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Thanks so much! And now on to the one post people wait for me to write every year for some damn reason: Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers.
It all began with Brad Ausmus
I took that photo at the 2013 Winter Meetings, not long after he was named the new manager of the Detroit Tigers. I also took it not long after my then-girlfriend, now-wife Allison, who had joined me in Orlando for the Winter Meetings that year, gave Ausmus a good looking-over as he made his way past us in the lobby of the Dolphin Hotel. A more than good looking-over, actually. It was almost uncomfortable.
Before then it hadn’t really occurred that managers could be handsome. Some were, of course, but I had never given the matter much thought. They’re managers. Even the good looking ones channel grumpy grandpa energy and there’s nothing cute about that. I hadn’t considered their handsomeness any more than you might consider your Aunt Tilly’s nunchaku skills. But during the 2013 Winter Meetings I did. And that year I did my first-ever ranking of Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers.
It drove my bosses at NBC a little crazy. They weren’t mad. Just disappointed. But it generated heat. It got me on TV doing fist-bumps with Harold Reynolds. It was at least tangentially-related to sending Bruce Bochy to the hospital one time. It probably created the lead-in of my professional obituary should I rate one when I die. “Craig Calcaterra, who gained very minor niche notoriety by physically objectifying a group of men between the ages of 40 and 80 for reasons no one could ever fully understand, died today in a plumbing accident at the age of 105.” For whatever it’s worth, this is my brand. Even if it’s silly.
As any good marketer knows, however, having a silly brand is better than having no brand at all so, seven years and one lost job later, I once again set out to rank Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers.
The past winners:
When I know for sure that Brad Ausmus is done managing and won’t come back in, Tony La Russa-post-Hall-of-Fame-induction-style to mess with his legacy, I’ll probably rename this the Brad Ausmus award. For how, though, we’ll just go with Baseball’s Most Handsome Managers.
The usual disclaimers:
No baseball manager is ugly. All of them have inner beauty, I’m sure. More to the point, reporters have taken to asking managers near the bottom of these rankings how it feels to be called “ugly.” Please don’t do that, members of the working press. I am not ranking ugliness. I am ranking handsomeness.
This is a subjective list, obviously. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I will privately judge you for thinking unattractive managers are handsome, but that reflects poorly on me, not you. Let no one besides you dictate your feelings.
Finally — and this disclaimer was originally written when a lot of jackwagons commented on my work at NBC, so it’s probably not as necessary now, but I’ll offer it all the same — this is merely a list of aesthetic handsomeness, not one of love or longing. I hate that even in 2020 I feel as though I have to say it, but I will say that I am a totally straight man making these judgments. If you find something wrong or amiss with that, I feel sorry for you. There is far too much beauty among people in the world for us to fail to acknowledge 50% of it merely because we’re worried about appearing less than traditionally masculine or feminine. Free your mind, your ass will follow.
1. Rocco Baldelli, Twins
Baldelli is the first repeat winner since Ausmus’ initial reign. Why is he a repeat winner? A few reasons:
He didn’t get any less handsome in the past 12 months. He still has those eyes and bald continues to be beautiful;
Masks matter. I know masks are not a part of a manager’s body, but it’s part of the package that’s impossible to ignore in the pandemic age. I went through scores of 2020 photos for each manager and almost every single one could be found either not wearing masks during games or, more often, wearing them below the nose in an ineffective manner. Baldelli may have slipped here and there but I could not find a photo in which he was not fully masked;
Last year a commenter at NBC told me that, in high school, Baldelli was better at volleyball than he was at baseball. The commenter also said that Baldelli spiked a volleyball into his face in a match in 1999. That comment simply made me imagine Baldelli taking over the Val Kilmer role in the big “Top Gun” volleyball scene and, you know what, I think he could pull it off; finally
Last year, after I ranked him first, I learned that his good friend, Pirates manager Derek Shelton, mercilessly mocked him for it every single chance he could. Like, when the Twins played Pittsburgh, he had his handsome ranking announced on the PA system and put on the scoreboard. Shelton has a tough job in Pittsburgh so I want him to find happiness wherever he can get it. If Rocco being the back-to-back handsomeness champ makes Shelton smile, dammit, Rocco is going to be the back-to-back handsomeness champ.
2. Mike Matheny, Royals
The first manager I compared Baldelli on the mask/no mask thing with was Matheny, and I think he has it below his nose in like 80% of the photos I could find.
That doesn’t make him any less handsome, of course. He’s still a hunk-a-hunk-a burnin’ manager. But beating out the top dog requires a flawless handsome game, and this was enough of a flaw in my mind to kill it.
3. Luis Rojas, Mets
Because of the sign-stealing scandal I did not get a chance to rank the 2020 Mets manager last year. I ranked Carlos Beltrán instead. Just a signpost that this was going to be a trash fire of a year, I suppose.
