Tony La Russa Retiring: Power Ranking the 15 Most Overrated Managers of All Time

Timothy Howell@@tmurrayhowellCorrespondent IINovember 1, 2011

Tony La Russa Retiring: Power Ranking the 15 Most Overrated Managers of All Time

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    In the last 20 years there has been no manager as polarizing as Tony LaRussa.  When his name is uttered during a casual conversation, it elicits the reaction that is usually reserved for players—that of immediate scorn or fervent adulation.

    Well, love him or hate him, Tony LaRussa knows the perfect time to hang 'em up.  On Monday morning he issued a press release that after 33 years managing three different teams—the Chicago White Sox, the Oakland Athletics, and the St. Louis Cardinals—he was ready to call it a career.  

    LaRussa, as always, is a tough guy to read.  Maybe he'll be back, maybe he won't.  He might, perhaps, in his own words " up a bookstore."

    Most would agree that since LaRussa is now leaving the world of Major League Baseball behind, now is the ideal time to look back, not only on his career, but to dig deeper and take a look into the careers of some other Major League managers.  

    I'm of the opinion that Tony LaRussa was a fine manager.  However, I do believe he was quite overrated over his three-decade tour of duty in the bigs.  Here's a list of my personal picks for the most overrated managers of all time.

    If you think I missed one, please, by all means, add their name by placing them in my comment box below.  

    I hope you enjoy.

No. 15: Tony LaRussa

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    Chicago White Sox, 1979-1986.

    Oakland Athletics, 1986-1995

    St. Louis Cardinals, 1996-2011

    World Series titles: 3 (A's-1989, Cardinals-'06, '11)

    Tony LaRussa, like a fine wine, matured and put together his best work in the latter third of his career while managing the St. Louis Cardinals.

    His first stint at the helm of a Major League club was with the Chicago White Sox where he managed them to a first place finish just once, in 1983.

    While the head skipper for the Oakland Athletics, he led his team to three consecutive AL pennants from 1988-1990, and won a World Championship, his first, with the A's in 1989.

    The Tony LaRussa with the St. Louis Cardinals was a Tony LaRussa running on all cylinders.  His clubs finished in first place seven times in his 15 years there.  LaRussa somehow managed to get an 83-win 2006 Cardinals club, not just into the playoffs, but into the World Series where they stunned the Detroit Tigers in just five games, taking home the crown—LaRussa's second.

    Less than one week ago, Tony LaRussa managed to repeat the feat as his Cardinals (who were 10 games out of first in late August) managed to shock the world by dismantling the team with the game's best record, the Phillies, in the first round.

    After taking down the Brewers in the NLCS in six games, they took it to the Rangers in the World Series, sneaking out with another title in seven games.

    Why is LaRussa overrated?

    Because it seems like LaRussa is at his best when the teams he manages are the scrappy, come- from-behind kind.  For example, the four teams he's managed that finished with 100 or more wins, never won a World Series.

    The three championship teams he fielded were the '89 A's (99 wins), '06 Cards (83), and '11 Cards (90).  Don't get me wrong, three World Series titles is awesome.  However, LaRussa could have seven. 

    And please don't forget that his catastrophic in-game management really should have cost him his third title against the Rangers, as Texas was twice just one strike away from taking home their first title. 

No. 14: Ty Cobb

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    Detroit Tigers: 1921-1926

    World Series titles: 0

    The decision to make Ty Cobb the manager of the Detroit Tigers must have been one that induced more than a few head scratches.

    It certainly is a decision that would not have happened today.  In today's world with the over-proliferation of media, having a manger that won't jump into a crowd of reporters and beat them senseless is about as important as a good in-game manager.

    Although I wouldn't mind watching Ty Cobb slap around Colin Cowherd if given the opportunity.

    Why is Ty Cobb overrated?

    Cobb's Tigers teams only finished as high as second place once, in 1923.  Ty Cobb is a great example of why a gifted baseball player doesn't necessarily make a good manager.

    Plus, when Tigers fans heard that Cobb was taking the helm of their team, I'm pretty sure they were pumped.  I mean everyone knew what a disagreeable person he was, so he must make a great manager, right? Wrong.

