Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Future Managers

More from Fleer Cubs sets from the 1980's.

A look through the Fleer Cubs of the 1980's reveals five future major league managers. In typical Cub-like fashion, four of the five ended with career records under .500. The fifth has a pretty good run going (he also had the shortest Cub career). In a strange coincidence, four of the five ended up managing in Pennsylvania, with either the Pirates or Phillies, creating an unusual Chicago - Pittsburgh - Philadelphia triangle.

Davey Lopes - career record 144 - 195, .425
At the end of his playing career, Lopes bounced around with three different teams including the Cubs from 1984 - 1986. When his playing days were over, he coached with several organizations before landing with the Brewers. When their managers position became available, Bud Selig pushed Lopes as a minority hire and Davey got the job. The best he could do with the Brew Crew was 73 wins in 2000. After a 3-12 start in 2002, he was let go. Lopes has since gone on to coach with the Nationals and is currently the first base coach for the Phillies. In February, he was diagnosed with prostrate cancer. His prognosis is good, with doctors feeling they caught the cancer early. Lopes is expected to rejoin the team in May.

Lloyd McClendon
- career record 336 - 446, .430
Lloyd McClendon spent three and a half seasons with the Cubs. He was a valuable member of the 1989 team that won the Eastern Division. He was later traded to the Pirates, where he finished his playing career in 1994. He went on to become the hitting coach with the Bucs until he was named manager for the 2000 season. He lasted nearly five season at the helm, compiling a 336 - 446 record. The best he could muster were a couple of 4th place finishes. Its hard to know just how good a manager he was because he never had the talent to work with in Pittsburgh. Lloyd is now serving with his former skipper Jim Leyland as the hitting coach of the Tigers.

Larry Bowa - career record 418 - 435, .490
Larry spent the tail end of his career as the Cubs shortstop, coming from the Phillies in the trade that also brought Ryne Sandberg to the Cubs. He did nothing spectacular in Chicago, but he was a steadying presence in the infield. When his career ended, many baseball people felt his on the field leadership and competitiveness would make him a good manager. They were wrong.

Bowa was named manager of the Padres barely a year after his playing career ended. He was not ready to lead a team. His year and a half record in San Diego was 81-127. It would be 13 years before he was given a chance to manage again, this time returning to Philadelphia. A more mellow Bowa posted a better than .500 record in four season, 337 - 308 but the Phillies finished either second or third. It was tough being in the same division as the Braves. Larry now serves as bench coach for the Dodgers.

Jim Tracy
- career record 562 - 572, .496
His playing career was not so good. His only claim to fame is that he is the second-to-last player to ever wear #23 with the Cubs. He played in 87 games over two seasons and hit .249. After his playing days ended, he bounced around several organization as a minor league manager and coach. He was Davey Johnson's bench coach with the Dodgers and when Johnson was fired Tracy was named Dodger skipper.

He lasted five years in LA, finishing above .500 four of the five seasons. He led the team to the NL West crown in 2004. The team slumped to only 71 wins in 2005 and Tracy was canned. The Pirates hired him right away and he led them for two seasons. He was consistent, as the team won 67 and 68 games in his two seasons. But apparently that wasn't good enough and he was fired. (The 2008 Pirates won 67 games). Jim is currently the bench coach for the Rockies.

Terry Francona - career record 755 - 703, .513
Terry Francona spent only one of his ten season with the Cubs. The Cubs signed him as a free agent for the 1986 season. He appeared in 86 games and hit only .250. He was let go at the end of the year. Francona's playing career ended in 1990.

He then was hired by the White Sox and managed several of their farm teams, including the 1994 Birmingham Barons, with outfielder Michael Jordan. After coaching with the Tigers in 1996, Terry was hired by the Phillies in 1997. He spent four years in Philadelphia, but the best he could manage was a 77 win season in 1999. After the 2000 season he was let go and replaced by Larry Bowa. He then went on to work in the front office or coach in three different organizations.

When the Red Sox fired Grady Little after the 2003 playoffs, Terry Francona was hired as their new skipper. Expectations were high with the near miss in 2003. He led the team to 98 wins and a wild card berth. Using their stirring comeback in the ALCS as a springboard, the Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the World Series and ended the Curse of the Bambino. The Red Sox have averaged 94 wins under Francona and went on to a secord title in 2007. Apparently his one season with the Cubs didn't taint him!


  1. nice post. i had been thinking of doing one featuring lasorda players that went on to manage. i can't believe jim tracy was a big league manager. giving valuable playing time to jason phillips and jason grabowski. yikes.

  2. I agree with you comment about Jim Tracy. He is one player I would never have figured to be a manager.

  3. McClendon deserves much more credit than he was given. He did some pretty amazing stuff with the pirates. Given the right team I think he could emerge as a star manager.

  4. Great post and I love the site. I do have to make one point though...Joe Girardi appeared in 1989 Fleer on a prospects card. One of my friends caught this. Sorry to nitpick, but at least he is now a new reader.

  5. When I was young and first followed the game - I had no idea that certain managers had also played.