Rock-tober comes to an end
By Trevor Hayes
While Jim Tracy’s Colorado Rockies won’t join the likes of Jack McKeon’s 2003 Florida Marlins and Hall of Famer Bob Lemon‘s 1978 Yankees, the skipper certainly made headlines before his team was eliminated from the playoffs on Monday by the defending World Champion Phillies.
Both Lemon and McKeon, however, claimed the unique accomplishment of leading their team to a World Series title during a season in which they didn’t start the year as that team’s manager.
Lemon, elected to the Hall of Fame as a pitcher in 1976, was hired by the Yankees shortly after the White Sox fired him in the summer of 1978. His new team trailed the Red Sox by nine-and-a-half games when Lemon was hired on July 25, but future Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Catfish Hunter and Goose Gossage helped the team surge back into contention to catch Boston. The chase was highlighted by a four-game sweep of the Sox known as the Boston Massacre and a one game playoff which featured Bucky Dent’s historic home run. The Yankees then went on to defeat the Royals in the American League Championship Series and the Dodgers in the World Series.
McKeon’s Marlins were much quieter in qualifying for the postseason via the Wild Card – but used an infusion of stellar play from young talents like Josh Beckett, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Riding the youth wave, McKeon let veterans like Ivan Rodriguez and Mike Lowell pace the team – pushing the Marlins from 19-29 in late May to 91 wins and a World Series title.
Tracy, who took over the Rockies in May, accomplished quite a bit in his first season at Colorado’s helm. The Rockies finished 22 games over .500 (92-70), making Tracy the first in-season replacement to take a team that was 10 games under .500 to 20 games over .500. He set several other records, tying the modern mark for wins (41) in a team’s first 60 games after getting the job in midseason. With 50 wins through 75 contests, he matched Lemon in 1978-79 as the first mid-season replacement to post a .667 win percentage through that many games.
Entering this year, 30 managers were replaced during the season since 2000. Only eight of the new skippers posted winning records – and only one, McKeon with the 2003 Marlins, actually won the World Series.
Just 15 midseason managerial changes, prior to Tracy, resulted in a playoff berth.In fact, only two teams in history have changed their manager midseason and won the World Series – McKeon’s Marlins and Lemon’s Yankees.
Trevor Hayes is editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.