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10. Joe Maddon – Tampa Bay Rays.
Many call Maddon a state-of-the-art manager. He has shown a knack for being smart and innovative as well as an excellent communicator. The job he did taking the Tampa Bay Rays from the bottom of the American League East to the World Series will always be remembered. The 55 year old manager may not have the best record in baseball, but look for that to improve. Maddon was considered a front runner for the Boston Red Sox managerial job in 2004, which later went to Terry Francona. Maddon always seems to have a different lineup, and keeps his entire roster fresh. Maddon barely edges out a slew of others, due in large part to the memorable 2008 run. The up side for Maddon is, he has still has room to improve and move up the ranks, as this is only his fourth full season as a manager. Maddon went 27-24 in two interim stints with the Angels.
9. Lou Piniella – Chicago Cubs
Piniella is one of the best motivators in the game of baseball. He also does not change his style no matter who he has on his roster. Has had an outburst or two that has sparked a team to an improvement in play. If you were to rank the managers and their press conferences and the comic relief they gave – Piniella would at the top. The 65 year old “Sweet Lou” came into the 2009 season ranking 14th all time in managerial wins. Lou has won three manager of the year awards, two in the American League (1995 and 2001) with Seattle and in 2008 with the Cubs. Lou has been above .500 in four of his five managerial posts. His start in New York lasted 2.5 seasons where he went 224-193. He was then able to move to Cincinnati, winning the World Series in his first season. He finished 255-231 in three seasons at the helm of the Reds. Lou then spent ten seasons as the manager of the Seattle Mariners. In those ten years Lou won three AL West titles, and advanced as the wildcard in another season. Lou led the 2001 Mariners to 116 wins, falling short to the Yankees in the ALCS. Lou then spent three seasons in Tampa Bay, finishing 200-285. After taking the 2006 season off, Lou was announced as the new manager in Chicago, for the lovable Cubs, who haven’t won a World Series title since 1908. The Cubs went 85-77 in 2007 losing in the NLDS to Arizona, and 97-64 in 2008 losing to Los Angeles. Since coming to Chicago, Lou is 0-6 in the postseason. All time, Piniella has won 23 postseason games, a World Series title, and made the postseason six times.
8. Charlie Manuel – Philadelphia Phillies
There is no denying Charlie Manuel’s offensive presence in the dugout in Philadelphia. His teams have absolutely been able to rake so much that the Phillies were able to win the 2008 World Series under his guidance. This season Manuel is dealing with a less than stellar starting rotation and continuing to keep them atop the National League East. May not be the best on field game decision maker, but as is a common theme with the top ten, knows how to get the best out of his players. His run-ins with Jimmy Rollins have been classic, and he has left no doubt who is in charge in the city of brotherly love. Don’t judge Charlie on his public speaking, as admittedly it is a weakness of his. The 65 year old manager got a late start in his managerial career, starting in 2000 with the Cleveland Indians. In 2.5 seasons Manuel led the Indians to a 220-191 record, including a postseason berth in 2001, only to fall to 116 game winner Seattle in the ALDS. Manuel has never finished a full season under .500, winning at least 85 games in all six of his seasons. Charlie is 13-9 in two postseason appearances as a manager.
7. Cito Gaston – Toronto Blue Jays
This year’s Blue Jays team has competed thus far in the brutal American League East. Gaston’s patient presence has been a staple from within his teams. After taking ten seasons off managing, Gaston took over for John Gibbons in the middle of the 2008 season, leading Toronto to a 51-37 finish. Toronto is Gaston’s only stop, leading the Blue Jays to two World Series titles in 1992 and 1993. His all time postseason record is 18-16, while his regular season record, coming into 2009 is 734-673. Gaston’s ball club in 2009 is low on talent, but high on energy which may allow them to compete with the big boys – Yankees, Red Sox and Rays.
6. Mike Scioscia – Los Angeles Angels
A guy that always is prepared for any occasion is Mike Scioscia. This year’s team has had to endure losing top free agents, losing key players to injury, and even dealing with an unfortunate death of a teammate. After his 12 year playing career that saw him catch 12 seasons, win two championships and play in two All Star games for the Los Angeles Dodgers, he became the manager of the Los Angeles (Anaheim) Angels in 2000. Scioscia has won 803 games, losing just 655 in his tenure as the head man in Anaheim. Five times his teams have reached the postseason, with a World Series title coming in 2002. Also in that season Scioscia was named the Manager of the Year. All time, Scioscia is 16-20 in postseason games. Anaheim front office understands the importance of having Scioscia lead the way for the team, in January of 2009 the team and Scioscia agreed to a new contract, which will keep him the manager through the year 2018.
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5. Jim Leyland – Detroit Tigers
A man that has been around baseball for 40+ years definitely knows how to win games. Jim Leyland, the manager of the Detroit Tigers has seen it all. Managing four different clubs with a seven year hiatus mixed in, Leyland has over 1,300 career wins. Known more commonly for his smoking habit, he got his kick start in the Major Leagues as Tony LaRussa’s third base coach in Chicago. He then went to Pittsburgh and was the manager of the Pirates for 11 seasons, seeing the postseason in three of those years. He won 851 games in Pittsburgh, and then took the managerial job in Miami as the top dog of the Florida Marlins. His first year was quite the success, as Florida reached the postseason via the wild card, later winning the World Series. After a horrible 1998 season Leyland resigned as the manager of Florida, only to take the Colorado Rockies post for the next season. 72 wins in Colorado was not enough to warrant a return, and that’s when Leyland was out of managing. In 2006 Leyland led the Detroit Tigers to a World Series berth, which saw them fall to the St. Louis Cardinals in five games. Leyland has 27 career postseason wins, and three ‘Manager of the Year’ awards – two in the National League and one in the American league.
