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Our managers - the Twins through history




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blog-0224427001546734556.jpgWho were the Twins managers and were they any good? There is something strange about the manager position in baseball. It is not like we grow up hoping to be a manager. There seems to be no particular qualification, it is at the whim of the team.



"In his essay "From Little Napoleons to Tall Tacticians", Thomas Boswell identifies four main personality types among baseball managers, corresponding to archetypes based on the nicknames of their earliest representatives in Major League Baseball, all of whom are in the Hall of Fame:

  1. The Little Napoleons, modeled on John McGraw, intense, emotional and competitive, embodying passionate leadership.
  2. The Peerless Leaders, modeled on Frank Chance, disciplined, courageous and dignified, embodying leadership by character.
  3. The Tall Tacticians, after Connie Mack, savvy, intelligent and trusting in their judgment, embodying intellectual leadership; and
  4. The Uncle Robbies, after Wilbert Robinson, compassionate, humorous and understanding, embodying leadership by wisdom." https://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Manager


Did they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Does any manager belong in the Hall of Fame? Casey Stengel led the Yankees to 10 World series wins in 12 years - surely he deserves his HOF plaque, right? He managed the Braves and Dodgers for nine years before that and had a high finish in nine years of 5th place. He managed the Mets for 4 years after the Yankees and finished 10th four times. So if we put all 25 years together is in a HOF manager for the Boston Bees/Braves or the Mets or the Dodgers? Probably not.



Joe Torre managed 30 years and became HOF because of the years he had the Yankees 12 years and his worst finish was 2! But what about the other 18 years? Five years with the Mets and he average a finish below 5th place. Three years with the Braves and an average finish of second place. Six years with the Cardinals and an average finish of 3.5 and finally three years with the Dodgers, two first, one fourth. So was he HOF with the Mets, Braves, and Cardinals?



Sometimes managers are brought in when the team dumps talent and then dumps the manager when the talent arrives. How do you judge his performance? Even the worse managers do well when their team is loaded with all-stars. So who are the worst managers and how are they judged? Ted Williams was a bust in four years with the Senator/Rangers according to baseball historians, but he was MOY in his first year - just like our HOF manager - Paul Molitor, but Ted was just irascible and irritating everyone because he wanted perfection.



Ned Yost is often sited as one of the worst managers, but his KC Royals won a series and changed the way MLB looked at the bullpen. And finally the manager that Bleacher Reports puts number one on the all time worst manager list is Buddy Bell who had been a really fine player. Just to note that ball clubs can't really judge managers any better than the rest of us - Bell was hired three times by three different clubs, the Tigers, Rockies and Royals. He had a 418 percent for his nine years. Ace Wilson actually had a worse percentage - 401 with the Cubs and Phillies in nine seasons. Note how these terrible managers get nine seasons to show how bad they are?



in 2016 Fangraphs tried to evaluate managers https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/how-should-we-evaluate-a-manager/ and Paul Molitor was rated below average. Eno Sarris wrote this article and based his scores on four areas of managing - 1.When he uses his best relievers. 2.How rigid his approach to the bullpen is. 3. Where he puts his best hitters in the lineup. 4.How often he bunts with non-pitchers. Those four items seem too arbitrary to me. How about Morale, responding to injuries, use of young players and old players...



In 2009 Hardball times ranked the 25 HOF managers and made a case that Billy Martin - one of our managers actually belongs for his managing ability. https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/evaluating-managers/ I would agree. Billy Martin burned out his pitchers, but if you wanted to win - Billy won. Billy might beat up his best player and the teams press secretary, but he won. His record was better than his predecessor and the next in line. He managed to win, but could not manage himself. How do you evaluate that? He was 240 wins above 500 in his managing career.



So who have the Twins had? The first manager was Cookie Lavagetto who had managed the Washington Senators to 8,8,8,5 out of 8 and then came with the Twins to Minnesota where he was fired half way through the year and replaced with Sam Mele. We finished 7 of 10 in 1961. He had a 414 winning percentage. He was a third baseman when he played 10 years with four years in the service and is best known for the Cookie game when he broke up Bill Bevan's no-hitter with a pinch hit double. He played for Pittsburgh and Brooklyn.


He was replaced by Sam Mele, a former RF who played 10 years for six teams including the Senators twice. He managed the Twins for seven years and took the Twins to the 1965 World Series with perhaps the best roster in team history. After the World Series he finished second the following years, but no playoffs in those days. He finished with a career 546 percentage. During his term, his coach Billy Martin had a fight with his pitching coach Johnny Sain giving a preview of coming attractions. He was fired in 1967 after 50 games because the team was 500 and replaced - not with Martin as expected - but with Calvin Coolidge Ermer.



Cal finished that year and managed one more. His record was 589 for the remainder of his first year and then only 488 his first full year. His playing career was one game for the 1947 Senators. He was with the organization 60 years and was minor league manager of the year in 1958.



