Friday, November 26, 2010

Regarding Terry Collins And Long Layoffs Between Managerial Jobs

On Tuesday, the Mets introduced Terry Collins as the 20th manager in franchise history. When Collins takes the field on Opening Day 2011, it will mark the first time he has done so as a manager in the major leagues since 1999.

If the 12-year gap between managerial gigs seems long to you, that's because it is. In fact, Collins has become only the fourth manager since 1900 to go at least 12 seasons between managerial jobs (not including interim managers or player/managers). The other managers prior to Collins to achieve this feat were:

  • Chuck Dressen (1937 Reds, 1951 Dodgers)
  • Burt Shotton (1933 Phillies, 1947 Dodgers)
  • Paul Richards (1961 Orioles, 1976 White Sox)
Note: Shotton managed two games for the 1934 Reds.

So how did the long layoffs affect the previous three managers' ability to lead their teams? The results are mixed.

After managing the Cincinnati Reds for four seasons (1934-1937), never finishing higher than fifth place in the eight team National League, Chuck Dressen did not manage again until 1951, when he took over the reins of the Brooklyn Dodgers. That year, the Dodgers missed winning the National League pennant when the Giants' Bobby Thomson hit the "Shot Heard 'Round The World". However, in each of the following two seasons (1952 and 1953), Dressen led the Dodgers to the World Series.

When Dressen (see photo, right) became manager of the Dodgers in 1951, he replaced Burt Shotton, who had served as the Dodgers' skipper from 1947-1950.

Shotton had previously managed the Philadelphia Phillies for six years (1928-1933). He coached the Cincinnati Reds during the 1934 season and served as their manager for two games.

Later on, Shotton became was a scout for the Brooklyn Dodgers and was perfectly content to serve in that capacity. However, when then-Dodger manager Leo Durocher was suspended for the entire 1947 season by Commissioner Happy Chandler, Shotton was asked to manage once again.

Prior to Shotton's arrival in 1947, the Dodgers had won only one National League pennant in 26 years, losing the 1941 World Series to the crosstown Yankees. Under Shotton's guidance, the Dodgers won the pennant in 1947 before succumbing to the Yankees again in seven games.

Leo Durocher returned from his suspenstion in 1948 and Shotton was moved into the Dodgers' front office. However, the players did not respond well to Durocher's return, as the defending National League champions began the season with a 35-37 record.

At the same time, New York Giants owner Horace Stoneham was looking to replace manager Mel Ott and contacted the Dodgers to ask for Shotton's services. Instead of Shotton moving over to the Polo Grounds, the Dodgers surprisingly sent Durocher to the Giants, replacing Leo once again with Shotton.

The Dodgers recovered nicely once Shotton was back in the dugout. Although they did not win the pennant, they went 48-33 under Shotton's tutelage. Their strong finish carried over into the 1949 season, as they won their second pennant in three years with Shotton as their manager. Of course, the Yankees defeated them for the umpteenth time in that year's Fall Classic.

Burt Shotton and Chuck Dressen each won two National League pennants with the Brooklyn Dodgers after not managing in the major leagues for 14 years. Only one manager went longer between managerial jobs. He didn't fare quite as well as Shotton and Dressen.

Paul Richards had managed in the major leagues for 11 seasons from 1951-1961, serving as the White Sox skipper from 1951-1954, followed by a seven-year stint as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles from 1955-1961.

It was Richards who took the Orioles from the bottom of the American League standings to contention. The Orioles franchise had not finished with a winning record since 1945, when they were the St. Louis Browns. However, in 1960, Richards guided them to an 89-65 record, good enough for second place in the American League.

The following season, the Orioles were once again a winning team. However, with a 78-57 record, Richards abruptly resigned as Orioles' manager to become the GM of the expansion Houston Colt .45s. Five years later, he became the general manager of the Atlanta Braves and put together the team that won the first National League West division title in 1969 before losing to the Miracle Mets in the inaugural National League Championship Series.

After the Braves faltered in 1970 and 1971, Richards was fired midway through the 1972 season. He did not work in baseball again until 1976, when he was offered his first managerial position in 15 years by the Chicago White Sox, the team he had previously managed in the 1950s. Unfortunately, his long layoff did not lead to brighter days for the White Sox during the bicentennial season.

Chicago finished in last place in the American League West in 1976 with a 64-97 record, leading the 67-year-old Richards to retire from managing at the end of the season. However, the following season, the White Sox rebounded from their last place finish to win 90 games.

Now it's Terry Collins' turn to return to the dugout after an absence of 12 years. The Mets are coming off consecutive fourth place finishes in the National League East. For some teams, a change in the dugout leads to a resurgence in the standings. But when that change brings in a manager who hasn't held that position in the major leagues for an extended period of time, how does that affect that team's ability to return to contention?

For the Brooklyn Dodgers, a long period of National League dormancy ended at the same time that Burt Shotton and Chuck Dressen returned from 14-year breaks as managers. However, for the Chicago White Sox, Paul Richards' return to the dugout did not help the White Sox in his one season there, but he did plant the seeds that blossomed into contention the year after his arrival and departure.

Terry Collins will have a difficult job ahead of him if he wants to bring the Mets back from the depths of the National League. However, if the past were to dictate what happens in the present, then perhaps it won't be as difficult as it seems.

Editor's note: Hey, guess what, kids? Thanks to the keen eye of the always amazin' Greg Prince (of Faith and Fear in Flushing fame), a fourth manager other than Terry Collins has been discovered (kinda like Columbus "discovering" a country that had already been discovered by Native Americans).

Larry Bowa managed the San Diego Padres in 1987 and 1988. His stay there was short-lived, primarily due to his awful 81-127 record. After leaving the dugout in the stadium formerly known as Bob Murphy's Brother Stadium, he did not manage again in the major leagues until 2001, when he took over for Terry Francona in Philadelphia.

Francona's Phillies finished in the National League East's cellar in 2000 (a year that should be quite familiar to Mets fans) with a 65-97 record. Bowa then took over the Phailin' Phils and led them to an incredible turnaround. The 2001 Phillies finished the season with an 86-76 record, only two games behind the division champion Atlanta Braves. For his efforts, Bowa was named National League Manager of the Year.

Bowa remained on board through 2004, at which time Charles Fuqua Manuel took over the team and turned them into perennial favorites to represent the National League in the World Series. The Mets have been Fuqua-ed ever since.


Anonymous said...

You can do all the retro analysis you want, the guy is a loser, a quitter and is there because he has the Fred Wilpon-Sandy Koufax Dodger connection. Something that the fans hate. In return for turning the team over to the MLB for a forced restructuring, Fred gets a manager. Big deal. Collins probably won't last two seasons and the "fire Terry" movement will start by the 2011 All-star break. If the fans ever wake up to the fact that the intent is to make them into a small market team in order that the Wilpons don't have to sell no one will leave for good. Spend some time digging into this instead of digging up Charlie Dressen. BTW two years ago Collins was managing a summer league team in Minnesota

Ed Leyro (and Joey) said...

Collins has been doing many things in baseball, including managing the summer league team in Minnesota, as you say, but he is the first man since 1976 to go as many as 12 years between major league managerial jobs.

If he doesn't succeed with the Mets, at least he was only given a two-year contract so the Mets don't have to worry about eating too much money if they have to fire him. We all know how poorly they have handled long contracts.

G-Fafif said...

Larry Bowa would be another one: fired by San Diego in 1988, hired by Philadelphia in 2001.