No. 13: Lou Piniella

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    New York Yankees: 1986-1988

    Cincinnati Reds: 1990-1992

    Seattle Mariners: 1993-2002

    Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 2003-2005

    Chicago Cubs: 2007-2010

    World Series titles: 1 (1990)

    Over his 23 seasons as a big league skipper, Lou Piniella managed just one pennant and World Championship team, occurring in the same year, 1990, in his first year commandeering the Cincinnati Reds.

    That was a pretty exciting one, to say the least, as his Reds managed to sweep the ridiculously-favored Oakland A's (led by LaRussa).

    Unfortunately for "Sweet Lou" it was all downhill after 1990, with plenty of letdown in between. Piniella's hair started turning gray, most likely, during his stint with the Mariners.

    In 1995, they beat the NY Yankees in an extremely exciting ALDS in five games.  In the ALCS, though, Lou's M's were licked by the Tribe in six games.

    In 2001, thanks in no small part to the addition of Ichiro Suzuki, Piniella's M's won an AL-record 116 games, and got some measure of revenge on the Indians by ousting them in a thrilling ALDS, 3-2.

    In the ALCS in '01, the NY Yankees absolutely steam-rolled them by eliminating them in just five games.

    Why is Pinella overrated?

    For a manager that is always so highly sought after, his track record in the playoffs just doesn't really warrant the hype.

No. 12: Charlie Manuel

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    Cleveland Indians: 2000-2002

    Philadelphia Phillies: 2005-2011

    World Series titles: 1

    Since they don't physically take part in the game anymore, the only true way to judge a manager's success is by how many wins they can produce from their players.  

    Manuel, after the 2011 season, is basically on the other end of the spectrum from Tony LaRussa. LaRussa somehow managed to get a WS title from his Cardinals team that really wasn't that great.

    Manuel, with perhaps the best pitching rotation in the last 20 years, managed to get his Phillies bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.  It's only fitting that his team was bounced by LaRussa's Cardinals in the 2011 NLDS.

    Why is Manuel overrated?

    When you have a former NLCS and World Series MVP as your number four starter (Cole Hamels), then you have to expect to get—at least—an NL Pennant.

No. 11: Dusty Baker

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    San Francisco Giants: 1993-2002

    Chicago Cubs: 2003-2006

    Cincinnati Reds: 2006-2011

    World Series titles: 0

    After 18 years as a big league skipper, Baker has managed to win only one pennant, with the Giants in 2002.

    Baker left the Bay Area after that 2002 season to take a job with the Chicago Cubs.  2003 was a solid year for him, as the Cubbies took first place.

    But, then the NLCS happened.  Long story short: A dude named Steve Bartman. The Florida Marlins. And—poof!—they're eliminated.

    Too bad for Baker that that collapse in his first year at the helm kind of set the tone for his Windy City stay.  

    Flash forward to 2010, and his Reds seemingly come out of nowhere to win the NL Central.  But in this past season, with his Reds picked by many to repeat as division champs, they fell way short of the playoffs, finishing at a paltry 79-83, and in third place.

    Why is Baker overrated?

    Over 18 seasons, he's managed just four first-place finishing squads.  Ironically enough, his '02 Giants were that year's NL Wild Card winners.

No. 10: Bobby Cox

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    Atlanta Braves: 1978-1981

    Toronto Blue Jays: 1982-1985

    Atlanta Braves: 1990-2010

    World Series titles: 1

    From 1991-2005, the Bobby Cox-led Atlanta Braves finished in first place every year except for the strike-shortened 1994 season, where they finished in second place.  Chances are, they would have pulled it off had they had the opportunity.

    Cox's Braves won five NL Pennants and a World Series championship in 1995. 

    So why, on God's green earth is Bobby Cox overrated?

    The closest thing to the Phillies' four-headed monster of a pitching staff in '11 were the staffs that ruled "Hotlanta" in the 90s.

    And with Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, Avery/Neagle/Millwood, Cox only managed one World Series title—so that's why he's overrated.

No. 9: Ted Williams

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    Washington Senators: 1969-1970

    Texas Rangers: 1971-1972

    World Series titles: Yeah, right.  0

    Arguably the greatest hitter to ever pick up a bat, Ted Williams just wasn't much of a manager. Oftentimes, he seemed completely disinterested.  Granted, the only team he managed that finished over .500 was the 1969 Washington Senators.

