Friday, November 9, 2012

Tracing some managerial trees

Walt Weiss played for four managers, two of them
Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox. The other two were
connected to LaRussa.
Three sure-fire Hall of Fame managers, and one with a pretty good case, abandoned the dugout the past couple of years, and some of the managerial hirings this offseasons led me to ponder how the careers of Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa, Lou Piniella and Joe Torre have affected the current crop of managers.

Cox: His managerial progeny includes Ned Yost of the Kansas City Royals and Fredi Gonzalez, who succeeded him with the Atlanta Braves. Walt Weiss, just named to the Rockies job, also played a couple of seasons for Cox, but I'm putting him in LaRussa's group, for reasons I'll detail later.

Torre: Joe Girardi (Yankees) played for and coached under Torre. Don Mattingly (Dodgers) coached for Torre in New York amid speculation that he was being groomed to succeed Torre; when the Steinbrenners replaced Torre with Girardi and Torre went to the Dodgers, Mattingly followed and eventually inherited the job.

Lou Piniella managed for 23 years,
but spawned few managers.
Piniella: This is odd for a guy who managed for 23 years with five different franchises, won a World Series, had a 116-win season: I can't identify any manager, current or past, whose career trajectory was clearly affected by Sweet Lou. Mattingly and Willie Randolph played for him in the early years of his managerial career, but Donnie Baseball belongs in the Torre family and Randolph had so many skippers it's hard to identify a mentor.

In an odd way, Piniella may have been indirectly influential on Ozzie Guillen, who never played for or worked with Piniella; Joey Cora spent the bulk of his career with Piniella, and Guillen leaned as heavily on Cora as any manager has relied on a coach in recent memory.

LaRussa: He's got literally generations of managerial progeny — too many, probably, to accurately recount. Consider this this: Jim Leyland was LaRussa's right-hand man during LaRussa's first job, with the White Sox in the early 1980s; Leyland's been managing pretty much forever himself. Heck, Gene Lamont spent eight seasons with managerial jobs in between coaching stints with Leyland.

Mike Matheny led the Cardinals
back to the NLCS in his first
year as manager.
Besides Leyland, current managers in the LaRussa tree would include:

  • Mike Redmond, new Miami manager; he clearly regards Leyland as a crucial figure in his career;
  • Weiss broke in under LaRussa in Oakland, then played one season for Rene Lachemann in Florida (Lachemann is to LaRussa what Lamont is to Leyland — a coach who left periodically for managing jobs only to return after losing those jobs). Then Weiss moved on to Colorado, where he played for Don Baylor, who had played for LaRussa himself, although it would be difficult to claim LaRussa as a primary influence on Baylor. (More likely influences on Baylor would be Earl Weaver and Gene Mauch.)
  • Mike Matheny, who succeeded LaRussa in St. Louis.
  • Robin Ventura of the White Sox played three-plus seasons for Lamont, the longest period for which he had a specific manager. Ventura also played for shorter periods for Torre, Bobby Valentine and others. I'm not sure which of them was most influential on him.

There are 30 big-league managerial jobs; at least eight of them are now held by the managerial descendants of LaRussa, Cox and Torre.

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