Anyway, a lot of people thought I underrated Mickey Calloway when he had the job. Beltrán was at six last year. Rojas is better-looking than Beltrán is. Plus, Rojas works for a new owner who, from the looks of it in the early going, is going to give him a much greater reason to smile than the Wilpons did, and who doesn’t like a winning smile?
4. Gabe Kapler, Giants
For as long as Kapler has been on this list he has been a bit of a divisive figure. Some are really into the rockin’ bod. Others are kind of put off by the chiseled features and prefer something a bit more, I dunno, approachable. Still, as long as he’s a big league skipper, it’s pretty hard to imagine him not being in the top-5.
5. Kevin Cash, Rays
The only real knock I have on Cash is that he has fully embraced the whole sloppy-hoodie thing and rarely is seen rocking the proper uniform. When you’re good looking like Cash is you sell yourself short by swimming in a sweatshirt or a manager smock.
6. Dusty Baker, Astros
Baker has aged like fine wine. And he’s probably the most chill and calm manager in baseball. There used to be a handful of guys like that in the game, back when managers had the final say about what happens with their team. Now, in the age where managers merely carry out the orders of the front office, so many of them seem uptight all the damn time and that’s not sexy.
Dusty straddles both generations but he has managed to keep his cool regardless. He’s so cool that he finds the mental space to drop wisdom a few times a week despite the fact that everyone wants to know about mundane things like bullpens and stuff. There’s nothing sexier than a person who is confident and comfortable in their own skin. If I was ranking that alone, we’d call these the Dusty Baker awards and disqualify him from competition because it’d otherwise be unfair to the other managers.
7. Craig Counsell, Brewers
People have been telling me I’ve been ranking him too high for years. Bah. I mean, how many managers rock the high socks? That should give him a five-spot bump alone. Of course, given that the criticism has mostly been couched in Counsell being “cute” rather than “handsome” I suppose saying that his socks are adorable is not helping my case.
8. Derek Shelton, Pirates
Shelton moves up two from last year based on how much damn fun he had mocking Baldelli.
9. David Bell, Reds
He was far too low in 2018, but I think I may have bumped him too high (#7) last year. I’ve been staring at the photo of him in the suit at the Shogo Akiyama introduction for ten minutes now and something about the way he’s wearing it doesn’t sit right with me. It has some “uncle Fred died and junior doesn’t have anything to wear for the funeral, so we’ll put him in one of dad’s suits” energy.
10. Torey Lovullo, Diamondbacks
Like Baldelli, almost every photo you find of Lovullo has him wearing his mask properly. Last year I complimented him for his big smile, but it’s actually a good thing in this day and age that I can’t see it. He has a good head on those broad shoulders. Oh, and he wears high socks sometimes too.
11. Dave Roberts, Dodgers
Every World Series winner since I began doing these rankings has gotten a bump from the previous year and Roberts is no exception. Something about unrestrained glee wears well on a guy. And no, I won’t dock him mask points here given that he wasn’t even the worst offender on his team as the post-World Series celebration wore on.
12. Joe Girardi, Phillies
Points off for a lot of bad mask form, but points on for wearing the full uniform and looking good when he does.
13. David Ross, Cubs
Ross is a pretty good lookin’ guy for someone who gets called “grandpa” a lot. Still, he could do better in the style department. What are these shorts, David?
14. Bud Black, Rockies
When I was a kid half the teams in baseball had a bonafide Silver Fox at the helm. Now it’s basically just Bud Black (you can’t count Joe Maddon because he likes to act like he’s younger than he really is). Black owns his gray and his mature countenance, like any self-respecting man of a certain age should. If he showed up on some TCM movie tomorrow night, playing the part of an authority figure who didn’t truly understand what the bobbysoxers or the rock and rollers were all worked up about, but was willing to give them their space and let them live their lives, I’d only be mildly surprised.
15. Joe Maddon, Angels
Maddon is like Bowie or Madonna or someone who has different looks and, indeed, entirely different aesthetics almost every time you see him. Can’t say I’m a big fan of “19th Century Whig Presidential nominee” Joe Maddon, though:
16. Brandon Hyde, Orioles
Hyde, objectively, should be higher than this. He was a top-level college baseball player and spent some time in the minors. He’s three months younger than me which, while not super young, is still kinda young as far as managers go. Yet when you look at pictures of him standing next to Fredi Gonzalez and can’t tell which one is which at first glance, well, let’s just say it keeps you from putting him very high up in the rankings. That’s all I’m saying.
17. Aaron Boone, Yankees
Every year someone tells me I rank him too low. Good for him for having his defenders, but I’m not seeing it. And given that one of the first 2020 photos I found of him was him yelling in the face of someone with his mask around his chin, well, let’s just say I’m not eager to go searching for some reason to reassess my previous views on the guy.