4. Bobby Cox – Atlanta Braves
A guy that gets the most out of his players, and also demands fundamentals is Bobby Cox. In a recent poll of the players, Cox was voted as the most respected manager in all of baseball. Cox has been managing the Braves since 1990, which is his second stint with Atlanta. His 19 years in Atlanta is the longest running tenure for a manager in a city. Cox leads all of baseball with the most ejections, 143, a record he took from John McGraw. You would not know that Cox is prone for ejections by talking to him. He tends to have a knack with teaching youngsters patience and the true fundamentals of the game of baseball. His starting pitching staffs in the 90’s were among baseball’s best all time. Coming into the 2009 season Cox ranked fourth all time in wins by a manager. While Cox was manager, the Braves won 14 straight division titles, winning one world series within that time. Four other times Atlanta came up short in the World Series. Cox has won 66 postseason games to go along with his 2,327 regular season wins. 1,972 of those wins have come with the Atlanta Braves, while his other 355 came from 1982-1985 with the Toronto Blue Jays.
3. Terry Francona – Boston Red Sox
An excellent communicator, and also has been fantastic dealing with personalities of all sorts. The job he did with the “idiot” group in 2004 was masterful. After his playing days ended in 1990, Francona got his start as a MLB manager in 1997 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Francona spent four seasons in Philadelphia, with very little success. It has been in Boston where Francona has flourished, leading all sorts of different talent levels. Francona was noted as the “curse” stopper leading the Red Sox to the World Series title in 2004, to break the curse of the Bambino. In that season the Yankees led the Red Sox 3-0 in the ALCS, only to see Boston win the final four games, along with four straight over St. Louis to end an 86 year drought. In 2007 the Red Sox trailed Cleveland 3 games to 1 in the ALCS, only to win the final three, and then all four in the World Series to eliminate the Colorado Rockies. Coming into the 2009 season, Francona has a career record of 685-654 with one division title, four playoff appearances, two American League pennants, and two World Series rings.
2. Joe Torre – Los Angeles Dodgers
After playing in Major League baseball and compiling just short of a .300 batting average, and over 1000 runs batted in, Joe Torre began managing in 1977. Torre has had some bumps in the road during his managerial career, but has won 2,157 games, coming into the 2009 season. Torre is best known for his days with the New York Yankees, in which he led them to the postseason in every year he was in charge, and won ten American League East titles, six American League pennants, and four world series titles. Torre’s win percentage in New York was .605. Joe managerial style is very laid back, but extremely prepared. His teams not only have great talent, but they are always a couple steps ahead. Just like he has done with the 2009 Dodgers, Torre is excellent at taking adversity and turning it into a positive situation for his squad. Currently, his Dodgers have the best record in all of baseball, after reaching the National League Championship Series in 2008. Torre has won the manager of the year award in the American League twice. His first came in 1996, when he led the Yankees to a 92-70 regular season, and eventually a World Series title. The second award was in 1998 when New York won 114 games, and yet another World Series title. All in all, Torre has won 80 postseason games, and four world championships.
1. Tony LaRussa – St. Louis Cardinals
Love or hate Anthony “Tony” LaRussa, no doubt the man knows how to lead teams to win baseball games. Despite injuries, ineffectiveness, and even (unfortunately) deaths, Tony LaRussa always keeps his teams in the postseason picture. LaRussa has won world series in both the American League and National League, with his most recent in 6 with St. Louis. LaRussa is the master of keeping everyone on the roster fresh, and always two steps ahead. LaRussa is criticized for his stance on batting the pitcher eighth, but his track record speaks for itself. Critics also point to his constant pitching changes as a negative, but again – the results he gets are outstanding. LaRussa has managed the third most games in history, and if he completes the entire 2009 season, he will move to #2, only behind Connie Mack. LaRussa has been awarded the manager of the year three times, including twice with the Athletics, 1983 and 1988. He has led teams to 100+ wins four times in his career, and has a 59-48 career record in postseason.
Other MLB managers worthy of consideration (in no particular order):
Ron Gardenhire – Minnesota Twins
Always seems to have Minnesota in the race, despite managing a small market club. His teams are always fundamentally sound and he seems to get the best out of his players. The lack of a “big” one is what is keeping him outside the top ten looking in.
Joe Girardi – New York Yankees
Too inexperience at this point to grab a spot in the top ten, but look for that to change over time. Girardi seems to be taking after his playing days which were playing hard and playing smart. If this was 2008, he would not be in consideration, but the first two months of 2009 have shown he can take a bad situation and make some positives out of it. There is no denying, he has a lot to work with. He also has a lot to prove.
Ozzie Guillen – Chicago White Sox
If we were talking about the most disliked, Ozzie would surely be within the top ten. Guillen is fiery, there is no doubt about that, but his attitude carries over to his players and he is able to find ways to win. This season he has had to deal with a lot of young kids along with some aging veterans. It will be interesting to see if he can get the Sox back to the postseason. The job he did in 2005, in taking Chicago to the World Series, and winning it was masterful.
Ken Macha – Milwaukee Brewers
Always was solid in Oakland, and now in the National League, he has the Brewers playing well with less than great starting pitching. His calm demeanor may be something Milwaukee lacked the last couple years when it seemed Ned Yost and company would fold down the stretch.
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