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Friday, August 26, 2005

Three Things to Remember About Great Managers

Tony LaRussa now is third on the all-time list for wins by a manager, trailing only John McGraw and Connie Mack. He passed Sparky Anderson yesterday. In all likelihood, this cements LaRussa's ultimate election into the Hall of Fame.

Remember three things about great managers:

1. They have also lost more games than most managers ever had. (I recall the quote from Pete Rose after he broke Ty Cobb's record. A reporter asked him how it felt to have more hits than anyone in baseball history. Rose replied, "I probably have more outs too." The stats guys checked out that comment, and it turned out Rose was right. I'm sure if you check out my comment, you'll see it has some merit, if for no other reason that you have to manage a long time (and not get fired) in order to win all those games, so that means you're losing a bunch of them too.

2. When Sparky Anderson got elected to the Hall of Fame, he said something like, "Great manager, huh. I was fortunate enough to be given great talent, and then smart enough to stay out of their way." There's some truth to that.

3. Finally, from all-time great if not Hall of Famer Whitey Herzog, who in an SI article about 15 years ago said, "If you took great talent and gave them a horseshit manager and gave a great manager horseshit talent, I'd bet on the horseshit manager every time."

Yes, LaRussa is a great manager, and he was bright enough to figure out ways to win with great talent (although some detractors will claim that he should have won more than one World Series with those A's teams of the late 1980's, and I think they have a point). Still, he's sustained excellence in Chicago, Oakland and St. Louis for over 20 years, and that's simply amazing.


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