Alex Cora, Aaron Boone and Dave Martinez enter the 2018 season at an exclusive club, joining only a handful of other rookie managers to take over a team that had made the playoffs the previous year. Major League Baseball’s long history has seen only ten of those bosses, and not even one of them led his team to the World Series in that opening period.
Worse, more than half of those rookie managers failed to carry their inherited playoff teams into the postseason, including fourth-place finishes suffered by Jimy Williams with the 1986 Toronto Blue Jays and Bryan Price with the 2014 Cincinnati Reds.
Among the four who managed to lead their squad to a playoff return are two who failed to make it past the divisional series, Ken Macha with the 2003 Oakland Athletics and Brad Ausmus with the 2014 Detroit Tigers. In his freshman year As captain, Mike Matheny led the 2012 St. Louis Cardinals to the National League Champions Series, as did Dave Roberts two years later with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It’s possible that MLB could see the first rookie manager to lead a playoff team to a pennant in 2018, considering some of the first that have occurred in the past two seasons. Last year, of course, the Houston Astros won their first World Series title, and in 2016 the Chicago Cubs won their first in more than a hundred years.
Of the three rookie managers who inherit playoff teams, two compete in the American League and the other on the Senior Circuit. All three are getting teams that are big favorites to win the pennant, and it is even possible that two of them can do just that.
If New York takes the title, Aaron Boone would become the first rookie manager to win a pennant after inheriting a playoff team. The Yankees are undoubtedly among the preseason favorites as they acquired 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins and re-signed veteran left-handed starter CC Sabathia.
However, standing in his way is his longtime rival from Boston, the defending division champs are now led by rookie captain Alex Cora. The Red Sox themselves had a busy winter, adding much-needed offensive power by signing free agent slugger JD Martinez.
It is quite possible that if the Yankees or Red Sox manage to capture the pennant, they will face another rookie manager in the World Series. The Nationals, who boasted the best record in all of baseball last season before falling back into the playoffs, are now being led by Dave Martinez.
His path to the NL pennant will be made easier thanks to a sensational starting team, which includes Cy Young contenders Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Washington also strengthened the offense around former MVP Bryce Harper and third baseman Anthony Rondon, acquiring left-handed power hitter Matt Adams to share first base duties with veteran Ryan Zimmerman while spending time in the outfield.
Although New York and Boston have made bigger improvements to help their new dugout leaders, Washington still seems to have the best chance of winning a pennant. The Yankees and Red Sox not only have to fight each other, but they also have to beat the defending World Series champion, the Houston Astros.
The Nationals, on the other hand, should be able to move quickly through a division where almost every other team is in rebuilding mode. The postseason has been pretty cruel to Washington in recent years, but their increased competition has done little to bolster their 2017 pennant defense. The Los Angeles Dodgers actually lost valued starter Yu Darvish over the winter, and just last week. Last year they suffered an injury that put their top slugger Justin Turner on the disabled list to start the season.