Orioles' Top 5 managers: Trezza's take

June 15th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only … if you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Joe Trezza’s ranking of the top five managers in Orioles history.

Orioles' Top 5: C | 1B | 2B | 3B | SS | LF | CF | RF | DH | RHP | LHP | RP

1. Earl Weaver, 1968-82, ’85-86
Key fact: Franchise's all-time leader in wins and member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame

Pitching, defense and the three-run homer ... and so much more. The incomparable Earl of Baltimore, the sorest loser who ever lived, Earl Weaver is remembered for many things and as the undisputed greatest Orioles manager of all time.

Shepherding the club far longer than any other manager in team history, Weaver won a club-record 1,480 games across parts of 18 seasons. His teams eclipsed 100 wins five times, went to four World Series and won it all in 1970. His .583 winning percentage across 2,540 games is the 13th best in MLB history. Famously short-tempered, Weaver’s 94 ejections are the fourth most in baseball history.

“Weaver was a rogue, in the best sense of that word,” former Orioles executive Frank Cashen once said. “Making him manager was probably the smartest thing we ever did. In my opinion he was the best manager in baseball -- twice hired, twice retired, and never fired.”

In short, Weaver was one of the game’s classic characters, a consummate winner and pioneering baseball mind. Weaver is credited for utilizing analytical data long before it became common practice and was an early proponent of on-base percentage and platooning. He ruffled the feathers of his players, opponents and umpires alike, once even faking a heart attack on the field to win an argument. He only once had a losing season, and likely won’t ever be forgotten.

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2. Buck Showalter, 2010-18
Key fact: Second-winningest manager in Orioles history

Despite never winning a World Series ring, Showalter earns second place on this list for the length of his tenure and how he helped guide the Orioles back to relevance in the mid-2010s. When the dust settled on his eight-plus-year run at the helm, he’d won more games and led his teams to more playoff appearances than any O’s skipper other than Weaver.

Having built a reputation for growing subpar teams into contenders that won titles after he left in New York, Arizona and Texas, the sharp-witted Showalter once described his managerial career as being like raising a daughter only to watch someone else walk her down the aisle. He was brought to Baltimore to do that but also finish the job, inheriting a team with the Majors' worst record when he became the club's third manager in 2010.

The Orioles grew from cellar-dwellers to perennial contenders behind Showalter and a talented young core of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and others. They claimed American League Wild Card berths in 2012 and '16 and won the AL East outright in '14 with 96 victories. It was their first division title in 17 years, and it earned Showalter AL Manager of the Year honors for a third time.

3. Paul Richards, 1955-61
Key fact: Only manager-general manager in franchise history

Nicknamed “The Wizard of Waxahatchie," Richards was already an accomplished, ambidextrous catcher-turned-manager when the fledgling Orioles hired him away from the White Sox after the 1954 season. But only once in six full seasons did his team post a record over .500, and Richards never won a pennant in Baltimore.

Richards holds a unique place in Orioles history for the way he laid the groundwork for the success that followed. When he took over the managerial reins, he also served as the O’s general manager, becoming the first to simultaneously hold both jobs for any team since John McGraw in the 1920s. Richards immediately took a blowtorch to the roster, completing an MLB-record 17-player trade with the Yankees in December 1954. The next year, he signed future Hall of Famer and Baltimore legend Brooks Robinson. Richards also streamlined the organization’s practices and philosophies throughout its Minor Leagues, setting the foundation for what would become known as "The Oriole Way."

Richards relented GM duties in 1959 but remained on as manager through '61. As a skipper, he was credited for innovations in both training and strategy, championing novel concepts like on-base percentage and the widespread use of changeups, and inventing larger gloves to catch knuckleballs. He remains third in Orioles history in wins, losses and games managed.

4. Hank Bauer, 1964-68
Key fact: .561 winning percentage is third best in Orioles history (min. 100 games); brought first championship to Baltimore

Replacing Billy Hitchcock, who was Richards’ replacement, in 1964, Bauer’s up-and-coming teams eclipsed 94 wins in each of his first three seasons at the helm. He became the first Orioles manager to capture a World Series title in 1966, when his Frank Robinson-led club swept the Dodgers in four games.

The Orioles underachieved the following year and were hovering over .500 when Bauer was dismissed in 1968, after clashes with GM Harry Dalton, and replaced with Weaver. But his 407-318 record (.561) remains one of the best in club history, and he is one of just three skippers to win a ring in Baltimore. He was inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 1990.

5. Joe Altobelli, 1983-85
Key fact: Only first-year manager to win the World Series in club history

Holding down the fort between Weaver's two stints in the early 1980s, Altobelli had the difficult task of taking the reins after 15 years of the legendary manager, who retired after '82 before returning for the end of '85 and '86. Altobelli was also Weaver’s stylistic opposite, bringing a calm, reassuring demeanor and largely hands-off approach to managing. And initially, it translated terrifically.

Inheriting a star-studded team in 1983, Altobelli led the Orioles to 98 wins and the AL East title. They made easy work of the White Sox in the AL Championship Series and then ran through the Phillies in the World Series, four games to one. Though the relationship turned sour after the O’s fell to fifth place in '84 and Weaver decided to return the following year, Altobelli warrants mention on this list for his achievements in '83 alone.