10th anniversary: a trio of rookie managers hired

Ten years ago today, three teams hired new managers. None of the men had ever managed in the big leagues before, but they’ve all hung around. None has had that much success, but they all managed to find work, even after their first team let them go. Combined, they’ve managed 3,840 games in the last decade, nearly eight percent of all the games in the major leagues.

Thus, while there are no big-name skippers that entered the managerial ranks, it turns out Oct. 29, 2012 is the 10th anniversary of a great day in the history of journeymen managers.

The man hired by the most high-profile team was Ken Macha, as the A’s named him as their new manager. At that time, the A’s were one of the glory franchises in baseball. They were coming off their big Moneyball season during which they won 103 games. Prior to that, they’d won 102 games in 2001. Art Howe managed them in those years, but he didn’t get too much credit. GM Billy Beane got all the accolades and Howe was let go when his contract ran out at the end of the season.

Macha was supposed to have better communications skills than Howe and was much more closely aligned with how Beane approached baseball. That was the word on Oct. 29, 2002.

Macha did have success, too. In his first year, he led the A’s to the AL West crown. Alas, for the fourth consecutive year, Oakland lost the ALDS in five games. In 2004, the A’s just missed the playoff while winning 91 games. They stalled again the next year with 88 wins. In 2006, Oakland finally broke through under Macha. They not only won the division with a 93-69 season, but for the only time in the 21st century they won the ALDS. Then the Tigers promptly swept them in the ALCS.

And that was in for Macha. Strange, isn’t it? Two consecutive managers left Oakland immediately after a playoff season. The A’s wouldn’t have another winning season until 2012.

Macha spent two years not filling out a big league lineup card, but when the call came for him to manage, it was from another seemingly ideal situation. A young Brewers team that had just made the playoffs in 2008 wanted Macha to take charge of its players in 2009. So he took that job&mdas;and Milwaukee promptly fell to 80-82. After a second straight disappointing season, Macha was shown the door. He hasn’t managed in the majors since then. He is the only of the Oct. 29, 2002 trio who didn’t manage in 2012.

The reason Macha could get that Brewers job for 2009 is because in late 2008 Milwaukee fired another man first hired on Oct. 29, 2002: Ned Yost

When Milwaukee named Yost its new skipper on Oct. 29, 2002, it really didn’t seem like a dream gig. Instead of coming off a 103-win season like Macha and the A’s, the Brewers had just concluded a woeful 106-loss season. Yeah, that’s the sort of team you’d expect to be looking for a new manager.

Under Yost, the team gradually improved. They were undergoing a youth movement, and Yost was perfectly willing to give the kids playing top and trust them. They improved, and by 2005 were a respectful .500 team: 81-81.

Things became a bit more frustrating as Yost wore on. It isn’t just the win-loss record, where the Brewers fell backward in 2006 before recovering in 2007 to finish barely over .500 (83-79). Yost’s limitations came to the fore. He had trouble managing his bullpen and seemed to wear out. The Brewers often played worse later in the year as Yost had trouble handling the day-to-day affairs of the club. Making things worse, in 2007 the division was there for the taking, but Milwaukee couldn’t quite grab it.

It looked like a breakthrough year in 2008 with Milwaukee primed for the Wild Card. However, late in the year the team stumbled, and Yost in particular bumbled. In one memorable September week, he was ejected from several games. Instead of firing up the players, they fumbled, making a handful of errors in one game. With the club about to blow the Wild Card, the Brewers fired him with two weeks to go. They claimed the final playoff spot anyway, but that’s why the job was there for Macha in 2009.

Yost missed a year, but then the Royals hired him in May, 2010. Once again, a team with a long series of losing seasons tabbed Yost. To date, things haven’t gone all that great. They have good hitters and a good bullpen but no starting pitching.

Joining Macha and Yost as a new manager debuting on Oct. 29, 2002, was new Indians hire Eric Wedge. He was by far the youngest of the bunch, just 35 years of age when Cleveland introduced him to the media.

As teams went, the 2002-03 Indians were between the A’s and Brewers. Like Milwaukee, Cleveland had a rotten 2002 season, but unlike the Brewers, there was no sustained losing streak for them. In fact, the Cleveland glory run of the 1990s had just ended; 2002 had been their first losing season since 1993. So the young manager Wedge would be overseeing a rebuilding effort.

