Bobby V and Other Losers: Managers With No First Place Finishes

Bobby Valentine is near the top of the list of guys who have managed the most major league games without ever finishing in first place. Could Valentine eventually climb to the very top of the list? It’s hard to imagine his being allowed to manage the additional five full seasons he would need without finishing first at least once. Unless he wins a World Series as a wild card, which is certainly within the realm of possibility. Bobby will presumably pass Frank Robinson for number 2 on this list around the end of May of this upcoming season, and with Jack McKeon and Jim Riggleman out of the current managing ranks, Bobby will have that #2 spot to himself for a long time — unless he can get off the list entirely with an AL East championship. The “leaders” in this category are listed after the jump.

Most MLB Games Managed Without a First Place Regular Season Finish:
1. Jimmy Dykes 2,962 games managed
2. Frank Robinson 2,241
3. Bobby Valentine 2,189
4. Jack McKeon 2,042 (McKeon does have a World Series championship, despite no first place finishes)
5. Phil Garner 2,040
6. Paul Richards 1,837
7. Jimmy McAleer 1,658
8. Patsy Donovan 1,597
9. Lee Fohl 1,521
10. Jim Riggleman 1,486 (Mr. Contract Extension Demand)
11. Bill Barnie 1,480
12. Birdie Tebetts 1,455
13. Dave Bristol 1,424
14. Gus Schmelz 1,357
15. Jeff Torborg 1,352
16. Clint Hurdle 1, 321 (likely to move up on the list this season)
17. Don Baylor 1,316
18. Branch Rickey 1,277 (more successful executive than field manager)
19. Ned Yost 1,248 (likely to move up on the list this season)
20. Buddy Bell 1,243

Should Bobby V. find himself forever stuck at number #2 on this list — well, it will be just another missed first place.

34 thoughts on “Bobby V and Other Losers: Managers With No First Place Finishes

  1. 1
    deal says:

    Great parting line for this piece.

  2. 3
    MrDave says:

    Well, if Bobby V wins a World Series as a wild card, he could get those five years.

  3. 4
    topper009 says:

    In Japan his best effort was also 2nd place. He finished there with the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1994 and 2005, although in 2005 he won the pennant and Japan Series.

  4. 5
    Ed says:

    Meanwhile Gene Mauch’s record of 3,942 games managed without a single pennant is safe for a LONG time. Buck Showalter with 1935 is tops among acting managers. Not even half way there.

  5. 6

    Dykes managed (parts of) 21 years, for 6 franchises, and never finished higher than 3rd.

    He did experience 1st three times as a player, 29-31 with the A’s.

    He also led the league in Errors as a 2B and and 3B – in successive years (1921-22).
    Though he also led the league in range factor making all those errors in ’21.
    And he figured out 3B eventually, leading in F% in ’31 and ’32.

    • 8
      Hartvig says:

      And let’s not forget that he was traded by Detroit to Cleveland for Joe Gordon… in 1960, when they were both managers.

  6. 7
    John Autin says:

    On the other hand, Valentine:
    – has as many winning seasons (4) as any other manager in Rangers franchise history (tied with Pat Corrales); and
    – is 1 off the mark for winning seasons managing the Mets (Davey Johnson had 6).

    • 10
      birtelcom says:

      Attention-grabbing titles and kidding aside, I think Valentine is a good manager, and also seems like a good guy. I attended a charity event once where he was the main speaker and he was extremely articulate, very gracious, personable and thoughtful. His media persona has an edge, but it’s something I’ve seen him put aside when the cameras were not on.

  7. 9
    Andy says:

    OMG the title of this post honestly made me LOL.

  8. 11
    AlbaNate says:

    Anyone know who managed the most games before his first first-place finish?

  9. 12
    Mike L says:

    birtelcom, you wouldn’t be trying to put a little reverse English on this post, talking about how Bobby V might be a loser so as to somehow influence the baseball Gods to reward the Red Sox with a Series win, would you?