    Bad teams can definitely lead to a little apathy, even from their managers.

    Plus, even at the age of 53, Williams probably could have batted in the three-hole on that stinker of a team the Texas Rangers fielded in 1972.  They won all of 54 games.

    Why was Williams overrated?

    I guess you can just say that he was such an outstanding player, that anything he did that wasn't overwhelmingly awesome as a manager would be an extreme letdown.

    Granted he didn't have much to work with, but when you make a bad team decent, you're rewarded. Williams never could quite pull that off. 

No. 8: Ozzie Guillen

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    Chicago White Sox: 2004-2011

    Miami Marlins: 2012

    World Series titles: 1

    Ozzie Guillen burst onto the managerial scene in his second year as head skipper of the Chicago White Sox.  The White Sox hadn't won a World Series Championship since (pre-Black Sox) the 1917 season.  

    Guillen's club went on to sweep the Houston Astros during the 2005 Fall Classic.  Guillen's Sox finished in first once again in 2008, but a rift formed between he and his GM, Kenny Williams, and that plus a sub-.500 finish in 2011 led to his departure.   

    Why is Guillen overrated?

    Guillen's brash post-game remarks, tweets, and interviews will either annoy the heck out of you or entertain you.

    His outspoken style is tailor-made to be in your-face.  This creates a buzz, and leads to him being over-hyped, and therefore, overrated.  

    I do think that he'll be great fit in Miami, however, and he could be the spark for a very young (and talented) Marlins teamthat  needs to get over the top.  But until then, he's overrated.

No. 7: Jim Leyland

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    Pittsburgh Pirates: 1986-1996

    Florida Marlins: 1997 & 1998

    Colorado Rockies: 1999

    Detroit Tigers: 2006-2011

    World Series titles: 1

    Pretty much the exact opposite of Buck Showalter (more on him later), Jim Leyland has some serious first-year magical abilities.

    In his inaugural year as skipper of the Florida Marlins (now Miami Marlins), Leyland earned his first-ever NL Pennant and won a World Series title.

    And, after a seven-year hiatus from the game, Leyland's first year as the Tigers manager in 2006 yielded an AL Pennant.

    Why is Jim Leyland overrated?

    Well, like LaRussa, Leyland might be at his best with teams that aren't so hot.  For example, over his career, Leyland  has had four of his teams finish in first place.  Both of his pennant-winning teams were Wild Cards winners, however.  

No. 6: Mike Scioscia

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    Anaheim Angels: 2000-2004

    Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: 2005-2011

    World Series titles: 1

    In his third full season as the head honcho of the Angels in 2002, Scioscia led his team to the World Series to take on the San Francisco Giants in a Wild Card showdown for all the cheddar.  

    The Angels won it in seven games—only the second time in the last nine years that the Fall Classic had to go the full seven (the Rangers and Cards went seven this past week as well.)

    Why is Scioscia overrated?

    Sometimes Scioscia, a former catcher, can let his ego get in the way of making the right decisions in terms of where/when to play a player.

    Scioscia elected to make Jeff Mathis his everyday catcher over Mike Napoli.  Yes, that Jeff Mathis.

No. 5: Billy Martin

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    Minnesota Twins: 1969

    Detroit Tigers: 1971-1973

    Texas Rangers: 1973-1975

    New York Yankees: 1977-1978 (1)

    New York Yankees: 1979 (2)

    Oakland Athletics: 1980-1982

    New York Yankees: 1983 (3)

    New York Yankees: 1985 (4)

    New York Yankees: 1988 (5)

    World Series titles: 1

    Billy Martin was not the easiest person to get along with by most accounts.  To his credit, though, when your boss is "The Boss," George Steinbrenner, that can make you a little touchy.  

    Scattered over 19 seasons, Martin's teams finished in first place six times.

    Why is Billy Martin overrated?

    Well, Martin was an exciting manager to watch.  He'd get fired up, and wouldn't hesitate to get in an umpire's face to protect his players, or just for the heck of it.

    An entertaining manager doesn't necessarily mean he's a good manager.  He had a downright nasty temper and could generally rub his players the wrong way.

    Martin only managed to win one World Series title as a manager, with the 1977 New York Yankees.