It quickly looked like the new model Indians were working out under Wedge. In 2005, they were one of baseball’s surprise teams, just missing a playoff slot after a bad last week of the season. Though they fell back in 2006, they went 96-66 in 2007. The Tribe beat the mighty New York Yankees in the ALDS and went up three games to one on the Red Sox in the ALCS.

Then things fell apart. Boston rallied to win the ALCS, but that’s okay because Cleveland was still a great, young, up-and-coming team with many years of success in front of it, right?

Eh, wrong. To date, 2007 is still the Indians’ last winning season. They went 81-81 in 2008 and then flopped to 97 losses in 2009. That cost Wedge his job.

Still, many thought Cleveland’s front office was to blame, and despite the team’s underachieving, Wedge still was thought well enough of to get hired again. The Mariners picked him for their 2011 season. To date, the results have been disappointing, with back-to-back losing seasons.

Macha, Yost, and Wedge: none is among the first rank of managers, but it’s an impressive trio of men to join the dugout ranks on the same day. And that day was 10 years ago today.

Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something occurring X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.

Day-versaries

4,000 days since Baltimore releases longtime outfielder Brady Anderson.

4,000 days since a Minnesota judge issues a temporary injunction ordering the Twins to play their home schedule and stating that Twins owner Carl Pohlard can’t sell the team to someone else who would move it.

7,000 days since Rich Gossage, now a member of the Oakland A’s, breaks his wrist while tripping over a ball bag before a game versus Toronto.

8,000 days since San Francisco signs free agent Dave Righetti.

10,000 days since Earl Weaver decides to come out of retirement to manage the Orioles again. That turns out to be a bad move.

15,000 days since the Indians trade Vada Pinson and two others to the Angels for Alex Johnson and another player.

15,000 days since the Pirates top the Giants, 2-1, in Game Three of the NLCS when they score the winning run in the bottom of the eighth.

25,000 days since the Braves release Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez, who is at the end of his career.

30,000 days since Hall of Fame pitcher Red Ruffing suffers his 100th career loss. His record is 53-100 at this moment, but he’ll be 220-125 following this day.

Anniversaries

1920 Former Red Sox manager Ed Barrow joins the Yankees brain trust. He’ll be the GM.

1923 Jimmy Ryan, star 19th century centerfielder, dies.

1942 Branch Rickey resigns as St. Louis vice president.

1944 Jim Bibby, pitcher, is born.

1945 The Brooklyn Dodgers break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson.

1945 Happy Chandler resigns his seat in the U.S. Senate. He recently became the new baseball commissioner.

1956 The White Sox hire Al Lopez as their new manager.

1959 Jesse Barfield, rightfielder, is born.

1962 Twenty years to the day that he left the organization, St. Louis signs 80-year-old Branch Rickey as a special consultant regarding player relations.

1963 The Yankees release long-time star Yogi Berra.

1965 Bill McKechnie, Hall of Fame manager, dies.

1965 Houston releases star pitcher Robin Roberts.

1968 Boston releases catcher Elston Howard.

1969 The Phillies sign Jim Bunning as a free agent.

1979 Willie Mays severs all ties with MLB. He’d recently been told to make a decision, the big leagues or his current job as casino greeter. Mays sides with the people paying him, the casinos.

1981 An investment group led by Bill Giles buys the Phillies for $30,175,000.

1985 Baseball’s powers-that-be announce that volatile pitcher Joaquin Andujar will be suspended for the first games of the 1986 season for his massive temper tantrum in Game Seven of the World Series.

1991 The Yankees name Buck Showalter as their new manager, replacing Stump Merrill.

2001 Bud Selig says major league baseball will consider contracting two teams by Opening Day, 2002.

2007 Atlanta trades Edgar Renteria to the Tigers.

2008 Finally, one of the ugliest games in baseball history ends. Though it began several days earlier, Game Five of the World Series was suspended with a tie score after playing several innings in monsoon-like conditions. Today, the Phillies top Tampa, 4-3, to clinch their world title.

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