The Best MLB Managers In History
These guys are legends in their field (pun intended!).
We’ve already give you our thoughts on the best hitters and pitchers in MLB history, so now it’s time to give their coaches some love. Managing a baseball team, like coaching any sports team, can be a job that’s equally frustrating as it is rewarding — but in the case of America’s pastime, the long season is truly a grind.
We’ve looked at the most important figures that one can use to measure the greatness of a baseball manager and came up with a list of the best ones the game has ever seen. Making our list was not simply about who won the most games or the most championships, it was about consistent excellence, creativity and proven leadership from the dugout. All of our statistics came from Baseball Reference.
Here are the skippers we’d most want leading our club.
25. Dick Howser (1978-1986)
Teams Managed: New York Yankees; Kansas City Royals
He had by far the shortest career of any MLB manager of anyone who cracked our list, but Dick Howser more than proved his brilliance in just seven seasons on the job. He took the New York Yankees to a 103-59 record in 1980, which was his first full season as a manager, before being fired for his rocky relationship with the team’s owner, George Steinbrenner.
He landed in Kansas City and led the Royals to the franchise’s first World Series title in 1985. In his entire career as a manager, his teams never finished lower than second place in a division race and made the playoffs four times.
Howser’s meteoric career was tragically cut short after the 1986 season when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, from which he died in 1987 at the age of 51. His .544 career winning percentage as a manager speaks for itself, as do the countless tributes he’s received since his passing.
24. Mike Scioscia (2000-2018)
Teams Managed: Los Angeles Angels
Unlike many of the great managers on this list, Mike Scioscia was able to spend his entire career with a single franchise — so far, at least. As Los Angeles as they come, Scioscia spent his entire playing career with the Los Angeles Dodgers, winning two World Series in the 1980s, before managing the Los Angeles Angels for 19 seasons.
He led the Angels to the franchise’s only championship in 2002 and took them to seven playoff appearances. When he stepped down as the club’s manager in 2018, Scioscia had the 18th most wins of any manager in MLB history (1,650) and a .536 career winning percentage.
23. Jim Mutrie (1883-1891)
Teams Managed: New York Mets; New York Giants (San Francisco Giants)
A New York baseball icon, Jim Mutrie not only co-founded the New York Mets, he served as the team’s first manager and would win two World Series with the then-New York Giants. Mutrie’s managerial career spanned only nine seasons but it included a ton of winning, including three pennants and those two championships.
He is one of only three managers in MLB history to retire with a career winning percentage above .600, with his standing at an astounding .611. When you consider that he managed in more than 1,000 games, that mark becomes even more impressive.
22. Lou Piniella (1986-2010)
Teams Managed: New York Yankees; Cincinnati Reds; Seattle Mariners; Tampa Bay Rays; Chicago Cubs
“Sweet Lou” was known as one of the most no-nonsense managers in baseball history and he was also easily one of the most effective. After a playing career that lasted 16 seasons, Piniella spent 23 seasons as a manager, taking three different franchises to the playoffs. In 1990, he led the Cincinnati Reds to a wire-to-wire championship season and that wasn’t even one of the three seasons in which he was named Manager of the Year by MLB. Piniella’s best work might have come in 2001, when he led the Seattle Mariners to a 116-46 record, which is tied for the most wins in a single season in MLB history and is the best record by any team since 1954.
He finished his managerial career ranked in the top 20 all-time for wins (1,835) and postseason wins (23).
21. Frank Selee (1890-1905)
Teams Managed: Boston Beaneaters (Atlanta Braves); Chicago Cubs
If Frank Selee’s portrait doesn’t scream old-time baseball, we’re not sure what does. His accomplishments during the game’s early era also speak volumes. In 16 seasons as a big-league manager, Selee’s teams won five National League titles, including three in a row from 1891-1893 in Boston.
His 1897 Boston Beaneaters team put up a 93-39 record, giving them the ninth-best single-season winning percentage for any team ever (.705). Speaking of winning percentages, Selee’s career mark of .598 as a skipper is the fifth-best among all managers and the second-best among managers with at least 1,000 wins.
20. Joe Maddon (1996-Present)
Teams Managed: Los Angeles Angels; Tampa Bay Rays; Chicago Cubs
We’re not sure if it’s the stylish glasses or the white hair and beard but Joe Maddon has always looked like one of the smartest guys in baseball. He’s backed up that look with the way he’s managed his teams, taking both the Rays and the Cubs to the World Series.
In 2016, he won it all with the Cubs, breaking the franchise’s notorious bad-luck streak and becoming a folk hero in Chicago. In just 13 full seasons as a manager, he’s been a three-time winner of MLB’s Manager of the Year Award and has led his teams to eight playoff appearances.
