MLB Power Rankings: The 10 Worst Managers in MLB History
What makes a MLB manager good or bad at his job?
While it's true that the only mark we really have to compare one manager to another is win-loss record, other factors need to be taken into account.
First and foremost is the quality of the talent each has at his disposal. Managers with losing records should be given special consideration if they're forced to play a bunch of guys who should be toiling in Triple-A.
Second, we need to evaluate expectations. A winning record does not ensure success if a talented club that is picked by many to win its division fails to make the postseason.
Third, we should look at character. The manager is not only responsible for how the team performs on the field, but he also needs to be able to manage human beings and their 25 different personalities.
If a manager is constantly getting in disputes with his players, chances are he isn't doing a great job.
Keeping all that in mind, what follows is a lesson in futility and a list of 10 of the worst managers in Major League Baseball history.
Stats source: baseball-reference.com
10. Ted Williams (Washington Senators, Texas Rangers)
As is often the problem with great players turned coaches, Ted Williams' biggest downfall as a manager was his inability to cope with the fact that his players were nowhere near as talented as he ever was.
The "Splendid Splinter" took over managerial duties of the Washington Senators (v. 2.0) in 1969, going 86-76, finishing fourth in the American League and winning Manager of the Year along the way. His offense was led by underrated slugger Frank Howard, who hit 48 homers that year.
Despite another 44 bombs from Howard in 1970 (his fourth straight season with 36 homers or more), the Nationals managed to finish just 70-92.
They continued to decline in 1971, finishing 63-96 as pitcher Denny McLain lost 22 games, but Williams was still retained as manager after the Senators moved to Texas.
The inaugural Rangers squad finished 54-100 under Williams, and he was fired at year's end.
Ted Williams had an irritating type of personality that clearly wore on his players as they slowly declined one year after the next. For that reason alone, he finds his way onto this list.
9. John Russell (Pittsburgh Pirates)
John Russell has had one of the more unsuccessful tenures in recent memory.
Sure, the Pirates have had a pretty underwhelming roster for the past decade, and nobody in their right minds expected them to compete with much bigger dogs (St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati) in the tough NL Central.
Nevertheless, Russell and the Pirates still finished 186-299 during his three-year run from 2008-2010, losing 95, 99 and 105 games respectively and finishing last in their division each year.
What really hurts Russell is that the 2011 Pirates have gone 47-43 under first-year manager Clint Hurdle, and they entered the All-Star break with their first winning record since 1992 (their last winning season).
The team even sent three representatives to the All-Star game, their first time it's done that since 1990.
What's more, the Pirates didn't make any major changes during the offseason. They returned the same core of players that lost more than 100 games last year.
Even if Pittsburgh manages to slip up in the second half and drops below the .500 mark, Russell was clearly doing something wrong, and his team quit on him.
Time will tell if he ever gets another chance to manage in the big leagues, but I'd bet against him having any measure of success.
8. Stump Merrill (New York Yankees)
Given the Yankees' most recent run of success over the past 15-plus years, the common fan can easily forget how bad they were in comparison in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Stump Merrill, a longtime Yankees minor league manager, was summoned from Double-A to oversee the big club in June of 1990 after Bucky Dent (who took over partway through 1989) was fired.
Merrill guided the Yankees to a 49-64 finish, ending their year with a 67-95 record and a seventh-place finish in the eight-team AL East.
Merrill somehow managed to stick around for all of 1991 as well, finishing 71-91 before being replaced by Buck Showalter in the offseason.
These two seasons marked the Yankees' lowest winning percentages since the mid-1960s and registered as their fifth- and sixth-worst seasons ever (behind 1912, 1908, 1902 and 1913).
Despite his poor run, Merrill managed to hang around the Yankees organization as a roving adviser, minor league manager and eventually a special adviser to Brian Cashman up until his retirement in 2006.
Still, Merrill is probably the worst manager in the history of the Yankees—one of the most, if not the most, successful organizations in the history of sports.
For that he deserves special recognition.
7. Ned Yost (Milwaukee Brewers, Kansas City Royals)
Like the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Kansas City Royals have been particularly bad for quite some time now.
As such, it's tough to count Ned Yost's 92-126 mark heavily against him since he took over the team last season. After all, Tony Muser went 317-431 with the Royals from 1997-2002, and he avoided this list of shame.
