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April 15, 2010

One-Hoppers

Moose Stubing Says Hi

by Jay Jaffe

The monkey is off Brad Mills' back. Nine games into his major league managerial career, he finally notched his first win as the Astros skipper, as his team beat the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Bud Norris, who threw 13 scoreless frames against St. Louis as a rookie, held them to one unearned run over five innings this time around, striking out nine.

As I wrote on Wednesday, teams that start 0-7 don't tend to fare very well, and not surprisingly, the same is true of managers. While our data department has not been able to guarantee a complete search of the historical record, with the help of a couple readers I was able to identify a few managers whose major league careers began every bit as badly as Mills' has, or worse. It's possible there may be a midseason replacement out there that we missed; if so, let me know and I'll add him to this list.

Malachi Kittridge, 1904 Senators, 0-13
Fifteen years into a major league career as a strong-armed, no-hit backstop (.219/.277/.274 lifetime, for a .202 True Average), Malachi Jeddidah Kittridge began the 1904 season as the Senators' player/manager. He wound up there because of an ownership mess. In 1903, the Senators had inaugurated a Washington tradition, finishing in last place. The season was already a lost cause (16-43) when future Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty died on July 2; apparently he was kicked off a train for drunk and disorderly conduct and then met his demise at Niagara Falls. Due to the team's internal squabbling about financial matters late in the year, American League president Ban Johnson took over the club. He finally sold it to new owners Thomas Noyes, William Dwyer and Wilton Lambert a few weeks before opening day the following spring. The new owners decided to hire39-year-old Cardinals outfielder/manager Patsy Donovan, fresh off a .327/.370/.378 season with the stick but a 43-94 season as the skipper. Donovan's arrival in D.C. was delayed when he claimed the Cardinals owed him $3,600 in back salary and waited around in St. Louis for an arbitration board to review his case. In the meantime, Kittridge ran the club. The team lost its first game, tied its second, and then proceeded to lose 12 more in a row—thus setting a major league record with their 0-13 start—before winning one for ol' Mal. They were just 1-16 by the time Donovan finally showed up, and went on to finish with a 38-113 record, again in last place. Donovan didn't return the next year, while Kittridge's further aspirations to manage in the majors were nipped in the bud as well.

Alan Trammell, 2003 Tigers, 0-9
A four-time All-Star who helped the Tigers win the 1984 World Series while serving as the team's regular shortstop for nearly two decades, Trammell got off to a rough start as manager. One year after the team had relieved Phil Garner of duty six losses into an 0-11 start, they stumbled to a similarly woeful 0-9 record ubefore beating the White Sox in their 10th game of the year. Trammell was hardly out of the woods, however. The team lost its next eight games to go 1-17, and dotted the road with records like 3-25, 18-61 and 30-86 as they gave the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics a run for their money in terms of the major league record for the lowest winning percentage (36-117, .235) and challenged the 1962 Mets (40-120) for the single-season loss record. The Tigers were 38-118 with six games to go before winning five of their final six games to finish 43-119. They would improve to 72-90 the following year, but when they flattened out to 71-91 in 2005, the axe fell on Trammell. Some say that the futility of his stint—which was followed one year later by Jim Leyland delivering a surprise pennant-winner—has affected his otherwise worthy Hall of Fame case.

Moose Stubing, 1988 Angels, 0-8
This one's close to my heart. Lawrence George "Moose" Stubing was a Bronx-born, lefty-swinging minor league masher in the 1950s and 1960s in the Pirates, Giants, Cardinals and Angels chains. In a minor league career of 1419 games, he hit .283 and slugged .474 with 192 homers, mostly at the Double-A level, with his best seasons coming in El Paso; he peaked as a 25-year-old with a .316/.454/.613/35 HR/120 RBI showing in 1964. Stubing hit just .212/.321/.357 in two Triple-A stints totaling 148 games, and went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his cup of coffee with the 1967 California Angels. After his playing career ended, Stubing joined the Angels' organization, serving as a scout and minor league manager from 1971 through 1984. During that tenure he spent two years (1980-1981) managing the Angels' Triple-A affiliate in my hometown, Salt Lake City, and while he didn't win any titles there (as he'd done in El Paso in 1978), he was popular in town. An amiable lug, he'd show up in the offseason refereeing NCAA basketball games in the Western Athletic Conference and later the PAC-10, generally drawing cheers ("Moooooooose!") from the crowd, quite a rarity for just about any ref. Stubing went on to spend six seasons (1985-1990) as the Angels' third base coach, taking time out from coaching to assume interim manager duties at the end of 1988, after Cookie Rojas had been fired with a 75-79 record. He went 0-8, flopping his audition for the job (not that he was more than a dark-horse candidate) and was replaced over the winter by Doug Rader, never to sniff another chance to manage in the majors. Thus he became the first player ever to carry lifetime 0-fers as both a big league player and manager. Stubing was still in baseball as of last year, serving as a special assistant to the general manager for the Nationals, but was relieved of his duties at the end of the year.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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