1. Fred Tenney (-200, Boston)
One of three 19th century emeritus members on this list, Fred debuted way back in 1894. Solid, above-average player (career stats), but historically ineffective manager for 4 seasons, dropping 50 extra games per season. Doubt that anyone today would stick around as long averaging 56-106.
High point: Beneficiary of this nice 45th birthday recap, complete with Boston's 1900 team photo.
Low point: 44-107 in 1911. Not even Cy Young (in his final year) could help.
2. Buddy Bell (-205, Tigers, Rockies, Royals)
Bell's managed three franchises during moribund periods, raising the chicken-or-egg question: do lousy franchises limit a manager's success or do lousy managers sink teams that could otherwise succeed?
High point: KC's 2007 season inspired the short-lived FIRE BUDDY BELL, a frozen-in-time example of frustration at Bell's willingness to start Scott Elarton and the like. (As noted in Pitching Seasons To Forget, Elarton's the only guy to start 3 different seasons with 8+ straight lousy starts.)
Low point: Runner-up for 1997 AL Manager of the Year after Detroit finished 79-83. That's more of a low point for the whole voting process. (GOOD GAME BUDDY, GOOD EFFORT.)
3. Connie Mack (-217, Pirates and Athletics)
No manager will ever touch Mack's wins record (3731), loss record (3948), tenure record (53 years), or wingtips-wearing record (2). He's an inseparable piece of sports history, a "starting corner" in our 500-piece baseball puzzle.
High point: 4 pennants and 3 titles in 5 years (1910, 1911, 1913, and 1914).
Low point: As both owner and manager, Mack felt free to fire sale his teams just after their peak, so fans rode the emotional sea-saw of winning big one year and losing bigger the next year more than once.
4. John McCloskey (-227, Colonels and Cardinals)
Let's remember McCloskey's decades as a player, scout, and manager at every pro level instead of that terrible .313 winning percentage in 5 seasons in Louisville and St. Louis. I suspect he did better helping players develop than keeping a top-level team on the same page.
High point: The Austin Post wrote an enthralling recap of a McCloskey-led barnstorming tour that passed through Texas in 1887, assuming you (like me) find 19th cards and players enthralling. John's own club split a 2-game series with the New York Giants, a roster loaded with future HOFers King Kelly, Buck Ewing, Rogor Connor, and Tim Keefe.
Low point: Louisville fired McCloskey in 1896 after a horrid 2-17 start, spurring his move back to the Southwest. He made silk of their sow's ear by helping start the Texas League, which continues play more than a century later.
McCloskey scouted when he wasn't managing and eBay seller extremelyrare lists a letter to Reds President August Herrmann evaluating 1914 infield prospects. (Nice signature, too.)
5. Jimmie Wilson (-242, Phillies and Cubs)
Philly player/manager Jimmie Wilson served as crosstown rival to Connie Mack's Athletics from 1934 to 1938 and I have a hunch the Phillies kept him around that long because both teams stunk. Neither side managed even 70 wins, a morass of mediocrity that sent locals anywhere but the ballparks.
- 1934 attendance: A's 6th of 8 AL teams, Phillies 8th of 8 NL teams
- 1935: A's 7th, Phillies 8th
- 1936: A's 7th, Phillies 8th
- 1937: A's 6th, Phillies 8th
- 1938: A's 6th, Phillies 8th
No big surprise Philly jettisoned a team--the A's to Kansas City--once improved planes and roads made more Midwestern markets accessible to the majors.
High point: Jimmie helped Philly save money by both catching and managing, I guess.
Low point: Wilson spent most of 1940 as unofficial bench coach, but circumstances pushed him to start (and excel) as Cincy's catcher in a World Series win. This ranks as a low point for Chicago, who immediately hired Wilson as manager for 3+ seasons of going nowhere.
Top 5 Honorable (Questionable?) Mentions
These guys don't rank on all-time W/L lists yet, but are either active or might score a job again.
1. Ned Yost (-100, Brewers and Royals)
"Active Royals manager" means we can expect Ned's loss differential to increase.
2. Brad Mills (-103, Astros)
Mills dropped those extra 103 games in just 3 seasons (less, actually, given his firing in July 2012). Only 5 managers ever did more with so little; 1939-41 Phillies manager Doc Prothro set the low-water mark at -182.
3. Clint Hurdle (-113, Rockies and Pirates)
One amazing run to the 2007 World Series. Otherwise, phhhhhhhhhbt.
4. Manny Acta (-146, Nationals and Indians)
Cleveland ownership finally cut ties with Acta in late 2012, about five months after most fans did the same. To Manny's credit, he writes a cool "M."
5. Morris Buttermaker (lost 7-6 in title game)
Heck with records, those kids are the Baddest Bears in my or anyone's book.