As of 2010, there have been almost 700 men who have been Major League Baseball managers. Some of them had great players, most of them didn't. And that makes this list quite subjective. Some of the best managers never won a World Series. Some didn't even have winning records. But baseball's language is statistics, and they rarely lie. They also make the best arguments.
There are bound to be disagreements, but these are my 10 best managers in baseball history. The minimum stats for this top 10: At least one World Series title, and either a Hall of Fame plaque or a resume that gets them one someday.
1. John McGraw
Teams: Baltimore Orioles (1899, 1901-02), New York Giants (1902-32); Seasons: 33; Record: 2763-1948 (.586); Championships: 3; Pennants: 10
A .334 career hitter in a 16-year career, he took over as a player-manager in 1899 and then became baseball's best manager of all-time. His teams finished 815 games over .500, the most ever. He still holds the record for wins in the National League. His style was small-ball, perfect for baseball's dead-ball era. He favored the hit-and-run and sacrifice bunt, and often got the most out of older players that other teams had given up on.
2. Joe McCarthy
Teams: Cubs (1926-30), Yankees (1931-46), Red Sox (1948-50); Seasons: 24; Record: 2125-1333 (.615); Championships: 7; Pennants: 9
McCarthy has the numbers. His winning percentage is the best all-time for managers with more than 300 games. He won 792 games more than he lost. He's the Yankees' all-time leader in wins (1460). He was a low-key leader, and was once described as a push-button manager. But he obviously knew which buttons to push on teams with Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and, later, Ted Williams. Only once team (1922 in the minors) did he manage a team with a losing record or below fourth place.
3. Connie Mack
Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates (1894-96); Philadelphia Athletics (1901-50); Seasons: 53; Record: 3731-3948 (.486); Championships: 5; Pennants: 9
Nobody will ever come close to Mack for longevity. He holds the records for wins, losses and games managed, and won almost 1,000 more games than any other manager. He was part-owner of the A's, and retired at age 87. Mack was the first manager to win the World Series three times. He often didn't have the most talented teams - the A's were thrifty and often in financial straits - and he sold off his stars after he believed they peaked. But he was regarded as a master tactician who believed in intelligence as much as ability. One of the first to reposition his fielders during a game.
Teams: Brooklyn Dodgers (1934-36), Boston Braves (1938-43), New York Yankees (1949-60), New York Mets (1962-65); Seasons: 25; Record: 1905-1822 (.508); Championships: 7; Pennants: 10
The overall record of "The Old Professor" was hurt by his years of managing the expansion Mets in the early 1960s. But he's the only manager to win five consecutive championships (1949-53), and won again in 1956 and 1958. Led by stars Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, the Yanks won 10 pennants in 12 years. He was one of the first believers in a platoon system against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. Known as much for his "Stengelese" way of speaking, a humorous, stream-of-consciousness way of talking that was endearing.
Teams: Chicago White Sox (1979-86), Oakland Athletics (1986-95); St. Louis Cardinals (1996-present); Seasons: 32 (as of 2010); Record: 2620-2272 (.536), as of Aug. 2010; Championships: 2; Pennants: 5
His record is the best among active managers, and he was the first manager to win more than one pennant in both leagues. He's third all-time in wins and second in games managed, and he's still climbing the list. La Russa has a law degree and has a cerebral approach to managing. He's one of the foremost of the managers to use statistical analysis, and he has experimented with moving the pitcher out of No. 9 spot in the batting order on occasion.
6. Bobby Cox
Teams: Atlanta Braves (1978-81, 1990-2010), Toronto Blue Jays (1982-85); Seasons: 29; Record: 2486-1983 (.556), as of Aug. 2010; Championships: 1; Pennants: 5
Won 503 more games than he's lost as of August 2010, and only McGraw and McCarthy are better in that category. He took a Braves team from last place to the verge of winning (Joe Torre finished the job a year later), then did the same in Toronto, going from worst to first in four seasons. He returned to the Braves as GM, built a winner, and returned to the dugout to lead the Braves to the playoffs an incredible 14 times heading into his final season in 2010. Only one championship, however, and that keeps him a little lower on the list.
Teams: Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers (1954-76); Seasons: 23; Record: 2040-1613 (.558); Championships: 4; Pennants: 7
In his second season, Alston led the Brooklyn Dodgers to their only World Series title, and he went on to win three more after the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. He was known for his studious approach, worked under 23 consecutive one-year contracts (his choice) and was AP manager of the year six times. He also won seven All-Star games as manager, and was the first 1970s manager elected to the Hall of Fame.
8. Joe Torre
Teams: New York Mets (1977-81), Atlanta Braves (1982-84), St. Louis Cardinals (1990-95), New York Yankees (1996-2007), Los Angeles Dodgers (2008-present); Seasons: 29 (as of 2010); Record: 2310-1977 (.539) as of Aug. 2010; Championships: 4; Pennants: 6
Torre was pretty much a journeyman manager with limited success (his Braves and Cardinals teams often overachieved) when he took control of the Yankees in 1996. Then the Yankees won the championship in his first season, and went on to three more titles in the next four seasons. He knows how to manage modern stars as well as anybody, and his record is Hall of Fame-worthy.
Teams: Cincinnati Reds (1970-78), Detroit Tigers (1979-95); Seasons: 1970-95; Record: 2194-1834 (.545); Championships: 3; Pennants: 5
Managed one of the greatest teams of all-time (the 1970s Big Red Machine), and was the first to win World Series in both leagues with the 1984 Detroit Tigers. The prematurely gray Anderson was one of the first managers to heavily rely on his bullpen. When he retired, he was third on the all-time wins list.
10. Miller Huggins
Teams: St. Louis Cardinals (1913-17), New York Yankees (1918-29); Seasons: 17; Record: 1413-1134 (.555); Championships: 3; Pennants: 6
He benefited from managing some of the greatest teams of all-time - the 1920s Yankees, with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and others. He had to manage Ruth, and that was no picnic off the field. He likely would have won many more championships if he hadn't died in 1929 at age 50 of erysipelas, a skin infection that was often lethal at the time.
Next 10: Tommy Lasorda, Earl Weaver, Billy Southworth, Harry Wright, Leo Durocher, Dick Williams, Billy Martin, Al Lopez, Whitey Herzog, Bill McKechnie