By Mike Ricchione
We have just completed the first half of the 2018 MLB season.
Now we have enough games under the belt of most new managers to give another grade as we head into an important part of the season, the second half which includes the trade deadline and getting into the sweltering heat of the pennant races.
Without further ado, the first half grades are out. Let’s start with the top of the class.
1. Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox – A+
There are several ways I can start my analysis.
A compare and contrast to fellow new manager, Mets’ skipper Mickey Callaway who unlike him has been able to keep his team hot after a 12-2 start, heading into the break at 68-30.
I could also compare and contrast to 2012 Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen who entered the job with a lot of talent on their roster.
Guillen had the 2011 NL batting champion Jose Reyes, Hanley Ramirez, Mark Buehrle and a Michael Stanton who is more known as Giancarlo Stanton.
Cora in 2018 has All-Stars Mookie Betts, JD Martinez, Chris Sale, Craig Kimbrel and Mitch Moreland.
It takes a good manager to get the best out of his players and build chemistry among them and that is exactly what Alex Cora is doing in his first year as Red Sox manager.
Not only that but him along with Aaron Boone has made Yankees-Red Sox exciting again.
We’ll see if he will come out on top as they are in a dogfight with the New York Yankees for the AL East Crown.
2. Gabe Kapler – Philadelphia Phillies – A
The Phillies are up there amongst the A’s as the most surprising teams in baseball in a good way.
What makes them more interesting however is that they are leading the NL East by a half-game over another surprising team in Atlanta.
Ever since the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, the Flyers and 76ers each made the playoffs. Gabe Kapler, heading into the second half looks to make sure this ripple effect doesn’t miss the Phillies as they haven’t made it into the postseason in 2011.
I’ve always talked about that opening series against Atlanta but ever since that, Kapler has brought this team back to relevance.
3. Aaron Boone – New York Yankees – A-
You can draw this same comparison from Alex Cora who manages the enemy Red Sox in that he inherited a lot of talent.
Boone came into the job with All-Stars Aaron Judge, Luis Severino, Aroldis Chapman and rookie phenom Gleyber Torres.
Boone has led the Yankees to one of the best records in the majors at 62-33. There’s only one problem however, the Red Sox are just slightly better at 68-30.
Surely, he’s destined to have a long tenure with the club and will most likely add to that monster pile of World Championships the Yankees already have.
4. Jim Riggleman – Cincinnati Reds – B
After the Reds started with Bryan Price and led them to a 4-18 start, Jim Riggleman has taken over and led them to just 10 games under .500.
Another plus, he’s surprisingly sent three All-Stars in first baseman Joey Votto, third baseman Eugenio Suarez and second baseman Scooter Gennett.
One more plus, he might just have played a hand in resurging the career of right-hander Matt Harvey who’s been going downhill since his 2015 season and now he could very well be going to a contending team.
Votto at his All-Star press conference has given Riggleman a vote of confidence telling the Dayton Daily News, “He challenges us. I think he brings a good energy to us during the game, after the game.”
Heading into the second half, they only sit 4.5 behind the fourth-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
Therefore here’s a challenge I’ll give Riggleman, if he leads the Reds out of the cellar this year, I’ll give him at least an A.
5. Ron Gardenhire – Detroit Tigers – B-
Yes the Tigers are slipping, yes the Tigers are now in third place.
I’m not going to punish Gardenhire too hard. He’s not like Cora or Boone who inherited a wealth of talent at the major league, he’s doing the best he can with a roster that was expected to do absolutely nothing special.
And yes, the Tigers are doing absolutely nothing special but when things start looking up in Detroit, I believe the Tigers have found their guy.
5. Dave Martinez – Washington Nationals – C+
Dave Martinez hasn’t been living up to expectations of the Washington Nationals.
Props to him that he has them up to .500 but we all thought the Nats would be blowing the NL East out of the water at this point.
Sitting at 5.5 games back in the East and 5.0 games back of the Wild Card, there is still plenty of time for Dave Martinez to impress as Washington’s Manager but it’s going to be a tough task indeed as they find themselves behind Philadelphia and Atlanta.
This second half is make or break for Martinez. If he misses the playoffs, he might not be back for a second season.
6. Mickey Callaway – New York Mets – F
The fastest team to go from 10 games over .500 to 15 games under .500.
He did that in June. The next fastest team to do that was the Cleveland Indians in the 80’s and they finished that slip in August.
Not to mention, they haven’t won a series since they swept the Arizona Diamondbacks at home in mid-May.
Being a Mets fan, I might be a little harsh because I love this team so much and to already be watching this horrible product they call a Major League team three seasons removed from their World Series appearance is just … I have no words.
They might even finish behind the Marlins this year which would be just sad.
The Mets failed on this one.
7. Mike Schildt – St. Louis Cardinals – Well … he’s 1-0!
And that’s pretty much all I have to say.
Mike Schildt was named the interim manager after they fired Mike Matheny on July 14 with a lackluster record of 47-46.
Now at 48-46, Schildt tries to steer the Cardinals in a playoff position in the second half.
His next task, the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs for a five-game series.
Mike Ricchione is an aspiring sports media personality. In addition to writing for this site, he has an MLB talk show on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 – 6 p.m. ET on 107.7 The Bronc. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeRicchione