Managerial Ejections – Do they Help?

Phil Cuzzi ran La Russa in the 2005 LCS

Should St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa show more on-field emotion, with the resulting ejections by the umpires motivating his club to more victories?

Among the many recent emails received both offering and requesting insight on the reasons behind the on-field difficulties of the 2007 St. Louis Cardinals was one interesting note asking why Tony La Russa doesn't get more visibly behind his team. The example offered was vocal, on-field demonstrations with the umpires leading to an ejection, ostensibly as a vehicle to fire up his team.

My initial reaction was to brush off the query for two reasons. First, I do not believe nor have I ever seen data that correlates managerial ejections with improved team play.

Atlanta's Chipper Jones is convinced it does have an impact. Though as the third baseman recently told the Savannah Morning News with regard to his skipper Bobby Cox, the change in the game following the ejection could just as easily be negative as positive.

"Whether it's a string of base hits or we get our brains beat in," Jones said, "one way or another, it seems like momentum turns whenever he (Cox) gets ejected."

My second reason for not agreeing with the reader about La Russa is the tired, but apt line about old dogs not learning new tricks. My perception is that showy acting with the umpires just isn't La Russa's way.

In La Russa's complex code of managing, he seems to walk a fine line between demonstrating support for his players and not wanting to show up the other club, inadvertently giving them inspiration and emotion to use against his squad.

His well-documented outburst directed at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for their recent tongue-in-cheek article on the Cubs' futility titled "No Tinker, No Evers, No Chance" is but one recent example of the latter.

Atlanta's Cox, a long-time competitor of La Russa's, has enjoyed a long, successful career. The Braves skipper's 26th season as a big-league field boss has been a busy one in terms of recognition and milestones.

Perhaps on Friday night, Cox will secure his 2200th win as a Major League manager. Just a few days ago, he passed Sparky Anderson (2194 wins) for fourth place on the all-time managerial wins list. In the process, Cox moved right behind the third-place man, La Russa at 2316 wins.

Cox is also moving up the ranks on another list – one that he isn't as proud of. Perhaps recent publicity about this inspired the thinking of my emailer.

The Savannah Morning News recently listed the ten managers with the most ejections in their MLB careers. Three active managers, designated by asterisks, are included.

All-Time Managerial Ejections (total games)

Rk

Manager

Teams

Ejected

Managed

1

John McGraw

Orioles/Giants

131

4769

2

*Bobby Cox

Blue Jays/Braves

128

3907

3

Leo Durocher

Dodgers/Giants/Cubs/Astros

124

3739

4

Earl Weaver

Orioles

98

2541

5

Frankie Frisch

Cardinals/Pirates/Cubs

86

2246

6

Paul Richards

White Sox/Orioles

80

1837

7

*Tony La Russa

White Sox/Athletics/Cardinals

73

4330

8

*Lou Piniella

Yankees/Reds/Mariners/Devil Rays/Cubs

71

2984

9

Clark Griffith

White Sox/Highlanders/Reds/Senators

67

2918

10

Bill Dahlen

Superbas

65

615

Cox (pictured) needs to be tossed from just four more games to pass John McGraw for number one on the all-time list. Cox doesn't restrict his umpire button-pushing to the regular season, either, as the chief Brave also holds the distinction of being the only player or manager to be ejected from two World Series games.

"It's a little bit embarrassing," Cox said of the ejection total. "I've been in the game a long time, so you're going to have a lot," he recently told MLB.com.

To be honest, I was quite surprised to see La Russa's name on that top managerial ejections list, let alone ahead of his close friend, fiery Lou Piniella (pictured). (As an aside, I often wonder if "fiery" isn't the Cubs manager's real given name considering how frequently it is used to describe him.)

La Russa is neither known as a flashy, on-the-field showboater in the class of a Piniella nor a constant complainer from the bench anywhere near the level of a Cox. While the Cardinals skipper churns with emotion, it is often restrained beneath the surface. Yet, now and then, it comes through.

I still remember sitting in La Russa's office following following an April, 2005 loss in Atlanta during which he had been tossed. Still incredibly angry, La Russa lambasted Cox' long-time approach toward the umpires and the perceived impact on the strike zone - without ever mentioning any names. It was surprisingly candid, and as a result, probably one of those occurrences when La Russa later wished he had stayed quiet.

But, that kind of outburst remains the exception rather than the rule with the Cardinals manager.

Considering that, it seems to me the best way to look at the career ejections list is to take into account the number of games managed and the rate of ejections. After all, as Cox noted, he has been around a long time. And he is not alone.

When tenure is factored in, the career rankings change substantially. And as the last columns note, not surprisingly, ejection rates do not seem to correlate with career win percentage.

All-Time Managerial Ejections (rate per games managed)

Manager

% Ejected

Eject Rank

Win Rate

Win % Rank

Bill Dahlen

10.57%

1

0.414

10

Paul Richards

4.35%

2

0.506

9

Earl Weaver

3.86%

3

0.583

2

Frankie Frisch

3.83%

4

0.514

7

Leo Durocher

3.32%

5

0.540

4

*Bobby Cox

3.28%

6

0.563

3

John McGraw

2.75%

7

0.586

1

*Lou Piniella

2.38%

8

0.516

8

Clark Griffith

2.30%

9

0.522

6

*Tony La Russa

1.69%

10

0.535

5

One can see perhaps why "Bad" Bill Dahlen didn't manage the predecessors of the Dodgers too long back in the decade of the 1910's. Perhaps the umpires and club ownership got together to dispatch him from his job!

Seriously, it is clear that Tony La Russa is only on this list due to his longetivity, while Cox and Piniella definitely belong.

None of the active skippers are in the league of an Earl Weaver (pictured), famous for his explosions while managing the Baltimore Orioles of the 1970's, or the modern era's most argumentative manager in terms of ejections per game, Paul Richards.

Interestingly, late in his career, Richards was the director of the Chicago White Sox' farm system when a young La Russa received his first shot at becoming a Major League skipper.

Richards would have a profound impact on the young barrister's career. In fact, Richards was later credited by La Russa as the person who inspired him to believe he could succeed as a major league manager.

Richards (pictured), who passed away in 1986, has often been credited as the initial master of lineup manipulation and juggling. These techniques were taken to new heights by La Russa in the context of relentlessly chasing advantageous situational matchups.

A tremendous innovator, Richards was also recognized to be the first manager to track pitch counts. However, the art of regularly getting tossed from games is clearly not one trait the youngster picked up from his master.

As La Russa recounted to Buzz Bissinger in "Three Nights in August", Richards instilled in him the "Hammurabi Code" of baseball, which means the opponent should expect rapid retaliation if one of the manager's players is hit by a pitch.

It is an example of how La Russa can make his point without it becoming a spectacle.

On the other hand, with three ejections less than two months into the 2007 season, Cox is on a pace that will enable him to pass McGraw by the end of the year.

His players know all about it.

"There will be a celebration, no doubt," Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur recently told the Gwinnett (Georgia) Daily Post. "He (Cox) hates to admit it, because it's not one of his favorite records. But for us as players, I think it just shows the kind of manager he is."

As the data above notes, La Russa's career ejection rate is barely half of Cox'. Apparently, that is by design.

Though La Russa made this statement at another time, I seriously doubt his take would be any different if asked today.

"I'm careful not to give into theatrics when times are tough. I don't like it when somebody gives into outside pressure and puts on a show for others," said the Cards' skipper.

I'm with Tony on this one. Let Cox celebrate the career ejection record while La Russa keeps his Cardinals focused on winning games – hopefully many more of them - very soon.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brwalton@earthlink.net.

© 2007 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed.

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