"These guys are talented leaders," said Bud Black, the Padres manager who is finishing his third season in his first go-round as big league skipper and was just re-upped for a fourth. "Each in their own way knows how to get the best out of players. Everybody's leadership style is unique. But these guys are sharp enough that it has allowed them over time to become the point men on the field for their organizations."
Never in baseball history has there been that concentration of managerial talent active at the same time with a combined total of almost 9,000 career regular-season victories.
All four played in the Major Leagues and enjoyed different levels of success.
But as managers, the quartet has survived 16 big league jobs among them, moving from league to league and coast to coast.
"It just means people eventually get sick of us," Torre said with a laugh on Sunday before his Dodgers defeated the D-backs, 9-3, at Chase Field.
As Torre nears 70, he should keep this Casey Stengel quote in mind:
Managerial wins leaders
|The top 15 winningest managers, with years managed, total games, wins and losses, winning percentage, postseason appearances (PS), World Series titles (WS) and pennants won. * denotes Hall of Famers. (NOTE: Connie Mack won an AL Pennant in 1902, the year before the World Series began. John McGraw won an NL pennant in 1904, but refused to play the Boston Americans in the World Series.)|
|G ||W||L |
| 1||Connie Mack* (1894-1950)||7,755||3,731||3,948||.486||8||5||9|
| 2||John McGraw* (1899-1932)||4,769||2,763||1,948||.586||10||3||11|
| 3||Tony La Russa (1979- )||4,728||2,528||2,198||.535||12||2||5|
| 4||Bobby Cox (1978- )||4,300||2,388||1,910||.555||15||1||5|
| 5||Joe Torre (1977- )||4,122||2,221||1,896||.539||14||4||6|
| 6||Sparky Anderson* (1970-95)||4,030||2,194||1,834||.545||7||3||5|
| 7||Bucky Harris* (1924-56)||4,408||2,157||2,218||.493||3||2||3|
| 8||Joe McCarthy* (1926-50)||3,487||2,125||1,333||.615||9||7||9|
| 9||Walter Alston* (1954-76)||3,658||2,040||1,613||.558||7||4||7|
|10||Leo Durocher* (1939-73)||3,739||2,008||1,709||.54||3||1||3|
|11||Casey Stengel* (1934-65)||3,766||1,905||1,842||.508||10||7||10|
|12||Gene Mauch (1960-87)||3,942||1,902||2,037||.483||2||0||0|
|13||Bill McKechnie* (1915-46)||3,647||1,896||1,723||.524||4||2||4|
|14||Lou Piniella (1986- )||3,377||1,761||1,616||.521||7||1||1|
|15||Ralph Houk (1961-84)||3,157||1,619||1,531||.514||3||2||3|
"They told me my services were no longer desired, because they wanted to put in a youth program as an advance way of keeping the club going. I'll never make the mistake of being 70 again."
Those words were spoken by The Old Perfessor after the Yankees let him go in 1960, after a seven-game loss to the Pirates in one of the all-time classic World Series. Stengel was replaced by Ralph Houk after winning 10 American League pennants and seven championships in his 12 years as the Yankees skipper.
"I think the longer you do it, the more you appreciate the scrutiny you get, the expectations, the pressure, and in the end, the loneliness of it," said La Russa, who at 64 has already managed for 32 seasons. "There's a common bond for guys who have gone through it for a lot of years."
Of course, Torre, who will turn 70 next July 18, has been down the Stengel route with the Yankees himself. At 68, he was essentially pushed out -- after taking the team to the playoffs 12 times in his 12 seasons -- and replaced by Joe Girardi. Now trying to direct the Dodgers into the playoffs for his second consecutive postseason, Torre says he's going to call his own shot at 70 when his three-year contract ends after the 2010 season.
If he indeed retires, it will be on his own terms.
"I feel good about retirement because my wife has a whole list of things she wants to do," he said.
"The pressure to win now is pretty extreme. In my own case, it was time for me to leave New York, and I could have done it after any one of the last two or three years. It just felt different. I don't know how much my age had to do with it. I had been in one place for so long, and the Yankees weren't used to that. They sort of like to control things."
Like Torre, the rest of the Big Four have walked the gantlet. And because of skill, longevity, their ability to connect with players and the confidence bestowed in them by others, they have left indelible marks on baseball history.
"I don't think about history or anything like that," Cox said. "They've always said that managers are on a year-to-year basis. Doug Rader said managers are on a day-to-day basis, and I believe that."
Rader was on the mark for most managers. He managed three teams during parts of seven seasons and had a winning percentage of .437. Rader, who once presented a lineup card to the umpires wearing a chef's cap and an apron, was done for good in 1991 after a three-year run with the Angels. That's more the managerial norm.
Torre essentially has had two managerial careers, having managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals with little success before winning four World Series titles with the Yankees.
"I'm still working at it, nothing ever gets any easier," Torre said. "It's nice to have had the success when I was in New York. But when I went into that job I had taken a team into the postseason one time with the Braves . So it tempers you. You remember where you're coming from and don't get caught up in where you're going."
Piniella, who also has a Yankees managerial pedigree, won it all in his first year with the Reds (1990) and has had only a modicum of success since then with the Mariners, Rays and Cubs. When things didn't go the way he planned, he walked away from Cincinnati, Seattle and Tampa Bay.
Still, his 2001 Mariners team tied the all-time record with 116 regular-season wins, and he is acknowledged far and wide as one of baseball's managerial elite.
"He's successful because he has a burning desire to get results from people," Matt Sinatro, the Cubs' first-base coach, said about the 66-year-old Piniella. "The one beautiful thing about Lou is I've seen him improve players, and those players have gone on to make a lot of money. He takes a lot of pride in that. You look back on some of the players he's had: a lot of them absolutely love him. He's an easy man to play for. He's demanding, don't get me wrong. He's demanding even for a coach."
Cox has managed the Braves twice, sandwiched around a tour in the dugout with the Blue Jays and a front-office stint with Atlanta. Cox wrapped up his 29 years as a manager in a simple philosophy: "You just come to the park every day wanting to win a game," he said.
His tenure of 20 consecutive years as the Braves manager is an anomaly. He had a record run of 14 consecutive playoff appearances that included four National League pennants and the 1995 World Series championship. Cox, 68, has been told by the Braves that he can keep the job as long as he wants, and he's showed no signs of wanting to retire.
Torre said Cox recently told him that he doesn't know when he wants to retire.
"I remember seeing him a year or so ago, and he said, 'Next year is my last year,'" Torre said. "So we all lie, basically."
La Russa has been successful everywhere he has managed, taking the White Sox to the playoffs in 1983, the A's to three consecutive AL pennants and one World Series title from 1988 to 1990, and the Cardinals to the National League pennant in 2004 and a World Series victory in '06.
But even he admits that it has been a tough road to travel, not only for him, but also for all them.
"A guy gets let go, and I think about it," said La Russa, who was dismissed as a young manager by the White Sox, but left the A's in 1995 of his own volition. "A recent example: Manny Acta had a really tough situation in Washington, and I thought he handled it very well. Any of us dealt that hand would have been fired soon. So, yeah, I think about it, I think about the good fortune [I've had]. That's why I don't take any of this stuff personally."