As Brandon Hyde becomes the Orioles' 20th manager, how do the other 19 rank? - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

As Brandon Hyde becomes the Orioles’ 20th manager, how do the other 19 rank?

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

On Monday, Brandon Hyde was introduced as the 20th manager in Orioles’ history, a hiring that received praise throughout baseball.

Time will tell how Hyde’s Orioles’ tenure plays out. Will he end up as one of the franchise’s most successful managers? One of the least? Or somewhere in between?

The Orioles’ 19 previous managers have run the gamut. So let’s take on the daunting task of trying to rank them from best to worst.

Obviously, there’s no mystery about who claims the No. 1 spot on this list. But there’s room for debate about which order everyone else slots in behind him. Here’s my best attempt at ranking them. What would your list look like?

The one-and-dones

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For these rankings, I’ll exclude the four managers who lasted one year or less in Baltimore. They weren’t around long enough to have much of an impact. That list includes the first manager in franchise history, Jimmy Dykes, who lost 100 games during the Orioles’ inaugural 1954 season. Another one-and-done was ill-fitting 1995 manager Phil Regan, who went 71-73 in a strike-shortened year. The Orioles have also employed a pair of interim managers: Luman Harris, who closed out the 1961 season with a 17-10 record, and Juan Samuel, who was 17-34 as the second of three skippers during the 2010 season.

No. 11-15: The also-rans

During a nightmarish slog from 1998-2010, the Orioles cycled through five consecutive managers — six, if you count Samuel — who never had a winning season and combined to finish more than 250 games under .500. During that decade-plus, Baltimore was where managerial careers went to die. Only one member of the group was hired for another MLB managerial job  after his Orioles’ stint.

You could rank these five guys in any order you like; all were nearly equally ineffective. Chronologically, the first was Ray Miller. An Orioles’ Hall of Famer for his accomplished career as a pitching coach, Miller was out of his depth as a manager. Taking the reins of a team that had gone wire-to-wire in 1997, Miller stumbled to two straight losing seasons in 1998-99 while publicly clashing with his players. After one particularly ugly in loss in April 1999, Miller lambasted them in the press, saying, “[The players] are the ones making all the money. Go ask them how they felt performing like that in front of 45,000 people.”

Mike Hargrove’s four-year tenure was the longest of any Orioles manager without a winning season. Hired after a successful nine-year stint in Cleveland, Hargrove never had much of a chance in Baltimore. The manager was left with a threadbare roster thanks to then-GM Syd Thrift’s botched fire sale during Hargrove’s first season in 2000. Among the lowlights of the Hargrove era was the Orioles’ 4-32 finish to the 2002 campaign. Hargrove, at least, landed on his feet after Baltimore, managing the Seattle Mariners from 2005-07.

After Hargrove, the next three Oriole skippers were rookie managers, none of whom panned out. The club surprisingly turned to longtime Yankee Lee Mazzilli in 2004, but he was criticized for his lack of communication and his in-game tactical mistakes. As the 2005 season spiraled out of control — with the Orioles going 10-27 after sitting in first place in June, and star Rafael Palmeiro suspended for a positive test for performance-enhancing drugs — Mazzilli was let go Aug. 4, the first manager to be fired midseason under Peter Angelos’ ownership.

He wasn’t the last. The next two managers, Sam Perlozzo and Dave Trembley, suffered the same fate. Both were well-respected, longtime baseball men who had a wealth of knowledge about the game, but neither was able to acclimate to the managing role. Perlozzo, who went 122-164, was fired in June 2007; Trembley replaced him until his own dismissal in May 2010. Trembley’s .398 winning percentage was the worst in Orioles’ history for a full-time manager.

10. Cal Ripken Sr.
Years: 1987-88
Record: 68-101 (.402)
Playoff appearances: 0

For someone who holds such a lasting legacy in Orioles’ history, it’s unfortunate to relegate the elder Ripken toward the bottom of the manager rankings. Ripken Sr. lived and breathed Orioles baseball for more than three decades, serving the organization as a minor league manager and major league coach while embodying “The Oriole Way” with his emphasis on fundamentals. But his managerial tenure — in which his roster included sons Cal Jr. and Billy — was brief and forgettable. He spent just one full season on the job, a 67-95 campaign in 1987, before ownership sent him packing after he lost the first six games of 1988.

