League MVP in 2015 and holds a .291/.388/.559 line with 80 home runs.

When it comes to Gibbons, the team believes in him. That was proven with the contract extension he just signed at the beginning of April that will have him as the skipper through 2019 with an option in 2020.

Toronto is currently last in the American League East, which is a far cry from its standing among the best in the league last season. It’s still early, but one win through nine games sticks out like a sore thumb.

Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners

We wrote about the overreactions that took place surrounding the Seattle Mariners. The spotlight was around the offensive abilities or lack thereof.

This has a lot to do with the addition of strong bats during the offseason. They acquired Danny Valencia, Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger to give the team a few boosts in the batter’s box. The team already had the lumber support of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. So when it came to the offensive game, there wasn’t much they were lacking.

They’ve had a rough schedule thus fa,  facing the Rockies, Astros and Angels while winning just two games. They’re coming up on a series against the Texas Rangers who have also been struggling to add some numbers to the winning column so perhaps after that, we can have a better determination of whether 13 offseason acquisitions were really worth it.

Manager Scott Servais continues to tell the media there are “hints” of hope when it comes to the offense.

“It’s a mistake here and it’s mistake there and it’s a bad at-bat at the wrong time,” Servais said to Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times. “We just aren’t in a good spot right now, unfortunately.”

The team is also lacking abilities to get on base with just four of their qualified starters hosting an on-base percentage of over .300.

The American League West has a reputation for not being one of the toughest, but this season could be one that will prove that wrong. The Mariners need to figure something out. The hits are there, but the losses are as well.

Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals

If you were like most, you may have had a lot of hope for the Royals this time around. But it seems as time passes, the team who won the World Series in 2015 is nothing but a distant memory.

The pitching struggles are what continuously stand out at the moment for the team.

The A’s have defeated the Royals eight times in a row according to Fox Sports and the team held a 19-scoreless inning streak prior to their game Wednesday. While we know the two teams have never really gotten along, that was pretty much the cherry on top of a Sundae that continues to melt.

To add to the struggles on the mound, the Royals’ second-best relief pitcher, Matt Strahm, is now spending time with the Triple-A affiliate, Omaha Stormchasers. The 25-year-old faced 14 batters in a major league uniform and gave up seven runs, walking six.

“We built that bullpen around Strahm being part of it,” Manager Ned Yost said to Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star in an interview. “Along with (Kelvin) Herrera and (Joakim) Soria. He was a big, big piece of it.”

Strahm’s struggles have been pointed to many issues from the physical side to the mental side. His fastball remains a good pitch, it seems the secondary pitches are what’s in question.

Overall, at 3-6 on the season, Kansas City is still waiting to become the team that it was supposed to be heading into the season. Yost himself wants to mute of criticism should these struggles continue. He’s currently in his last contract year with the Royals.

Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves

Mar 12, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker (43) prior to their spring training game against the New York Yankees at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves are not a bad team by any means. On paper, they have strong talent, but they just can’t seem to win games.

After acquiring talented youngster Dansby Swanson prior to last season, the expectation was that Atlanta had built a strong young team. He fulfilled said promise by slashing at .302/.361/.442 during his six weeks in the Majors last season. But the youngster is struggling through the early part of the 2017 season.

He’s getting this slider thrown to him 29.6 percent of the time and his runs above average when it comes to this pitch is in the negatives. He has just a .167 batting average at the moment. And since he was a strong addition to the team, that’s a teeny-tiny bit of a red flag. This, of course, is being said in the third week of play when the Diamondbacks and Twins are sitting atop Major League Baseball.

Slugger Matt Kemp is also on the disabled list with a sore hamstring. He and teammate Freddie Freeman continued to be strong last season. The team wasn’t on their way to the playoffs, but they were making it difficult for others in the game to make any traction.

The workhorse in outfielder Ender Inciarte was also a great addition in the Swanson trade from the Diamondbacks in 2016. However, in 38 plate appearances so far he has just seven hits.

The league wasn’t expecting much out of the Braves who went 68-93 last year, but it has to be frustrating for the organization to see a lack of progress.

“My goal is to win the National League East and I hope the players feel the same way,” Manager Brian Snitker said to the Gwinnett Daily Post recently. “You can’t worry about any pressure. It’s always there to succeed. I’m just going to enjoy this chance for what it is and have a good time with it.”

This could surely lead to some questions about Snitker’s job status should Atlanta continue to struggle as the season progresses. It’s most definitely something to keep an eye on.

Pete Mackanin, Philadelphia Phillies

Another team that is not off to a great start is the Philadelphia Phillies.

There are some base-running issues as well as pitching concerns and for manager Pete Mackanin, who is signed through just this season. That lack of commitment to him has to be a bad sign.

Clay Buchholz has a partial tear of the right flexor pronator mass which could end his season. But before that, the two-time All-Star had a 12.27 ERA and a league-leading 14 hits off of him in 40 batters faced.

Mackanin was recently ejected from a game when pitcher Edubray Ramos sent a fastball towards Asdrubal Cabrera’s head. The manager later explained to the media that “wasn’t how he played.”

“If he did, in fact do that intentionally for whatever reason, we don’t play that way,” he said to a CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. “I don’t play that way. It’s inappropriate, especially in a tie game in the eighth inning.”

Ramos later talked to Mackanin and explained it was not on purpose and he ultimately believed his pitcher. But you can sense the tensions are high on the team for him to become that emotional towards one of his own.

It’s been a struggle so far for the team. They have struggled to defeat the Mets and putting away hitters that have two strikes on them. According to Stephen Gross of the Morning Call, it’s a redundant problem.

“The nine homers surrendered with two strikes, including one by Velasquez on Wednesday night, leads the league. Heading into Wednesday no other team in baseball had allowed six. It was an area of concern last year as well when the 77 dingers they allowed with two strikes tied for the league lead.”

Based on what we’ve seen thus far for the 3-6 Phillies, Mackanin could very well be in the unemployment line soon if the team doesn’t make some drastic changes.

About the author

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica Kleinschmidt

Jessica is a sports writer with an obsession for baseball. You can catch her in the stands or in the media booth. She's the one with the big hair. In addition to Sportsnaut, Jessica has been featured on Bleacher Report, Fox Sports, and MLB Nation.