While many consider the Red Sox and Yankees to be locks to make deep postseason runs, projections fail to take into account the effect of a rookie manager on a club’s record. Although it’s probable that these teams will end up making the playoffs, their managerial inexperience is one intangible that cannot be understated.
As the powerhouse Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees gear up for another season of winning records, they each boast one unique feature: they are both being managed by rookies. Alex Cora, former bench coach of the Houston Astros, will take the reins in Boston, while Aaron Boone, an All-Star in 2003, will call the shots in the Bronx.
It’s not terribly unusual for rookie managers to inherit a playoff team. According to the Boston Globe, there have been 11 teams who have turned things over to a first-time manager following a postseason appearance since 1969. Of those, six missed the playoffs entirely the next year, two advanced to a division series, two advanced to a championship series, and one lost in the World Series.
The Boston Globe report, written brilliantly by Alex Speier, goes on to point out the oddness of replacing a veteran manager with a rookie. Despite the fact that Cora has some major league coaching experience, it was limited. Speier also makes mention of the “interim” manager experience that some of these first-time managers had prior to being officially named the manager.
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On the subject of being a rookie manager, Cora says “you know more about teams when you’re working on TV than actually as a coach”, referencing his three-year stint as a colour analyst for ESPN. He also was heavily involved in the Red Sox spring training camp, hitting grounders and tossing batting practice, tasks normally delegated to the bench coach. The full interview with Alex Cora can be found here.
Aaron Boone, on the other hand, has never coached baseball at any level. He has, however, been an analyst for ESPN since his retirement in 2010, something that has provided him with an opportunity to familiarize himself with advanced baseball metrics. Boone is, of course, best known for his Game 7 walk-off home run in the 2003 ALCS for the Yankees.
This is surely not to say that the Sox and Yanks will flounder this season strictly because of their managers, but it’s a possible intangible that might become apparent mid-season when teams run into to injury or inconsistency issues. When it comes to managerial decisions, some may criticize John Gibbons, but one thing you can’t argue with is his experience.
If you’re interested in reading more about the magnitude of Gibbons’ experience as a major league manager, I strongly recommend taking a look at Sportsnet’s Big Read on Gibby, written by the incomparable Stephen Brunt. Regardless of your opinions on the Blue Jays’ laid-back skipper, it’s hard to deny his experience and calmness when it comes to big moments.
He’s not flashy or well-known like Cora or Boone, but he’s a solid veteran with a good baseball mind who’s sure to continue to guide the Jays as they build a winning club.