Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top 5 Seasons To Forget, Managing Edition

Let's not overcomplicate the managerial version of my Top 5 Seasons To Forget, which already covered hitting and pitching. All-time, only 5 managers proved steadfast enough to lose 200 more games than they won. These are their cards.

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.


Anthony Hughes said...

That was a fun read, thank you.

Jeff said...

McCloskey managed in parts of at least 30 years in the minors between 1888 and 1932

Matthew Glidden said...

Thanks! And learning more about McCloskey's lengthy history was the most interesting part of putting this together.

Fuji said...

Great post! #1 on my X-mas list = a Morris Buttermaker trading card.