Early winning can be big boost for a new manager
Immediate success can go a long way toward reinforcing message to players
You'll begin to hear it in every big-league camp toward the end of March.
Every player, coach and manager will say the same thing -- their team is looking to get off to a quick start to the season.
But there are some who may need that more than others. Six managers are new to their clubs, and they are spending Spring Training instilling new philosophies in their players. A nice start would go a long way toward reinforcing the message.
Players don't always buy in right away, but the one thing they all tend to respond well to is winning.
"It's a new start. It's a clean slate," Marlins rookie manager Mike Redmond said. "I think it's going to be an easy sell. The sell is the opportunity."
Joining Redmond with new clubs this spring are Terry Francona of the Indians, Walt Weiss of the Rockies, Bo Porter of the Astros, John Farrell of the Red Sox and John Gibbons of the Blue Jays.
Porter's situation is an intriguing one. With the Astros coming off a 107-loss season, he's facing few expectations, but he's also handling a team filled with prospects and young newcomers, with whom he's looking to instill a winning mentality.
"It's been a great offseason from a standpoint of the many changes that have taken place throughout the organization," Porter said. "I believe we're all on one accord and realizing that these changes needed to take place because it's going to send us in the direction the organization is moving toward, which is to be a championship contender year in and year out."
Initial success might be cruical for the clubs likely to be contenders, too. No one has forgotten what happened to the Red Sox clubhouse last season when Bobby Valentine's squad got off to a slow start. The Marlins also stumbled to a last-place finish when their new manager, Ozzie Guillen, had problems both on and off the field in the season's first month.
It was quite the opposite in St. Louis. Mike Matheny's Cardinals slugged their way out of the gate to a 14-7 start, and they would hold the National League Central lead for almost the first two months of the season. So how did the Cards finish? Another trip to the NL Championship Series, though they lost in seven games to the soon-to-be-champion Giants.
But a quick start isn't always a harbinger of things to come. In 2011, both Fredi Gonzalez of the Braves and Clint Hurdle of the Pirates got their teams winning early, only to see them collapse down the stretch. Still, it might have helped, because both teams started quickly the next year, too.
Don Mattingly was in his first full season with the Dodgers in 2011, and Los Angeles was .500 at the end of the season's first month, neither exceeding nor falling short of expectations. Still, he didn't feel as though the start of his first year in Los Angeles was any different than any other, in terms of a need to win early and often.
"The more wins you get and the better you're playing, the better it is for everybody and the more you buy into that winning belief," Mattingly said. "But I don't think it's that different. Really, it's nice to get off to a good start anywhere."
Mattingly has been on the other side of the new-manager dynamic as a player.
"With a first-year manager, you're hoping to get out of the gates good. You want to play great," Mattingly said. "But let's put it this way, if that's going to change your thinking [about a manager] -- if you don't get off to a good start -- then something's wrong."
Mattingly may be right. Aside from the win total, there may be no quantitative gain to starting hot in your first season as manager of a new club.
But it certainly looks good, to the players, fans and management alike.