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Managers, Sidebars

Best Player/Manager, Part IV

No, he's not #1.

No, he’s not #1.

The way I’ve put these posts together, I’ve learned about the players and managers at much the same pace you have. And I looked and looked and looked for someone who I thought was a star both as a player and as a manager. The primer, revealed no such two-way star. I didn’t find one when reviewing candidates 41-80 either. And much to my surprise, there were no star players and managers among our candidates 16-40.

But today is different. Today we meet the only men in history who I think were stars both on the field and in the dugout.

So unknown they couldn't spell his name.

So unknown they couldn’t spell his name.

#15 Steve O’Neill (MAPES: 28; ZIMMER: 36; Player Manager Score: 32)

I’m not exactly sure when I became familiar with the existence of Steve O’Neill, but it certainly wasn’t before Eric and I started constructing the HoME. A catcher for 17 seasons from 1911-1928, O’Neill was fifth all-time in games caught 65 years into the history of MLB in 1940. His BBREF page is without Black Ink, and he had almost no Gray Ink either. On the other hand, his MAPES number is a tiny shade better than that of Jason Varitek. O’Neill is about the 50th best catcher ever to play. I’m going to say such a person could be called a star. He’s more well-known and more well-credentialed as a manager. He had a full season with the Red Sox and the Phillies, two with the Indians, and six with the Tigers, totaling 1040 wins overall. It was in Detroit that where he had the most success. In 1942 he took over a team that had finished fifth the previous year. O’Neill didn’t better that ranking in his first year. But in the next four years Detroit wouldn’t finish lower than second, and O’Neill brought them a ring in 1945 with a win over the Cubs. He wasn’t a superstar by any stretch of the imagination, but I think someone could, for the first time in this project, say that we have a guy who was a star player and a star manager.

Frankie Frisch#14 Frankie Frisch (MAPES: 63; ZIMMER: 22; Player Manager Score: 33)

Hall of Fame critics aren’t big fans of Frisch, the guy perhaps most responsible for polluting the Hall with under-qualified players, usually former teammates. On the other hand, he was an incredible player. He’s the sixth best 2B ever, give or take a position or two. He represented the NL in the first three All-Star Games, and he won two rings as a player. He didn’t have the balance of O’Neill, but he ranks higher thanks to absolute greatness as a player. He put in sixteen seasons as a manager, winning 1138 games for the Cards, Pirates, and Cubs. His best season, not unlike a lot of managers, was his first, when the Cardinals beat the Tigers in the 1934 World Series. While he had only three more finishes better than fourth, he still ranks #14 on our list.

Bill Terry#13 Bill Terry (MAPES: 50; ZIMMER: 25; Player Manager Score: 34)

While not the equivalent of Frisch as a player, Terry’s ZIMMER score lets Terry edge the Fordham Flash by this measure. Like Frisch, the last National Leaguer to hit .400 represented the NL in the first three All-Star Games. He wouldn’t likely make the HoME with only 180 players, but he’s deserving of the honor with a HoME the same size as the Hall. His managerial career, while short, was quite impressive. For ten seasons, Terry led the Giants. He won three NL pennants and the 1933 World Series against the Senators.


Davey Johnson#12 Davey Johnson (MAPES: 25; ZIMMER: 68; Player Manager Score: 36)

Dave JohnsonI was first introduced to Johnson as a kid collecting baseball cards in 1978. I was seven years old, marking checklists with a pen, and trying to figure out how I could have so many Dave Johnson cards but not have any with the number 317. I was completely convinced that Topps made a mistake. Then I got another pack and found this 2B-1B from the Phillies. On the back of the card Topps taught me that Johnson played with both Hank Aaron and Sadahura Oh. Also on the back of the card was the 317 I was looking for. At that point my seven-year-old mind had to try to reconcile that there could be two players with the same names. Man, that was some hard work. The second thing I learned about Johnson was the really cool trivia question that at the time, he, Hank Aaron, and Darrell Evans were the only teammates ever to homer 40 times in the same season. Surprisingly, the four-time All-Star’s next best HR total was 18. I didn’t think about Johnson again for a number of years, I don’t believe. Then came the 1986 World Series. I didn’t know about the Red Sox in 1975, and I really didn’t appreciate what went on in 1978. My introduction to the pain was really 1986. All I thought about Johnson then was that we managed the team I hated. What I learned later is that in spite of never winning another pennant, Johnson was an incredible manager. In fourteen full seasons, he finished first six times, second seven more times, and third once. That record is just about incomparable. For me, Johnson went from enigma, to an agent of evil, to a hero – one of the best managers who ever lived. If he only had a better playing career…

