Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Weekly Cup Of Joe: Best Managers Edition

I prefer to think of this as more of a tribute to Fire Joe Morgan than a blatant ripoff. But who are we really kidding here?

Tuesday is when Joe Morgan drops some bombs of baseball wisdom on our heads over at the Four Letter. Usually after a Joe Chat, I feel confused and have to take a nap. I didn't make it past the second question of yesterday's Joe Chat. In fact, I had to take the rest of the day off to attempt to re-gather my thoughts. Let's check out the answer that jarred my brain like a Rock Em, Sock Em Robot...
Clay D (NY)

Who is the best manager in the NL out of the current playoff teams?

Joe Morgan (11:06 AM)

A few years ago, I wrote a book and listed my top 5 managers: Dusty Baker, Bobby Cox, Joe Torre, Tony LaRusa and I think the fifth was Cito Gaston. So, in the NL, Baker, Cox and Torre are the best managers.

Joe Morgan (11:06 AM)

Along with Tony LaRusa.

Joe wrote a book? I actually think he's referring to Baseball for Dummies and if that's the case, I'm buying that thing. What can I say, I'm a masochist. Without knowing his criteria, I have to assume Joe listed his best managers by the surefire method of "first 5 managers to pop into my head." At first I thought maybe it was just modern era but Earl Weaver managed into the 1980's. He has to be better than Cito Gaston, right? I mean Earl Weaver actually added some revolutionary strategies to the managerial world. I'm not sure Cito Gaston would make my top 50.

Then I thought it has to be wins, right? La Russa is 3rd all time (2611), Cox is 4th (2473), Torre is 5th (2301), Baker is 26th (1374) and Gaston is 67th (865). Even if he's just talking active managers, Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia and Terry Francona have better arguments than Gaston and probably Baker. Although Baker, I assume, gets extra credit for ruining the careers of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. And coming soon the careers of Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.

The other problem I have with this is that being a major league manager isn't exactly rocket science. LaRussa does it drunk half the time.[citation needed] Sure, a "bad manager" can cost a team wins at a much quicker rate than a "good manager" can lead a team to more wins. That's mainly just through bullpen management. Even writing down names on a lineup card doesn't really matter. Tom Tango has done plenty of research on lineup order for The Book and even the optimal lineup is only worth an extra win or two over a season. And don't give me double switches and pinch hitting for the pitcher in the National League. Those are forced decisions not actual strategy.

I'm not saying managers are completely interchangeable. Sometimes a manager's personality can change the culture of a clubhouse and turn a team around. Buck Showalter already has the Orioles on a one game winning streak. It's difficult to gage managerial performance. It's even more difficult to tell how Joe Morgan ranked them.

If forced to answer that question, my list would look like this...

1. Anybody but Dusty Baker

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