Part II: How well did Cubs player-managers perform over the years?

Richard Johnson
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Between the tenures of two Chicago Cubs player-managers: Joe Tinker, who left after the 1916 season, and Bill Killefer, who took the reins in 1921, these things took place: the collapse of the world order, a global pandemic, and a gratuitously bloody war in Ukraine

The baseball world order collapsed during the same time period. The gamblers who killed the 1919 World Series, the baseball that killed Ray Chapman, and the Babe who killed baseballs crashed Baseball 1.0; the game would never be the same. The Cubs, as would become typical, were slow to adjust.

This is the second of two posts on Chicago Cubs player managers. You can find the first one here.

Bill Killefer (1921), 23-34, .404

"The proper way to build up a club is to depend upon youth and speed.   – Bill Killefer"

Killefer, as quoted from this article, was half-right. While youth continues to be vitial to rebuilding clubs today, the relationship between speed and success would become increasingly complicated as the 1920s wore on. The next great Cubs teams would look more like the emerging big bat franchises taking shape in New York.

Killefer’s first year as manager, and his only year as a player-manager, was a grim one. Despite his emphasis on speed the 1921 squad attempted steals at about the league average rate. But his bunt-happy approach was already evident: this Cubs team attempted sacrifice bunts 50 percent more often than average. After he hung up his spikes, Killefer began to have some modest success. Now fulfilling his vision statement, his Cubs teams ran with abandon, stealing and bunting much more than the league averages, and pulling the team (barely) above .500 for the next three years.

Rabbit Maranville (1925), 23-30, .434

The Killefer Era (OK, yeah, that’s a reach) juddered to a halt in 1925. The Cubs tied for last in the league with an 83+ OPS. Gabby Hartnett had arrived, as had Charlie Grimm, but the middle infield was, once again, a disaster. Maranville helped dig the hole, with a ghastly 53 OPS+ in part-time duty at short. He took over the managing duties 76 games into the season, and the club played slightly worse during his brief tenure than it had for Killefer.

The Cubs running percentages (run scoring, stolen base success, and extra bases taken) were about average, but the club couldn’t buy a walk. Maranville got hurt at the end of August bringing a merciful end to his managerial career. He would leave the Cubs at the end of the season, but the Cubs would get another Rabbit in 1940: Rabbit Warstler was also a shortstop and also didn’t hit.

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