Best MLB Managers Of All Time: Top 5 Team Leaders, According To Sports Experts

Undoubtedly, the sport of baseball is woven into the fabric of life in America. We love to play baseball, watch baseball, and every summer, we gather to cheer for our favorite Major League Baseball (MLB) teams hitting the diamonds. Every professional team has a manager that serves as the face of the team, the media correspondent and more. With such a rich history, how do you narrow down the best MLB managers of all time?  

When it comes to baseball, stats are everything. In fact, this has influenced innovations in the sport. A team of engineers at Washington State University and Delft University of Technology report a new way of determining how far a baseball is hit using lasers and accounting for a baseball’s ‘drag’ and ‘lift’ properties. These scientific advancements could potentially help coach players to hit the ball further by understanding the physics behind the way a baseball travels through the air. 

Player analytics has been a big part of building a competitive baseball team for decades. In the early and mid-2000s, Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane began implementing his famed Moneyball strategy to build his teams. Moneyball implemented the use of player data and analytics to assemble a competitive MLB roster while it also disregarded the name on the back of a player’s jersey. The Moneyball strategy was nothing short of a phenomenon that even sparked a hit blockbuster movie of the same name starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. However, a recent study finds that Moneyball might be played out in MLB

A study by researchers at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management claims that the analytics-heavy strategy lost some of its allure once it became adopted by most other MLB teams. Study author Ramy Elitzur, a professor of financial analysis at the university, says the advantage Beane and the A’s enjoyed en route to multiple division titles and playoff appearances in the early 2000s has since dwindled because of its ubiquity in the game today.  

Today, most, if not all of MLB’s 30 teams, are using advanced statistics to some degree to find valuable players who they don’t have to offer hundreds of millions of dollars to sign with the team. As you can imagine, this recent shift away from Moneyball has made coaching and managing all the more crucial to an MLB team’s success. 

Strategy and stats aside, managers play an important role in leading the team alongside the rest of the behind-the-scenes crew. StudyFinds did the research, consulting 10 baseball-oriented and sports websites in an effort to find the best MLB managers of all time. Our list comprises the five most frequently mentioned MLB managers from across these sites. As always, feel free to share your picks with us in the comments section below! 

baseball stadium during daytime
Dodgers Stadium (Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash)

The List: Best MLB Managers of All Time, Per Baseball Experts

1. Joe McCarthy (Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox)

The long-time Cubs, Yankees, and Red Sox skipper, McCarthy brought home a total of seven World Series championships and his teams were consistently playing in the postseason. “In 24 seasons as a Major League Baseball manager, Joe McCarthy never had a losing record. Even in 1946 and 1950, when he abruptly resigned from the Yankees and Red Sox, respectively, those teams were above .500 when he skipped town. As a result, he never had a team finish in worse than fourth place in its league, and he went to the World Series nine times—once with Chicago and eight times with the Yankees. He couldn’t quite get the Red Sox to the postseason, though, finishing one game out of first place in both 1948 and 1949,” explains Bleacher Report

black and white image of Joe McCarthy who is one of the best MLB managers of all time
Walter Dropo (left) and Joe McCarthy (right) during Boston Red Sox spring training camp in 1949 (“Dropo and Joe McCarthy” by misconmike is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

Although all of McCarthy’s seven titles came with the Yankees between 1931 and 1946, his accomplishments with the Cubs can’t be overlooked. McCarthy’s 1929 pennant win with the Chicago Cubs and subsequent World Series appearances and pennant victories with the Yankees made him the first MLB manager to win the pennant in both leagues – American and National. 

“Only one other manager has matched his record of six 100-win seasons. Granted, he was given a lot of talent to work with, but McCarthy was able to consistently turn that talent into championship-caliber teams,” adds Franchise Sports

Yes, McCarthy had a whopping six seasons in which his teams finished with 100 wins or better. That’s an astonishing accomplishment, regardless of the era. Still, even when McCarthy wasn’t winning 100 games, he amassed over 2,100 wins over his illustrious career.   

