In the 20-year history of the Tampa Bay Rays (and Devil Rays) there have been only five men to hold the title of manager. This is a stat-savvy fan’s take on ranking them from worst to first. Let’s get to #4 on the list…
#4: Larry Rothschild
Games Managed: 499
Win-Loss Percentage: .411
Best Finish: 5th
Worst Finish: 5th
In 1998, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays played their first game. On the front step of the dugout during the inaugural contest was 44-year old Larry Rothschild. It was his first managing gig, but the man had experience at winning.
After spending 11 years bouncing around the majors as a relief pitcher, Rothschild quickly found his niche in coaching. In 1990, he earned his first World Series ring as bullpen coach for Lou Piniella and the Cincinnati Reds. Rothschild collected his second ring seven years later as the pitching coach with Jim Leyland’s Florida Marlins.
So, when the shiny new Tampa Bay ballclub came calling in 1998, the young coach jumped at the chance to try the managing end of the game. On paper, it was a smart decision. Unfortunately, baseball is played in the dirt and the grass… with a whole lot of players who aren’t pitchers.
The inaugural season for the Devil Rays ended with the expansion team holding down last place with a 63-99 record. Not unexpected. Not Rothschild’s fault, right?
However, years two and three didn’t get any better. A 69-93 finish in 1999 led into a 69-92 result in 2000.
Gritting their teeth, Tampa Bay ownership stuck with Rothschild to open the 2001 campaign, hoping that things would get better.
When the Devil Rays lost to the Boston Red Sox 10-0 in the middle of April for the new franchise’s 499th loss while falling to 4-10 on the young season, Rothschild’s time was finally up. Hal McRae took over for game #15 of the 2001 season and Larry Rothschild never managed again.
Cry no tears for Mr. Rothschild, however. By 2002, he’d found a new home at Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs pitching coach. In 2011, Rothschild headed to the New York Yankees to coach their always loaded pitching staff. Tampa Bay’s inaugural manager still holds down the pitching coach job at Yankee Stadium in a position infinitely more fitted for a man of his skills.
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Unfortunately for the Devil Rays, the change of managers in the spring of 2001 did little to get the team out of the AL East cellar. In fact, Tampa Bay would hold down fifth place each of their first ten years, except for one… But the nosebleed heights of fourth place is a story for tomorrow and the man who holds place #3 on the Tampa Bay Managerial High Five.
Check out #5 on the list: