Chicago Cubs: With more time, came less success from player-managers
Johnny Evers (1913), 88-65, .575
Murphy’s defenestration of Chance led to a turbulent period in the Cubs’ dugout. First onto the carousel was Johnny Evers, who Murphy signed to a five-year contract as a player-manager. The stat line gave it away: this did not work out. The walk and runs scored rates for the Evers’ Cubs continued to be very good, though their stolen base rate was poor. Evers’ record was a respectable one, but good only for third in the NL, miles behind the hated New York Giants. Murphy fired him after the 1913 season.
Murphy was at least as volatile as Evers, and the marriage was probably never going to end well. But the controversy ended worse for Murphy, as the league eased him out of his ownership role. These were tumultuous times: The NL did not want to lose a big name star like Evers to the upstart Federal League. For his part, Murphy likely realized that the Cubs’ fortunes were running out of road; the 1913 squad was the oldest in the NL. Even back then, it was easier to replace the manager than the players, and the Cubs had largely failed to develop replacements for their aging roster.
Evers would meet a happier fate; he still had two good years left playing for the Boston Braves before his springs began to pop. He would even return to manage the Cubs for part of the 1921 season, though by then he was strictly a dugout presence.
Roger Bresnahan (1915), 73-80, .477
Between 1912 and 1920, Hall of Fame starter Hippo Vaughn had one below average year. Unfortunately for Roger Bresnahan, that year was 1915. Between 1912 and 1916 non-Hall of Fame starter George Pierce had one above average year. Unfortunately for Roger Bresnahan, that year was not 1915. Their 450 innings probably killed Bresnahan’s chances of having a successful season. The team’s walk and runs scored rates also plummeted, which certainly didn’t help. This would be his last season in organized ball, but he did bequeath shin guards and padded helmets to the grateful catchers who came afterwards.
Joe Tinker (1916), 67-86, .438
And so it came to pass that all three of the fabled Cubs infielders ended up managing the team. The pitching got better this year, but the hitting got worse. Tinker used 15 different players at second and short, and as the saying goes, if you have 15 middle infielders you don’t have any. At age 35, Tinker was smart enough not to put himself in the lineup all that much, and it’s hard to blame him for all the flux at these positions; these just weren’t very good players.
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The Tinker Cubs didn’t walk and for the most part didn’t run well, thought they were good at taking the extra base. It wasn’t enough, and Tinker would neither manage nor play again. But don’t feel too sorry for the Joe: He did pilot the Chicago Whales to the Federal League pennant in 1915.