9. Billy Hitchcock
Years: 1962-63
Record: 163-161 (.503)
Playoff appearances: 0

The Orioles hoped Hitchcock, who took over a 95-win team in 1962, could advance the Orioles to the postseason for the first time. Instead, the club flatlined, hovering around .500 during his two-year stint. Hitchcock was widely considered one of the nicest people in baseball — but he might have been too nice. His passive, non-confrontational approach didn’t work well when the team needed a spark.

8. Frank Robinson
Years: 1988-91
Record: 230-285 (.447)
Playoff appearances: 0

As an Orioles player, Robinson’s exploits are legendary. As a manager, they’re decidedly less so. The highlight of Robinson’s managerial stint was the Orioles’ 1989 “Why Not?” season, in which the club bounced back from a 107-loss campaign to stay in playoff contention until the final series of the year. Robinson won AL Manager of the Year honors for his team’s captivating effort. Otherwise, though, he presided over losing squads, including the bulk of that horrendous 1988 season.

7. Johnny Oates
Years: 1991-94
Record: 291-270 (.519)
Playoff appearances: 0

Oates, one of three former Orioles’ players to manage the team, was one of the most underrated skippers. Although he never made it to the playoffs, he led the Orioles to a winning record in each of his three full seasons, and his club was in second place in the AL East in 1994 before the players’ strike canceled the rest of the schedule. Oates was also a mentor and dear friend to recent Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who played for him in the New York Yankees’ minor league system in the early ’80s.

6. Joe Altobelli
Years: 1983-85
Record: 212-167 (.559)
Playoff appearances: 1
World Series championships: 1

Altobelli occupied the manager’s chair for the Orioles’ most recent World Series win in 1983, but he’s not considered one of the club’s most prominent skippers. The general perception is that Altobelli was in the right place at the right time. He took over a talented, veteran team that was on the precipice of success, and Altobelli simply stayed out of the way and let the club run itself. It worked to perfection. Altobelli was out of a job less than two years later, though, after the team began to backslide.

5. Hank Bauer
Years: 1964-68
Record: 407-318 (.561)
Playoff appearances: 1
World Series championships: 1

It was Bauer who led the Orioles to the promised land in 1966, notching the franchise’s first championship. Bauer won 94 or more games in each of his first three seasons in Baltimore. He was helped, of course, by a terrific roster of Orioles’ stars, including Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Dave McNally and Boog Powell. Bauer, while not seen as a great strategist, was a highly respected presence in the clubhouse who kept his talented roster motivated.

4. Paul Richards
Years: 1955-61
Record: 517-539 (.490)
Playoff appearances: 0

Don’t let the sub-.500 record and lack of postseason appearances fool you; Richards was an integral figure in Orioles’ history. Joining the club as both manager and general manager in 1955, Richards helped shape the identity of the Orioles, who were still trying to find their way after the franchise moved from St. Louis two years earlier. Not only did he dramatically overhaul the roster — including the amateur signing of Brooks Robinson — but he revamped the organization’s philosophy by teaching the fundamentally sound way to play the game. The Orioles’ win total gradually increased under Richards, topping out at 95 in his final season, putting them on the brink of becoming an AL behemoth.

3. Davey Johnson
Years: 1996-97
Record: 186-138 (.574)
Playoff appearances: 2

A No. 3 ranking might seem a bit high for a manager who only helmed the Orioles for two seasons. But what a two seasons they were. Johnson was one of just three Orioles managers — joining the two men ranked above him — to make multiple playoff appearances. His .574 winning percentage was the second-best of any full-time Orioles’ skipper. And he led the Orioles to the only wire-to-wire season in club history in 1997, earning AL Manager of the Year honors (on the same day he resigned his post after a contentious spat with Angelos).

Johnson’s unconventional decisions, such as benching Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar for utility man Jeff Reboulet in the postseason, had a way of paying off — like when Reboulet homered off Hall of Fame lefty Randy Johnson in an Orioles Division Series win.

2. Buck Showalter
Years: 2010-18
Record: 669-684 (.494)
Playoff appearances: 3

The final chapter of Showalter’s Orioles’ story, unfortunately, was the franchise-worst 115-loss season in 2018, a year so horrid that it dropped his overall O’s managerial record below .500. But that nightmarish season shouldn’t erase all that Showalter accomplished in Baltimore beforehand. The Orioles were utterly adrift, mired in a stretch of 14 straight losing seasons, before Showalter revitalized the moribund franchise. In a five-year span under him from 2012-16, the Orioles amassed the best cumulative record in the AL and earned three postseason berths.

