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We examine the terrible tenures of MLB skippers in the Expansion Era
When the American League expanded to 10 teams in 1961, with the National League set to follow the next year, baseball ushered in a new era. With both leagues fully integrated by that time, and many players from Latin America finding their way into the big leagues, this was in many ways the beginning of a Golden Age of baseball. For the first time there was a 162-game schedule. From this Expansion Era, we rank the worst managerial disasters.
1. College of Coaches, Chicago Cubs, 1961-62 123-193 .389
Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley, who for a while must have thought himself to be P.T. Barnum, instituted an unorthodox College of Coaches to lead the Cubs in 1961-62. The concept called for a group of coaches to lead the team with each one having a turn as manager for a number of games. Wrigley thought that exposing players to multiple ways of thinking would benefit his troops. But the results were disastrous. The Cubs managed to finish seventh in 1961, but lost a franchise-record 103 games in 1962, finishing above only the expansion New York Mets and six games behind the first-year Colt 45’s. Although they were quite young, future Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ron Santo and Billy Williams joined veteran Ernie Banks in the everyday lineup. George Altman was the leading hitter with a .318 average and second baseman Ken Hubbs was NL Rookie of the Year.
2. Bobby Valentine, Boston, 2012 69-93 .426
As has been the case since the turn of the century, the Red Sox are expected to contend every year. Valentine’s tenure landed the Sox in last place, 26 games out of first place and threatened to cause lasting damage. The .426 winning percentage was the lowest of Bobby V’s managerial career in a full season.
3. Ozzie Guillen, Miami, 2012 69-93 .426
After a term as the White Sox most successful skipper since Al Rosen of the 1950s, Guillen was hand-picked to lead the new-look, newly-named Miami Marlins as they opened a new stadium and were stocked with pricey free agents. The season was a disaster from the beginning. From racial misspeaks to friction with players to mounting losses, Guillen’s time in Miami could not have gone much worse.
4. Bob Geren, Oakland, 2007-11 334-376 .470
He finished one season at an even .500 (2010) followed by three losing years. The A’s won the division under Ken Macha the year prior to Geren’s arrival, and won it again under Bob Melvin the year after his departure.
5. Larry Bowa, San Diego, 1987-88 81-127 .389
The rookie skipper led the Padres to their first last-place finish in six years, and it would be another half dozen seasons before they would finish at the bottom of the NL West again. He began the 1988 season with a 16-30 record, and Jack McKeon ended the campaign with a 67-48 ledger.
6. Jim Davenport, San Francisco, 1985 56-88 .389
The 1985 season is the low-water mark for the franchise between 1944 and the present. Oops. The Giants have had just four managers since Davenport.
7. Don Heffner, Cincinnati, 1966 37-46 .446
Heffner took over a team accustomed to contending and led the Reds to an eighth-place standing before being dismissed midseason.
8. Ted Turner, Atlanta, 1977 0-1 .000
After the Braves dropped 16 straight games, owner Ted Turner told manager Dave Bristol to take some time off and that he would manage the team for what was originally thought to be about 10 days or so. Turner’s one stint in the dugout yielded nothing more than the Braves’ 17th consecutive defeat. The next day, Turner was told by National League President Chub Feeney, backed by Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, that anyone with ownership in a team was not allowed to manage. Turner didn’t make a pitching change (Phil Niekro pitched a complete game in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh) and used a pinch-runner for his catcher and two pinch-hitters in the ninth inning. Third base coach Vern Benson managed the next game before Bristol returned for the remainder of the season.
9. Vern Rapp, Cincinnati, 1984 51-70 .421
The Reds were on pace for a six-game decline from a disappointing 1983 season when Pete Rose replaced Rapp in August.
10. Moose Stubing, California, 1988 0-8 .000
The tenure was short, but Stubing holds the dubious mark of the most games managed since 1900 without a win. Stubing finished his playing career — which consisted of two weeks in August of 1967 — hitless in five plate appearances with four strikeouts.
11. Alan Trammell, Detroit, 2003-05 186-300 .383
After the 119-loss debacle in 2003, the team slightly improved, but didn’t come within 20 games of first place in the AL Central.
12. Karl Kuehl, Montreal, 1976 43-85 .336
Gene Mauch left an improving expansion franchise on the cusp of a .500 record for the first time in Expos history, but Kuehl wrecked the club. The Expos were on pace for 108 losses when Kuehl was relieved of his only job as manager.
