Thoughts, lists and other compulsive bits about baseball from comedian filmmaker television producer/Red Sox fan Paul Francis Sullivan....
feel free to call him “Sully.”
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
HALL OF FAME OR NOT: MANAGER EDITION
Last Spring, I broke down which current players belong in the Hall of Fame or not.
It got me some attention and this interview heard in Toledo on On Sports with JP and Kevin.
And rest assured, I am working on an update of that entry for 2008.
But for some reason I didn't think of which managers should get Cooperstown consideration.
And today's division title for the Angels made me think about Mike Scioscia and his ever growing Cooperstown resume.
Here are the parameters for consideration that the staff at Sully Baseball has come up with.
1) The manager is currently managing now. 2) They have managed a World Series winner.
Sorry Bruce Bochy, Ron Gardenhire and Dusty Baker. You need to win the big Kahuna in order to get in.
So lets look at the candidates.
BOBBY COX Case For: 14 straight division titles with 5 pennants and the 1995 World Series title. Throw in the 1985 AL East title with the Toronto Blue Jays. His Braves teams won year in and year out despite a constantly changing cast of characters. He is also as respected a manager as there is in the game.
Case Against: Only won one World Series. Had the better team but lost in the World Series or playoffs in 1985, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Was outmanaged often and his use of the bullpen was suspect to say the least. Went 1-6 in post season series in the 2000s. How much of the success was because of him or because of Leo Mazzone’s handling of the pitching staff and the rise of Glavine and Smoltz and the signing of Maddux?
Verdict:HALL OF FAMER RIGHT NOW Winning only one World Series didn’t keep Earl Weaver or Leo Durocher out of the Hall of Fame. Al Lopez didn’t even win one! And the consistency of managing a team into the playoffs with different faces and different clubhouse leaders for nearly a decade and a half is more than enough.
TERRY FRANCONA Case For: Two World Series titles for a franchise that was starving for one. His calm and never panicking approach allowed the Red Sox to come back from a 3-0 deficit to the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and a 3-1 deficit to Cleveland in the 2007 ALCS. First manager to win his first 8 World Series games. Made the playoffs in 2005 and looks ready to have them back in 2008.
Case Against: Was he in the right place at the right time? What manager couldn’t win with a team front loaded with superstars? OK, besides Grady Little. The huge payroll and All Stars at almost every position makes filling out the line up card kind of easy. He didn’t exactly display Hall of Fame stuff as a manager in Philadelphia. Besides, shouldn’t Theo Epstein be getting the credit for this team?
Verdict:NOT A HALL OF FAMER YET It’s early but if he stays in Boston for 5 more years and keeps them in the playoffs for most of those years and wins another World Series title, it might be enough.
CITO GASTON Case For: He was the first manager to win back to back World Series in the Free Agent era. His teams made the playoffs 4 of his first 5 seasons. His 1992 team lost Dave Winfield, David Cone, David Wells, Tom Henke, Candy Maldonado, Manny Lee and Kelly Gruber in the off season and yet they won the 1993 World Series. Was the first African American to manage a World Series winner. The 2008 Blue Jays have played over .600 ball since he took over the team.
Case Against: Followed up the back to back World Series teams with 4 straight losing seasons. Was fired and couldn’t get a job for 11 seasons. GM Pat Gillick replenished the lost stars after the 1992 seasons with more stars, so his teams were always stocked with talent.
Verdict:NOT A HALL OF FAMER YET. PROBABLY TOO LATE. His first five seasons were spectacular and we forget now what a huge task it was to repeat as World Series champs. If he turns the Blue Jays around and they win a third World Series under his leadership, it might be a career worth examining. But not yet.
OZZIE GUILLEN Case For: Managed the White Sox to their first World Series title since 1917. And he managed them with their most visible superstar, Frank Thomas, hurt for most of the year. The 2005 World Series roster was devoid of a legit Hall of Fame candidate or a single marquee player… and yet they matched the 1999 Yankees with a 11-1 post season record. Has a White Sox team most picked to finish near the bottom in 2008 in first place in mid September. Has a hands on and aggressive managing style, including hit and running, stealing and unorthodox bullpen management, that makes it clear he is not a “fill out the line up card and take a nap” manager.
Case Against: Like Billy Martin, can grate on the players and the management and constantly seems on the verge of getting fired. His 2006 squad was superior in talent to the Twins and Tigers and yet finished third (despite 90 wins) and the 2007 White Sox were a disaster. The team’s success could just as easily be credited to GM Kenny Williams.
Verdict:NOT A HALL OF FAMER YET One great season and playoff run doesn’t make a Hall of Famer. Jack McKeon and the late Dick Howser would be in if that were the case. Ozzie needs to pile up some Division Titles and another pennant and not get himself fired. Longevity will go a long way. Earl Weaver was firey too and he only won one World Series… but he stuck around and piled up the October appearances. Take note Ozzie.
TONY LARUSSA Case For: Along with Sparky Anderson is the one of two managers to win the World Series as a manager in both leagues. Led the Oakland A’s to 3 straight World Series appearances. Including his time managing the White Sox, he has had 12 post season appearances, 11 division titles, 5 pennants and the 1989 and 2006 World Championship. Is considered to be a superior intellect in the dugout and consistently a winner from 1983 to present.
Case Against: Has there been a manager who has more benefited from the steroid era than LaRussa? He won the pennants in the late 80s and 1990 on the juiced up strength of McGwire and Canseco and turned a blind eye as McGwire chased down Maris in 1998. Now there are whispers of Albert Pujols and positive tests for Rick Ankiel. Are we to believe after all the books written about his intelligence that he didn’t know?
