1. Tony La Russa
He put to rest the notion his players tighten up come October with one of the great managing jobs of our time last year. It's no easy thing to make an 83-win team believe it can win. Now he's made me believe. He's an original thinker who's unsurpassed strategically. "I have tried to guess along with him on what moves he'll make next," David Eckstein told me in spring training, "and it just can't be done."
2. Jim Leyland
Perhaps he isn't the master strategist that La Russa is, but as a salesman and motivator, no one's better. His only blemish is his short time in Colorado, when his heart wasn't in it.
3. Mike Scioscia
Smart and solid, he's extremely even-keeled, and his players have bought into his aggressive, NL style.
4. Joe Torre
Fourth place for the four World Series rings. But can he please take it easy on his favorite relievers? He especially needs to be careful with Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera.
5. Lou Piniella
He didn't do his best work in Tampa, and baseball people noticed. Plus, he's been cited by some for mishandling pitchers. He certainly can lose his cool, as well, but that's part of his charm. Wouldn't want to have to match wits against him in the postseason, though that might not be anyone's worry this year.
6. [Bobby] Cox
I'm sure most would rank him higher. But since the goal is to win titles, that has to be seen as a failing.
7. Grady Little
He was knocked hard for sticking with Pedro Martinez in the 2003 ALCS, when his critics apparently would have rather seen him turn the game over to a very iffy bullpen. He's a low-key guy who doesn't get the plaudits he deserves.
8. Willie Randolph
Aggressive and born to manage in New York, he will move up higher on this list with more experience.
9. Ozzie Guillen
It may look like he's managing on emotion, but few know the game better.
10. Terry Francona
The Red Sox skipper keeps his cool in a tough environment. He manages both the clubhouse and game well.
11. Ron Gardenhire
Always has the Twins hustling, just like in the Tom Kelly years.
12. Bruce Bochy
Knows the games and is particularly adept with pitchers. He seems to prefer veterans. Some observers think he could stand to improve his communication with players.
Heyman also offers this Dodger-related nugget:
Nomar Garciaparra is batting .391 with runners in scoring position since coming to the Dodgers, compared to .264 with nobody on base. This year, he's hitting .615 with runners in scoring position.