Will Ryne Sandberg be exception to rule for Hall of Famers in dugout?


 

Ryne Sandberg waves to the crowd.
Ryne Sandberg may be the exception not the norm when it comes to Hall of Famers who manage. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

The last time a Hall of Fame player was in the dugout as a manager was in 2006, when Frank Robinson led the Washington Nationals.

That is until Aug. 16, when the Philadelphia Phillies gave Ryne Sandberg an opportunity to audition for the job on a fulltime basis.

But generally, the guys who are managers — especially today — were not considered to be great players.

Of the other 29 managers currently in the majors, seven were All-Stars (Don Mattingly six times, Davey Johnson four, Dusty Baker two, Mike Scioscia two, Robin Ventura two, Joe Girardi and Walt Weiss). Kirk Gibson, now manager of the Arizona Diamonbacks, was the Most Valuable Player of the National League in 1988, but was never an All-Star, and Weiss was American League Rookie of the Year, coincidentally also in 1988.

Five current managers never made it to the big leagues as players — Terry Collins played 10 minor-league seasons, Jim Leyland and Buck Showalter seven each, Fredi Gonzalez six and Joe Maddon four.

The big-league playing records of the guys who currently manage runs the gamut from guys who were pretty good to guys who were barely fringe players. Their stats are below, in order of games played.

NAMEYEARSAVGGABHHRRBI
Robin Ventura1989-04.267/.362/.4442079706418852941182
Dusty Baker1968-86.278/.347/.4322039711719812421013
Don Mattingly1982-95.307/.358/.4711785700321532221099
Kirk Gibson1979-95.268/.352/.463163557981553255870
Walt Weiss1987-00.258/.351/.32614954686120725386
Mike Scioscia1980-92.259/.344/.35614414373113168446
Davey Johnson1965-75
1977-78
.261/.340/.404143547971252136609
Mike Matheny1994-06.239/.293/.3441305387792567443
Joe Girardi1989-03.267/.315/.35012774127110036422
Dale Sveum1986-88
1990-94
1996-99
.236/.298/.378862252659769340
Mike Redmond1998-10.287/.342/.358764226464913243
Terry Francona1981-90.274/.300/.351708173147416143
Bob Melvin1985-94.233/.268/.337692195545635212
Ron Washington1977
1981-89
.261/.292/.368564158641420146
Ron Roenicke1981-88.238/.353/.338527107625617113
Clint Hurdle1977-83
1985-87
.259/.341/.403515139136032193
Bruce Bochy1978-80
1982-87
.239/.298/.3883588021922693
Ron Gardenhire1981-85.232/.277/.296285710165449
Ned Yost1980-85.212/.237/.3292196051281664
Bo Porter1999-01.214/.284/.333891262728
Eric Wedge1991-94.233/.340/.430398620512
John Gibbons1984,86.220/.316/.36018501112

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black and Boston Red Sox skipper John Farrell don’t appear on the list because they are the only former pitchers of the group.

Black pitched 15 seasons in the big leagues (1981-95) and was 121-116 with a 3.84 ERA and 1.267 WHIP in 398 career games and 2,053.1 innings. He made 296 starts.

Farrell had eight seasons (1987-90, 1993-96) and was 36-46 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.406 WHIP in 116 career games and 698.2 innings. He started 109 games.

So what does all of that have to do with Hall of Famers and their success as managers? Nothing, except to illustrate that — at least based on the game’s history — Sandberg has an uphill climb ahead of him.

Here are the records of Hall of Fame players as managers since World War II (records before World War II included where applicable):

NAMEYEARSTEAMSWLPct
Joe Cronin1933-34
1935-47
Washington
Red Sox
12361055.540
Lou Boudreau1942-50
1952-54
1955-57
1960
Cleveland
Boston
Kansas City
Cubs
11621224.487
Frankie Frisch1933-38
1940-46
1949-51
Cardinals
Pittsburgh
Cubs
11381078.514
Frank Robinson1975-77
1981-84
1988-91
2002-06
Cleveland
San Francisco
Baltimore
MTL/WSH
10651176.475
Red Schoendienst1965-76
1980
1990
St. Louis
St. Louis
St. Louis
1041955.522
Rogers Hornsby1925-26
1927
1928
1930-32
1933-37
1952
1952-53
Cardinals
Giants
Braves
Cubs
Browns
Browns
Cincinnati
701812.463
Yogi Berra1964
1972-75
1984-85
Yankees
Mets
Yankees
484444.522
Mel Ott1942-48Giants464530.467
Bob Lemon1970-72
1977-78
1978-79
1981-82
Kansas City
White Sox
Yankees
Yankees
430403.516
Joe Gordon1958-60
1960
1961
1969
Cleveland
Detroit
Kansas City
Kansas City
305308.498
Ted Williams1969-72WSH/Texas273364.429
Billy Herman1947
1964-66
Pittsburgh
Boston
189274.408
Ted Lyons1946-48White Sox185245.430
Eddie Mathews1972-74Atlanta149161.481
Tony Perez1993
2001
Cincinnati
Florida
7484.468
Bill Dickey1946Yankees5748.543
Larry Doby1978White Sox3750.425
Luke Appling1967Kansas City1030.250

Of that group, Schoendienst, Berra and Lemon were the only ones to win pennants strictly as managers; Cronin, Boudreau, Frisch and Hornsby all achieved their most success as managers when they were still active as players.

There is one factor that weighs in Sandberg’s favor, however.

Sandberg spent six years — at Class A Peoria in 2007-08, Double-A Tennessee in 2009, triple-A Iowa in 2010 and triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2011-12 — honing his craft in the minor leagues.

Of the managers on the list above, only Lemon, Gordon and Appling spent time managing in the minors before getting their first opportunity at the big-league level.

Lemon spent three years as a triple-A skipper (two in Seattle and one in Vancouver) before getting the Kansas City Royals job in 1970. Gordon had four years in a triple-A dugout (two in Sacramento and two more in San Francisco) before getting the Cleveland Indians gig in 1958, and Appling had seven years in the minors (four in two stints at Double-A Memphis, two at Triple-A Richmond and one at Triple-A Indianapolis) before getting his lone major-league opportunity with the lame-duck Kansas City Athletics in 1967.

Sandberg took two of his teams to the postseason as a minor-league manager and only finished below .500 once in his six seasons in the bushes.

He’s getting a 42-game audition with the Phillies, an aging team that has been riddled by injuries in 2013, but he’s 17-13 through the first 30 of those games. He’s keeping the Phillies competitive and playing hard down the stretch, even with nothing to play for but pride.

He paid his dues and he’s not being given the opportunity to manage simply because he was a great player who will sell some tickets. If any Hall of Fame player has a chance to work out well as a skipper, it’s Sandberg.

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