This modern master of the shift is creeping up the managerial record boards but already ranks ninth in playoff wins, with 32 of them so far.
19. Charlie Manuel (2000-2013)
Teams Managed: Cleveland Indians; Philadelphia Phillies
In just 12 seasons as a manager in MLB, Charlie Manuel accomplished a lot. He racked up an even 1,000 regular-season wins compared to 826 losses, giving him a winning percentage of .548. That number rose to .569 for his career of managing in the playoffs, where his teams were 29-22.
He led both the Indians and the Phillies to the playoffs a combined six times, winning two pennants and a World Series with Philadelphia in 2008, the team’s first since 1980.
The postseason is really where Manuel earned his place on this list, as he ranks 12th all-time for playoff wins, including a stout 27-19 record in the playoffs during his time with the Phillies.
18. Jim Leyland (1986-2013)
Teams Managed: Pittsburgh Pirates; Miami Marlins; Colorado Rockies; Detroit Tigers
Jim Leyland is one of the few elite, modern-era managers that never played an inning in MLB. He proved his gift for working from the dugout early on, beginning his coaching career in the Detroit Tigers organization in his mid-20s. During his remarkable career as a big-league manager, Leyland won pennants in both the AL and NL, winning the World Series with the Miami Marlins in 1997, a first for the franchise which was then called the Florida Marlins.
Leyland took three out of the four franchises he managed to the playoffs, making eight trips there in his career and racking up 44 playoff wins, which is the fifth-most ever. His 1,769 career regular-season wins are the 17th-most among all skippers and his three Manager of the Year Awards are tied for second-most.
17. Tommy Lasorda (1976-1996)
Teams Managed: Los Angeles Dodgers
Unquestionably the face of baseball in Los Angeles for more than 20 years, Tommy Lasorda had a pretty awful career as a pitcher before finding his true calling in the dugout. He managed the Dodgers full-time from 1977 to 1996, taking the franchise to the playoffs seven times, winning four pennants and two World Series.
With 1,599 career wins, Lasorda ranks 22nd among all managers, while his 31 playoff wins rank him 10th. He undoubtedly would’ve racked up even more wins and accolades had he not suffered a heart attack in the middle of the 1996 season, forcing him into retirement.
16. Fred Clarke (1897-1915)
Teams Managed: Louisville Colonels; Pittsburgh Pirates
Back in the days of the player-manager — when the guy managing the team was also playing on it — Fred Clarke was arguably the best. His ability to produce on the field and behind the scenes was incredible, as he led the Pirates to four National League pennants in 16 seasons, as well as the team’s first World Series title in 1909. That team finished the regular season with a 110-42 record (.724), posting the best season-long winning percentage of any team that has ever gone on to also win a championship.
In fact, two of Clarke’s Pirates teams rank in MLB’s top five all-time for season-long winning percentage, with his 1902 squad finishing at 103-36 (.741). Oh, and while he was leading his team to all that greatness, he was holding down a career .312 batting average and knocking in more than 1,000 career RBIs.
15. Billy Southworth (1929-1951)
Teams Managed: St. Louis Cardinals; Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves)
After a solid career as an outfielder for several MLB clubs in the 1910s and 1920s, Billy Southworth proved he was a natural manager in the following two decades. In 13 seasons as a manager, Southworth led his teams to four pennants and two World Series titles, both with the St. Louis Cardinals. His 1942 Cardinals won 106 games and eventually crushed Joe DiMaggio’s dominant New York Yankees in five games to win his first crown.
He put up a .597 career winning percentage with 1,044 wins under his belt, easily landing him a spot in the Hall of Fame. That winning percentage is the third-best in history among managers with at least 1,000 wins.
14. Frank Chance (1905-1923)
Teams Managed: Chicago Cubs; New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox
Frank Chance had managerial stints with arguably the three most popular franchises in MLB history, but it was with the Cubs as a player-manager that he became an icon. Leading the team from 1905-1912, Chance’s Cubs won four NL pennants in five years and back-to-back World Series in 1907 and 1908 — the latter of which would be the club’s last title for more than 100 years. Chance’s 1906 Cubs went 116-36, setting MLB records for wins in a season and winning percentage, both of which still stand. His 1907 Cubs went 107-45, which is the 10th-best winning percentage in history.
If racking up 223 wins in the span of two seasons isn’t enough to impress you, how about the fact that Chance’s winning percentage while managing the Cubs for eight seasons was .664? He also led the team in batting average for two seasons as its player-manager.
