A new baseball season is almost upon us, and as happens every year, new milestones will be reached and career achievements accomplished. Most of the attention will justly fall on player accomplishments, but those aren’t the only mountains to be scaled in 2012. Managers also will achieve their share. Let’s see what some of these often overlooked achievements will be.
Alas, the biggest and best, the greatest managerial career milestone since World War II, won’t happen. Tony LaRussa ended last year just 35 wins behind John McGraw. That’s an achievement that long seemed impossible, but LaRussa was clearly within striking distance. But he retired, so McGraw stays in second place behind Connie Mack.
So the big milestone eludes us, but plenty of others should (or could) happen. Here are the 10 most remarkable:
1. Dusty Baker managing his 3,000th game
On Sept. 12, 2012, the Reds will host the Pittsburgh Pirates. Barring rainouts or other problems, that will be the 3,000th regular season game Dusty Baker has managed.
Folks, that’s an achievement. Only 18 men have ever managed that many games. Eleven are in Cooperstown, and three more (Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre) are assured their spot once the Veterans Committee has a chance to put them in. A 15th (Jim Leyland) is still managing, and No. 16 (Lou Piniella recently retired). The only ones Cooperstown clearly has taken a pass on are Gene Mauch and Ralph Houk.
This doesn’t mean Baker will get into the Hall of Fame, but he’s got enough career heft to make a legitimate case. Had the Bartman Game gone differently, he’d have good odds. If the Reds can do anything under his watch, he’s got a good chance.
He’s now the same age Sparky Anderson was when the Tigers manager retired.
2. 2,000 games—all with one franchise
Two thousand games isn’t as notable a marker, obviously—52 men have done it, almost three times as many members as the 3,000-game club has (which is to say that by the numbers only one of this three should be expected to last another 1,000 games).
But it’s a bit more interesting with Gardenhire and Scioscia. Not only are they making it to 2,000 games, but 2,000 games managing one team. Only 17 men have ever done that. Here’s the list:
Name Team Games Connie Mack PHA 7,466 John McGraw NYG 4,424 Bobby Cox ATL 3,860 Walter Alston LAD 3,658 Tommy Lasorda LAD 3,040 Wilb. Robinson BRK 2,819 Bucky Harris WAS 2,776 Tony LaRussa STL 2,591 Sparky Anderson DET 2,580 Earl Weaver BAL 2,545 Fred Clarke PIT 2,427 Tom Kelly MIN 2,385 Joe McCarthy NYY 2,348 Cap Anson CHC 2,258 Hughie Jennings DET 2,127 Danny Murtaugh PIT 2,068 Joe Cronin BOX 2,007
Not bad. And things can be slimmed down even further from there. When Bobby Cox managed his 2,000th game, he was already on his third tour of duty— with Atlanta, then Toronto, then Atlanta again. When Tony LaRussa managed his 2,000th game, he was on his second team—first Chicago, then Oakland.
But when Gardenhire and Scioscia manage their 2,000th major league game, they can proudly state that all 2,000 have come with the same team. Only seven men have previously done that: Walter Alston, Tommy Lasorda, Earl Weaver, Tom Kelly, Cap Anson, Hughie Jennings, and Danny Murtaugh. All the others above managed more than one team in their first 2,000 games.
Almost 2,000 games down for Scioscia, and maybe 2,000+ more to go.
3. 1,000 wins (and 1,000 losses) for Buck Showalter
Buck Showalter may have needed four stops to get to 2,000 games, but in Showalter-land 2012 will be the big year for round numbers.
He ended last year with a career record of 985-949, so if he lasts the full season and the Orioles have a record better than 14-148 but worse than 112-50, he’ll have 1,000 wins and losses. You’ve got to like his odds.
4. Charlie Manuel: Philly’s winningest manager
The Phillies have been around for 129 seasons and in all that time, no manager has ever won more than 646 games for them. That’s where Gene Mauch stood when he left the club. And 646 is where Charlie Manuel now stands.