Showalter had a knack for helping the team exceed expectations. Under his leadership, the Orioles were greater than the sum of their parts, annually winning more games than their pure talent level would suggest. He was praised for his straightforward communication with players, his deft handling of the bullpen and his impeccable attention to detail, among other things. Most of all, he restored a sense of Orioles Magic to a team that had been lacking it for so long.

1. Earl Weaver
Years: 1968-83, 85-86
Record: 1,480-1,060 (.583)
Playoff appearances: 6
World Series championships: 1

What’s there to say about the legendary Weaver that fans don’t already know?

The Hall of Famer not only was the Orioles’ longest tenured skipper —  managing parts of 17 seasons — but also was perhaps the most unforgettable personality the franchise has ever seen. His fiery temperament often led to conflicts with his own players, who nonetheless respected him and loved playing for him. Weaver’s most memorable antics, though, were reserved for umpires. The red-faced, expletive-laden confrontations between Weaver and the men in blue became the stuff of baseball lore. Weaver was ejected 94 times, third most in MLB history. He was once ejected while exchanging lineup cards before the second game of a doubleheader — after being tossed in the opener, too.

Weaver, for all his on-field histrionics, was one of the most forward-thinking managers in baseball. He was among the first skippers to preach the importance of getting on base and not giving away outs. He used platoons to perfection, carefully calculating the best matchups for his players based on the index cards full of statistics he always kept with him. Weaver, it might be said, was into analytics before anyone knew what analytics was.

The result was one of the most successful managers in history. Weaver’s .583 winning percentage ranks ninth in MLB history among skippers with at least 500 games managed, and he led the Orioles in four of their six World Series. Weaver was inducted into both the team’s and the National Baseball Hall of Fame, and he’s immortalized in the Orioles Legends statue area at Camden Yards, the only non-player so honored. The legacy of the Earl of Baltimore will forever be a part of Orioles’ baseball.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Hallbe62

    December 20, 2018 at 9:58 am

    1. Earl Weaver
    2. Davey Johnson
    3. Hank Bauer
    4. Buck Showalter

    The rest are not noteworthy enough to even mention.

    • ZantiGM

      December 20, 2018 at 12:39 pm

      1-weaver
      2-bauer
      3-johnson
      4-hitchcock
      5-showalter
      6-altobelli

      • ZantiGM

        December 20, 2018 at 12:47 pm

        cont
        7-richards
        8-frank robinson

      • Paul Folkemer

        December 20, 2018 at 5:04 pm

        Hitchcock fourth? Ahead of even Buck? Admittedly I wasn’t around for the Hitchcock era, but he lasted only two seasons and never finished better than fourth place. I’d love to hear an explanation for that ranking.

  2. JK in EC

    December 20, 2018 at 10:16 am

    I’ve been a fan since the middle of Earl’s tenure and it is hard to imagine anyone ever passing him either statistically or in the hearts and minds of O’s fans. Since then, it is a toss up between Regan and Mazzilli as to the most puzzling hire. All the others seemed reasonable at the time. I wish Buck had been able to keep his O’s record above .500. So much of his tenure was so positive — 2012 through 2016 was truly Orioles Magic the way I felt it as a kid. Even though the next couple/few years will be rough, I hope that 8 or 9 years from now we are arguing whether Brandon Hyde is #2 or #3 on this list!

  3. Orial

    December 20, 2018 at 10:36 am

    1.Earl Weaver. 2. Buck. 3.Davey Johnson. 4. Hank Bauer. 5. Paul Richards The rest?—–doesnt matter.

  4. GSISDANNO

    December 20, 2018 at 11:33 am

    I think your top three is on the money. I truly believe that Davey Johnson would have won a World Series if ownership left him alone. The 1996 and 1997 Orioles were talented teams but there were some large egos on those teams. . Davey, who also has a large ego, was the perfect guy to handle them just like he did with theMets. Ray Miller was overmatched.

  5. Olney Ogre

    December 20, 2018 at 11:59 am

    It would be interesting to see a correlation to the Manager rankings with General Manager rankings. I believe the problem with the lost decade and losing seasons rests primarily with the front office. Even Earl of Baltimore succumbed to the pitfalls of a weak roster.

    • Paul Folkemer

      December 20, 2018 at 5:08 pm

      Certainly a manager can look a lot better (or worse) depending on the roster he has to work with. I tried to take that into account, which is part of the reason I have Bauer only fifth even though he had the third-best winning percentage. His rosters were incredibly talented, which made his job easier.

