When your team has been in existence since 1882 it’s a pretty good bet that over the years they have had worse. Much worse. I think John McCloskey might just have that honor. He managed from 1906 through 1908. He won 153 games and lost 304. So with a won/loss percentage of .335 and 151 games under .500, he will probably hold on to that record for a while.
However, if I change my question to “Is Oliver Marmol the worst Cardinals manager that anyone under 28 years old has ever seen?” the answer is a resounding yes. It’s okay to reread that sentence. Yes, that takes you back to the Joe Torre days. To be fair to Torre, at the time he managed the Cardinals from 1990 to 1995 they had just been sold by Gussie Busch to Anheuser-Busch. The Brewery at the time wanted nothing to do with the Cardinals and wasted all of Torre’s time here trying to sell the team instead of investing in it. After Torre left he won four World Series and two Manager of the Year awards. So, if we can say that Torre was a better manager than Marmol, (and I will), and since the manager before him was Whitey Hertzog, that takes us even further back to 1980. For those of you without calculators, that is 43 years ago.
Tony La Russa (HOF)
Joe Torre (HOF)
Granted, it’s not just a winning percentage that makes someone a good manager. There are intangibles such as trust, honesty with the players, preparation, and I get all that. Not being in the dugout every day I can’t tell you if any of those boxes are checked. I guess we could check with Tyler O’Neill or Wilson Contreras and see what they say.
I also know you are looking at this and saying “But he can only work with the players he was given.” I’ve even seen that written on this site. However, that applied to everyone on this list other than Whitey who also held the title of general manager. It also applies to the other 31 managers that are currently managing other MLB teams. All managers today can only work with the players they are given. It is the manager’s job to take those players, put them in positions to succeed, and make the sum greater than the parts. Some are just better at that than others.
What about the things we know a manager can control? What is the identity of this team? We know Herzog was all about speed and defense. Schildt was all about fundamentals and being prepared. On the pitching side, La Russa was one who would let his pitchers pitch to contact and let the defense do its thing. Those teams took on the personalities of their manager. After two years, I am still not sure what the essence of this team is.
Since context matters it wouldn’t be fair to compare the number of stolen bases of a Whitey team to this one. But we could compare this team, this year, to the other 31 teams. We can’t use something like home runs because that isn’t something a manager can call for. He can, however, call for the batter to bunt or hit a sacrifice fly. A manager does decide when to change pitchers in a game. Do you let the runner steal a base to get into scoring position? How do you set the lineup? It’s time to see if we can answer some of those questions about Marmol.