#11 Dusty Baker (MAPES: 29; ZIMMER: 54; Player Manager Score: 38)

I really don’t like to see Dusty Baker this high. But he was a good player and a very successful manager. After cups of coffee in four seasons, Baker became a regular for the Braves at age-23. We think of him as a Dodger, but he also played parts of eight years in Atlanta. He made a pair of All-Star squads, hit 20+ homers six times, and had a 20-20 season. Overall, he borders on being one of the 50 best left fielders ever. That’s star-ish. In the dugout, he lasted for 20 seasons and won 1671 games. While he didn’t win the World Series, he did take the Giants there in 2002. And he made the playoffs six more times for the Cubs and Reds. Overall, he finished first or second eleven times in 20 seasons. Manager of the Year honors don’t necessarily say much, but stinky guys don’t win the three Baker did.

Mike Scioscia#10 Mike Scioscia (MAPES: 31; ZIMMER: 61; Player Manager Score: 41)

There’s still time for Scioscia to increase his standing on this list, as there’s little reason to think he’s anywhere near done as a manager at age 56. Presumably he has a good rapport with Angel owner Arte Moreno, and he’s become something of an institution staying in Anaheim for sixteen seasons. Seven playoff appearances says something. A World Series title in 2002 says more. He’s 24th all-time in wins, and he’s quite likely pass Earl Weaver and Clark Griffith this year. With five more .500 seasons, he’ll be 15th in all-time wins. That ZIMMER score isn’t stopping at 61. As far as his player score, he gets a nice bump by being a pretty durable backstop for thirteen seasons. Twice an All-Star, Scioscia was known for blocking the plate, something that isn’t even part of the game today. Overall, he’s possibly inside the top-50 catchers ever. Coupled with being one of the 20-30 best managers ever, and you see why he’s in our top-ten.

Joe Cronin#9 Joe Cronin (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 33; Player Manager Score: 42)

Not many people had Joe Cronin’s baseball career. Star player, fine manager, long-time general manager, and American League President. As a player, he’s a deserving Hall of Famer, a shortstop with pop who averaged over 104 runs batted in per season from 1930-1940. Eight seasons playing at an All-Star level make him a top-ten shortstop in career value, or at least near so. He was a good manager too, moving from Washington to Boston just as he did as a player. He won a pennant in his first year, 1933, and he won another in 1946, his next to last. In between he finished second with the Red Sox four times, and his 1236 wins in fifteen years is impressive indeed. A bit more balance is needed for a higher score. Maybe someday I’ll try to include executive roles in a ranking like this. If I did, Cronin would likely be closer to the top.

Clark Griffith#8 Clark Griffith (MAPES: 53; ZIMMER: 38; Player Manager Score: 44)

I kind of wanted him in the HoME as a player, and I thought about an argument for him as a manager as well. Add more than a third of a century as the owner of the Senators, and you have someone who I may just prefer to Joe Cronin overall. His BBREF page counts twenty seasons as a pitcher, the top-rated pitcher on this list, but he really only lasted for fourteen seasons. The others are just small parts. He averaged almost 22 wins per year from 1894-1901, which was third best in the bigs over that period. As a manager, he turned a trick many others did too, taking home a pennant in his first year. This was in 1901, before there was a World Series, so there’s not much more he could have done. But that was it, no more pennants in nineteen more years. Still, the 1491 wins are impressive, and he did finish second four more times. I not-so-secretly hoped he’d rank higher on this list, in fact his falling short of both the player wing and the manager wing of the HoME inspired this project. Sorry that I couldn’t do better for you, Clark.

