In my lifetime, the Chicago Cubs organization has designated 19 different men as "manager."
Those 19 include the undefeated Rene Lachemann
, with a career record as Cubs manager of 1-0, and the hapless Joe Altobelli
, at 0-1. There are the thoroughly mediocre records of Jim Lefebvre (162-162) and John Vukovich
(1-1), which in the context of Cubs history, are actually quite impressive.
When I learned in October that there would be a 20th Cubs manager in my lifetime, I began wondering, "who in their right mind would accept this professional death-sentence?" There's the whole 98-year thing, of course, but more practically, the Big Office in the Cubs' clubhouse is where managerial careers go to die.
Throwing out Vukovich, Altobelli, and Lachemann, who collectively managed four games, and we have 16 Cubs managers in the last 30 years of Cubs baseball.
Of those 16, 12 had prior managerial experience. They are:
The four without any previous major league experience, by the way, are:
Here's where it gets interesting. (At least, for me.)
The collective managerial record of those 16, in their jobs before coming to the Cubs, is 4229-4282, for a .497 winning percentage.
Almost perfectly average.
Then, they arrived in Chicago.
The record of those 16, in their tenures as managers of the Cubs, is 2256-2520, or .472.
*Only Jim Frey and Don Zimmer had winning records with the Cubs, while Lefebvre, as mentioned, came out perfectly even.
*Herman Franks and Dusty Baker came close to .500, at 238-241 and 322-326, respectively
*Only 2 of those 16, Jim Riggleman and Jim Lefebvre, saw their career winning percentages increase. Riggleman came to the Cubs after three years in San Diego; Lefebvre arrived after three years with Seattle.
*The other 14 out of 16 saw their career winning percentages decline.
Of greater interest (or concern), managers who go to the Cubs don't get hired to be managers elsewhere, afterwards.
Of those 16, only Elia and Lefebvre ever managed again. (Granted, there's still time for Baker.) And each of them was a mid-season replacement, a case of promotion from the coaching staff when the original manager was fired. Lefebvre replaced Phil Garner on the 1999 Brewers squad, and didn't return for 2000. Elia replaced John Felske during the Phillies' 1987 season. Elia, at least, was invited to start the 1988 season as the Phillies' manager, but didn't last to the season's end. (Replaced by John Vukovich, he of the lifetime 1-1 record as Cubs manager. Vukovich went 5-4 as a Philly manager)
Every other manager who has come to the Cubs since 1977, including the one-or-two-gamers, ended their managerial career here. Virtually all of them were young enough that, had they wanted to/had anybody wanted them, they could have managed again. In their final season as manager, their ages were:
Franks - 65
Amalfitano - 47
Gomez - 57
Elia - 45
Fox - 61
Frey - 55
Vukovich - 38
Michael - 49
Lucchesi - 60
Zimmer - 60
Altobelli - 59
Essian - 40
Lefebvre - 51
Treblehorn - 46
Riggleman - 46
Baylor - 53
Lachemann - 57
Kimm - 51
Baker - 57
What did any of these guys do, afterward? Other than Gene Michael, not much. Zimmer became Joe Torre's hood ornament. The rest, not even good enough to get recycled.
Now on the one hand, there are only 30 people lucky enough to call themselves a major league manager, and this is a case where beggars can't be choosers. If the Cubs offered, I'd accept.
But at the same time, let's say that I'm an up-and-coming hotshot candidate to be a first-time manager, a guy like Willie Randolph a couple years ago. Or I'm a guy like Joe Girardi, I've cut my teeth managing the Florida Marlins and come out of that job looking better than I did going in. I'm the sort of guy who is good enough, or at least hot enough, to have my pick of a couple of jobs. Knowing that the Tribune and Upper Management have a long-standing fetish for managers with previous major league experience (the last time we started the season with a manager on his first major league gig was 1982, with Lee Elia), and knowing the history of what happens to ex-Cubs Managers, why would I take this job? We know Girardi decided to sit this year out, essentially, while waiting for the Yankee job to open up. Did he recognize that applying for the Chicago job likely would be a poor career move?
(I intended to write this article before the Cubs hired another manager, but was just too busy to get around to it. I think the point is still relevant given who we hired, and the topic still interesting in its own merit.)