He’s the most successful skipper in Phillies history. With the first Philadelphia win of 2012, he’ll become the all-time winningest manager for one of the game’s longest-lasting franchises. He’s still only fifth on their all-time loss list, though he’ll likely end 2012 in third place. If he holds on to 2014, he’ll be in first place there, too.
5. Jim Leyland and all-time win leaderboard
For lifetime wins, 1,620 doesn’t sound particularly special. It lacks the base-10 panache of 2,000 or 1,000 or something like that. But it has one nice feature. If a manager wins 1,620 career games, he’ll become 15th on the all-time win list.
Right now, Jim Leyland has 1,588 wins, 18th most ever. In his next 32 wins he’ll overcome Tom Lasorda, Fred Clarke, and Ralph Houk to enter the top 15 club.
Oh, one other thing. Thanks to Detroit’s strong showing last year, Leyland finally got his career win/loss record over .500 for the first time in over a decade. Right now, it’s 1,588-1,585, so if Detroit badly disappoints, he could fall back under .500.
6. Can Bruce Bochy break .500?
On June 27, 2002, Bochy’s San Diego Padres lost 11-6 to the Giants. This game gave him a career record of 597-598, and he’s been under .500 ever since.
Suffering through some bad teams on the Padres and Giants, Bochy’s career record bottomed out on April 18, 2009 at 67 games under .500 (1,097-1,164). Since then, a Giants resurgence has caused him to finally make it within spitting distance of .500.
Right now, he’s 16 games under (1,360-1,376). So if San Francisco wins 90 games, he’ll end the year over .500. Few guys spend a full decade of managing under .500 and manage to overcome it. Leyland did last year and Bochy hopes to do it this time around.
Still looking for a winning record.
7. Can Ron Gardenhire keep a bit of franchise history?
The Twins began life as the Senators, and in their 111 seasons in franchise history, Gardenhire holds one managerial record. His record of 866-755 is 111 games over .500, the most of any Senators/Twins manager ever.
However, given the recent malaise the Twins have fallen into, there’s no guarantee Gardenhire will keep that achievement. Second place is Sam Mele, who piloted the team in the 1960s, and is 88 games over .500. If Gardy’s Twins go 69-93 or worse, he’ll fall behind Mele on this franchise list.
8. 1,000 losses and Davey Johnson
Among his other claims to fame, Davey Johnson has the most wins of any 20th century manager with fewer than 1,000 losses. He’s 257 games over .500, which means that even though he’ll break the 1,200 win barrier in either April or May of 2012, he’s still well under the 1,000 loss marker.
He’ll probably get to 1,000 losses this year, though. Currently, Johnson has 931 losses, and while the Nationals could surprise, I wouldn’t want to be on them losing fewer than 69 games in 2012.
9. Can Ron Roenicke set a Brewers record for most games over .500?
Eighteen men have managed the Brewers in their franchise history. Only a half-dozen of them have a winning record with the team (and that includes Dale Sveum with his 7-5 record with the club).
Harvey Kuenn is 42 games over .500, the best by any skipper in club history. After his rookie season in the dugout, Roenicke is 96-66, 30 games over .500. If the team finishes the year 87-75, he’ll tie Kuenn. If they do better, he’ll surpass Kuenn.
Only one season done as Brew-master, and he’s already rising up the franchise managerial leaderboard
10. Ron Washington moves up the Texas record book
Texas is another former expansion franchise with more losses than wins in its club history. So even though Washington has been there for “only” five years, he’s moving up the club leaderboard. He’s third in wins (427) and games (810), and fourth in losses (383).
If we make the safe assumption that Texas will win 80 games this year, Washington will pass Johnny Oates for second on the all-time list. Texas will need to play 163 games for Washington to catch Oates in games, though. Unless they win 100 games, he’ll catch Gil Hodges for third in losses.
References & Resources
The info in this article comes from Baseball-Reference.com.
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