Sparky Anderson: Will He Go Down as Greatest Manager of Modern Era?

Elliott Pohnl@@ElliottPohnl_BRFeatured ColumnistNovember 3, 2010

Sparky Anderson: Will He Go Down as Greatest Manager of Modern Era?

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    Sparky Anderson has been placed in hospice care with complications stemming from dementia, his family announced in a statement Wednesday.

    The 76-year-old Anderson won three World Series titles and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.

    His sparkling managerial record speaks for itself. 

    In the end, he will undoubtedly be remembered as one of baseball's all-time greats.

    Let's take a look at where Sparky Anderson ranks among the best managers in Major League Baseball since 1960.

Honorable Mention: Terry Francona

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    Sure, Tito has led the Red Sox to a pair of World Series crowns and posted a sparkling .577 winning percentage in Boston.

    But when trying to consider his place among the best managers of the modern era, you can't forget about his tenure in Philadelphia.

    During his four years in Philly, Francona posted a 285-363 record as the Phillies finished last in the division twice.

    Unlike most of the managers on this list, he has never demonstrated he can win without a roster filled with talented, high-priced players.

    By virtue of being the leader who helped the Bo Sox reverse the course of history, Francona deserves at least a mention.

No. 10: Ron Gardenhire

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    Few managers have done more with less than Ron Gardenhire.

    In his nine seasons in the dugout in Minnesota, he has compiled an 803-656 record while leading the Twins to six division titles.

    Gardenhire's strategic moves are widely regarded as among the best in the game today, helping the small-market Twins contend for supremacy with the high-payroll beasts of the AL East.

    The only thing he hasn't done is manage to get his team over the hump in the postseason.

No. 9: Tommy Lasorda

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    Tommy Lasorda continues to be an ambassador to the game of baseball even after his managerial days have come to an end.

    During his days with the Dodgers, Lasorda won eight NL West titles and directed L.A. to World Series wins in 1981 and 1988.

    He compiled a 1,599-1,439 record with the Dodgers before retiring during the 1996 season due to health reasons.

No. 8: Lou Piniella

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    Sweet Lou had some horrible seasons in Tampa Bay and finished his managerial career with a considerable failure in Chicago.

    He also managed the Cincinnati Reds to an unlikely World Series crown and helped put Seattle on the map thanks in part to a dazzling young talent named Ken Griffey Jr.

    Piniella's 2001 Mariners' squad, featuring Griffey, Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner and Randy Johnson, won 116 games in the regular season, but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS.

    In all, he posted 1,835 wins while managing five different clubs.

    Don't expect him to give up his charmed life spent drinking margaritas poolside and manage again in the Bigs.

No. 7: Earl Weaver

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    Weaver was one of the crabbiest managers around, but it's difficult to argue with his success in Baltimore.

    During his time with the Orioles, Weaver won six AL East championships and racked up 1,480 wins.

    Amazingly, the O's had just one losing season with Weaver in the dugout.

    Weaver led the Orioles to the World Series title in 1970 with the help of one of the best starting staffs ever assembled.

No. 6: Jim Leyland

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    Leyland's chain-smoking managerial career has featured only one World Series crown to this point.

    But his success in both the AL and the NL is impossible to ignore.

    His career began in Pittsburgh, where he piloted the young Pirates to the cusp of the World Series in three straight seasons.

    After Barry Bonds left town, things went downhill and he moved on to manage the expansion Marlins in 1997.

    The Marlins had paid top-dollar to bring in the likes of Gary Sheffield and Bobby Bonilla, and Leyland led Florida to a World Series title in his first season on the bench.

    Without question, his greatest managerial accomplishment was how quickly he turned around a Tigers' franchise mired in futility.

    In his first season in the AL, Leyland led Detroit to a 95-win season and a spot in the World Series, ending with a loss to Tony LaRussa's underdog Cardinals.

No. 5: Billy Martin

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    Martin's famous clashes with a young George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson came to define his legacy.

    But there was certainly plenty of substance behind his style.

    No matter where he went, Martin rarely stayed out of the headlines, thanks to his confrontational habits and love of a stiff drink.

    His managerial career started off with success.

    He led the Twins to a division title in 1969, but he was fired after just one season in part for his role in a fight with a player outside a bar.

    From there, he moved on to Detroit and Texas.

    Again, he had success, but didn't last long.

    He then went to manage the Yankees, beginning a tumultuous run featuring an appearance in back-to-back World Series' in 1976 and 1977.

    The Yankees ended up taking the title in 1977 despite Martin's controversial decision to yank Mr. October in the middle of an inning after he failed to come in hard on a shallow fly to right against the Red Sox.

    Martin never lasted long thanks to his love of attacking the Boss.

    His most famous remarks led to his immediate removal in 1978, after he made light of Steinbrenner's contributions to the Richard Nixon campaign.

    Had he managed to keep his mouth shut, there's no question Martin would ranked higher on baseball's all-time managerial wins list.

No. 4: Joe Torre

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    Torre has been around a long time and had terrific success.

    Just how much he was directly responsible for that success is a topic that will be debated forever.

    After failing to post a winning record during his four seasons in New York managing the Mets, he led the Braves to a NL West title in 1982.

    He moved on to St. Louis, where he replaced the legendary Whitey Herzog and had modest success.

    Then came his glorious stint with the Yankees.

    During his time in New York, Torre won four World Series' and managed what many believe to be the greatest team ever assembled in 1998.

    No matter how you slice it, 2,326 wins is pretty impressive.

No. 3: Tony LaRussa

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    LaRussa has won everywhere he has been, albeit with a little help from some big boppers.

    Surprisingly, he has only managed to win two World Series titles despite managing some of the most consistently-successful clubs in baseball.

    His time in Oakland with the Bash Brothers and in St. Louis with Big Mac and the scrappy Cardinals has featured much more good than bad.

    LaRussa ranks third all-time in wins in MLB history and is widely regarded as the best strategical manager ever.

No. 2: Sparky Anderson

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    Anderson managed the Big Red Machine to four World Series' appearances during his nine seasons on the bench in Cincinnati.

    With Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan leading the way, Anderson's Reds' won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976.

    The Reds' dynasty is widely regarded as one of the most dominant postseason teams ever, winning 14 out of 17 games during the back-to-back World Series title runs.

    After he was fired in 1978, Anderson was immediately hired by the Detroit Tigers.

    He led the Tigers to an incredible 35-5 start in 1984 and went on to win the World Series over the Padres.

    Anderson became the first manager to win World Series titles in both the American League and National League.

    He stayed on the bench in Detroit until 1995, when he retired after growing unhappy with labor disputes in baseball.

    With his string of success in Cincinnati and a lifetime record of 2,194–1,834, there's little question Anderson will be remembered as one of the best ever.

No. 1: Bobby Cox

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    Bobby Cox was the brains behind the most successful run of any organization in professional sports.

    During his time in Atlanta, Cox helped the Braves capture 14-straight divisional titles while racking up a record 158 ejections.

    Don't expect either record to fall anytime soon.

    Cox finished his managerial career with 2,504 wins and is widely regarded as the best "players manager" in baseball history.

    If only he could have won more World Series' crowns.

    The Braves' dynasty managed only one World Series win, beating the upstart Cleveland Indians in 1995.

    Despite the lack of World Series wins, it's difficult to argue against Bobby Cox being the greatest manager in the history of baseball.