13. Manny Acta, Washington Nationals, 2007-09 158-252 .385
Acta lost 89 games his first season in Washington, followed that with a 102-loss season, and was on pace to lose 114 games when he was fired in 2009.
14. Jim Riggleman, San Diego, 1992-94 112-179 .385
In two seasons at the helm in San Diego, Riggleman oversaw the two worst seasons for the Padres from 1987 until now, finishing last in the seven-team NL West in 1993, and was running in last place in the four-team division when the strike ended the 1994 season.
15. Joe Torre, New York Mets, 1977-81 286-420 .405
Hired as a player-manager in 1977, Torre guided the Mets to four of their 14 worst seasons.
16. John McNamara, California, 1983-84 151-173 .466
Gene Mauch won 93 games the year before McNamara arrived, then 90 and 92 the following two years. Mac topped out at 81.
17. Al Pedrique, Arizona, 2004 22-61 .265
His abysmal winning percentage is easily the worst in franchise history, with the next worst that of A.J. Hinch at .420.
18. Bill Plummer, Seattle, 1992 64-98 .395
Jim Lefebvre managed the Mariners to the first winning season in its 15-year history the year before Plummer was hired. The new manager sent the team down the drain with a decline of 19 wins, matching the team’s 64-98 record as an expansion team in 1977. Lou Piniella brought a winner back in 1993 with a 18-game improvement.
19. Maury Wills, Seattle, 1980-81 26-56 .317
Wills owns the worst winning percentage in Mariners history. And Seattle has had some pretty bad teams, especially in the early years.
20. Eddie Haas, Atlanta, 1985 50-71 .413
The Braves finished first, second and second in three years under Joe Torre. Haas immediately took them to fifth. The Braves lost 12 of the manager’s final 13 games, then immediately launched a five-game win streak under new boss, Bobby Wine.
21. Jeff Torborg, New York Mets, 1992-93 85-115 .425
Expectations were high in New York in 1992, with many experts predicting a division title. Aces David Cone and Dwight Gooden were joined by free agents Bret Saberhagen, Eddie Murray and Bobby Bonilla in a star-studded clubhouse. The Mets finished fifth, 18 games below .500. Torborg began the following season 13-25 and was fired. While the Mets improved after his dismissal, the 1993 season remains the club’s worst season since 1965.
22. A.J. Hinch, Arizona, 2009-10 89-123 .420
His Arizona tenure was bookended by a second-place 2008 team and a division champion in 2011.
23. Terry Francona, Philadelphia, 1997-2000 285-363 .440
The Phillies topped out at eight games below .500 and a third-place finish in 1999 under Francona, who took the experience of some hard lessons to Boston.
24. Bob Boone, Cincinnati, 2001-03 190-238 .444
Boone took over a franchise coming off back-to-back second-place finishes. He proceeded to steer the club to its worst finish between 1982 and the present. He launched what would become nine straight losing seasons.
25. Brad Mills, Houston, 2010-12 171-274 .384
It’s true that the Astros were embarking on a major rebuilding program. But the team regressed from 76 wins to 56 to a pace for 52 when Mills was mercifully relieved of his duties.
26. Dave Bristol, Atlanta, 1976-77 130-192 .404
The 1970s was a bad decade for the Braves. They finished in the upper division just twice and last four times. Bristol oversaw two of the last-place finishes and was replaced by Bobby Cox. Bristol managed for four different franchises and was replaced by Sparky Anderson, Cox, Frank Robinson and Del Crandall.
27. Bucky Dent, New York Yankees, 1989-90 36-53 .404
Winning barely 40 percent of his games, Dent owns the worst winning percentage of any Yankees skipper since 1912. (That’s two years before Babe Ruth debuted with the Red Sox.)
28. Butch Hobson, Boston, 1992-94 207-232 .472
The Red Sox finished first in 1990, then second in 1991. Hobson took over in 1992 and led the Sox to their first last-place finish since 1932, repeated only by Bobby Valentine’s troops in 2012.
29. Ralph Houk, Detroit, 1974-78 363-443 .450
From 1971-88, the Detroit Tigers had just four losing seasons. Houk managed all four, finishing in the lower half of the AL East all five seasons he was at the helm.
30. Charlie Metro, Kansas City Royals, 1970 19-33 .365
After the Royals won 69 games in their inaugural season under Joe Gordon, Metro had the team on pace for just 59 wins when he was replaced by Bob Lemon. The following season Lemon led the team to a winning season and second place in the AL West.
