The Braves Manager of the 80's?
Who was the Braves manager of the 80's? Let's look at the choices.
What about Bobby Cox? As I mentioned in the 70's post, Bobby is the greatest manager the Braves have ever had. But his 70's resume included two last place finishes. As the 80's began, the record began to improve. He finished 1980 a game above .500. A distinct improvement. The strike shortened 1981 series saw the Braves finish six games below .500, but missed their double opportunity to make the playoffs that year. Bobby then flew the coop to manage Toronto in 1982.
What about Joe Torre? Before Joe Torre took over as Brave manager in 1982, his five year managerial career with the Mets resulted in five losing seasons. But when he took over the Braves in 1982, they won the first 13 games of the season. The rest of the season had many ups and downs, including losing 19 out of 21 during one stretch. But the Braves hung tough and eventually managed to win the West over the hated Dodgers. This was certainly the most successful Braves season since I had been a Brave fan. The 1983 season had many similarities to '82, with the Braves and Dodgers fighting much of the season for first place. The Braves couldn't quite pull it out this time and finished three games behind the Dodgers. 1984 came with high expectations The Braves were in first place after 50 games, but quickly faded and ended up finishing below .500 at 80-82. It seemed premature to me when Torre was subsequently fired.
Torre finished his managerial reign with the Braves at 257-229, but apparently this wasn't quite good enough.
What about Eddie Haas? The Braves hired Eddie Haas in 1985 to replace Joe Torre. Haas had success managing at the minor league level, but had never managed in the majors before. To say his tenure didn't go well is an understatement. The Braves hope that Eddie would be the next Sparky Anderson faded so fast that he didn't even make it to the end of his first season. His career major league managerial record was 50-71 and never got another chance to manage in the bigs again.
What about Bobby Wine? Long time major league shortstop Bobby Wine took over for Eddie Haas in the latter half of the 1985 season and the Braves commenced to reel off a five game winning streak! That's the good part. The bad part is this success was short-lived. Bobby's team finished losing 25 of their last 36 and The Braves 96-loss season was the Braves worst since the 100 loss season of 1977. Wine was fired and never managed in the majors again.
What about Chuck Tanner? For 1986, The Braves hired back Bobby Cox as general manager. Bobby wasn't going to make the Eddie Haas mistake and hired a proven commodity in 1979 World Series champion manager Chuck Tanner to helm the team. Tanner not only brought a solid track record with him, but a lot of enthusiasm as well. I felt a little optimistic. The Braves played a bit over .500 during the early part of the season only to fade later in the year and ended up with 89 losses and full possession of last in the West. 1987 took on a similar pattern with the Braves playing reasonably well early, but fading quickly on their way to a 92-loss season. The early Tanner optimism had faded now. 1988 was going to be his last chance. He needed to start well to hold his job. They lost the first ten games of the year and were 12-27 before Tanner received the final pink slip of his managerial career.
What about Russ Nixon? Russ Nixon took over for Chuck Tanner and things didn't improve very much. The Braves finished 1988 with 106 losses. Nixon got another chance in 1989 where things went only slightly better. The Braves finished in last place once again. Nixon was given another chance in 1990, but after starting off poorly during the first half of the year, Bobby Cox took over during the second part of the 1990 season leading them to yet another last place finish.
After that, they got better. But that's a topic for another blog.
And the winner for the Braves manager of the 80's is....
Joe Torre. Until Bobby Cox began his second run as Braves manager, Joe Torre was without a doubt the most successful manager the Braves ever had. The only one that comes close is probably Lum Harris, who also won a division title. But Lum's second best season was only two games over .500. Torre almost won a second division title in a row.