Miller Huggins#7 Miller Huggins (MAPES: 32; ZIMMER: 74; Player Manager Score: 45)

We know that Huggins was a great, HoME-level manager. He ran the Yankee dynasty that went to the World Series six times from 1921-1928, winning three of them. He averaged almost 94 wins per year with the Yankees form 1920-1928. Add in a decent run with the Cardinals prior to that, and Huggins totaled 1413 wins in 17 years. I’ve been using top-50 at a position to equate to star level, and Huggins is right among the best 50 2B ever. Truth be told, I slot him two spots ahead of Bill Mazeroski. He had no power, only nine homers in his career and never reaching 20 doubles, but he certainly knew how to take a walk. He led the AL four times and topped 87 four others in what was really just ten full years. By my numbers, he put up eight seasons of 3+ WAR and one where he was really close. He’s one of the hidden position player gems that the HoME project revealed, at least to me.

Frank Chance#6 Frank Chance (MAPES: 44; ZIMMER: 49; Player Manager Score: 46)

This is when we get to the big boys. I think we can say that Chance and the five above him were all great players and great managers. Chance might rank higher on this list, but his managerial career ended at just about the same time his playing career did. And his peak success in the dugout coincided with the last years he was a productive bat. That’s okay. His best years in the dugout were extraordinary. From 1906-1910 he won four pennants and two World Series. In seven seasons managing the Cubs, he won just about 102 games per year. That’s an astonishing mark. And it’s a mark that keeps him on our very short list of managers for the last few such spots in the HoME.

Hughie Jennings#5 Hughie Jennings (MAPES: 47; ZIMMER: 48; Player Manager Score: 47)

Jennings is really similar to his contemporary, Griffith, in a couple of ways. First, someone could fashion a pro-HoME argument for either of them in either wing. Second, their playing days were both a lot shorter in games than in years. Jennings played for six years with 28 plate appearances; Griffith pitched for five with 16.1 innings. Generally speaking, Griffith is a peak candidate with incredible years in 1895 and 1898. And Jennings is very much a peak candidate, with more than two-thirds of his value coming from 1895 to 1898. Jennings was baseball’s best position player over those four years. Expand things to 1894, and he’s still the best. Like Griffith again, he’s not in the HoME because he couldn’t keep up the great seasons quite long enough. Managing was different for Jennings. He was essentially never a player/manager, and he had a ton of success, especially early for the Tigers. He won pennants in each of his first three seasons, 1907-1909, though he failed to take home the World Series. He also had a 100-win season in 1915, which wasn’t quite enough. Overall, he won 1184 games in parts of 16 seasons. Jennings was an incredibly successful player and an incredibly successful manager. That’s why he’s fifth on our list.

Fred Clarke#4 Fred Clarke (MAPES: 60; ZIMMER: 57; Player Manager Score: 59)

Talk about successful! Clarke is a member of the HoME both as a player and as a manager. For 21 seasons, Clarke manned left field, mostly, for the Louisville Colonels and Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he’s basically without Black Ink, Clarke was an outstanding defender who my numbers say is the sixth best left fielder ever, between Ed Delahanty and Al Simmons. Should you really mistrust defensive numbers and my defensive adjustments, you’d still like Clarke enough to get him in, with a value similar to that of Billy Williams. He also had tremendous success managing, with his playing and managing careers overlapping considerably. He began his career as a skipper for Louisville, ended for Pittsburgh, and really managed for only four years after he was done as a player. The first two years before the World Series, he took the Pirates to NL crowns. He also brought them to the first World Series, a 1903 loss to Bill Dinneen, Cy Young, and the Boston Americans. Clarke finally found the ultimate success when his Pirates won 110 games and the title in 1909. His run to start the century was remarkable, winning more than 95 games per year from 1901-1909. Overall, he took 1602 wins in 19 seasons in the dugout. He was truly great as both a player and as a manager, but there were still three better.

John McGraw#3 John McGraw (MAPES: 44; ZIMMER: 104; Player Manager Score: 61)

I wouldn’t have thought someone not in the both wings of the HoME would top anyone in both. However, John McGraw was an extremely good player at third base and one of the two or three best managers ever. If anyone was going to do it, it would be a guy like him. I kinda love McGraw as a player, just because he’s so seldom thought of in that role. And I tried to fashion a Hall argument for him. However, he had only eight productive seasons, albeit six when he was excellent. He was a good hitter who could draw walks like few others. From 1897-1901 he had an OBP of .500. Think about that. For five seasons, it was a coin flip as to whether or not McGraw would reach base. As a manager, I rank him second behind Joe McCarthy. He won ten pennants and three World Series. Overall, he managed for 33 years, winning 2763 games with a .586 winning percentage.