Instead, Yost finds his way on here for his run with the Milwaukee Brewers from 2003-2008, where he actually finished with two winning campaigns.
After losing 94 games in each of 2003 and 2004, the Brewers went 81-81 in 2005, 75-87 in 2006 and 83-79 in 2007.
With a solid group in place led by Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Ben Sheets, many expected the Brewers to go as far as the World Series in 2008.
Those hopes were bolstered by a midseason trade for star lefty CC Sabathia, giving the Brewers a dominant one-two punch to support their explosive lineup.
Milwaukee was disappointing from the start, hovering around .500, but it heated up as the season wore on and peaked in August, going 20-7 for the month.
Once the calendar turned to September, however, Milwaukee really struggled. It went just 3-11 under Yost before he was canned, giving way to bench coach Dale Sveum.
The club limped into the playoffs as the wild card, ultimately falling to the World Series champion Phillies.
Yost squandered an opportunity to win with the most talent-laden Brewers team in years. His failures will ultimately have far-reaching consequences if Fielder decides to depart this offseason.
6. Roy Hartsfield (Toronto Blue Jays)
It wasn't entirely Roy Hartsfield's fault he lost more than 100 games during each of his three seasons as a major league manager.
Due to a disparity in talent, expansion teams rarely do well early on.
Unfortunately, Hartsfield still has the worst winning percentage of any manager since the end of World War II.
After taking over the expansion Jays in 1977, Hartsfield compiled records of 54-107, 59-102 and 53-109 before giving way to Bobby Mattick in 1980.
During his three years, the best player he managed was probably first baseman John Mayberry—a fairly unremarkable first baseman, but a decent enough player.
Hartsfield's greatest contribution may have been converting 21-year-old Dave Stieb from outfielder to pitcher during the 1979 season. Stieb went on to win 176 games and earn seven All-Star appearances.
Hartsfield never got another chance as a MLB manager, and it would've been interesting to see how he would have done with even a little bit of talent.
Still, we'll let his record here speak for itself (166-318, .343 winning percentage).
5. Terry Bevington (Chicago White Sox)
There is a reason Terry Bevington was never given another job managing a major league club despite finishing with a respectable record (224-214) during his three-year tenure with the White Sox from 1995-1997.
Bevington was (supposedly) universally hated by his players, especially future Hall of Famer Frank Thomas.
Bevington's White Sox teams had a good supporting cast around their two-time MVP, including All-Stars Tim Raines, Harold Baines, Robin Ventura, Albert Belle, Ozzie Guillen and pitcher James Baldwin.
But the Sox woefully underachieved under Bevington's watch, particularly due to poor pitching and his mismanagement of their bullpen.
His worst gaffe came when he entered the field during a game and signaled for a lefty reliever to enter the game, only to discover he had forgotten to warm up a pitcher in the first place.
Upon his firing, a newspaper writer wished Bevington well as he exited the park. In turn, the now-former manager replied that he hoped the writer would die of a slow and painful death.
Seems like a nice fellow.
4. Alan Trammell (Detroit Tigers)
Alan Trammell may one day be a baseball Hall of Famer.
But it won't have anything to do with his three-year run as Tigers manager from 2003-2005.
A list of the worst managers in major league history would not be complete without him.
After all, Trammell was in charge of the 2003 Tigers team that finished 43-119 (.265 winning percentage). But I personally think the guy gets an unfair rep.
That Tigers team was coming off a 55-106 record in 2002 under Phil Garner and Luis Pujols, and they lost some "key" contributors from the 2002 squad, including starting pitcher Jeff Weaver, designated hitter Randall Simon and outfielder Robert Fick.
The 2003 team was forced to play a bunch of guys who deserved to be hanging around in the minor leagues, including shortstop Ramon Santiago, who posted an absurdly poor .576 OPS over 144 games.
Starting pitchers Nate Cornejo (17), Jeremy Bonderman (19) and Mike Maroth (21) combined to lose 57 games and led a staff that generated a 5.30 team ERA.
In an era of talent dilution across 30 major league teams, the Tigers were in poor shape.
Detroit signed some notable free agents after the season, and Trammell improved the club to 72-90 and 71-91 over his final two seasons before being replaced by Jim Leyland in 2006.
Leyland immediately took the team to a 95-67 mark and an AL pennant before losing to the Cardinals in the World Series.
Many suspect that the more mature team he inherited was merely the fruit of Trammell's labor and wonder whether or not the former manager may have been able to accomplish similar feats.