“McCarthy also ended his managerial career outside the Bronx, doing so with the rival Boston Red Sox. Though he never made it back to the World Series, McCarthy and the Red Sox made the playoffs in 1948 and lost to the Cleveland Indians, and he led Boston to 96 wins in each of his two full seasons with the club. McCarthy, who managed some of the greatest players in history, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig with the Yankees and Ted Williams with the Red Sox, retired with 2,125 career victories,” adds Athlon Sports.

2. John McGraw (Baltimore Orioles, New York Giants)

John McGraw appeared on every list we consulted and he even appeared in the top spot 20 percent of the time. However, McGraw’s career was not always sunshine and victories as the all-time great manager endured a combination of highs and lows throughout his career. 

“There were three distinct peaks in John McGraw’s managerial career, each lasting for three years. From 1904 to 1906, he went 307-151-8, winning the 1904 NL pennant and the 1905 World Series. Half a decade later, McGraw won three straight pennants from 1911 to 1913, averaging 101 wins per year. And from 1921 to 1923, he won the National League all three years, including two more World Series titles. But with the exception of going 69-83-3 in 1915, the valleys between those peaks were almost nonexistent. From 1903 to 1931, he had a winning percentage of at least .536 in 27 of 29 seasons. It’s just too bad he had some bad luck in the postseason, compiling a career record of 26-28 in October,” writes Bleacher Report

John McGraw was a player-manager on more than one occasion during his managing career. The burden of having to play and manage didn’t throw him off his game, though. “John McGraw was one of the most aggressive players of the 19th century who became a player-manager early in his career, allowing him to spend more than three decades as an MLB manager, primarily with the New York Giants. Thanks to his longevity, McGraw ranks third among managers on the all-time wins list. He’s best remembered for being a manager who only cares about winning and always found a way to get the best out of his players, ultimately leading the Giants to three World Series titles, including back-to-back championships in 1921 and 1922,” furthers Franchise Sports

Despite some postseason struggles that saw his 1904 team win the pennant only to have the World Series canceled that season, McGraw is considered the pennant king. In all, McGraw won a whopping 10 pennants during his managerial career. 

“Throughout his 33-year managerial career, John McGraw set the MLB record by winning 10 pennants. While he only finished with three World Series championships, McGraw had one of the most successful careers in MLB history… Had he found more success in the postseason, McGraw could very well have gone down in history as the unquestioned best MLB manager. However, his struggles in the playoffs open the door for discussion with the other managers mentioned in this article,” adds Sportskeeda

3. Casey Stengel (Brooklyn Dodgers, Boston Bees/Braves, New York Yankees, New York Mets)

The long-time manager, Casey Stengel, spent the entirety of his managing career working for baseball teams located in the Northeast, primarily New York. “While he finished barely over .500 for his career, his winning percentage with the Yankees was .623 and he won 10 pennants in the 12 seasons he managed them. Yes, he had the best talent in the league with Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, but he was also a mad scientist of sorts. He loved to platoon, was a master at juggling his rotation and mixing in veteran starters, and as Bill James pointed out he always had a double-play combination that was terrific at turning two. You can’t deny the great record in the World Series,” writes ESPN SweetSpot.

Casey Stengel’s time with the New York Yankees was definitely the brightest spot of his career. Stengel’s Yankees were nearly unbeatable during his time managing the club, making it tough for some experts to find out where he fits in among the greats.

“Initially, it was tempting to put him at No. 1. Stengel is tied with John McGraw—in eight fewer seasons as a manager, no less—for the most pennants won, and he is tied with Joe McCarthy for the most World Series titles. He did all of it in his 12 years with the Yankees, winning at least 92 games in all but one of those years. Overall, he had a .623 winning percentage with the Bronx Bombers,” explains Bleacher Report

Stengel’s winning percentage translates to his Yankees winning nearly two out of every three games they played – a remarkable feat no matter how you look at it. “Unfortunately, Stengel’s career record took a hit when he signed on to manage the expansion New York Mets in 1962. The Mets lost 120 games in their first season and followed with 111 losses in 1963 and 109 in ’64. Stengel retired during the 1965 campaign with a dreadful .302 winning percentage with the club. Nevertheless, Stengel won seven World Series titles as a manager, which tied him with Joe McCarthy for the most in major league history,” furthers Athlon Sports

