Manager moves made in bid for rare success
Very few teams advanced to postseason after early-season change
Six weeks into the 2015 regular season, and already two managerial changes have been made. Craig Counsell took over for Ron Roenicke with the Brewers after 25 games, and on Monday, Dan Jennings went from general manager to manager of the Marlins, replacing Mike Redmond.
There is an old saying that managers are hired to be fired -- unless they are Connie Mack or Walter Alston.
Sometimes, early-season changes are the result of an ongoing concern, such as Phil Garner being dismissed in Detroit after the Tigers lost the first six of the 2002 season on the heels of a 96-loss effort in '01, or Cal Ripken Sr., whose Orioles lost 95 games in 1987 and the first six games in '88 before he was replaced by Frank Robinson.
That was part of the thinking in Milwaukee, where a year ago, the Brewers spent more games in first place (132) than any team that did not advance to the postseason. They lost 22 of their final 31 contests in 2014, and then opened this season losing 18 of 25.
And sometimes it is an organization that had great expectations and became frustrated quickly, which happened in Miami. After having his contract extended through the 2017 season at the end of last season, Redmond found himself gone 39 games into 2015.
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hasn't forgotten a 16-22 start in 2003 that led to the firing of Jeff Torborg and the hiring of Jack McKeon, who then managed the club to a World Series victory.
That, however, was more the exception than the rule for in-season managerial changes. Since 1901, there have been 321 managerial changes prior to the final week of the season made by ownership.
These don't include:
• Medical issues, such as Dick Howser being diagnosed with a brain tumor in the midst of the 1986 season and Kansas City replacing him with Mike Ferraro, and Johnny Oates facing a similar situation in Texas in 2001.
• Situations such as the Brooklyn Dodgers' in 1947, when manager Leo Durocher was suspended in the final days of Spring Training for his relationship with gamblers, and Clyde Sukeforth managed the first two games of the season before Burt Shotton took over and guided the Dodgers to a National League pennant.
• Plans such as the Chicago Cubs' College of Coaches in 1961 and '62, when owner Phil Wrigley rotated managers during the season.
• Or a manager who just didn't want the job, such as the 1960 Phillies' situation, when Eddie Sawyer was talked out of quitting at the end of the previous season. However, after losing the season opener in '60, he packed it in, leading to the hiring of Gene Mauch.
No, these are changes that the front office and owners wanted to make in hopes of changing a team's on-field direction.
Among all managerial changes made within the first 50 games of a season, only those 2003 Marlins went on to win a World Series.
Three others did advance to the postseason: the 2009 Rockies were the NL Wild Card team after Clint Hurdle was replaced by Jim Tracy 46 games into the season; the 1982 Brewers won the American League pennant after Buck Rodgers was replaced by Harvey Kuenn 47 games into that season; and the '89 Blue Jays won the AL East after Cito Gaston took over for Jimy Williams 36 games into the year.
That, however, isn't much different than the overall results.
Of the 321 managerial changes prior to the final week of a season, only 12 resulted in a team advancing to the postseason. That includes the 2003 Marlins' championship, and the 1976 and '81 Yankees, '83 Phillies, '82 Brewers and '38 Cubs all losing the World Series.
There has, however, been some residual success to an in-season change. For example, Bobby Cox took over for Russ Nixon in Atlanta after a 26-40 start to the 1990 season, and then, in '91, the Braves embarked on a professional record 14 consecutive divisional titles.
More often than not, however, the problems run deeper than a manager. Rarely do those managerial changes result in the teams living happily ever after.