Managing to Cooperstown

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Mike Scioscia, Bruce Bochy, Tony LaRussa: A 2011 championship would put a shine on their resumes

The end of last season marked the end of several World Champion managerial careers. Joe Torre left the divorce mess that is the Dodgers. Bobby Cox said goodbye to Atlanta in the playoffs. Lou Piniella took one look around and saw that the Cubs were a disaster. And Cito Gaston finally left on his own terms and with a deserved tribute.

Torre and Cox are certainly Hall of Fame bound. The jury is out on Piniella. Gaston probably won’t get much support.

But 2010 also made the Hall of Fame credentials of Bruce Bochy quite interesting. He led one group of Padres to the 1996 playoffs and 1998 World Series. Then he retooled and took the 2005 and 2006 Padres to October. And then he moved to San Francisco for 2007 and took on a team in an identity crisis. By 2010 the Giants were a World Champion.

Is he a Hall of Famer yet? Probably not, but it got me thinking:

How would a 2011 World Series title affect each current manager’s Hall of Fame resume?

For some it would be the first big credit on their resume. For others it would push them, like Bochy last year, from “respected” to “elite.” For others it would mean redemption for failures in Octobers past.

And for a few it would put them over the hump and get them ready to rehearse their Cooperstown speech.

Let’s break it down by my own not exactly sane categories:

The 2011 championship would make no difference: already going to Cooperstown:

Tony LaRussa, St. Louis Cardinals.

Love him or hate him (and I am no fan), you have to respect him. Along with Sparky Anderson, he has won titles in both leagues. And the massive turnover in his Cardinals teams over the years shows he isn’t just relying on the same guys. He has four Manager of the Year awards with three different teams.

The 2011 championship would make a debatable candidate a lock

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants

As I wrote earlier, the 1996 Manager of the Year winner has already put together a stellar resume in his first 15 seasons, culminating in the 2010 World Series title. Back-to-back titles in San Francisco? Mixed in with the 1998 pennant in San Diego plus division titles in 1996, 2005 and 2006? It would be enough.

Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers
He would join his pal Tony LaRussa as
a World Champion in both leagues. He has three Manager of the Year Awards from his days with Pittsburgh and Detroit. Plus a Detroit title would show he wasn’t just the beneficiary of Florida’s big spending for 1997. It would take the sting out of the 1990, 1991 and 1992 NLCS in Pittsburgh, the Colorado debacle and the collapse of 2009.

Mike Scioscia, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

In his 12th year, Scioscia has already put together an eye-popping resume. In the past none seasons has two Manager of the Year awards, a World Series title and five more division titles with 2 more trips to the ALCS. And he has done it with a constantly changing cast. Another World Series title would match his mentor, Tommy Lasorda.

The 2011 championship would make a respected manager a debatable Hall of Famers

Dusty Baker, Cincinnati Reds

Yes, Giants and Cubs fans who might be shaking your heads reading this: Johnny B. Baker Jr. has put together a quite impressive body of work as a manager. Add a World Series title to the resume and the Cooperstown debate would begin. He turned the Giants around and made them a consistent contender (and two innings from being a World Series winner.) He quickly made the Cubs into contenders and brought them closer to the World Series than any team since 1945. And now he has brought the Reds from after-thoughts to division champs.

Yeah, I know he has made some of the most agonizingly bad managerial decisions in big games that I can remember. And Mark Prior and Kerry Wood might be able to sue him for lost wages. But the three time Manager of the Year has won wherever he went. Now to win the big one.

Terry Francona, Boston Red Sox

While Theo Epstein seems to get the lions share of the credit for ending The Curse, a third World Series title would put Francona in elite company. Who else has won three or more World Series as a manager? Sparky Anderson, Joe Torre, Miller Huggins, Walter Alston, Connie Mack, Joe McCarthy, John McGraw and Casey Stengel. Not a bad group to be associated with!