4. Tony LaRussa (Chicago White Sox 2x, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals)

Strategizing into the fourth spot on the list of the best MLB managers of all time is the living legend, Tony LaRussa. “He’s also a baseball lifer, starting his managerial career with the White Sox in 1979, making a couple of other stops, and then going back to the White Sox in 2021 in his mid-70s. He spent a decade with the small-market A’s, winning four division titles and a World Series, before spending 16 years in St. Louis, practically building a dynasty. La Russa became a legend there, leading the Cardinals to seven division titles and two world championships. Anything after that is just icing on the cake for the Hall of Famer,” explains Franchise Sports

Tony LaRussa as manager for the Cardinals
Tony LaRussa as manager for the Cardinals (“Tony LaRussa” by Todd Awbrey is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)

In all, LaRussa has compiled an impressive resume over his managerial career. Tony LaRussa made it to the postseason 14 times, winning six pennants, and three World Series titles. As the experts explain, these numbers are worthy of an all-time best consideration

“La Russa was named manager of the White Sox in the middle of the 1979 season and guided the White Sox to an American League West division title four seasons later. Despite being fired in the middle of the 1986 season, the Athletics hired him less than three weeks later. La Russa led the A’s to three consecutive American League championships from 1988 to 1990 and the 1989 World Series title. He left Oakland following the 1995 season to manage the Cardinals and led the team to three National League championships and the 2006 and 2011 World Series titles,” writes The Grueling Truth

“With Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire leading the way—not to mention Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Terry Steinbach and Dennis Eckersley—the A’s averaged 97.2 regular-season wins per year from 1988 to 1992. La Russa managed them to the World Series in 1988, 1989 and 1990, winning it all in 1989…. His teams won at least 86 games in 16 seasons, nine of which came from 2000 to 2011. Granted, he had some great players at his disposal in St. Louis, too. Albert Pujols hit at least 32 home runs in each of La Russa’s final 11 seasons. He also got to manage All-Stars like Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, Yadier Molina, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and Jason Isringhausen for a significant portion of these dozen years,” adds Bleacher Report

5. Connie Mack (Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Athletics)

Connie Mack began his managerial career in the late 1890s and continued well into the middle of the 20th century. Mack has some of the most impressive numbers in the history of the game. “Mack holds several major league records that will never be broken. First and foremost, Mack won 3,731 games, which is still 900-plus more than No. 2 Tony La Russa. Mack also lost 3,948 games — more than 1,500 than La Russa. Mack also managed 53 years in the big leagues, which is about two decades longer than either La Russa or contemporary John McGraw, who is third on the career wins list,” explains Athlon Sports

Mack’s ownership of the Philadelphia Athletics played a big role in his long tenure. “Because Mack was at least a part owner of the Athletics for the entire half century that he managed the team, he never had to worry about getting fired during those rough patches. But all those bad years make it tough to rank him any higher than this, even though he does have 968 more wins than any other manager in MLB history,” writes Bleacher Report

Connie Mack was considered a ‘players’ manager in that he looked out for his guys. Mack’s players absolutely loved playing for him and the critics agree that the love they had for Connie Mack played a big role in his long and successful career

“Often considered the greatest players’ manager in the history of the game, Mack’s longevity is almost as impressive as his success. In 53 years as a manager — 50 of which were with the Philadelphia Athletics — Mack won five World Series titles (’10, ’11, ’13, ’29 and ’30) and nine pennants. He owns the Major League record for managers in wins (3,731) and losses (3,948). Mack’s coaching career began with the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he served as a player/manager from 1894-96. Then, Mack was in charge of the A’s from 1901-1950. Remarkable,” says New Arena

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  1. You completely left out Alvin Dark, Tommy LaSorta, Bruce Bochy, Walter Alston, and Joe Torrey.

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