Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

December 13, 2013

La Russa, Cox and Torre built Hall of Fame careers on leadership

When managers Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre were elected to the Hall of Fame, there was universal agreement that the honor was deserved. Not much to debate when the call is unanimous.

If anything was strange, though, it was that the trio was elected at the same time. Previously only 18 managers had been elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., so to get three at once was a first. Maybe that's because understanding the reasons for a manager's success is trickier than admiring the athletic prowess of a power hitter or a starting pitcher.

Cox, La Russa and Torre - baseball’s  winningest managers over the past four decades - coached for a combined  91 years. Their teams played a combined 13,934 games, according to Baseball-Reference.com, a site that tracks the sport’s statistical history.

They leave the big leagues ranked third, fourth and fifth in all-time wins by a manager – La Russa (2,727), Cox (2,504) and Torre (2,326). They are topped by Connie Mack, who had 3,731 wins and John McGraw with 2,763.

Mack is most interesting, not just because he wore a gray suit and a straw hat in the dugout, but because he had an overall losing record. His teams lost 3,948 games – a 48.6 winning percentage.

Mack didn’t worry much about getting fired; he owned the team. Few others have enjoyed such job security in a sport where if the shortstop makes throwing errors or the clean-up hitter slumps, it’s the manager who gets fired.

Statistics bear that out. Just nine of the 30 managers heading into spring training next year will have 10 or more years’ experience managing a major league team. Four have not yet filled out a lineup card, and six have two years or less experience on the job. The average tenure is 6.4 years.

Cox, La Russa and Torre were strong leaders – effective executives off and on the field. Fans can argue the decisions each made during a game - a pitching change or a player's failure to advance a runner in an obvious bunting situation. That’s one of the game’s most endearing attractions: We all think we’re managers.

It’s the decisions made away from the field – ones the fans don’t see or understand – that explain why some managers succeed and others fail.

Spotting talent and developing players were trademarks of the three managers who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 27. Each was an outstanding motivator - an under-appreciated task when facing the grind of a 162-game season.

Cox was noted for his patience in turning promising athletes into big-league stars. Some managers don’t get the opportunity to build a winning team; the pressure to win today is too great to worry about tomorrow. He did it with Atlanta before moving on to Toronto, where he made the Blue Jays contenders, and then returned to the Braves where they were again playing for championships. He claimed a Series crown in Atlanta, where he also won 14 consecutive division titles.

La Russa, who won three World Series titles, was somewhat different. He was smart, even earning a law degree, and developed a reputation as a manager who looked at the game in unorthodox ways. Consequently, he’d experiment, such as batting the pitcher eighth or using eight pitchers in a game.

Torre had success as a player and later as a manager – more than 2,300 hits and 2,300 wins. While his Yankee squads were packed with all-star level talent, Torre as a manager parlayed winning into enormous popularity. The spotlight of fame shines brightly in New York, and he was able to handle it - a point not to be minimized, especially with George Steinbrenner looking over his shoulder. The bottom line: Four championships in the Bronx.

Current Giants manager Bruce Bochy is now the game’s senior statesman. He has managed for 19 years, winning exactly half of the 3,060 games his teams have played. Most noteworthy, he has won two World Series championships.

It’s questionable whether future managers, even Botchy, will be able to survive dealing with the big salaries and big egos today’s players bring to the park. Expecting others to manage across the decades like Cox, La Russa and Torre did is hard to fathom.

History tends to repeat itself. But in this case, it won't.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 0419sciencehs.JPG Russell High School wins State Science Olympiad

    The long ride home from Bowling Green was tinged with disappointment for Russell High School students who believed they’d finished as also-rans in the state Science Olympiad last weekend.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419sciencems.JPG Russell Middle School state Science Olympiad champions

    From identifying hundreds of insects to designing and operating mechanical contraptions that just look like insects, a team of Russell Middle School students took their research and technical skills to the Science Olympiad in Bowling Green last week and came back state champions.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0419melodies0114.jpg Kitchen jazzes up downtown lunch hour

    Some came to enjoy the relaxing sounds of cool jazz and traditional tunes at lunch, while others attended in hopes of picking up a few tricks from a master musician as guitarist Chris Kitchen kicked off the Melodies & Masterpieces concert series in downtown Ashland Friday afternoon.

    April 18, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sparks, Waddell in Carter Coronor’s race

    Incumbent George A. Sparks of Grayson will face challenger William Waddell of Olive Hill in the Democratic primary election for the Carter County coroner’s seat.

    April 18, 2014

  • 04/18/2014 — What's Happening

    Local news

    April 18, 2014

  • Bill3.jpg 'Dreams'

    It was in her own death that Donna Schoonover helped William Schoonover redefine his life.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • guyp-rodnew.jpg 'Uplifting people'

    The snow kept gospel singer Guy Penrod chilling a little longer than it should have this spring.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418star0024.jpg Raising the roof

    Leaks will soon be a thing of the past at Star Elementary School, where workers are busy putting up a new roof.
     

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire at Russell care facility

    A care facility for the elderly in Russell was temporarily evacuated following a fire in the kitchen Wednesday night.
     

    April 18, 2014

  • Incumbent, newcomer vie for PVA position

    A longtime office-holder is facing a rare primary challenge in the Greenup County property valuation administrator race.

    April 18, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism Vermont Goat Meat Gives Refugees Taste of Home Calif. Investigators Re-construct Fatal Bus Cras Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Appellate Court Hears Okla. Gay Marriage Case
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP basketball
SEC Zone