      • VICTORTEE

        December 22, 2018 at 9:15 am

        I’m old enough to have been a fan in 1966. Nobody thought Hank Bauer was a great manager then.

  6. mqm

    December 20, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    1. Earl
    2. Buck
    3. Johnny Oates

    • Paul Folkemer

      December 20, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      I couldn’t justify putting Oates above managers who had playoff appearances (and World Series wins), but I think the O’s gave him too short a leash. He’d had a winning record every full season but Angelos cut him loose. I think he could’ve gotten the Orioles to the postseason, as he did three times with the Rangers afterward.

  7. jkneps63

    December 20, 2018 at 5:27 pm

    Helped the Orioles to an extra 3-5 wins per season based upon quality of players during full season(s) management: F Robinson, Perlozzo, Johnson, and Weaver.
    Helped the Orioles to an extra win or 2 per season: Richards, Showalter, Bauer
    No extra wins, no extra losses: Hargrove, Ripken
    2-5 extra losses per season: Mazzilli, Trembley, Oates, Altobelli
    6+ extra losses per season: Hitchcock, Miller, Dykes, Regan

    Best full season managing: Weaver 1977 and Showalter 2012, +11 wins
    Worst full season managing: Regan 1995 and Miller 1999, -13 wins

    I love me some analytics…

    • VICTORTEE

      December 22, 2018 at 9:22 am

      I loved Earl but he had a huge amount of great talent. I think he and Buck would have had similar records if they had switched teams. Buck never had better than a #3 starter. Earl had Palmer, Cuellar and McNally in his starting rotation. And Earl never had to hide rule 5 guys on his roster. The O’s were so good in Earl’s day they had a hard time finding spots on the roster for Grich and Baylor. They both had to do 2 years in AAA.

  8. cedar

    December 20, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    I have had the privilege to watch 14 of these 19 managers and while I can’t argue with the short term managers, I think Johnny Oates ranking might be the only one I would quibble with feeling he should be a little higher.

    I also wonder if Davey Johnson couldn’t have climbed to the #2 spot had he been here longer.

    The Earl of Baltimore will always be my favorite and my #1.

  9. boss61

    December 20, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    1. Earl.
    2. Buck
    3. Hank Bauer
    4. Johnny Oates
    5. Joe Altobelli
    6. Johnny Oates

    Rationale for Buck at #2: He got the very most out of some flawed rosters, borderline major leaguers and reclamation projects, despite working with a GM with whom he was not sympatico much of the time.

  10. Camden Bird

    December 20, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Paul Richards’s impact on the franchise goes much deeper than wins and losses (as you stated). He was THE architect behind “The Oriole Way”. Everybody assumes that was all Earl, but he would have told you himself that he was a disciple of Paul Richards. He was the one who set the Orioles up for the dominance they enjoyed in the ’60s to the mid-’70s (by 1975, pretty much all the players that Richards signed, save Brooks, had either already departed via free agency/trade or retired).

    My list would be:

    1. Earl Weaver
    2. Paul Richards
    3. Buck Showalter
    4. Hank Bauer
    5. Davey Johnson
    6. Johnny Oates
    7. Joe Altobelli
    8. Frank Robinson
    9. Billy Hitchock
    10. Cal Ripken Sr.

  11. OriolesNumber1Fan

    January 1, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    My list would be: 1. Earl, 2. Buck, 3. Davey Johnson, 4. Hank Bauer, 5. Paul Richards. I remember Earl did have great talent earlier in his career. 1. Don Buford, 2. Paul Blair, 3. Frank Robinson, 4. Boog Powell, 5. Brooks Robinson, 6. Elrod Hendricks/Andy Etchebarren, 7. Davey Johnson 8. Mark Belanger. 9. 4 -20 game winning Pitchers: Jim Palmer, Dave McNally, Mike Cuellar, Pat Dobson. 1 stacked team. But once this team got old and players retired and moved on he still won with platooning players Gary Roenicke among others. He should have won division in 82 in his last year if Palmer didn’t blow last game of potential 4 game sweep in 3 days against the Brewers! What a team he left for Altobelli in 83. I believe if he would have gone to the World Series like the Brewers did, and would have managed again in 83 and he would have won again in and then maybe retired. Buck number 2 no doubt. What he did with 5 number three starters was unbelievable. Brought Orioles out of debts of despair. Most wins from 12 – 16 and should have won World Series if not for losing players Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado to injuries and Chris Davis to stupidity. Davey Johnson learned how to manage from watching Earl although he too had a pretty stacked lineup and a nice stacked pitching staff.

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