Not long ago, I heard a broadcaster mention that the Marlins -- after the firing of Mike Redmond and hiring/reassignment of Dan Jennings -- have now had 14 managers in 23 years of existence. Two things: One, it turns out that's true, and, two, that seems like a high rate of turnover. I suppose that's to be expected, in large part because the Marlins have been owned, more often than not, by capricious buffoons.
Still, how does the Marlins' "managerial churn rate" compare to those of other franchises? With a big assist from the very excellent Baseball-Reference.com, here's how each franchise compares in terms of how many games their managers last, on average ...
And here are the exact figures, in descending order of average games managed ...
Some quick notes on the numbers you see above ... Each team listed represents the entire history of the franchise -- i.e., the Nationals listing includes the Expos, the Twins include the Senators, the Orioles include the Browns, etc. Also, the "Billy Martin" effect is a (very small) consideration. That is, a few managers have had their tenures broken up across two or more stints. The total game count remains the same; it's just divided up. These are rare instances, though, and don't affect the overall numbers to any meaningful extent. Also -- and to state the obvious -- not every manager leaves a post because he's fired. Some retire, some by choice move to less demanding roles within the organizatoin, some take a managerial job elsewhere.
Anyhow, yep, there are the Marlins on the far right end of the graph, with an average tenure of just 253.4 games, which is more than a full season shy of the league-average mark. On the top end, we see the Dodgers, which is no surprise, given that three managers -- Wilbert Robinson, Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda -- accounted for 62 seasons among them. Likewise, the Athletics are a predictable presence at the top, as Connie Mack famously spent a well-dressed half-century in the dugout.
Surprised to see the Cardinals so low? Well, their early years were largely unsuccessful, and by 1900 they were somehow on their 29th manager. Those fledgling years skew the overall Cardinal numbers quite a bit.
Now let's modernize this a bit. Let's confine our data from the onset of free agency in 1977 onward. That's a useful back end point, mostly because the managers of this era had to deal with much more roster turnover than did their predecessors (generally speaking, of course). In that sense, the job changed.
First, the pretty pictures ...
And now the numbers ...
Obviously, some expansion teams -- the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks and Rays -- have perfect overlap, as the 1977-onward period captures their entire franchise histories. For the older remainder, though, you see some differences. The Cardinals are now one of the most stable franchises when it comes to managerial tenure. At the tip-top, the Twins (Tom Kelly and Ron Gardenhire managed 29 seasons combined) vault past the Dodgers in the free agent era. And keep in mind that their average is being dragged down by current skipper Paul Molitor's one year on the job.
On the other end, we see that the Cubs have cratered below the Marlins. Since 1977, the Cubs have cycled through 24 different managers, so in that sense current skipper Joe Maddon is working against history on a number of levels. On a general level, managers across the league have enjoyed a bit more stability in the free agent era than they have across all baseball history.
Consider these numbers etched in granite, at least until the next manager takes a fall ...