Cap Anson#2 Cap Anson (MAPES: 88; ZIMMER: 49; Player Manager Score: 63)

When I think about Cap Anson, I think about steroids. Hear me out. Today, many Hall voters – even reasonable ones – choose not to vote for players like Barry Bonds because they used steroids. Even though they weren’t always banned by MLB, for the sake of this argument, let’s just say that they were. If that’s the case, users cheated the game. If that’s the case, users tarnished the record books. We’re on the same page so far, right? Now Cap Anson was a racist, and he was influential. It’s argued that he worked hard to segregate the game. And he succeeded. So I think of steroids when I think of Anson because Anson absolutely cheated the game of tons of talent. He absolutely tarnished the record books by keeping talented players out of the game. I’m not trying to make any tremendous point here. I’m just pointing out something I think about. Anson was an insanely good player. By my count, he had 26 2-win seasons. Nobody else had more than Ty Cobb’s 22. He had 22 3-win seasons. Nobody else had more than Barry Bonds’ 21. (Interesting trio of racists and users there). Aside from 22 games in 1898, his managing career ended when his playing career did. Before that time, his Chicago White Stockings won five NL pennants. And he finished second four more times. It helps when you get to manage one of the game’s best players because you’re that guy. And it also helps when you’re able to water down the competition because of your racist influence.

Joe Torre#1 Joe Torre (MAPES: 52; ZIMMER: 97; Player Manager Score: 68)

And finally, we’ve reached the top, the best combination player and manager in baseball history – by a decent margin in my rankings. Joe Torre is a lot like John McGraw, under-appreciated as a player at least in part because he was such a great manager. Torre was different from almost everyone in the game’s history in terms of position. Only nine players ever played 100 games at catcher, first base, and third base. Increase the threshold to 120, and we’re down to six. At 140, we have only four remaining. At 160, it’s just Torre and Keith Moreland. And at 161, it’s just Torre. It’s hard to understand a player who’s so different. Let’s forget Torre’s 1B play for a bit. Only seventeen players ever played in 100 games behind the plate and at third base. Raise the threshold by 20 games, and we’re down to 13. At 140 games, there are just nine. Two more drop out at 160. At 180, it’s just Torre, Johnny Bench, B.J. Surhoff, and Brandon Inge. By 200, Bench is gone. When we get to 377, it’s only Torre. I’m going into a lot of seemingly unimportant data to make a point; Torre was a very different player. And players who are so different can be hard to figure. Only 80 guys can equal his nine All-Star games. And of those non-PED guys who are eligible and not currently still on the ballot, only Bill Freehan and Steve Garvey played in more among those not enshrined as players. Torre makes perfect sense as a Hall of Fame player. But he’s in as a manager, which he obviously should be. While he had a losing record in his other stops, he was pretty amazing in the Bronx. Six pennants, four World Series titles, and nearly 98 wins per season for twelve straight years. He and Fred Clarke are the only two guys in the HoME as a player and as a manager.

Well, that brings this series to a close. Do our answers match? If not, that’s okay. Hope you had as much fun reading as I did researching.




3 thoughts on “Best Player/Manager, Part IV

  1. In partial defense of Anson (whose actions are indefensible) I might point out he wasn’t a man particularly different from others in his era. He also didn’t find a lot of other baseball players, teammates or otherwise, telling him he was wrong. And ultimately to keep black players out of the big leagues, it took the agreement of a bunch of owners like Soden and Spaulding to actually do it. It’s OK to blame Anson (God knows he deserves his share of the blame), but he had a lot of help in seeing that baseball became as segregated as society.
    I note McGraw wins the manager number and Frisch the player number for you. Put them together you’d have a heck of a baseball man, wouldn’t you? Very nice series of posts. I learned something and that’s a good thing.

    Posted by verdun2 | February 3, 2016, 8:51 am
  2. You’re so obviously correct in everything you said about Anson and those surrounding him. Blaming Anson is a single-cause fallacy. And it’s reductionist. And it’s so simple that it’s essentially inaccurate. However, is it possible to both acknowledge what I just did and stand by what I wrote under the argument that it’s good to call out the awful? I’d like it to be.

    Posted by Miller | February 3, 2016, 1:12 pm

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