Monday, March 14, 2011

Seven Stories with Branches

"Did you ever hear of the Seattle Seven? That was me... and six other guys."
- The Dude, The Big Lebowski, 1998

There are seven active Major League managers with less than four years of experience. They're a tight group of tenured managers, as they all have less than two years of experience. Brad Mills managed 162 Astros games last year, three will be making their Major League managing debuts on Opening Day, and the other three have less than 100 Major League games on their resume.

Here's whom we're talking about:

Brad Mills, 162 games, .469 Win%
Edwin Rodriguez, 92 games, .500 Win%
Kirk Gibson, 83 games, .410 Win%
Mike Quade, 37 games, .649 Win%*
John Farrell, 0 games
Don Mattingly, 0 games
Ron Roenicke, 0 games

*Quade's winning percentage is incredible. We'll get back to it.

With the help of Baseball-Reference, I decided to take a quick jaunt through the professional upbringing of baseball's newest managers.

Brad Mills is okay in my book because he played for Felipe Alou in the Minors and Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams in the Majors for a beloved team that used to exist called the Montreal Expos. Alou's history is far too mystical and legendary to get into, while Williams's branch comes from the Hall of Fame managerial tree of Walter Alston, including a dash of Pepper Martin.

*~*~*~*

Edwin Rodriguez was signed as a 19-year old amateur free agent by the New York Yankees in 1980. His Rookie League team in the Yankee organization was managed by Carlos Tosca. Edwin Rodriguez had a cup of coffee with the big team in '82 and crossed paths with current honoree Don Mattingly there and in Columbus before getting sent to the San Diego Padres as a PTBNL for John 'The Count' Montefusco. The 1983 Columbus Clippers were managed by Johnny Oates and played future managers like Mattingly, Edwin Rodriguez, Butch Hobson, and Buck Schowalter.

Edwin Ramirez spent three seasons following the trade as the 2nd baseman of the Las Vegas Stars. In 1984, Edwin teamed up with double-play partner Ozzie Guillen. In '85, it was Randy Asador who was later traded for Mitch Williams.

The Stars were managed by Bob Cluck, a good minor league pitcher with a Career 3.06 ERA across four levels and 506 innings pitched. One year in Cluck's playing days, 1972, he was managed by an all-glove, no-hit, Cuban middle-infielder turned minor league manager, named Tony Pacheco.

If anyone wants to write what is probably as exciting book about a real life minor league baseball team, those mid-80's Las Vegas Stars teams also had John Kruk and Benito Santiago to keep things interesting.

Edwin Ramirez's last season as a player was 1987, and he was managed by Charlie Manuel. I'd love to put him right along with Ron Gardenhire and Ron Washington under Charlie Manuel in the Ned Hanlon Managerial Tree. As we shared in this boring post, one of the branches of the Ned Hanlon tree was:

Ned Hanlon
- John McGraw
                - Casey Stengel
                               - Billy Martin
                                               - Charlie Manuel
                                                               - Ron Washington
                                                               - Ron Gardenhire

It takes a second look to realize that the seasons he played for Bob Cluck on the Padres Triple-A team in Las Vegas, the Padres themselves were playing for aforementioned Hall of Fame manager Dick Williams. Edwin played sparingly for the big league club in '83 and '85, and he was probably at Spring Training under Williams each season. Dick Williams played for, among others, Walter Alston.

*~*~*~*

Kirk Gibson immortalized his legend with unbelievable and unforgettable heroics in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. That was his first season in Tinseltown, after ten years in the Tigers organization. His apprentice references are certainly impressive, with glowing recommendations come from Jim Leyland, Sparky Anderson, and Tommy Lasorda.