31. Buddy Bell, Detroit, 1996-98 184-277 .399
Bell followed the Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson and led the Tigers to their worst season since 1952. The 109 losses were the most in team history at the time.
32. Dave Trembley, Baltimore, 2008-10 187-283 .398
Although the club was floundering when he was hired, Trembley’s first full season was also the first for the Orioles in last place in the five-team AL East. The situation didn’t improve as Trembley saw nothing but the cellar after that.
33. Russ Nixon, Atlanta, 1988-90 130-216 .376
Of all the Braves’ managers with at least 30 games since 1930, Nixon’s winning percentage ranks last.
34. Jerry Narron, Texas, 2001-02 134-162 .453
How could a team with Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez finish in last place in the AL West? And 21 games behind third-place Seattle.
35. Dave Miley, Cincinnati, 2003-05 125-164 .433
Miley is the only Reds manager since World War II to manage as many as 250 games with a winning percentage below .440.
36. Ken Macha, Milwaukee Brewers, 2009-10 157-167 .485
Macha’s two sub-.500 seasons were sandwiched by the Brewers’ wild-card team in 2008 and the 2011 NL Central division champs.
37. John Russell, Pittsburgh, 2008-10 186-299 .384
Of the 20 years of losing suffered in Pittsburgh, Russell was in charge during the worst and third-worst seasons. His first team was one game worse than the year before and the team proceeded to decline by five games in his next two seasons.
38. Mel McGaha, Kansas City Athletics, 1964-65 45-91 .331
The 13 years the A’s spent in Kansas City were all losers. Eight games below .500 in 1958 was the high-water mark. Two of the three worst seasons involved McGaha, who finished the 1964 season, then started 1965 with a 5-21 mark.
39. Davey Lopes, Milwaukee Brewers, 2000-02 144-195 .425
The former Dodgers’ All-Star second baseman took over a team that had won 74 games, led them to 73 and 68 wins and got off to a 3-12 start in 2002 when he was dismissed in favor of Jerry Royster.
40. Johnny Keane, New York Yankees, 1965-66 81-101 .445
The 1964 American League champs hired Keane away from the 1964 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals after the season. But Keane got just 46 games from Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle batted .255 with 19 home runs and 46 RBIs. The Yankees finished sixth despite Whitey Ford, Mel Stottlemyre and Al Downing combining to start 105 games with a 48-36 record.
41. Don Gutteridge, Chicago White Sox, 1969-70 109-172 .388
From 1949 through 2013, the 1970 season ranks as the low-point in White Sox annals.
42. George Bamberger, New York Mets, 1982-83 81-127 .389
Bamby’s two last-place clubs were followed by Davey Johnson’s six straight seasons of first or second place. His .389 winning percentage is the Mets’ lowest for post-1967 managers.
43. Stump Merrill, New York Yankees, 1990-91 120-155 .436
The two seasons in which Merrill spent time in the Yankees’ dugout just happened to be the two lowest win totals in non-strike seasons for the Yankees between 1967 and, well, now.
44. Joe Adcock, Cleveland, 1967 75-87 .463
The .463 winning percentage was the Indians’ worst since 1946. It followed .537 and .500 seasons, and preceded a .534 season under Al Dark.
45. Billy Herman, Boston, 1964-66 128-182 .413
Herman’s two ninth-place teams morphed into an AL champion the season after he was gone.
46. Jim Lemon, Washington Senators, 1968 65-96 .404
In his only stint as a manager, Lemon’s team was 11 games worse than the year before, and 20 games worse than the following season.
47. Jim Marshall, Oakland, 1979 54-108 .333
The .333 winning percentage remains the franchise’s worst showing since 1954, the club’s final season in Philadelphia before moving to Kansas City.
48. Paul Richards, Chicago White Sox, 1976 64-97 .398
Richards’ second stint as White Sox field boss turned out to be the second-worst season on the South Side between 1950 and today.
49. Frank Howard, San Diego, 1981 41-69 .373
It must have been difficult to manage through the strike-interrupted season of 1981. But the Padres joined the Blue Jays as the only teams to finish in last place in both the first and second halves, going a miserable 18-36 after the strike.
50. Jim Marshall, Chicago Cubs, 1974-76 175-218 .445
This was certainly not a disaster — especially by Cubs standards — but it was the three worst seasons on the North Side from 1967-79.