Top 5 Managers in Baseball

The playoffs have brought about much debate about managers and their impact. Every night you hear complaints on Twitter about a move someone made. It’s no different in the regular season since Terry Collins‘ and Joe Girardi‘s moves were dissected every night. I have stated numerous times that a managers greatest impact is in the clubhouse. His ability to communicate and manage personalities is what will ultimately dictate how long he stays on the job. The most important on-the-field chore is to manage a pitching staff, and with pitching coaches obtaining more power and organizational philosophies some of that is already blueprinted for the skipper.

The White Sox hiring of the inexperienced Robin Ventura and the issues Terry Francona had with the clubhouse have also created debate about managerial impact. Can Ventura, who never managed at any level, lead 25 big league ballplayers come spring training. Did Francona’s lax personality lead to a culture of complacency that ultimately was the beginning of the Red Sox collapse? All debatable points, which brings me to wanting to list the top five managers in baseball today.

I am not measuring any of this numerically. I am basing it on how long they have been successful, and the amount of success they’ve had versus their talent.

1. Tony LaRussa- How many times has the Cardinals possessed the best team in the National League? Maybe 2004-2005, but that is debatable. Since taking over St. Louis he’s won 7 divisions, 2 pennants, and one World Series. He could very well add another pennant and World Series by the end of the weekend. The Cards have always gone into the season with question marks. Dave Duncan deserves a ton of success because of his work with average pitching staffs. You may hate the “over managing” and constant matchups, but LaRussa’s teams always seem to be greater than the sum of their parts. Part of his success has to be his ability to evaluate talent, as the Cardinals seem to always reclamate veterans and minor leaguers that otherwise go unnoticed.

2Joe Maddon – Seems to be a players manager, but not without the accountability. His teams play hard, loose, and always seem to maximize their talent level. This story in the Orlando Sentinel is probably the best way to describe Maddon’s style:

“Coming into the season I remember saying, ‘the demise of the Rays has been greatly exaggerated,’” Maddon said. “After a 1-8 start I looked like a fool. I understand that but I believed in our guys and I know what we’re capable of…We went on our first road trip and I bought some really good whiskey on that airplane. Everybody got a little cup and I toasted to the best 1-8 team in major league history on that first plane ride.”

3. Jim Leyland- Another skipper known for his honesty and solid communication skills. I think he might be one of the better in-game managers of the group. He seems to always know when to put a player in a spot that he will excel. He out managed both Joe Torre and Joe Girardi in his two ALDS victories over the Yankees. ESPN’s Jim Bowden called Leyland  ” an old-school, blue-collar warrior, a baseball lifer, who is a born leader who has extraordinary communication skills coupled with the intensity and intelligence of one of the game’s best managers.” I also like his direct and no-nonsense way of handling the media.

4. Ron Gardenhire – Was like Maddon for a number of years where he successfully won with a payroll-challenged team. Another players manager who transitioned from the popular Tom Kelly.  Gardenhire became the first manager in Twins’ history to lead the team to three straight division championships. This past year was the first black mark on his resume since the Twins lost over 90 games despite the highest payroll in team history. He also has been criticized for not getting his team out of the first round (lost to the Yankees 4 times) but once. Still, you can’t deny the work he’s done (6 division titles), and there are other teams in baseball that have been unable to beat the Yankees as well. Staying in one place 10 years is a testament to the job he’s done. It just doesn’t happen in the modern game.

5. Mike Scioscia- his teams always play scrappy and manufacture runs. They are probably the one team that has given the Yankees the most trouble the last decade. He seems to have a good grasp on his personnel and has them play to their strengths. During his 12 seasons as manager of the Angels, Scioscia has guided the team to its lone World Series victory in 2002, won five division titles in six seasons, was named Manager of the Year twice (2002, 2009) and broke the franchise single-season win record with 100 wins in 2008, breaking his own mark of 99 set in 2002. Players will say they love a manager that shows trust in him, and Scioscia is known to stick with his veterans even when they are struggling. That faith in a player has paid dividends in the long term. This year, he needed to adjust and rely on youngsters like Jordan Walden and Mark Trumbo. The Angels nearly made it a 3-team Wild Card race late this season.

I think the top two, LaRussa and Maddon, are a notch above 3 to 5. The remaining are probably interchangeable and preference is probably going to be decided in terms of personality and style of play.

I will say that Terry Francona would have made the list if he were still employed. Some other honorable mention goes to Bud Black in San Diego, Bruce Bochy in San Francisco, and Ozzie Guillen down in Florida.


By Mike Silva
Sunday, 16 Oct 2011

Jim Leyland, Joe Girardi, Joe Maddon, Mike Scioscia, Ron Gardenhire, Terry Collins, Terry Francona


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