13. Bruce Bochy (1995-Present)
Teams Managed: San Diego Padres; San Francisco Giants
It can easily be argued that Bruce Bochy is the best manager of his generation — although we didn’t rank him as such. His 1,982 career wins are 11th all time and the most of any active manager. He’s been even better in the postseason, posting a 44-33 record there, giving him the fourth-most playoff wins ever and also the most of any active skipper.
In 24 seasons so far, the Frenchman has led his teams to the playoffs eight different times, winning four pennants. From 2010-2014, his San Francisco Giants won three World Series, yet he’s never earned Manager of the Year honors with that franchise. The only thing that dents Bochy’s reputation a bit is his career sub-.500 winning percentage, which he’ll hopefully remedy before retirement.
12. Earl Weaver (1968-1986)
Teams Managed: Baltimore Orioles
Another great modern manager who had no experience as a player at the MLB level was Orioles legend Earl Weaver. His teams basically did nothing but win during his 17 years managing that franchise. In that time, the Orioles went to the playoffs six times, and won four pennants plus a World Series. Weaver’s 1970 championship team was one of the greatest in MLB history, going 108-54 in the regular season before losing only a single playoff game en route to the title.
He put up a .583 career-winning percentage with more than 1,400 wins and a .565 winning percentage in the playoffs. One of Weaver’s most telling statistics is that he was ejected 94 times in his career, which is the fourth-most among all managers, more times than Lou Piniella was ejected in a career that spanned fewer seasons.
11. Miller Huggins (1913-1929)
Teams Managed: St. Louis Cardinals; New York Yankees
Some might say that anyone could’ve been a great manager with the players Miller Huggins managed during his career but that would be a huge underestimation of his skills. Educated as a lawyer, Huggins proved to be a born leader in the dugout, leading the New York Yankees to six pennants and three World Series titles in the 1920s.
He was the man who led the mythical Murderers’ Row Yankees, which included Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. His 1927 Yankees went 110-44, turning in the best winning percentage in the history of that vaunted franchise and making our list of the best teams in sports history.
No other manager has won as many championships in as limited a span as his 17 seasons.
10. Terry Francona (1997-Present)
Teams Managed: Philadelphia Phillies; Boston Red Sox; Cleveland Indians
When Terry Francona was hired to manage the Red Sox in 2004, after a sub-.500 tenure leading the Phillies, expectations weren’t that high. All he ended up doing was snapping an 86-year championship drought and winning two World Series with Boston in the span of four years. The group of players Francona formed into a dominant unit during his time there was as unique and unruly as has ever been put onto a diamond. In his eight seasons in Boston, his teams posted a .574 winning percentage and a ridiculous .622 winning percentage in the playoffs.
He also took the Cleveland Indians to the World Series in 2016, coming within one game of snapping that franchise’s own lengthy drought, giving him a 2-1 career record in the Fall Classic. His career .542 winning percentage, even with those four weak seasons in Philadelphia, give him our nod as his generation’s best skipper.
9. Connie Mack (1894-1950)
Teams Managed: Pittsburgh Pirates; Philadelphia Athletics (Oakland Athletics)
In terms of pure win totals and longevity at the helm, Connie Mack is untouchable and will likely remain so for the rest of baseball history. His 3,731 managerial wins are by far the most in history, with him being the only manager to ever surpass 3,000 career wins.
Of course, his 3,948 managerial losses are also an all-time record that will never be approached. Mack’s 50-plus year career as a skipper was extremely inconsistent but he managed the Philadelphia Athletics to five World Series titles and nine AL pennants.
Mack’s 1931 Athletics went 107-45, posting the 10th-best winning percentage in history and representing a high point of his legendary career.
8. Casey Stengel (1934-1965)
Teams Managed: Brooklyn Dodgers (Los Angeles Dodgers); Boston Braves (Atlanta Braves); New York Yankees; New York Mets
No manager since Casey Stengel has matched his total of seven World Series wins as manager and it’s likely none ever will. He led the Yankees to a record 10 AL pennants in 12 seasons as their manager and those aforementioned seven championships, which included five consecutive titles from 1949-1953.
Stengel’s Yankees were untouchable during his time there but the rest of his long career was more uneven, with him posting losing records with his other three franchises and never taking any of them to the playoffs.
But he ranks 12th all-time for career wins (1,905) and his .587 career winning percentage in the playoffs is the fifth-best among managers with at least 30 playoff games.
7. Walter Alston (1954-1976)
Teams Managed: Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers
A Dodger lifer, Walter Alston managed franchise legends like Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Don Drysdale and Roy Campanella during his lengthy career. He led the team to four World Series titles from 1955 to 1965 and seven NL pennants, turning them into the game’s biggest powerhouse of the era.
Alston racked up more than 2,000 wins, averaging more than 88 wins per season during his 23-year career. Before he came along and made it look easy, the Dodgers had waited more than 50 years to win a World Series.