If he had been given one more season, Alan Trammell might still be the manager of the Detroit Tigers.
Instead, he's on this list.
3. Phil Regan (Baltimore Orioles)
In the textbooks of history, Baltimore Orioles manager Phil Regan will appear to be nothing more than a stopgap between successful runs by Johnny Oates and Davey Johnson.
Oates was fired after the strike-shortened 1994 season in which he'd gone 63-49 but lagged seven games behind the Yankees.
Regan, a 57-year-old rookie manager, was installed in 1995. He took a talented team coming off three consecutive winning seasons and managed it to a disappointing 71-73 mark.
The Orioles had the second-highest payroll in baseball and the best attendance in all of the major leagues, but they failed to play consistently well.
With batters like Rafael Palmeiro, Cal Ripken Jr., Brady Anderson, Harold Baines and Bobby Bonilla, a rotation led by Mike Mussina, Kevin Brown and Jamie Moyer and a bullpen featuring Doug Jones, Jesse Orosco and Armando Benitez, the high volatility in the Orioles' performance was surprising.
In fact, the team outscored its opponents 704-640 for the year, and its Pythagorean record (78-66) suggests it should have been much better.
Players blamed Regan for over-managing. Daily lineup changes left many unsure of their place on the squad, and it ultimately took a toll on the team's overall confidence.
Regan was replaced by Davey Johnson in 1996, and he immediately took the Orioles to back-to-back ALCS appearances (both losses).
Phil Regan never managed in the big leagues again—a testament to his failure in Baltimore.
2. Jimmie Wilson (Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs)
Jimmie "Ace" Wilson has the worst plus/minus of any manager in major league history, losing 242 more games than he won over the course of his career.
But that is far from the whole story.
Wilson was a pretty decent player during the early part of his career. He was a slap-hitting catcher who rarely struck out, with some speed to leg out his fair share of doubles and triples to make his bat worthwhile.
After splitting the first 11 years of his career between the Phillies and the Cardinals, Wilson was traded back to Philadelphia before the 1934 season and became a player-manager.
While the Phillies were a particularly bad team at the time, Wilson didn't help them any as the team's decision-maker. From 1934 to 1938, he amassed records of 56-93, 64-89, 54-100, 61-92 and 45-103.
Perhaps his biggest mistake was keeping himself in the lineup all that time. By that point Wilson's legs were all but gone, and his OPS fluttered around the mid to high .600s (bad even for that era).
Wilson was fired at the end of the 1938 campaign but hung around for a few more seasons as a reserve before accepting the Cubs' managerial role in 1941.
From 1941-1943, he managed the Cubs to records of 70-84, 68-86 and 74-79. He was retained for 1944 but was fired after dropping nine of the team's first 10 contests.
All told, "Ace" Wilson compiled a 493-735 career record as a manager, good for a .401 winning percentage.
The Cubs went 98-56 and reached the World Series (lost in seven games to Detroit) the year after his firing.
1. Buddy Bell (Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals)
Buddy Bell was a decent enough major league player. In fact, he won five Gold Gloves and was a six-time All-Star.
As a manager, however, he was just atrocious.
Bell has been a major league manager three times, with each tenure lasting parts of three seasons.
His first go-round was with the Tigers from 1996-1998, where he amassed a record of 184-277 for the historic franchise. He was fired partway through the 1998 season after going 52-85.
His second job was with the Colorado Rockies. Behind Todd Helton's flirtation with .400, Bell managed to guide the Rockies to an 82-80 finish in 2000. Unfortunately, this would be the best season of his career.
The Rockies fell to 73-89 in 2001, and Bell was canned after they started 6-16 in 2002.
When Tony Pena was fired by the Royals after starting 8-25 in 2005, Bell was offered probably his last opportunity to manage a major league club.
After winning his first four games, including a three-game sweep of the mighty New York Yankees, Bell finished the rest of the year with a 39-69 mark.
Still, he managed to stick around for two more seasons. The Royals went 62-100 in 2006 and 69-93 in 2007 before Bell was fired once more.
Bell never managed a talented group of players, but the jobs he decided to take were ultimately his choice. His career mark of 519-724 (.418 winning percentage) is just horrid, and he owns the second-worst plus/minus of all time behind Jimmie Wilson.
Bell is arguably the worst manager in the history of three different franchises.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on the Royals.