18. Alex Cora, Red Sox; AJ. Hinch, Tigers (tied)
In literature — especially medieval literature — ugliness is associated with evil. With villains. With monsters. There is, more recently, a body of psychological research in which it has been discovered that people overwhelmingly — and without a rational basis — attribute positive characteristics to attractive people and negative character traits to unattractive people. It may be unfair but it is undeniable: physical appearance and beauty are pervasive and powerful agents in the social world, with such traits influencing our perceptions of others and, sadly, even ourselves.
Does it work backwards? Do we find that those who, in fact, do wrong, are less attractive than those who abide by the rules? Do we ascribe physical beauty and attractiveness to those who show themselves to be pure of heart and deed beyond that which is objectively warranted and perceive even the most physically ideal people to be aesthetically wanting when we know that they are less than virtuous?
I dunno. But for my part, I’ve had each of these guys way higher in years past and they didn’t get any less handsome, so you do the math.
20. Don Mattingly, Marlins
A couple of slots up for a surprise winning season in Miami and putting lie to the notion that people only go to Florida because they’ve given up. Grow that mustache back, though, Don, and we’re talking top-half of the rankings next year. Think about it.
21. Charlie Montoyo, Blue Jays
Ever since his debut at number 30 a couple of years ago he has continued to work his way up the chart. He got a big boost this past season due to context. A guy like Montoyo may only be a four in a cosmopolitan city like Toronto, but the Jays having to move for COVID purposes really helped him out. He’s a solid seven for Buffalo.
22. Bob Melvin, Athletics
There will always be dads managing in the big leagues. And, given how long he has been at the helm, there will apparently always be Bob Melvin. As I said last year, he’s getting better looking the older he gets. Some guys are like that.
23. Dave Martinez, Nationals
He’s more thoroughly adopted the Manager Smock than Kevin Cash has. If I was commissioner I’d revisit that crackdown on managers being out of uniform that Bud Selig proposed but never followed through on about ten years ago.
24. Chris Woodward, Rangers
Oh for Pete’s sake:
While I have taken mask savvy into account this year, it’s not the primary variable in these rankings. But jeez, Chris. You make it hard to ignore.
25. Mike Shildt, Cardinals
Calling all cars, calling all cars . . . be on the lookout for Mike Shildt’s butt, which was stolen in an early morning burglary or something.
That’s some “Calvin from ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ legs-grow-straight-out-his-damn-back” stuff right there. And I know of what I speak because . . . I’m built exactly the same way, sadly. So join me in the no-butt club, Mike. It’s not so bad apart from the “all jeans look terrible on us” stuff.
26. Scott Servais, Mariners
Would it shock anyone if it were to be revealed that Servais is Bob Melvin’s younger brother? I’m already pushing the limits of photo usage on this post, but do a little Googling and tell me that they’re not, basically, of the same genetic stock.
27. Jayce Tingler, Padres
Maybe he’s better looking than this but I don’t know that I’ll ever get over him siding with the opposing manager who called his own star out for allegedly playing the game the wrong way.
28. Terry Francona, Indians
Tito was mostly absent due to health problems last year so he didn’t get a chance to up his ranking with any suave derring-do. His fill-in, Sandy Alomar Jr., however, is pretty great looking. If he ever gets a full-time gig, he’ll be a top-ten right out of the gate.
29. Brian Snitker, Braves
Last year I ranked him last because he was, without question, the frowniest manager I’ve seen since Lou Piniella retired. This year, with the masks, his worst trait was covered up! Who says there aren’t such things as silver linings?
30. Tony La Russa, White Sox
La Russa may not be the least attractive guy in uniform. Time takes a toll and everything, but it’s not like he’s without his physical charms. But I’m putting him here for two reasons:
Default, because even if he’s alright by historical standards, the game has changed a great deal as far as managerial handsomeness goes since he was last managing; and
Because I feel like he, more than any guy on this list, would get all pissy about it if someone asked him how it felt to be ranked at the bottom of this list.
Most guys who have been at or near the bottom in the past — Bochy, Hurdle, Gardenhire, Montoyo — have been great sports about it. Each of them were asked by the press about their ranking on occasion and each of them found it rather funny. Hurdle once said something to the effect of him being happy to be last because he didn’t want to be known as just a pretty face. Brad Ausmus, in contrast, was asked about his being the #1 guy once and I was told that he was kind of testy about it.
I feel like La Russa may break that pattern. I think he’d get defensive about being ranked last. So I’m doing this for science. To see if he takes the time to explain that I ranked handsomeness the wrong way or something. Worth a shot.
And there’s a few hours I’ll never get back. Thanks for reading, everyone!