If you ask us, he’s the best manager to have ever spent his entire career with a single team.
6. Bobby Cox (1978-2010)
Teams Managed: Atlanta Braves; Toronto Blue Jays
Perhaps nobody is as linked with Atlanta baseball as Braves icon Bobby Cox. He spent 25 seasons managing the franchise in two stints, leading it to five pennants and a long-awaited World Series in 1995. Cox’s Braves were simply always in contention, winning their division title every season from 1991 to 2005, which is an astounding level of consistency.
Cox won a total of 2,504 games in his career and posted a .556 winning percentage. Of course, his 69 career playoff losses are the most by any manager.
He ranks in the top five all-time for managerial wins in the regular season and playoffs, and his four MLB Manager of the Year Awards tie him for the most ever. Cox also was ejected more times than any other manager in history, with 40 more tosses than the guy in second place.
5. Tony La Russa (1979-2011)
Teams Managed: Chicago White Sox; Oakland Athletics; St. Louis Cardinals
Tony La Russa’s managerial career was very similar to Bobby Cox’s, but he won more games and more championships. Both men won Manager of the Year honors a record four times, but, in 33 seasons as a skipper, La Russa took all three of his franchises to the playoffs and won three World Series.
He led the Athletics to a title in 1989 before switching leagues and winning two more with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. La Russa’s 2,728 career managerial wins are the most of anyone to have started their career in the 1900s and his 70 playoff wins are the second-most ever.
La Russa posted a winning record with all three franchises he managed, making him one of the game’s most proven winners.
4. Joe Torre (1977-2010)
Teams Managed: New York Mets; Atlanta Braves; St. Louis Cardinals; New York Yankees; Los Angeles Dodgers
Like Miller Huggins before him, modern Yankees legend Joe Torre proved to be a master of managing incredible talent. In 12 seasons managing the Yankees from 1996 to 2007, Torre’s teams won 10 division titles, six AL pennants and four World Series, including three in a row. Put simply, his teams were the most dominant in modern baseball history.
His 1998 Yankees went 114-48, posting the best winning percentage in modern history for a team that also won a championship. In fact, we named them the best team in the history of professional sports and without Torre’s leadership, who knows where that squad of young talent would’ve finished.
In 29 total seasons as a manager, Torre’s teams made the playoffs 15 times and posted a .538 winning percentage. His 84 career playoff wins are the most of any manager in history.
3. Sparky Anderson (1970-1995)
Teams Managed: Cincinnati Reds; Detroit Tigers
Before Sparky Anderson, no manager in MLB history had ever won a World Series in both leagues. He nabbed back-to-back titles with the NL’s Cincinnati Reds in 1975 and 1976, before winning another with the AL’s Detroit Tigers in 1984.
Beyond winning championships with both franchises he led, Anderson put together 2,194 managerial wins, which is the sixth-best total in history. Nicknamed “Captain Hook,” he was a pioneer of relying heavily on his bullpen to win games — and it paid off as his Reds teams posted a .596 winning percentage in nine seasons.
Anderson’s career .618 winning percentage in the playoffs is what really separates him from the pack and makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.
2. John McGraw (1899-1932)
Teams Managed: Baltimore Orioles; New York Giants (San Francisco Giants)
The best of all the managers to start their career in the 1800s, John McGraw led the New York Giants to the franchise’s first three World Series titles. In more than 30 years as a manager in MLB, McGraw’s teams only had a losing record twice and would win 10 pennants, the latter of which is tied for the most of any manager. His 2,763 career managerial wins rank as the second-most in history and outweigh his career losses by more than 800 games.
McGraw was the original hothead manager, being one of only two skippers in history to be ejected from more than 100 games. His career .586 winning percentage is the best of any manager with at least 30 seasons of experience. Only one man can top McGraw’s greatness from the dugout.
1. Joe McCarthy (1926-1950)
Teams Managed: Chicago Cubs; New York Yankees; Boston Red Sox
Nobody has ever done the job of an MLB manager better than Joe McCarthy. In 24 seasons as a skipper, McCarthy never had a losing team and he won a record seven World Series, which means he won a title roughly every three seasons. Those championships all came during his 16 seasons with the New York Yankees, where he holds the franchise’s record for managerial wins. He posted a mind-blowing .615 career winning percentage, which is the best ever and is by far the top mark for any manager with at least 2,000 wins.
While he became a legend with the Yankees, McCarthy never posted less than a .579 overall winning percentage with any of the three franchises he led. His incredible .763 playoff winning percentage with the Bronx Bombers is as dominant as any manager has ever been with a single team in the postseason.