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
  • Golden Corral sends children to camp

    Ashland’s Golden Corral teamed with other restaurants across nation this year to raise $1.5 million to send a total of 3,000 children to Camp Corral.
     

    July 24, 2014

  • Burglars steal golf gear

    A couple of golf enthusiasts might not make their tee times Saturday because burglars stole golf equipment from their garages.

    July 24, 2014

  • Music instructor claims age discrimination

    The Russell Independent School District is denying allegations of a former band director who claims in a lawsuit the district discriminated against him because of his age.
     

    July 24, 2014

  • Financial blunder leads to heated board discussion

    In a surprising turn of events, City Manager Ben Bitter’s supervision authority was challenged by the Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs filed a motion to have legal and finance department heads also report to the board in light of a financial blunder by Bitter.
    Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles and City Attorney Richard “Sonny” Martin confirmed a new ordinance will be drafted so the department heads of finance and legal counsel will be checked by the board, in addition to Bitter’s current oversight.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stricter enforcement, diagonal spots endorsed to help downtown

    A group of business owners operating along Winchester Avenue — Ashland’s main thoroughfare — asked the Ashland Board of Commissioners to replace current parallel parking spots with diagonal ones, and also for more strick enforcement of a two-hour parking law.

    July 24, 2014

  • National act takes stage at Boyd County Fair

    The Building of Dreams erupted into screams Thursday night at the 2014 Boyd County Fair, as country music fans saw Bucky Covington take the stage.
    According to Ellen Keaton, fair board president, Covington was a favorite on season five of Fox’s talent competition series American Idol.

    July 24, 2014

  • Smoke-free advocates bound for Ashland

    Advocates for smoke-free public spaces are touring the state, starting in Ashland, to drum up support for anti-tobacco legislation they hope to pass next year.
    Smoke-Free Kentucky is a coalition of organizations and people who support a ban on smoking in all public and work places in Kentucky.

    July 24, 2014

  • Ohio State Band Direc_Mayn.jpg Ohio State marching band chief fired after probe

    Ohio State University fired the director of its celebrated marching band on Thursday after determining he ignored a "sexualized" culture of rituals including students being pressured to march in their underwear and participate in sexually themed stunts.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Grimes has pep rally before energetic Democrats

    Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes was preaching to the Democratic choir Thursday night at the Wendell Ford Dinner attended by about 700 here.

    July 24, 2014

  • Commissioners challenge city manager’s authority

    In a surprising turn of events, City Manager Ben Bitter’s supervision authority was challenged by the Board of Commissioners after Commissioner Cheryl Spriggs filed a motion to have legal and finance department heads also report to the board in light of a financial blunder by Bitter.

    July 24, 2014

Featured Ads
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

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