Ozzie Guillen, Chicago White Sox

Love him or hate him (I LOVE him), another World Series title would make Guillen among the elites. He’s hands on. His stamp was all over the 2005 White Sox whose lone Hall of Famer (Frank Thomas) wasn’t even on the playoff roster. The 2011 World Series title would make him be only the second Chicago manager with two titles. Frank Chance is the other. I don’t think Chance had a Twitter page.

Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays

He took a team whose lone highlight in a decade of existence was a Dennis Quaid movie and brought it to the World Series and another division title, winning a Manager of the Year along the way. If he brought the Rays all the way to the title with a low payroll and in the AL East, he could coast the rest of his career.

Charlie Manuel, Philadelphia Phillies

Sure he seems like an easy-going country boy. But in eight full seasons of managing he has five firs- place finishes and three second-place finishes with the Indians and Phillies. And he has five 90-win seasons, a pair of pennants and the 2008 World Series title. The numbers are starting to add up for him. Another World Series title would make him the only Philadelphia manager with multiple titles NOT named Connie Mack.

The 2011 championship wouldn’t make them Hall of Famers, but would silence some critics

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

He won the Manager of the Year award last year, bringing a surprising Padres team to the brink of a playoff spot. But he also has two tremendous face plants on his resume. The Padres had a playoff spot locked up in 2007 before they dropped the final two games in 2007 and the heart-breaking one-game playoff to Colorado. And last year’s 10 game losing streak in August sunk the team. All of that would be forgotten if he delivers the Padres’ first-ever World Series title.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

He took a team that was on the verge of contraction and made it a playoff regular. He saw basically an All-Star team defect from the team and the Twins haven’t missed a beat. And with their success in the 2000s they have a beautiful new ballpark (and not a minute too soon with the collapse of the Metrodome). But the Twins have lost 15 of their last 16 playoff games, including three-and-out sweeps in 2006, 2009 and 2010, when Gardenhire won Manager of the Year. He needs a World Series title to have anyone whisper about Cooperstown.

Joe Girardi, New York Yankees

A second World Series title would mean Girardi would join Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy, Miller Huggins, Joe Torre and Ralph Houk as managers with more than one World Series title. (Man, doesn’t it look odd to see Houk’s name there but NOT Billy Martin or Yogi Berra?) He will need to have the Yankees become a dynasty on his watch to become a Hall of Famer. But another title would take the sting out of missing the 2008 playoffs and mishandling the 2010 ALCS.

Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves

Gonzalez got a raw deal in Florida. He had a miniscule payroll and still put winning products on the field. If the 2008 Marlins had spent just more than $30 million that year, they might have won the Wild Card. Now he is taking over a Braves team that his mentor Bobby Cox left as a playoff team loaded with young talent. A World Series title might be credited more to Cox than Gonzalez, but it wouldn’t HURT Fredi!

Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is Hurdle’s ninth season. And save for September and October of 2007 when the Rockies went bananas, there is not a lot to show for it. Now he is the seventh manager in Pittsburgh since Jim Leyland left. If he gets the Pirates to .500 it will be an accomplishment. If he gets them to the playoffs it will be a miracle. If the Pirates win the World Series? He might win the Nobel Prize.

Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

His career kind of reminds me of Gene Mauch’s. He’s respected and gets teams to win no matter where he goes, but he can’t get his team over the hump. But he turned around the Yankees, built up the Diamondbacks and put a winner on the field in Texas. If he turns Baltimore around with a title, people will have to reevaluate his career.

Jim Tracy, Colorado Rockies

He already has a pair of playoff appearances on his managerial resume (2004 Dodgers and 2009 Rockies). Neither of those teams made much noise in October (both 3-1 Division Series losers.) He is a relaxed manager with a young team whose superstars are locked up. They should make several runs at a World Series title. A title in 2011 would give him the big highlight on his resume and, like Bochy, put him in a position to win many more in the future.

