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Top 10 Managers in MLB History

photo by Ricardo Thomas, 1976, CC Public Domain

Being a Major League Baseball manager has been one of the most prestigious jobs in American sports for 150 years. It requires expert knowledge, superior communication skills and the mental stamina to see a team through a 162-game schedule. The men on this list have not only led their teams to success in the short term, they have done it for multiple decades. That’s why they are the top 10 managers in MLB history.

1) Joe McCarthy

McCarthy holds several MLB records as a manager: the highest winning percentage in the regular season (.615) and postseason (.698), the most World Series wins (30), and the most World Series titles (7). The Hall of Famer was equally adept at developing younger players and managing older stars.

McCarthy inherited a young Chicago Cubs team that finished last in 1926, and led them to five straight winning seasons and a National League pennant in 1929. As manager of the star-studded New York Yankees, he led a veteran lineup to seven American League pennants and six World Series titles from 1936-43, including four straight championships from 1936-39.

In 24 seasons as a Major League manager, McCarthy never had a losing season.

2) Tony LaRussa

As a former player with a degree in law, LaRussa might be the smartest manager in MLB history. His style is unorthodox, hitting pitchers eighth and starting utility players over stars to take advantage of a pitching matchup. He was also one of the first managers to use computer analytics, allowing him to evaluate talent and put his players in the best position to succeed.

LaRussa is one of only two managers to win a World Series in both the AL (Oakland A’s) and NL (St. Louis Cardinals), and is the only manager to lead teams to multiple pennants in both leagues.

The Hall of Famer and current Chicago White Sox manager ranks third all time in wins, and will likely move into second place before the 2021 All-Star break.

3) John McGraw

McGraw was one of the most aggressive managers of his era, and one of the most successful of all time. The Hall of Famer used base stealing, pinch runners, pinch hitters and relief pitchers extensively to catch his opponents off guard.

The strategy worked, as “Little Napoleon” led the New York Giants to 10 NL pennants and three World Series championships in his 31 seasons as manager.

When he retired, McGraw ranked second all time with 2,763 wins, trailing only Connie Mack, who managed 20 more seasons.

4) Sparky Anderson

Anderson was the first manager to win a World Series in both the AL and NL. He led Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” to four NL pennants and back-to-back World Series titles in the 1970s, and the Detroit Tigers to two playoff appearances and a World Series championship in the 1980s.

Anderson was especially skilled at playing matchups. In a time when complete games were the norm, he became known as “Captain Hook” for his tendency to pull starting pitchers from games early.

The Hall of Famer’s .618 postseason winning percentage ranks second only to John McGraw.

5) Connie Mack

Mack is MLB’s all-time leader in both wins (3,731) and seasons managed (53), and second place isn’t close. During Mack’s incredible tenure, motion pictures, radio and television were all invented, and 10 U.S. presidents occupied the Oval Office.

For 50 years, Mack occupied the Philadelphia A’s dugout, dressed in his trademark business suit. The good-natured Mack took a gentlemanly approach to the game, combining knowledge and strategy with a kind and patient handling of his players.

Mack led the A’s to nine AL pennants and five World Series championships.

6) Joe Torre

No man has led a more complete baseball life than Torre. He was an All-Star at multiple positions, an MLB executive and a Hall of Fame manager.

As a manager, Torre led three different teams to the postseason, but his greatest accomplishment came as skipper of the New York Yankees. Torre’s diplomatic approach led the powerful Yankees to the playoffs in all 12 of his seasons as manager.

It was in the big game that Torre made his mark, though, as New York won six AL pennants and four World Series championships, including a rare three-peat from 1998-2000. His 15 career playoff appearances rank second all time.

7) Walter Alston

Alston quietly compiled one of the best managerial records in MLB history. The easygoing Alston led the long-suffering Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series championship in New York in 1955.

Four years later, he led the Dodgers to their first championship in Los Angeles. He went on to win two more World Series titles in 1963 and 65, along with NL pennants in 1966 and 1974.

In 23 years as a manager, Alston had 19 winning seasons and 2,040 wins, the ninth most in Major League history.

8) Bobby Cox

No manager has made the playoffs more than Cox. His 16 postseason appearances include one with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1985, and a record 15 straight division titles with the Atlanta Braves from 1991-2005.

The 4-time Manager of the Year led the Braves to five NL pennants and a World Series championship in 1995.

Known as a players’ manager, Cox was one of the most well-liked and respected skippers of his era. Umpires might have a different opinion, though, as Cox is MLB’s all-time leader in ejections with 162.

9) Bruce Bochy

If modesty was the only criteria for this list, Bochy would be number one. The 3-time World Series champion gave all the credit to his players, but his accomplishments as a manager speak for themselves.

Bochy began his managerial career with the San Diego Padres, and led the underdog franchise to four playoff appearances and an NL pennant in 1998.

In San Francisco, Bochy led the Giants to three World Series titles in five years from 2010-14. The Giants lacked the starpower of other teams, but Bochy’s masterful handling of pitchers and his ability to get the most out of marginal players helped create a mini dynasty in San Francisco.

10) Terry Francona

No matter what else he accomplishes, Francona will forever be remembered as the man who broke the “Curse of the Bambino” after leading the Boston Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 86 years in 2004.

Francona went on to win a second World Series title with the Red Sox in 2007 before taking over as the Cleveland Indians manager in 2013. In 2016, he led the Indians to the AL pennant.

Francona’s preparation and ability to connect with his players has resulted in 10 playoff appearances, five each with the Red Sox and Indians. He also has 16 consecutive winning seasons between the two teams.

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