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What makes a manager "good"?

One of the great things about baseball statistics is that they apply to everybody equally.  Whether your stat of choice is batting average, UZR, ERA, xFIP, or something else, you can usually pick a statistic and use it to make a reasonable case that Player X is better than Player Y.  

How does one go about comparing managers, though?

Jim Riggleman quit his job as the Nationals' manager on Friday.  It appears that he saw his GM's unwillingness to give him a contract for 2012 as writing on the wall, and decided to leave the team on his own terms. Clearly, Riggleman wasn't in the team's long-term plans; his .445 winning percentage over 1,486 games is the second worst for anybody who's ever managed that many games, and I don't expect many GMs will be beating down his door to employ him in the future.

But why not?


I can't figure out why Jim Riggleman is a placeholder for a mediocre team and someone who may have never managed in the majors again anyway, but Joe Maddon is an integral part of the Rays leadership team for the foreseeable future.  Sure, Riggleman's career won/loss record is mediocre, but what would you really expect from somebody who's managed such lackluster teams as the 1993 Padres, the 2008 Mariners, and the 2010 Nationals?

Its difficult to separate the list of the "best" managers from the list of the most famous.  Most casual baseball fans know who Joe Girardi, Tony LaRussa, Mike Scioscia, and Joe Madden are, but anybody who's more than a casual fan also knows this quartet of managers by their annoying, unbearable, awful tendencies: Girardi's Binder, LaRussa penchant for triple switches, Scioscia's love of small ball, and Maddon's use of lefty vs. lefty reverse-reverse platoon splits.

Most managers on bad teams (a.k.a Jim Riggleman) have poor win/loss records.  And most managers on good, high-payroll teams have good records.  More importantly, most managers have bad habits and make poor strategic decisions from time to time, regardless of how much they earn or how good their team is. 

So what does Joe Girardi bring to the table that Jim Riggleman apparently doesn't?