*~*~*~*

You'd be smiling, too.
Mike Quade enters the season with a .649 Career Major League Winning Percentage. He has only managed 37 Major League games, so it is an incredibly small sample size and means about nothing. It is still remarkable to consider that only five people have managed more than 37 games with a higher winning percentage, and they all last managed over 120 years ago:

1874: Dick Higham, 40 games, .725 W%
1879: George Wright, 85 games, .702 W%
1876: Mase Graffen, 56 games, .696 W%
1890: Count Campau, 42 games, .659 W%
1871-75: Dick McBride, 252 games, .654 Win%
2010: Mike Quade, 37 games, .649 Win%

Quade is a tough guy to argue for. His resume pales in comparison to Gibson's when the only luminary instructor that stands out from his past is Johnny Lipon. At least that places Mike Quade on the Ned Hanlon tree through a different branch than legendary, John McGraw's.


Ned Hanlon
- Hughie Jennings
                - Ossie Vitt
                               - Lou Boudreau
                                               - Johnny Lipon
                                                               - Mike Quade
*~*~*~*

Moving on to the true rookie managers...

John Farrell looks like
he's enjoying himself...
John Farrell was never groomed by a Hall of Fame manager to one day play the same role; his lineage doesn't jump out at you like Kirk Gibson's. When I decided to focus on his relationship with Terry Francona, since Farrell was his pitching coach the last few years, I looked closer at the 1988 Indians, when John and the man they call Tito were teammates. The manager of that squad was Doc Edwards. He was in his second season as a Major League manager, although he'd managed 13 years in the minors before.

John Farrell has never managed at any level of professional baseball, but it doesn't really look that hard. Does it?

Howard Rodney "Doc" Edwards was born in Red Jacket, West Virginia in 1936. He got his chance in the big leagues as a 25-year old Indian, then played for the Kansas City A's during Eddie Lopat's brief shot as manager. Lopat was a starting pitcher for the Yankees for eight seasons, including when they won five straight World Series from 1949 to 1953. Those eight seasons were the first of Casey Stengel's managerial career.

So, in this way, John Farrell is also on the legendary Ned Hanlon branch as so:

Ned Hanlon
- John McGraw
                - Casey Stengel
                               - Eddie Lopat
                                               - Terry Francona
                                               - John Farrell

How much of Billy Martin's
personality stayed with Donnie?
*~*~*~*

Don Mattingly, of course, is in the Yankee lineage of Ned Hanlon that we shared in our post from January. Mattingly, like Farrell, hasn't managed at any level.

*~*~*~*

Ron Roenicke is the new manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, and he was a pretty good player in the '80s. It wasn't really appreciated back then, but he retired with a .353 career OBP. His career minor league numbers were very impressive.

He played for Tommy Lasorda at the beginning of his Major League career and Pete Rose at the end.

As with Dick Williams, playing for Lasorda puts you into the Walter Alston tree in a snap:

Walter Alston
- Tommy Lasorda
                - Kirk Gibson
                - Ron Roenicke

Ron Roenicke seems like a nice man.
Lasorda's tree has so many more names, like Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Dusty Baker, the aforementioned Johnny Oates. and more.

Just for fun, I tried to quickly run up the managerial ladder to see which of the Big Five (Ned Hanlon, Walter Alston, Connie Mack, Cap Anson, and Harry Wright) I could connect him with if I used Pete Rose.

The reason it may be fun, if you like baseball enough to get this far in this post, is because it's a lot like playing the Kevin Bacon game, where you connect actors by costars in movies, but we're doing it by people with whom they were managed. Number of games is a factor in trying to gauge what kind of influence a manager has had on a player.

This one was quick, and just for fun, but here's how we connected Ron Roenicke to Cap Anson.

Cap Anson
- Nixey Callahan
                - Billy Meyer
                               - Jack Cassani*
                                               - Pete Rose
                                                             - Ron Roenicke

*Cassani's full name was Jack Dempsey Cassani, if you want to infer anything about his personality from the inspiration for his name.

I'm going back to work for the first time since the Bali experience. I'm happy to report that while I did not see any baseball fields, a very nice Balinese friend named Parka told me that people do play baseball on Bali. Have a great day and week everyone!

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