Last year, in the final week of the season, Tony LaRussa did something amazing: He managed his 4,770th game. In and of itself, that’s rather boring – until you realize that John McGraw managed only 4,769 games.
Sure Connie Mack managed even more games, but that’s because he owned the team. Besides, he was manager in name only in his final years, as his coaches did the real managing. McGraw, the man most synonymous with the dugout, had the most games by any non-Mack manager. In the 70+ years since he retired him, no one ever threatened to reach his career totals. Until LaRussa.
No. 10 in number, but No. 2 in durability.
Last year’s milestone for LaRussa got me wondering: What other milestones are coming up for various MLB managers? I don’t expect to see anything as impressive as last year’s catching of McGraw, but there should be some worthy of noting in advance.
It doesn’t take too much for me to get interested in managers. After all, I wrote a book, Evaluating Baseball’s Managers on the subject – (available for order now! Read it and find out why Alex Remington of Yahoo’s Big League Stew blog said: “This is one of the best baseball books I’ve read in a long time, a serious effort by a good writer with a love of history“) – so this is right up my alley.
There are three types of milestones I’m looking at:
1) Big round-number milestones. It’s a base-10 world, baby, and I’m just living in it.
2) Passing up other managers of note. Saying “of note” is inherently hard to determine other than saying if there’s a passing that seems especially interesting to me, I’ll note it.
3) Franchise records or milestones.
I’m not going to include every potential milestone that can fall into any of those categories, as that would be needlessly repetitive. The ones I find most worthy of notes will be, well, the ones I note. Similarly, I’m not going to bother getting into every manager. That would be pointless.
The categories I’m looking at are the ones readily available at Baseball-Reference.com: games, wins, losses, and games over/under .500.
With that, here are upcoming manager milestones we might see achieved in 2010. I’ll go manager-by-manager, ordered from most to least games managed as of now:
The first time the Cardinals lose a game, he’ll tie Bucky Harris for second most losses by any manager, with 2,218. Then he becomes second only to Mack with his next loss. Roger Craig once said it takes a pretty good manager to lose 20 games. Well, it takes a really great manager to lose over 2,200.
If the Cardinals go 88-74 (which can easily happen), LaRussa will be 349 games over .500 in his career, which ties Cap Anson for 10th all-time in that stat. Obviously, if St. Louis does even better, LaRussa moves into 10th by himself.
Here’s a factoid I love: With 40 more losses, Bobby Cox will have lost more games for the Braves than any other skipper in franchise history even managed. That’s an impressive achievement, especially when you consider how good his winning percentage has been with the team.
It’s even more impressive still when you realize who else has managed this franchise over the years: Harry Wright, Frank Selee, George Stallings, Bill McKechnie, Casey Stengel, Billy Southworth, Joe Torre – not a bad bunch. Some only spent a short while there, but Selee’s Hall of Fame career is almost entirely based on his Braves tenure, and by this summer Cox will have 1,678 losses with Atlanta, while Selee ran the franchise for only 1,677 games.
Oh yeah, I should also note he’s only 18 losses behind McGraw and 62 games behind Harris. For decades, Mack, McGraw, and Harris had a stranglehold on the top three games managed, won and lost. Sparky Anderson caught Harris’ win total in the 1990s, but that’s been the only change at that height – until recent times.
He is just 33 losses behind McGraw. Of the three obvious managerial career stats – games, losses, and wins – losses are obviously the least impressive, but no current manager is going to last 30 years with a better winning percentage than McGraw had.
McGraw is still No. 2 in wins. Cox won’t catch him because he’s retiring after this year. Torre would have to keep managing another six or seven years, until he’s in his mid-70s. That’s asking a lot. LaRussa, however, should top McGraw during the 2012 season.
Lou Piniella will manage his 3,500th game this year when the Cubs host the Pirates on June 29. Aside from the active managers listed above, only one man ever piloted that many games without reaching Cooperstown: Gene Mauch. That said, I don’t think Piniella gets in unless he takes the Cubs to a World Series. He’s the sort of manager who ends up in the Hall of Very Good otherwise.
On Sept. 19 (barring rainouts), Leyland will become only the 18th man in history to pilot his 3,000th game as MLB manager. Actually, Leyland will likely become part of a far more exclusive club as he should be only the third man to have a losing record when logging his 3,000th decision.
Here are current members of the 3,000 decisions with a losing record club:
Manager W L Gene Mauch 1,419 1,581 Bucky Harris 1,462 1,538
The Tigers will have to play .583 ball or better for Leyland to avoid this club. That’s possible, but I don’t know if I’d bet on it.
Dusty Baker doesn’t get much respect these days, but with 2,528 games his career has lasted about as long as some Cooperstown managers. In the first week of the season, he’ll pass Hall of Famer Ned Hanlon on the games managed list. Well, Hanlon played in the Paleolithic Era when the season was shorter. True, but by the end of April Baker will have managed more games than Earl Weaver.
If the Reds win 85 games, which isn’t likely but stranger things have happened – Baker will tie Wilbert Robinson‘s victory total of 1,399.
Bruce Bochy has managed only a little less time than Baker. Like baseball’s all-time winningest black manager, Bochy will pass several Hall of Famers’ career games managed mark this year. On April 20, he’ll call the shots from the dugout for the 2,426th time, passing Al Lopez. This summer he’ll scoot past Hanlon and Baker.
