Six teams changed managers this offseason, and that means six teams will report to Spring Training next month with the hope that they've installed the right leader to guide them to the World Series.
But in five of those six cases, the leader in question is new to this skipper stuff. And while there are examples in the recent past of managers winning the Fall Classic in their first year with a team -- Joe Torre with the 1996 Yankees and both Terry Francona ('04) and John Farrell ('13) with the Red Sox -- rookie skippers winning it all is exceedingly rare.
It's happened just four times:
Bob Brenly, 2001 D-backs
Ralph Houk, 1961 Yankees
Eddie Dyer, 1946 Cardinals
Bucky Harris, 1924 Senators
Can it happen this year? You bet it can. After all, three of the rookie managers -- Aaron Boone in the Bronx, Alex Cora in Boston and Dave Martinez in Washington -- inherited teams coming off a postseason appearance.
Here's a rundown of each of the six new skippers' situations, presented in order of -- in my opinion -- their likelihood of winning the World Series in Year 1.
6. Ron Gardenhire, Tigers
Gardenhire is the only skipper with experience in the group. The Tigers have turned to a veteran manager to guide what will be an increasingly young team. It's hard not to love Gardenhire's wisdom and personality, and his track record of six American League Central titles with the Twins is as strong as his sense of humor.
But we all know Gardenhire inherited a club embarking upon a major rebuild here, one that's going to take multiple seasons to sort through. Sorry, Gardy.
5. Gabe Kapler, Phillies
This is a team presumably in the back half of the rebuild process, which is why the Phillies invested in Carlos Santana and the bullpen. With the financial flexibility to be a major player in next winter's free-agent market, which of course includes Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, they can further close in on legitimate October chances.
But for now, it's still a team coming off a 96-loss season and trying to establish a championship-caliber core. (This is where we insert a joke about the extremely-ripped Kapler already having a "championship-caliber core" of his own.)
4. Mickey Callaway, Mets
What would it take to get the Mets back to the World Series? First and foremost, it would take health and prescribed performance from that fascinating-yet-fragile rotation. It made sense for the Mets to go after a pitching-minded manager in Callaway, who gets bonus points for the outstanding work he did building an excellent Indians pitching staff that was the backbone of the rise to the Series stage in 2016. He's also incredibly engaging, and Mets people view him as the type of personality that can positively impact every facet of their organization.
The trouble for Callaway is that a clubhouse culture change isn't quite the same as a legitimate roster gain, and the Mets probably need some help in their lineup if they're going to seriously contend for a World Series crown in 2018.
3. Alex Cora, Red Sox
This guy just won a World Series as bench coach for the Astros, so that eliminates some of the first-year fear factor. And though it's easy to be swept up in the narrative of the Yankees overtaking this division after reaching the AL Championship Series and bringing Giancarlo Stanton into the fold, something tells us Cora's boss, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, is not done wheeling and dealing this winter. The Red Sox have a terrific core of talent in the rotation, bullpen and lineup, and Cora might be the ideal modern manager -- a bright, bilingual former player who embraces analytics.
But Boston is its own animal. You can ask Francona, Farrell and Bobby Valentine all about that. Cora will face scrutiny he never received as a low-profile Red Sox utilityman, and he's inheriting a club that encountered, and created, its fair share of media drama last year.
2. Aaron Boone, Yankees
Boone was officially announced as the Yankees' new manager on a Monday. By the following Saturday, news had leaked that the Yanks had acquired Stanton.
It's good to be Boone.
Boone's inheriting a 91-win team that somehow still rates as "up and coming," as the likes of Greg Bird, Gary Sanchez, Luis Severino, Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres and a guy named Aaron Judge form an imposing core. The Yankees likely aren't even done with their wild winter, as they could still reel in an impact arm like Gerrit Cole with the assets in their deep and talented system. That inordinately deep system is one of the many reasons Boone is in a good spot -- potentially an even better one than that of his former-ESPN-teammate-turned-division-rival Cora.
But as with Cora, there are challenges that come with elevated expectations in a major market. And the Yankees love is so strong right now that it's hard not to keep your foot hovering over the brake, eager to insist that injuries and unforeseen factors have eroded many a club hounded by hype. So let's use this space to insist that Boone will have difficulty winning it all in his first year.
(It'll probably happen in his second.)
1. Dave Martinez, Nationals
The positives of this position are clear: You've got the Harper-led lineup that also includes Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon. You've got a rotation led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. You've got a deep bullpen. You've got an extremely winnable National League East division.
The negatives are also clear: For all their success in recent years, the Nats have not yet advanced past the NL Division Series. Davey Johnson and Dusty Baker were trusted, long-tenured managers who couldn't get the Nats over that particular hump, and Matt Williams is evidence of what can go wrong with a less-tested skipper.
But Martinez was the bench coach for a 2008 Rays team that, against all conceivable payroll logic, reached the World Series, and a '16 Cubs team that, against all conceivable historical logic, won the Fall Classic. That mojo might matter. And anyway, with Harper approaching free agency, you'd have to imagine the Nats will show a sense of urgency midseason to address whatever holes might arise this year. If Bucky Harris could do it with the 1924 Washington Senators, Martinez can do it with the 2018 Washington Nationals.