Who Is the Top Manager in the American Association’s West Division?
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier takes a look at each of the managers in the West Division of the American Association, making an argument as to who is the best among the group of six.
It May Not Be So Subjective
What makes something the best? To be honest, this is usually a fairly subjective determination. What one person may find is the very best, another might find that to be satisfactory, even mediocre. That is why top 10 lists, the “best” of the year, or similar types of evaluations are usually fairly meaningless, especially when the criteria used cannot be objectively measured.
This is why this article does not attempt to look at who is the “best” manager in the West Division, but provides information for fans across the American Association to use in defense of their manager. To be fair, the East Division managers will be review tomorrow, but the evaluation begins in the West.
How the West Was Won
This is as good a place as any to begin, as the last two teams to win the American Association championship, the Kansas City Monarchs and Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, both come out of the West Division, although Kansas City was technically in the South in 2021.
This is an impressive group of managers to say the least. Two of them have played in the Major Leagues. Three of them have won championships in the American Association and another has won a championship in the Atlantic League. Two have won a thousand games as a manager, and all but one of them has managed for at least six seasons. These are definitely six impressive resumes to say the least.
Chris Coste, Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks
Chris Coste is in his third season as the skipper of the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks. It should be noted that last season he needed a little bit of assistance in winning the Miles Wolff Cup, as Coste battled through a back injury requiring Anthony Renz to perform much of the day-to-day operations of the team. However, this proves one of the most important lessons for being a good manager in the American Association – having a coaching staff one can depend upon. Renz and Coste helped to lead the RedHawks to the second-best record in the American Association last year and their first championship since 2010.
In three seasons as the Skipper of the club, Coste has a 153-106 record, giving him a .591 winning percentage. He has led Fargo-Moorhead to 60+ winning seasons in each of the last two years, both playoff years as well.
Coste is one of the greatest success stories in independent baseball history. He was a catcher for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks, signed by the Cleveland Indians when he was 27 and made it all the way to the Major Leagues, winning the World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008.
Joe Calfapietra, Kansas City Monarchs
Joe Calfapietra has become the standard upon which all independent managers are measured. He has managed for 22 seasons, winning 1161 games, one of just six managers all time who have crossed the 1000 win total managing in independent baseball.
Calfapietra joined Kansas City in 2017 and has led the team to the playoffs in all but one of his five seasons with the club, including winning two league championships (2018, 2021). He is 311-188 in his five seasons with the team, a .623 winning percentage and has led Kansas City to the top record in the regular season in each of the last two years.
Besides all the success on the field, Calfapietra has had a great deal of success returning players to Major League affiliates. In fact, he and Milwaukee Milkmen Manager Anthony Barone have had the most success over the last four years, combining to send over four dozen players back to an MLB affiliate or to Mexico.
Brett Jodie, Lincoln Saltdogs
Brett Jodie is only in his second season with the Lincoln Saltdogs but, in 2022, he led the team back to the playoffs for the first time in five years. Jodie is 102-98 into seasons with the Saltdogs.
He previously managed for Somerset (Atlantic League) where he led the team to the championship in 2015. In nine seasons, Jodie has a 658-503 record, giving him a .567 winning percentage. In his nine seasons, he has only had a losing record one time and has led teams to winning percentages above .600 three times.
Jodie also played in the Major Leagues, pitching for the San Diego Padres and New York Yankees in 2001.
Steve Montgomery, Sioux City Explorers
There is no doubt that Steve Montgomery can still hear the words “You cannot win in Sioux City” every time the club begins a new season. All that Montgomery has done since taking over the Explorers in 2014 is lead the team to two appearances in the American Association championship series.
In eight seasons, Montgomery has led the team to a 452-347 record, a .566 winning percentage. His 2015 team set an American Association record for victories in a season, going 75-25, and he is the only manager in American Association history to record two 70+ win seasons. The club has also made the playoffs in five of his eight seasons.
Besides the great success on the field, Montgomery has also been quite successful at returning players to Major League affiliates. Over the last six years, only Calfapietra has sent more players back to affiliate ball. Clearly, the right man can win in Sioux City.
Mike Meyer, Sioux Falls Canaries
Mike Meyer is entering his seventh season as the skipper of the Sioux Falls Canaries. In 2020, he led the team to their first playoff appearance since the team won the championship in 2008.
Meyer does not have some of the pure numbers that others in this group have, but he likely faces the most difficult challenge of any manager in the American Association. Sioux Falls Stadium is a launching pad, so attracting pitchers to come to Sioux Falls is like trying to encourage a polar bear to spend his days on the beaches of the Bahamas.
There is talk that a new stadium will be built in Sioux Falls soon, which should open the door for Meyer to attract a better group of hurlers.
Greg Tagert, Winnipeg Goldeyes
Greg Tagert is in his first year as manager of the Winnipeg Goldeyes, but he is no stranger to the American Association. Tagert ran the Gary SouthShore RailCats from 2005 through 2021, winning three championships with the team (2005, 2007, 2013). He had led the RailCats to the playoffs nine times, including six years in a row (2005-10).
Tagert is one of those six managers in independent baseball history who has earned 1000 victories, sitting at 1254 entering the 2023 season (That is likely the most wins of any manager in independent baseball history). In his 16 seasons with Gary SouthShore, Tagert posted an 835-744 record, a .529 winning percentage. He had 12 winning seasons in Gary.