Second guessing is human nature. I know it, you know it, J. Cole knows it. It's with this is mind that we bring you three managers on the hot seat ... before the season starts. This might not quite constitute second guessing, but given that two of them received contract extensions this offseason and the third is in the middle of a 10-year (!) extension, it seems well within reason.
It's obviously early on in the year and a positive end result will likely save any and all of these managers' jobs, but with so much upheaval in the offseason, these men represent the managers with some of the least job security and most pressure to succeed.
Ned Yost - Royals
Perhaps the most obvious candidate to get the ax, Yost has managed the Royals since 2010, compiling a 284-329 record in the process, resulting in a .463 winning percentage. He did finish seventh in Manager of the Year in 2013 after the Royals recorded their first winning season since 2003, which should provide as much breathing room as a turtleneck.
While the winning season is nice, the Royals went all in on the 2013-14 window when they acquired James Shields, apparently subscribing to Mike McDermott's theory that "you can't lose what you don't put into the middle ... but you can't win either." While their system wasn't emptied in that trade, the shelves were relatively bare and an emphasis was placed on the years in which Shields would be under team control. If the Royals can't make the playoffs in 2014, it could be the end of the line for Yost, who has come under fire for some questionable in-game managerial decisions.
Yost made a habit of starting low on-base percentage guys atop the Royals lineup. He did opt for a lineup heavily influenced by the Royals statistical analysts for a brief stretch starting on June 5, but he ultimately abandoned it around June 25. While the changes to the lineup were not severe -- it mainly dropped a struggling Alcides Escobar from the two-hole to the bottom of the order, and bumped everyone else up a spot -- they did produce a six-game winning streak, as well as winning 10 of 11 and 13 of 17 before the technique was abandoned.
Considering that the game was within six games of a playoff spot, Yost's tendency to botch in-game decisions could cost him his job if the Royals find themselves on the outside looking in yet again in 2014.
Mike Scioscia - Angels
A two-time manager of the year award winner, Mike Scioscia is as much of an institution in Los Angeles of Anaheim as anyone or anything. Aside from his two wins, he's been voted in the top six for manager of the year seven times on his way to compiling a careering 1233-1035 record over his 14 seasons manning the helm for the Angels.
The Angels have only posted two losing seasons in the last decade and yet the natives are restless. A year after missing the playoffs despite the acquisitions of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels fell under the 80-win mark despite doubling down on the free-agent strategy by signing Josh Hamilton in the offseason. This season has been relatively quiet for the Angels, as they are hoping that Pujols' return to health means a return to form as well.
While GM Jerry Dipoto did bolster the starting rotation by trading for Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs, Scioscia still may have been dealt a losing hand. The rotation is weak and lacks depth, the lineup is heavily investing in aging sluggers with health issues and Scioscia's constant tinkering with lineups and bullpen usage only serves as fodder for a frustrated fanbase when the Angels are losing.
It's possible that this spells the end for Dipoto rather than Scioscia, but the gathering unrest in Anaheim seems to be directed more at the manager than the GM, and owner Arte Moreno isn't one to ignore what will play well with the fan base when making decisions. If the Angels can't rebound, Scioscia could be looking for a job by season's end.
Kirk Gibson - Diamondbacks
Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers have maneuvered themselves onto the hot seat in Arizona. They've placed themselves in this position by aggressively reshaping the Diamondbacks in the image of their manager. While the composition of the team is generally the GM's domain in terms of responsibility, it's hard to untangle the two; Gibson seems to have a lot of sway in the players being acquired. They've jettisoned high pedigreed players, opting instead the gritty, nose-to-the-grindstone type player that Gibson prefers.
This doesn't mean they haven't acquired talent of course, as they've certainly done so. The issue instead, seems to be the way they devalued the talent on-board before trading said talent away. Towers and Gibson might well have been right in shipping out Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer when they did, but they also sabotaged their value beforehand by bringing up character concerns, and ended up selling them for cents on the dollar. Didi Gregorius, Martin Prado and the others acquired in those deals are solid players, but Upton was only recently an MVP candidate and Bauer was the third overall pick in his draft. Generally, those types of players return more than solid players.
It's not just team composition, though, as Gibson has stalled out since his 94-68 record in his first full season in 2011. He's taken a team with high expectations (at least for itself) and turned in 81-81 records in back-to-back seasons. While you can't assign complete responsibility of a team's performance to a manager, it's more tempting to do so in the desert because of how adamant Gibson has been about the type of players he desires. With this offseason's double (triple?) down on the same theory, acquiring Mark Trumbo and shipping out Adam Eaton (who was maybe too gritty), another middle-of-the-road finish could be the end of the line for Gibson.