Ron Washington, Texas Rangers

Always a respected coach, he showed how beloved he was in Texas when the Rangers didn’t let him go after the cocaine test last spring. He responded by doing what Ted Williams, Billy Martin, Whitey Herzog, Bobby Valentine, Kevin Kennedy, Johnny Oates and Buck Showalter couldn’t do: He won the Rangers a pennant. Back-to-back pennants and a title? Welcome to “Elite-ville.”

Eric Wedge, Seattle Mariners

The 2007 Manager of the Year had the Indians up 3-1 in the ALCS against the Red Sox, and they were going to have home field in the World Series. Since that moment nothing has gone right for Wedge. His team collapsed, getting blown out in the final three games (Game Seven was closer than the final score would indicate) and the team was gutted. In two years the Indians went from 96 wins to 97 losses and Wedge was shown the door. Now he has a 101-loss team with Ichiro, King Felix and little else to manage. Bringing this team to the top would make his Cleveland experience a positive rather than a negative memory.

The 2011 championship would makes these managers respected

Manny Acta, Cleveland Indians

Anyone who would bring a title to Cleveland would nearly be at “Godly” level in Ohio. He didn’t exactly have the 1927 Yankees when he was in Washington. Now he has another young and not exactly ready to win roster in Cleveland. Right now he seems like a teacher manager and a placeholder for the one who is going to lead the Indians.

Terry Collins, New York Mets

He hasn’t managed in more than a decade. And despite five winning seasons as a manager (and five second-place finishes with the Astros and Angels) his reputation is that of a crazy hothead who had club revolts under his watch. But remember, Joe Torre was “Clueless Joe” when he arrived in the Bronx. He had a checkered managerial career without much success. Titles in New York can do a lot for your reputation.

Bob Geren, Oakland Athletics

The A’s won the division under Tony LaRussa. The A’s won the division under Art Howe. The A’s won the division under Ken Macha. The A’s haven’t done squat with Bob Geren. Now in his fifth year, he has the pitching staff and a winnable division, but his next winning season will be his first as a manager. Billy Beane dumped Howe and Macha right after they took Oakland to the playoffs. Geren has the mark of being Beane’s buddy. A World Championship would go a long way in showing he is more than a friend.

Brad Mills, Houston Astros

Well, they played better for him in the second half. But this Houston team might stink this year and the Astros are in transition. A World Series title, breaking the Astros’ streak of futility, would be quite a feat.

Jim Riggleman, Washington Nationals

Can you believe this will be Riggleman’s 12th season as a big league manager? He’s had a grand total of one winning season, which was also his lone playoff appearance (1998 Wild Card Cubs). His career has been that of a place holder manager taking over teams that are rebuilding. He is a career baseball man with years of experience as a minor league manager and coach along with his stops in San Diego, Chicago, Seattle and now Washington as manager. But with a World Series title, he would have a legacy.

Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals

Bringing the Royals to the World Championship would be quite a feat in 2011. (Supposedly some great talent is on its way, but didn’t we hear that about Alex Gordon?) Yost is a respected baseball man, but being dumped from Milwaukee during the 2008 playoff stretch run was a bizarre move that didn’t reflect well on him. Redemption can be found in KC.

The 2011 World Championship would be a nice way to kick-start a managerial career

John Farrell, Toronto Blue Jays

Of course, winning in the A.L. East would be quite an accomplishment for Farrell. A respected front office man in Cleveland who got a ring as the Red Sox pitching coach in 2007, he is beginning his managerial life in Toronto. A World Series title would be a good start!

Kirk Gibson, Arizona Diamondbacks

The man whose very name has become a synonym for gutsy baseball managed half the season last year. But now the “interim” tag has been removed and it is his for the whole year. We all saw how he helped turn the Dodgers around as a player in 1988. Then again they also had Orel Hershiser’s all-time great season. But the two-time champion was molded by Sparky Anderson and Tommy Lasorda and will someday probably manage a champion. Will it be in Arizona? One thing is for sure: Nobody better complain to Kirk Gibson about being too hurt to play.

Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers

It is truly amazing that he played and coached for the Yankees all of those years and still has participated in as many World Series as me. Then again, the same could be said for his predecessor, Joe Torre. This Dodgers team is a mess from the top down, and it would take a Herculean effort to bring it back to the World Series. I don’t see it happening, but luck has never been on Don Mattingly’s side. Maybe luck owes him one.

Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs

Everyone in the world assumed that Quade was simply a quick replacement for Lou Piniella last year and the Cubs would have a superstar manager. I suggested Bonnie Hunt. But to everyone’s surprise, he was given the reins. Was this a sign of respect and an indication that the front office expects him to right the ship? Or are the Cubs admitting that 2011 is a lost cause and why sour the well with a potential star manager? If Quade wins, of course he will be a god in Chicago. He might have to be a god to win with this roster.

Edwin Rodriguez, Florida Marlins

I know Rodriguez managed the Marlins for more than half of the 2010 season and the Fish played .500 ball under his care. But let’s face it: Last year, Rodriguez appeared to be simply keeping the seat warm for a more high profile manager. But when none signed on (and no deal involving Obby-Bay Alentine-Vay was made) the interim label was removed and this year the team is truly his. The former infielder and scout managed at all levels of the minor leagues. If he wins the World Series it would be a huge feather in the cap of a baseball lifer. But it seems unlikely that the Marlins would have such a low profile manager in charge when they move into their new ballpark with new revenues and many of their star players signed long term. He might need to win the team its third title to have Florida ignore any bigger names who become available for 2012.

Ron Roenicke, Milwaukee Brewers

A member of an extensive baseball family, he finally gets to manage and will have a solid team around him. A top notch rotation is at his disposal. Some solid hitters are in the lineup. If there is a possibility of a first-time manager to win the World Series in 2011, it is in Milwaukee. And it would continue an interesting managerial lineage. Roenicke learned from World Series winning manager Mike Scioscia… who learned from World Series winning manager Tom Lasorda… who learned from World Series winning manager Walter Alston.

References & Resources
Baseball-reference.com, USA Today Baseball 2011 Complete MLB Preview

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Comments

  1. Chris J. said...

    Nice piece. 

    I think a third championship makes Francona a lock.  (Going purely from memory, I don’t think any manager won three World Series titles and hasn’t gone in, aside from Torre – who will go in soon.

    I wouldn’t call Bochy a lock.  I think he’s been sorely underrated over the years, but he’s been very under the radar.  Last year puts him on people’s radar and another would just make him a viable candidate, not a lock.

    That’s my two cents anyway.

  2. Paul Francis Sullivan said...

    Chris J,

    I agree that 3 would put Francona in. But there are people who will give all the credit to Epstein.

    As for Bochy, I think he should be in already… but back to back series would put him over the hump.

    Remember these categories are based on the assumption that they WON the 2011 World Series

  3. Jim C said...

    I wonder if the managers of the ‘roid boys will escape their taint. LaRussa was right there at the beginning with Canseco and McGwire, and considering the way he micromanages everything related to his team, I seriously doubt he was ignorant of what was going on, and was more than happy to ride their home run power. Bochy had the late Ken Caminiti, Baker had Bonds and Sosa. It will be interesting to see if the writers treat the managers like they have treated the players.

  4. John said...

    Unless LaRussa and Bochy were handing out the steroids in the clubhouse, it shouldn’t matter. A manager’s job is to win baseball games, period. If a guy hits 50 home runs and glows in the dark, you still stick him in the lineup because he helps you win. It’s not a manager’s job to play the Elliot Ness of performance-enhancing drugs.

  5. Jim C said...

    That’s one of the many unanswered questions about the whole era, isn’t it? How complicit were the coaches, managers, and owners? After the strike/lockout of ‘94-‘95, was a conscious decision made somewhere to juice up the game? Remember the ad campaign that started after the strike? “Chicks dig the long ball.” It certainly wouldn’t surprise me if LaRussa knew what was going on, and deliberately turned a blind eye as long as the team was winning.

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