Eight of the International League’s most successful managers from a year ago have returned for the 2012 season, to be joined by a group of six newly hired skippers that includes two managers making their return to the League.
All four of the managers from the 2011 Governors’ Cup playoffs are back for another run at the IL’s postseason championship. That includes the manager of the back-to-back Triple-A National Champions, Mike Sarbaugh of Columbus, the 2011 IL Manager of the Year. He’ll be challenged by the 2010 IL Manager of the Year and 2009 Triple-A National Championship manager from Durham, Charlie Montoyo. The Bulls are looking for a sixth straight South Division title under Montoyo. In Lehigh Valley, Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg took the IronPigs to their first postseason in 2011. After falling in the Governors’ Cup finals, Sandberg is back for his second year in the IL and third overall as a Triple-A manager. Also back in the League is manager of the 2011 North Division champion Pawtucket Red Sox, Arnie Beyeler.
Anxious for another trip to the postseason are two managers who have already won Governors’ Cup Championships but fell short of the playoffs a year ago. Gwinnett’s Dave Brundage, a 2007 Cup winner, is back at the reins of Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate for another season. Longtime Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees skipper Dave Miley will be guiding a club without a permanent home in 2012 as PNC Field undergoes a full renovation.
The two other returning managers are both heading into a second season at the helm of their respective IL clubs. In Indianapolis, Dean Treanor narrowly missed the playoffs a year ago after a sluggish start for the Indians. Phil Nevin is also back for his second season in Toledo. Though his Mud Hens played competitively in a tough division, he is the only returning manager whose team had a losing record last season. Collectively, the eight managers returning to the International League combined for a record of 623-522 (.544) in 2011.
Two of the six new managers this season have previously managed elsewhere in the League. The new manager of Norfolk is Ron Johnson, who before two years on the Boston Red Sox staff spent five seasons managing in Pawtucket. Joel Skinner, Buffalo’s manager during their division-winning 2000 campaign, takes over in Charlotte as manager of the Knights.
Rounding out the group of 2012 IL managers are four men who have never been in the League as a manager. David Bell is a former Louisville infielder who has been hired to manage the Bats this season. Bell also suited up for Charlotte and Buffalo during his playing days. Another former IL player returning as a manager is Wally Backman. The new Buffalo Bisons skipper played three seasons for Tidewater (now Norfolk) in the early 1980′s. New Syracuse manager Tony Beasley never played in the IL, though he did spend one season in Buffalo when the Bisons where part of the American Association. Likewise, Rochester’s new skipper Gene Glynn did not play in the International League but did see time in 59 games with the American Association’s Indianapolis club.
The 2012 International League field managers include two of the top ten winningest active skippers in all of Minor League Baseball (Miley and Johnson). The group has combined to win over 9,000 Minor League games as well as six Governors’ Cups in the IL. As the 2012 season unfolds, only time will tell who will become the 80th manager to have his name etched onto the IL’s coveted postseason trophy.