Ferguson: Judging an MLB manager is never an easy task

Scott Ferguson, TSN 1050
9/22/2014 11:48:08 AM
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I've often wondered how to truly judge managers, especially the ones who are getting their  first shot at a big league job. How much slack should we cut them?  How long before you write them off?  How long before you say they've truly arrived?

For the purpose of this article, I decided to look at the first five seasons in the careers of five different managers, To make this a little more interesting, I'm not going to put names to their records until a little later. For now, I'll just call them managers A, B, C, D and E.

Let's start with A.  He got his first managerial job in the MLB at age 37. Over his first five years, he was 63 games in total under .500 at 344-407.

Manager B was also a star player and got his big league start as a skipper at 36. His teams had two winning records over his first eight years.  Over his first five years, his clubs had three seasons of 95 or more losses and compiled a record of 286-420.

At 43, Manager C started his first MLB managerial gig. His record over his first five years wasn't very pretty, either, checking in at 348-414.

Each of these gentlemen managed two different teams over those five-year spans, as well. Makes you think that maybe they should have started planning for a future outside of baseball.

Managers D and E are both still managing. D got his first job at 38 and over the five seasons, guided his teams to a cumulative record of 383-427. Are we sensing a pattern here?  

E got his first chance at managing in the MLB at 42 and, lo and behold, he was the only one of the quintet to hit .500 in his first fuve seasons at 305-305.

Were the first four managers washouts? Hardly. Was Manager E on the road to success? That remains to be seen.

Maybe now, it's time for the big reveal.

Manager A is Bobby Cox. He managed 29 years in the Bigs, four with the Toronto Blue Jays and 25 with the Atlanta Braves. He led the Jays to their first AL East title in 1985 and the Braves to their one and only World Series title in Atlanta in 1995. He finished his managerial career with 2,504 victories versus 2001 defeats.

Manager B is Joe Torre, who now works in the commissioner's office.  Like Cox, he managed for 29 years and had the bulk of his success with the New York Yankees, winning four World Series crowns in four tries.

Manager C is  Charles Dillon  "Casey" Stengel, who, like Torre, didn't strike gold until he arrived with the Yankees. He won seven World Series in the pinstripes, including a record five straight. His teams reached the World Series nine times.

Manager D is Cleveland Indians bench boss Terry Francona, who's still in the thick of the Wild Card race. He started with the Philadelphia Phillies, but found his niche in Boston winning World Series titles in 2004 and 2007 with the Red Sox, breaking the Curse of the Bambino forever.

Manager E is the Blue Jays' own John Gibbons. He is the only one of this group of five to even reach .500 in his first five years as a manager in the Big. Three of the other four have made it to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and Francona is well on his way to getting there, as well.

I am in no way stating that John Gibbons will follow that same path, but the first five years of the other four at least gives you pause for some sober thought. Giby's record in his second term with the Jays is  152-165, but with a week to go in the 2014 season, the Blue Jays at least have four more wins than they did a year ago.

Will John Gibbons be back as manager in 2015? I have a hunch he will, but like Randy Carlyle with the Maple Leafs this season, it figures to be his make-or-break year.

- The Kansas City Royals have an excellent chance this week of making it back to the postseason for the first time since 1985, when they won their one and only World Series title in seven games over their state rival St. Louis Cardinals. The Royals played their final home game of the regular season Sunday and pushed their attendance to 1.9 million for the season. It was their highest total since 1981, a span of 33 years.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, finished their home season Sunday with an average attendance of 43,712
at Busch Stadium, pushing their total attendance to 3,540,649. That is the second-highest total in franchise history next to 2007. It's no wonder St. Louis is considered one of the crown jewel franchises in baseball.

- I don't know whether Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve is going to be the American League's MVP, but he's got to 
be right up there in the voting when it's all said and done, Altuve, through Sunday, is leading the Majors with a .345 average and has 220 hits, the most by a second baseman since Charlie Gehringer's 227 with Detroit in 1936.

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