No. 5: Washington Senators’ Walter Johnson (1929-1932)
W-L: 350-264 (.570)
Average Finish: 3.2
After retiring from baseball in 1927, Walter Johnson took over as the Senators’ manager in 1929 and led them to three 90 win seasons from 1930-1932. Known as one of the most gentlemanly players in baseball, he is one of just two managers in franchise history to go more than three seasons without getting ejected.
Johnson’s strong and calm leadership helped the team win and win often. His .570 win percentage is first among managers who were with the team for more than one season. In addition, he is one of just two managers to lead the team to three straight season above 90 wins.
His inability to get the team over the hump to the World Series hurts him here, pushing him down to fifth on this list. Regardless, Johnson was a strong manager before his departure for Cleveland in 1932.
No. 4: Washington Senators’ Bucky Harris (1924-1928, 1935-1942, 1950-1954)
W-L: 1336-1416 (.485)
Average Finish: 4.9
Bucky Harris was the first manager to lead the franchise to a World Series title and two A.L. Pennants. He is also the winningest manager in franchise history. Why then is he ranked third? Simply put: after those first two years, his teams didn’t win more than 85 games.
Harris is the only manager in the franchise to be inducted into the Hall of Fame as a manager rather than a player. Despite this, Harris couldn’t get the team to further success after his initial 1924 and 1925 seasons.
His average finish in the AL race of 4.9 per per season was simply not good, and the team lost a majority of their games the rest of his tenure. However, he did bring home that first title with Walter Johnson, and that’s good enough for fourth on this list.
No. 3: Minnesota Twins’ Sam Mele (1961-1967)
W-L: 524-436 (.546)
Average Finish: 3.2
Mele was one of only two managers to guide the Twins to an AL Pennant, completing the feat in 1965, The question always was: how much of the team’s success was because of Mele, and how much was because of the team’s stellar core of Harmon Killebrew, Jim Kaat, and more?
In addition, Mele was also dogged by questions over if/when he would be replaced by his third base coach, Billy Martin. Despite all of this, Mele did a strong job managing the team, helping him land in third on this list.
No. 2: Minnesota Twins’ Ron Gardenhire (2002-2014)
W-L: 1068-1039 (.546)
Average Finish: 2.5
Ron “Gardy” Gardenhire managed the Twins for thirteen seasons, putting together one of longest runs of success in the franchise’s history. No manager helped the franchise win more division titles than Gardy’s six division wins.
Gardenhire had the massive bonus of Torii Hunter, Johan Santana, Justin Morneau, and of course, Joe Mauer, throughout some of their best years. This helped Gardy do a lot of winning, but Gardy wasn’t a bad manager in his own right.
His last four years of struggles and lack of postseason success have tarnished his record with the team, but there should be no doubt. Ron Gardenhire is the second best manager in team history, and his record proves that.
No. 1: Minnesota Twins’ Tom Kelly (1986-2001)
W-L: 1140-1244 (.478)
Average Finish: 3.8
The Tom Kelly Twins lost 100 games more than they won. They finished, on average, worse than third place. Doesn’t. Matter. At. All. Tom Kelly is without question, the greatest manager in Minnesota Twins history.
Kelly took over as manager in 1986 and immediately the next year, led the team to their first World Series Championship in Minnesota. Kelly took a group of underdogs and led them to an AL Pennant before expertly managing one of the most dramatic series of all time.
That alone, would have been enough to put him on top of this list, but in addition to that, they won it all just four years later, as Kelly’s decision to leave Jack Morris in Game 7 proved vital to that 1991 title. The Twins may have struggled after that, but that wasn’t Kelly’s fault, as injuries and other issues got in the way of Kelly doing his job.
None of that should take away from Kelly, as he is the undisputed greatest manager in team history. That’s the reason why TK is the only manager to have his number retired by the team and why he will hold onto this spot for a very long time.