No one who knows Joe Torre could've been surprised by the announcement that he's coming back for another year with the Dodgers. Retirement? Not yet, not from a future Hall of Famer who has no incentive to fade away into the California sunset.
Torre has a good working relationship with GM Ned Colletti, has taken the Dodgers to the postseason twice in his first two seasons, and he's proving there's life after his falling out with the Yankees in 2007. Torre is more popular today on the West Coast than he was in New York -- and that's saying something.
Not only is Torre a celebrity, he's about to gain entry in a small fraternity of managers who kept working into their 70s. On July 18, the 69-year-old Torre joins the likes of Frank Robinson, Jack McKeon, Felipe Alou and Casey Stengel. They were all billboards of eighth-decade energy, although it's say to no one's getting close to Connie Mack, who set the record by managing the 1950 Philadelphia A's at the age of 87.
Torre is the oldest manager in the big leagues today, but there are seven other managers right behind him in their 60s: Bobby Cox (68), Lou Piniella (66), Charlie Manuel (66), Jim Leyland (65), Tony LaRussa (65) and Cito Gaston (65). Dusty Baker turned 60 last June.
They say baseball has become a young man's game. That theory will be put to the test among this group; only two of them, Leyland and Manuel, have contracts beyond this year. Torre doesn't have an extension yet, but its completion is just a formality.
Here's a look at the most senior members of the managerial fraternity, as well as the odds of extending their careers.
Cox: He won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005, including one World Series, but the Braves' drought in the last four seasons has forced Cox to finally admit, "maybe it's time to let someone else have a chance."
Bench coach Terry Pendleton is the heavy favorite to replace Cox should the Braves fill the position in-house. Cox will move into an advisory role, a move that was talked about two years ago. The Braves are trying to give Cox a memorable send-off, getting to the playoffs in his final year, but even a wildly successful 2010 isn't going to change his mind.
Chances of returning in 2011: Virtually none.
Lou Piniella: Sweet Lou has told friends this is his last go-round in the big leagues; after 23 years of managing there won't be another gig anywhere else. The Cubs have won the Central Division twice in Piniella's three-year tenure, but he's nevertheless failed to end the 102-year World Series drought at Wrigley.
It doesn't help that Piniella's standing with the Cubs' new owners is akin to a blank page. Tom Ricketts and family have no relationship and no particular loyalty to Piniella or GM Jim Hendry. The Central Division is wide open, as usual, so anything's possible come September. But another non-descript year from the Cubs could end Piniella's career in the dugout.
Changes of returning in 2011: Fair.
Charlie Manuel: He's signed up through 2011, meaning the Phillies would have to suffer an unimaginable collapse, followed by a public mutiny, for Manuel to lose his job. That's never going to happen.
The Phillies have been to the World Series in the last two years, in part because the players think so highly of their manager. Manuel is honest and unpretentious. But the clubhouse is policed by veterans like Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and now the Phillies have Roy Halladay, a modern day John Wayne.
This group will act as Manuel's enforcers and keep the Phillies as tough and focused as ever.
Jim Leyland: The Tigers didn't help Leyland's legacy by blowing a seven-game lead after Sept. 6. Nevertheless, he's still the only manager to take the Tigers to the playoffs in the last 22 years (earning Manager of the Year honors in the process in 2006). Now the Tigers are hoping the addition of Johnny Damon will change the late September chemistry in 2010.
Like Manuel, the fact that Leyland has a contract through 2011 means he's relatively safe. His players are loyal to him and he has the backing of GM Dave Dombrowski. The AL Central is so homogenized, Leyland's Tigers figure to be in contention throughout the season.
Chances of returning in 2011: Very good.
Tony La Russa: The resume seems to go on forever: six division titles, two NL pennants and one World Series in 13 season. Yet, despite 2,461 career wins, third on the all-time list behind Mack and John McGraw, La Russa is at a crossroads in his career.
He has no job security beyond 2010, and there's no imminent vote of confidence from owner Bill DeWitt. La Russa could very well leave, although many find it hard to believe management would sever its ties with the most successful manager in Cardinals history.
La Russa is smart, opinionated, and short-tempered -- all the necessary ingredients for a personality clash with DeWitt, who fired GM Walt Jocketty two years ago simply because the two couldn't get along.
Chances of returning in 2011: Fair
Cito Gaston: The clock started ticking on Gaston in the second half of the 2009 season, when his Blue Jays went 31-41. That all but wiped out the good will from a 51-37 finish in '08, when Gaston replaced John Gibbons.
Gaston's biggest problem is playing in the same division with the Yankees and Red Sox. His second biggest problem is an unencumbered rookie general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, who wasn't afraid to move Halladay. He could fire Gaston without even breaking a sweat.
Chances of returning in 2011: Slim.
Dusty Baker: This is a make-or-break year for Baker, who was hired for his charisma and can-do attitude. But the Reds have finished fifth and fourth, respectively, in Baker's first two years in Cincinnati, which means it's imperative he turns the Reds into contenders this summer. Ownership is paying Aroldis Chapman in excess of $30 million, which effectively puts Baker on the hot seat.
Chances of returning in 2011: Fair