Verdict:HALL OF FAMER RIGHT NOW I don’t like LaRussa and I made that clear. But the total tonnage of what we don’t know about the steroid era is not enough to wipe out a remarkable managerial career.
JIM LEYLAND Case For: Took 3 teams to the playoffs, including the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins. If it wasn’t for Francisco Cabrera’s single he would have lead three different teams to the World Series. Took a losing Pirates franchise and led them to 3 straight NLCS appearances. Took a losing Marlins franchise and led them to the World Series title. Took an irrelevant Tigers team, just 3 years removed from a 119 loss season and brought them to the World Series in his first year. A tough and no nonsense manager who actually got Barry Bonds and Gary Sheffield to march to his beat.
Case Against: Couldn’t win the pennant in Pittsburgh and when the stars left the team collapsed. Managed the 1998 Marlins, stripped of their World Series participants and saw them finish 54-108. His one year in Colorado was a disaster. The 2006 Tigers looked rusty and unprepared in their World Series loss to the Cardinals. Was given a $100 million plus roster for the 2008 Tigers and they stumbled badly out of the gate and have been irrelevant in a year they were supposed to be a World Series contender.
Verdict:HALL OF FAMER RIGHT NOW If Francisco Cabrera had popped up, there wouldn’t even be a discussion here. Either way, his ability to revive moribund franchises and the respect he commands is enough for me.
LOU PINIELLA Case For: Pulled off one of the great World Series upsets in history when the Reds swept the A’s in 1990. Turned the Mariners, the most laughable franchise in baseball, into playoff contenders. After the Mariners lost Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey Jr and Alex Rodriguez, they responded with a 116-46 record. With the Cubs has now managed three different teams into the post season. Has a firey unmistakable brand of managing he undoubtedly picked up from his former manager Billy Martin.
Case Against: Couldn’t get the Yankees into the playoffs his three seasons as manager… The 1988 AL East was very winnable. Despite having Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez and a host of other stars, he couldn’t win a pennant in Seattle. His 116 win team got beat badly in the 2001 ALCS by the Yankees. His three years in Tampa Bay were disastrous. His managerial decisions may have cost the Cubs the 2007 Division Series.
Verdict:NOT A HALL OF FAMER YET… BUT HE’S ALMOST THERE He’s on the bubble right now. Some might argue he is in Jim Leyland’s position of winning only one World Series but turning franchises around. I would argue that he needs to return to the World Series as a manager. If he wins a pennant for the Cubs, he’s in… no questions asked.
MIKE SCIOSCIA Case For: Won the 2002 World Series, toppling the heavily favored Yankees in the first round. With 2008 already wrapped up, he has led the Angels to division titles in 4 of the last 5 seasons. Has a mixture of veterans and rookies on his team and an ever changing roster, yet like Bobby Cox the team keeps winning. The turn over in ownership and in the front office during his time shows this isn’t a manager simply benefiting from a GM’s power.
Case Against: The 2002 World Series was lost by the Giants as much as it was won by the Angels. While he has no problem beating the Yankees in the post season (the did it in 2005 as well) they get clobbered by teams with Sox in their name. (The Angels were swept by the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007 and lost the 2005 ALCS in 5 games to the White Sox.)
Verdict:NOT A HALL OF FAMER YET… BUT PROBABLY WILL BE It’s early but no manager in baseball is putting together a Hall of Fame resume faster than Scioscia. He has the ring and is piling up the Division Titles. He needs at least another pennant and he also needs to keep the Angels as annual pennant contenders into the next decade.
JOE TORRE Case For: 12 straight post season appearances for the Yankees including 6 pennants and 4 World Series titles. The 1996 World Series victory was as unlikely a win in World Series history. He rattled off 4 straight pennants despite strong challenges from Oakland and Seattle. And after Steinbrenner made 19 managerial moves in 21 seasons, he gave the Yankees stability over 12 seasons. Restored the dignity and championship expectations of the Yankees with his cool and calming managerial style and developed new Yankee legends along the way. He also managed the 1982 NL West champion Braves and looks poised to win a division title in Los Angeles this year. Also was a borderline Hall of Fame player.
Case Against: How much was his Yankees success because of him or how much was it because he walked into a good situation with a team developed by Buck Showalter and Gene Michael? His record as a Mets, Braves and Cardinals manager was not exactly stellar. (One post season appearance prior to the Yankees and it was a 3 game sweep.) Not a great strategy manager and prone to making some terrible decisions that possibly cost him the playoffs in 2002 and the World Series in 2003. Only one manager has ever blown a 3-0 series lead and that was Torre. His managing of games 5 and 6 possibly cost the Yankees the pennant. How hard is it to manage the Yankees with all that money?
Verdict:HALL OF FAMER RIGHT NOW You think it is easy? Ask Joe Girardi! The ability to stay calm in stormy waters is his greatest asset and it led directly to the 1996 and 2000 World Championship and post season appearances in 2005 and 2007 despite terrible starts. No man in baseball is more respected and no record speaks more clearly that they deserve a spot in Cooperstown.
So there you have it. Tony LaRussa, Bobby Cox, Jim Leyland and Joe Torre will be in Cooperstown. Lou Piniella is a Chicago pennant away and Mike Scioscia is well on his way.
Then again if Piniella wins the World Series for the Cubs he might be canonized by the Pope