Top 10 MLB Managers Past and Present Who Best Commanded the Dugout

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If I’ve learned anything this baseball season, it’s the importance of a manager. That’s mostly because I’m a Boston Red Sox fan.

It’s true, though. At times it’s easy to ignore the manager, especially if he’s surrounded with enough star power. But it takes work to manager those stars, handle the egos and build chemistry.

Managing in baseball isn’t just about commanding talent. It’s about managing your dugout, making the right calls and getting the best out of your players—even when your players aren’t the best.

Sometimes it even means experimenting with the game, which often means going against the grain to get the best out of your team.

Here’s a list of some of the top managers in baseball history at commanding the dugout in all that it encompasses.

Bobby Cox

A walking Cinderella story, Bobby Cox was all about taking teams from worst to first. No wonder he won three Manager of the Year awards.

He was also big on playoffs, taking the Braves there 14 times with five pennants and one World Series Championship.

A true general of the game, Cox was ready and willing to do whatever it took to win. His .556 win percentage reflects that more than anything else.

And yes, often times winning came with an ejection for Cox, but that was just part of his charm.

Burt Shotton

Burt Shotton wasn’t an amazing manager. In fact, he lost more games than he won (697-764 over 11 seasons).

However, there’s one achievement that’s ingrained him in the history books. He managed the Dodgers in Jackie Robinson’s first year breaking the color barrier.

That would be a tough thing for anyone to manage. There’s a lot of controversy and there’s a lot of media scrutiny. Yet, through it all, Shotton lead the Dodgers to a 92-60 record and an NL pennant.

Joe Cronin

Considered by many as the best Red Sox manager of all time, Cronin had a 1071-916 record with the Sox, making him the winningest manager in team history.

He’s on this list because of who he had to manage, and who he had to manage without.

Cronin was manager from 1935-1947. Meaning he managed when Ted Williams was there, and when Ted Williams was serving in World War II.

Yet Cronin never skipped a beat, handling the pressures of the job and leading his club to a winning record every season Williams was away.

Joe Maddon

Joe Maddon is a minimalist. A minimalist who wins a lot of baseball games.

Maddon is the ultimate study of the game. He’s a new age style of manager who uses heavy statistical analysis to field the best team.

In seven years with the Rays, he’s 575-547 with one AL pennant, three playoff appearances and two Manager of the Year awards.

Since 2008, Maddon has always had a great rotation to lean on. But you look at how he puts together lineups and forms bullpens—with minimal talent—and it’s not hard to see how he’s one of the best.

Mike Scioscia

With 1140 wins, three Manager of the Year awards and one World Series, Mike Scioscia is well on his way to being one of the best managers in MLB history.

He’s always been the kind of manager whose found ways to win. A lot of that comes from emphasizing pitching and defense, which has changed the way a lot of teams build their groundwork.

He’s also never shied from doing what many consider “the wrong thing.” Scioscia has never backed down from the media and has always done things his way.

While this season hasn’t been his best, Scioscia is still an MLB great.

Casey Stengel

A New York great, Casey Stengel holds a .508 winning percentage. That number could have been much higher if not for managing the Mets during their expansion years.

Nonetheless, Stengel is still considered a managerial great.

He did just about everything a manger could do, from being asked to manager big stars—from Mickey Mantle to Yogi Berra—to reinventing the game, to being one of the first to use a platoon system.

Joe McCarthy

Holding the record for win percentage in the regular season (.614) and postseason (.698), Joe McCarthy is arguably the best manager in MLB history.

Now, I know I said this wasn’t just about being the best, and it’s not. McCarthy had to manage a lot in his dugout on the way to his wins.

He was a low-key guy whose calm demeanor helped manage hot heads like Babe Ruth and difficult personalities like Ted Williams.

It’s not always easy to deal with those kinds of things, but McCarthy never balked at his managerial duties.

Tony La Russa

Tony La Russa was a guru when it came to managing.

Look at the St. Louis Cardinals 2011 roster. Offensively, they aren’t bad, but there were better squads out there. Pitching, they were really lacking with Adam Wainwright out all season long.

That squad was resurrected into the postseason with a torrent of September wins, and somehow La Russa brought home another World Series—his third—in his final season as a manager.

True, La Russa has had his own off-the-field issues. But when it comes to on-the-field management and performance, it’d be hard to fine anyone better.

Connie Mack

A true great of the dugout, Connie Mack is the winningest manager in MLB history (3731 wins). Over his 53 years as a manager, Mack brought home five championships and nine pennants.

He was a master of the game, often winning with less. He also had a hand in reinventing the game, being one of the first to experiment with fielding shifts.

Mack brought a new element into baseball, making the manger’s job less about talent and more about strategy.

Joe Torre

Joe Torre is one of the best managers in baseball history, compiling 2,326 wins (1,997 losses), four World Series championships and two Manager of the Year awards.

It’s really easy to point to his time with the Yankees and say “it’s all about the money.” True, he had a team with a big-time payroll, which meant big-time players.

But if we’ve learned anything from modern baseball, managing that much talent is a hard thing to do. Just look at the Marlins and Red Sox this season.

Any talent thrown his way Torre could manage, all with minimal PR issues.

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