Bochy’s drawn as little attention to himself as possible while logging a lengthy career, but nevertheless he has logged such a career. When the Giants win their 43rd game, he’ll tie Harry Wright with 1,225, victories. Twenty-eight wins later, he’ll tie Billy Martin. If the Giants somehow reach 99 wins, he’ll match the career win mark of recent Hall of Fame inductee Whitey Herzog. I don’t mean to imply that he (or Baker for that matter) is becoming a viable Cooperstown candidate. It’s just that while staying under the public’s radar, he’s lasted as long as some full Hall of Fame careers.
Bruce Bochy: International Man of Obscurity
Finally, on Independence Day, he’ll become the 29th manager with 2,500 games under his belt. Like Leyland, he’ll also become one of the few to reach 2,500 decisions (which isn’t quite the same thing as 2,500 games, but let’s not get carried away with details here) with a losing record. Up to now, only the half-dozen individuals listed below had a losing record at their 2,500th decision:
Manager W L Gene Mauch 1,166 1,334 Jimmy Dykes 1,188 1,312 Bill Rigney 1209 1,291 Wilbert Robinson1,236 1,264 Jim Leyland 1,237 1,263 Bucky Harris 1,244 1,256
If the Giants go 68-20, Bochy doesn’t join the club. I don’t see that happening.
It isn’t that uncommon to hear someone comment that Mike Scioscia has the beginnings of a Hall of Fame career. Well, on Sept. 20, 2010, when the Angels play the Rangers, Scioscia will fill out his 1,770 MLB lineup card – which is exactly as many games as Billy Southworth managed in his Hall of Fame career.
Admittedly, Southworth had (by a wide margin) the shortest career of any 20th century Hall of Fame manager, but nevertheless Southworth is a Hall of Fame manager, and this year Scioscia will pass him up in games. (Scioscia should pass up Southworth’s win total in 2011, but that’s getting ahead of things for this column.)
Terry Francona has managed 1,620 games, exactly as many as Scioscia, so he’ll also pass up Southworth this September. (In fact, he’ll also do it Sept. 20, weather permitting.)
Here’s one thing I get a kick out of, though: on Sept. 18, he’ll manage his 1,120th game for the Red Sox, more than anyone else except Joe Cronin. Boston has been in a league for quite a while, and hosted a number of winning seasons – but they’ve only had one guy last 1,120 games as of now. I’m a bit surprised by that.
If the Phillies have a winning season, Charlie Manuel will set a new franchise record for most wins over .500. Currently, he’s plus-84 (594-510) with Philly, which ties him with 1970s manager Danny Ozark.
By the end of the year, he’ll have passed Harry Wright for second most games managed in club history, putting him in good position to become all-time franchise leader in games managed next year.
Now, for a distinction no one ever wants to achieve. If the Washington Nationals go 63-99 this year, Jim Riggleman‘s career winning record will be 618-793, or 175 games below .500. That would put him in the bottom 10 all-time games under .500.
Washington lost 103 games last year, so it’s possible. Then again, they played a lot better in the second half under Riggleman, so he might avoid this unwanted fate.
That said, if Washington finishes 11 games under .500, his career mark will be 150 games under .500. That’s very likely to happen.
The team might not be any good, but they sure know how to take nice photos of the skipper.
With Ozzie Guillen‘s 11th win of the season, he’ll pass up LaRussa for third most victories in franchise history. Then, immediately after the All-Star break he’ll become third on the Sox’s all-time games managed list.
In between those two franchise distinctions, he’ll become the 122nd person to manage 1,000 games.
Here’s one I didn’t realize: When the Marlins won their 87th game on Oct. 3, 2009, Fredi Gonzalez became the winningest manager in franchise history, with 242 victories. I know the franchise hasn’t been around that long, but I would’ve figured with a pair of world titles at least one manager would’ve topped 250 wins for them. (As it happens, Gonzalez is one of four men to break the 200-win club for the Marlins.)
At any rate, Gonzalez is still only second in games managed in franchise history. He’ll tie Rene Lachemann, the current leader, in the team’s 21st game.
If the Rangers win half of their games this year, Ron Washington will be the third winningest manager in franchise history, behind Bobby Valentine and Johnny Oates. Washington has 241 wins and Gil Hodges (who helmed the team in their Washington days) left with 321 wins.
That’s a less impressive sounding achievement that what Gonzalez will do, but it’s more surprising. I know the Ranges aren’t covered in glory, but in a half-century only two men have won 325 games for them. (To be fair, that’s not unique: the Cubs also have only a pair of skippers with that many wins since 1961, but then again when you look similar to the Cubs in the last half-century, that’s pretty bad.)
If the Orioles go 68-94, David Trembley will be 98 games under .500 in his career in Baltimore. Since moving from St. Louis nearly 60 years ago, the worst over/under .500 performance was Mike Hargrove at minus-97. I don’t know if Trembley will do it, though. Not only is 94 a lot of games to lose, but there’s a good shot he’ll be fired midseason if they play that poorly.
If the Indians finish six games under .500 for their new skipper, Manny Acta will be 100 games under .500 for his career. Given how many players the Indians dealt away in recent years, I like his odds to pull that off.