No. 4: Buck Showalter

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    New York Yankees: 1992-1995

    Arizona Diamondbacks: 1998-200

    Texas Rangers: 2003-2006

    Baltimore Orioles: 2010 & 2011

    World Series titles: 0, World Series titles the year after his departure: 2

    Showalter is a creature of habit.  After being fired by a club, he usually takes three or four years off, goes back to another club, then the cycle continues.

    It's pretty well known that Buck Showalter-led clubs tend to win the World Series...the year after he's fired.

    This was the case for the New York Yankees in 1996—as they won their first World Series in 19 years. Also for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won their franchise's first WS title in 2001.  This cycle was broken by the Texas Rangers in 2007, who failed to make the playoffs.

    The O's should can Showalter right now, so they'll have a chance for a title in 2012. 

    Why is Showalter overrated?

    Everybody loves Buck Showalter as a manager for about 2-3 seasons; then his draconian style of management rubs everyone the wrong way.  This starts a trickle-down effect of displeasure, that starts with the media, then goes to the players and then the fans. About this time is when his players completely quit on him; then he's gone.

    Plus, a Showalter-led club has only finished in first place on two occasions, in 1994 with the Yankees, and in 1999 with the D-Backs.

No. 3: Mike Hargrove

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    Cleveland Indians: 1991-1999

    Baltimore Orioles: 2000-2003

    Seattle Mariners: 2005-2007

    World Series titles: 0

    Mike Hargrove, to be fair, has managed some really bad teams.  While he managed the Orioles and Mariners, he never could lead one of those teams to more than 78 wins.  

    To be fair, when you've got no talent on your team, it's tough to win.  On the flip side though, isn't that why a manager is brought in, to see if they can lead a team to the promised land of the MLB playoffs?

    Why Hargrove is overrated:

    Hargrove also managed some very good-to-great teams, all of them while he was with the Cleveland Indians.

    During five straight seasons, Hargrove's Indians finished in first place.  Yet they only had two pennants to show for it ('95 and '97).

    And zero World Series titles.  Perhaps a different manager would have had a more positive impact. 

No. 2: Ron Gardenhire

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    Minnesota Twins: 2002-2011

    World Series titles: 0

    I like Ron Gardenhire.  Always have.  So much so that I'm going to give his atrocious 2011 campaign a mulligan. Besides, the massive amounts of injuries and inconsistencies his Twins underwent last season are hardly his fault.  

    That leaves nine seasons for Gardenhire, and in all but three of those seasons, his Twins have made the playoffs.  That's exceptional.

    Yet in those six seasons, you can count the pennants on zero hands.  That's because the Twins have none under Gardenhire's careful watch.

    I'm pulling for you in 2012 Gardenhire—prove me wrong. Show the world you're not overrated. 

    Why is Gardenhire overrated?

    Gardenhire is similar to the poor man's Bobby Cox.  He is a very good manager.  He's quite good at getting his teams to the playoffs.  And then, well...

No. 1: Joe Maddon

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    California Angels: 1996

    Anaheim Angels: 1999

    Tampa Bay Devil Rays: 2006 & 2007

    Tampa Bay Rays: 2008-2011

    World Series titles: 0

    Joe Maddon, much like his trademark glasses is both "hip," and "different."  

    In 2010, he guided his Tampa Bay Rays to the AL East Division title—no simple task.  They were knocked out in the ALDS by the upstart Texas Rangers.  

    In 2011 he guided his Rays from what looked like a playoff-less year into the Wild Card.  His Rays were knocked out in the ALDS by the Texas Rangers once again, this time in four games. 

    Why is Joe Maddon overrated?

    Maddon is overrated in many of the same ways that LaRussa is overrated.  He is viewed by far too many people to be an "innovator" and a "genius."  

    I will say this: Maddon is excellent at getting the best out of his players in non-traditional ways.  For example, to get Evan Longoria out of a slump early last season, he batted him leadoff.  

    It worked.

    But for all the hype and talk about Maddon's genius and "outside-of-the-box" approach to management, he has yet to win a World Series title. 

    I feel that Joe Maddon will guide a team to a World Series Championship.  But until he does, he's easily the most overrated manager in the Major Leagues.  

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