Question of the day: Who’s the best baseball manager of the last 30 years? [Updated]
Reporters from around Tribune Co. weigh in on the topic. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.
Bill Shaikin, Los Angeles Times
He is so confident in his abilities -- and so respected for them -- that he can try such out-of-the-box ideas as batting the pitcher eighth or using three pitchers for three innings apiece without losing his clubhouse. He invented the modern bullpen, defining roles for situational relievers and converting Dennis Eckersley from a washed-up starter to a Hall of Fame closer.
La Russa has had a winning record with each of the three clubs he has managed -- the White Sox, A's and Cardinals, none of them big spenders.
Perhaps most impressively, he has kept pitching coach Dave Duncan by his side since 1983. No combination of manager and pitching coach has a better record at coaxing success out of pitchers who have flopped elsewhere, a trait that grows in importance with each dollar the major-market teams spend in trying to beat the Cardinals.
[Updated at 12:50 p.m.:
Phil Rogers, Chicago Tribune
Sparky Anderson is already in the Hall of Fame. Whitey Herzog is to be inducted later this month. Either of them would be a good answer to the question on the table – the best manager in the last 30 years – but they’re not the two at the top of my list.
The question is here is choosing between Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. They’re polar opposites in many ways but have produced consistent results where almost everybody else – including Joe Torre before he got to the Yankees – has failed.
Cox is better at managing people than La Russa, which gives him a slight edge.
Neither has had as good of a record in the postseason as you’d expect, but baseball’s true nature is more marathon than the big game, so I’ll say that one World Series is enough to qualify Cox. He’s the best there’s been day in, day out (but La Russa isn’t far behind).]
[Updated at 1:05 p.m.:
Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun
The top three major league managers -- in terms of success -- over the last 30 years are, in no particular order, Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa. Separating them is no easy task, but I think I can make a quick case that La Russa is the best manager of his generation.
Obviously, if you were deciding the issue just on total playoff appearances and championships, Torre would come out on top, but it's fair to point out that he was not considered one of the top managers in the game until he was managing the team with the most resources in the game. Cox also is an excellent manager with a long string of playoff appearances, but you can also point to reasons beyond his control -- namely a stable of Hall of Fame-caliber starting pitchers and a front office that was able to keep them together -- that contributed mightily to his success.
La Russa, however, was the only one to have great success in each of the three decades and spread that success over three teams in three very different situations. He gets my vote.]
[Updated at 2:30 p.m.:
Mandy Housenick, The Morning Call
You could make a case for a few others such as Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox, but Joe Torre is baseball’s best manager in the last 30 years.
His record of 2,292-1,952 through Tuesday speaks for itself. In 12 years as the Yankees' skipper, he led his team to nine consecutive division titles and 11 of 12. They won four World Series titles and six pennants.
[For the record, 2:57 p.m.: An earlier version of this post misstated Joe Torre's career managerial record. It is 2,292-1,952.]
Some will argue that his teams should have done that well with the big-name players they had. But just because something should happen doesn’t mean that it will. Torre was the key to those dominant Yankees teams.
And it’s no coincidence that after taking over in Los Angeles in 2008, he guided the Dodgers to back-to-back National League Championship Series appearances and has his team in the hunt yet again in the NL West.
And let's not forget that he's well respected by his players and media members. That counts for something, too.]
Upper photo: Tony La Russa. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire
Lower photo: Bobby Cox. Credit: Marlin Levison / MCT