In 1969 Billy Martin got his chance and we were first in the west division but lost 3 - 0 in the ALCS. Alfred Manuel Martin, Jr (Billy) was the Twins second baseman in 1961, he then became our scout, managed the Denver Bears and became our manager. He was fired after winning. As a scout he tried to get Griffith to sign pitcher Jim Palmer but skinflint Griffith refused, of course. In 1966 Martin got into a fight with traveling secretary Howard Fox on a charter flight ruining his chance for that years managerial promotion. Fox had demanded that Martin get his former Yankee teammates to quiet down on the flight and he refused. Fox then refused to give Martin his key, eventually throwing it at Martin. Martin hit Fox in the face! Martin ended up with the Denver Bears, where he took a poor team and made it a winner. Craig Nettles from the team said Martin made them afraid to lose. Martin was then given the Twins job and Griffith said, "I feel like I am sitting on a powder keg."



Griffith insisted on a daily meeting with Martin, so Martin showed up when it was time for Griffith's daily nap. Then when Dave Boswell (20 game winner) got in a fight with Bob Allison Martin joined in and punched Boswell. Griffith wanted to fire Martin but he was winning and so was Boswell. His relationship with the Twins was also damaged when he kicked Hubert Humphrey out of the locker room. Fox and others prevailed and Martin was fired, the fans were angry.



Bill Rigney, a big name at the time, replaced Martin. They had to have a famous name to try to calm fandom. Bill Rigney had an 8 year career as an infielder with the Giants. Then he went on to be the manager of the Minneapolis Millers and 18 years as a mlb manager starting with the Giants. Then three years with the Twins where his team finished 1, 5, 3 in the AL west. Rigney was fired during his third year and replaced by Frank Quilici.



Quilici, who passed away last year, played for the Twins for five years as a second baseman. Including the partial first year he managed for four years with a 494 winning pct. finishing 3,3,3,4 in the AL west. He was beloved and went into the radio booth after his career. He was replaced by legendary Gene Mauch another former 2B who was a manager for 27 years.



As I said, how do you judge a manager. He was beloved by management and got a job for 27 years despite being the manager for the Philadelphia Phillies in one of the most famous collapses of all time. His team was ahead by 6 1/2 games with 12 to go. He decided to pitch Jim Bunning and Chris Short in 7 of the last 10 games - burning them out (maybe) and the lead disappeared. The team 'pholded' and yet Mauch kept managing. In 1985 with the Angels his team lost in the last game of season and finished second to the Royals. In 1961 his Angels team established the record for a losing streak - 23 games. In 1969 his Expos team lost 20 in a row. From 1976 - 1980 he managed the Twins and his nephew Roy Smalley. His teams finished 3,4,4,4,3. 378 - 394 490.



With all the luck they had with 2B they chose Johnny Goryl in 1981. After going 11 - 25 he was replaced by Billy Gardner another 2B, infielder who had 10 years in the majors. He managed six years with the Twins and one with KC. His Twins had a 432 pct. and he was fired in 1985 and replaced by Ray Miller.



Miller finished the season and was fired half way through the next season. He is in the Orioles HOF as a pitching coach, but his magic did not extend to Minnesota. Johnny Podres our pitching coach quit in protest of the Miller hire. Miller was universally disliked in twinkie land.



The man who replaced him is Minnesota legend Tom Kelly who lasted 16 years. Kelly had two world series teams and three second place finishes in 16 years with an overall pct of 478 which leads me back to the beginning of this blog - great because of two WS or lousy because he had less than 500 record? MN thinks of him as our greatest manager, but there is no quantifiable way to determine or prove this.



Ron Gardenhire another 2B player - we really do hire a lot of second basemen to manage - was next in line. He managed us for 13 years with a 507 pct which surpasses Kelly by a lot. He had six first place finishes, one second and two thirds. Then the Twins players stunk and we tired of our old friend and decided he was no longer a good manager. I hope he succeeds in Detroit.



Paul Molitor continued our love affair with second base managers and after a HOF career became manager for four years and became the target for criticism that I believe is erroneous and unfair. He finished 2,2,5,2 in his four years. Those are misleading finishes since we are in the worst division, but he was also MOY so good for him. Why was he bad? I know - BP - which was filled with such great arms as Matt Belisle...



And now Rocco Baldelli a seven year pro who was damaged by injury and is supposed to lead us to the promised land like all the other managers. I hope he does.



Recommended Comments

Great article. I enjoyed reading about the history surrounding a lot of these guys. I think managers get too much credit when they succeed and not enough credit when they fail. Additionally, the staff they have plays almost as much of a role as the manager does in making a decision late in a game. Injuries happen if you don't have good trainers or doctors. If you don't have a good 3B coach, you could be giving away outs at home. A manager is good because they make the right choices based an what the numbers say, but also because they trust their players to succeed in a given situation. It should be expected they have a staff they can trust because the manager can't always handle the problems of 25 different players. For example, Tom Brunansky played a major role in Brian Dozier's success in a way that Gardy or Molitor may not have been able to. All of these guys had their flaws and so will Baldelli, but that's why it's so key to play the game. Analytics help you make ideal decisions, but they're worthless if the players and coaches don't buy in. 

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A good leader doesn't push from behind...He leads and others follow. Dwight Eisenhower told a group of leaders one time that leadership is like a chain. If you lay the chain in a pile on the floor and push it, the links will go in many directions. However if you pick up one end of the chain and drag it where you are going, all the links will follow behind  the leader.

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