    • 21
      birtelcom says:

      Here at HHS, I’ll try to suspend my rooting interests, which, for the record, are pro-Mets and pro-whoever-happens-to-be-playing the Yankees at the time. As the late Dana Brand, a professor of American literature who wrote about the Mets and Mets fans, pointed out, it takes a certain level of unusual commitment to be “geographically entitled to root for the most successful of all baseball franchises”, but to choose instead to root for the other local team. I’ll try to keep my rooting-interest-writing to the Mets fan forum world.

      • 22
        Mike L says:

        LOL. No offense intended. As for me, genetics and geography are destiny. Born in the Bronx, son of a devoted Yankee fan. Can’t get more committed than that.

  10. 13
    James Smyth says:

    AlbaNate: Joe Torre?

    • 18
      vivaeljason says:

      Absolutely not. Torre managed the ’82 Braves to a division title. I’m assuming Mauch, since he took 22 seasons to get a team he managed to the playoffs.

  11. 15
    Ed says:

    Has to be Gene Mauch. If I did the math correctly, he managed 3,294 games before his first first place finish.

    • 16
      Ed says:

      Oops, this is a reply to Albanate/#11.

      • 17
        Ed says:

        BTW, Mauch was famously/infamously the manager of the ’64 Phillies, a team which blew a 6.5 game lead with only 12 games left. He was widely criticized for his handling of his pitching staff down the stretch.

        • 20
          bstar says:

          Ed, I’m still licking wounds from the Braves Tomahawk Flop last September. Let’s change the subject.

        • 34
          Jason Z says:

          Mauch managed to have Jim Bunning and Chris Short start 9 of the final 13 games that season. Jim Bunning pitched superbly to win game 150, which gave the Phillies that 6.5 game lead. Bunning would not win again until game 162 when it was already over.

    • 19
      kds says:

      Mauch’s Angels won in 1982. I think your number of games is through the end of 1981. Should the “official answer” be; a) the end of 1981, b) the end of 1982, c) the game in they clinched, d) the game in which they took a lead that they never relinquished? I guess I’d go for c), but can see arguments for each of the others. What do you think?

  12. 23
    BSK says:

    Hey everyone! I took the winter off but am psyched to be back in baseball mode and the site looks great!

    My question is which manager has the most WINS without a 1st place finish?

    • 24
      Andy says:

      Very glad to see you back BSK!

      • 27
        BSK says:

        Glad to be back! I’m slow to change routines, but got swallowed up in some winter stuff and the offseason is a good time to branch out. Going to need to work the new blog into the routine!

    • 25
      Richard Chester says:

      Jimmy Dykes has the most wins (1406) and most games managed (2962) without a first-place finish. It’s easy to find. Go to BR, click on Managers and sort the chart by Wins and Games.

  13. 29
    Kerry W says:

    I think Jimmy Dykes should have an asterisk by his name. He managed during a period where it was easier to not finish first, since only 12.5% of teams (2 of 16) could be in first place, compared to 20% (6 of 30) with the current divisional setup. Current managers have to work harder to avoid first place. 🙂

  14. 30
    Paul E says:

    Regarding Valentine’s chances of passing Frank Robinson, does anyone believe the Red Sox are better than BOTH the Yankees and Tampa this year? Obviously, the Red Sox are still a competetive team, and probably better than everything in the National League; however, Valentine will certainly be earning his money if they finish first in the AL East

    • 31
      Mike L says:

      Paul E, I think there’s a fairly good chance they will win the East. Last year, they were grossly overrated (compared favorably to the 27 Yankees in the press). This year, the back end of their rotation will be better, and I really think Crawford is a better player than he showed. Valentine doesn’t need to be a genius-he just needs to hope they all stay healthy enough.

      • 33
        Paul E says:

        Mike L.
        Well, I guess we’ll probably have to wait 162 games, again, for the AL East to play itself out. I believe it will be one of the better races along with the AL West race between Texas and the Los Angeles Angels of Anahaeim.

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