Another game, another night without Mike Olt in the line-up for the Texas Rangers. When this occurred yesterday, I noticed a tweet which set out to prove, in 140 characters or less, that Rangers manager Ron Washington is biased against rookies and refuses to play them in favor of his veterans. The tweet stated that, in Wash’s tenure as manager of the Rangers, the only “first year” players to even get 200 at bats in a season have been Elvis Andrus, Brandon Boggs, Chris Davis, Mitch Moreland and Justin Smoak.
Is it true? Does Wash favor his veterans at the expense of the rookies? I did a little digging. The answer? Compared to other managers in recent history, Wash actually has used those first year players even more than others!
The person who put forth the tweet merely said first year players. That’s different than players who are still technically rookies. First year simply means the first year they appeared in a Rangers uniform, even if it was a September call-up.
That being the parameter, I looked up the history of the following major league managers: Charlie Manuel, Terry Francona and Mike Scioscia. In the case of Scioscia, I’ve gone through his entire managerial career. For Francona and Manuel, I’ve focused on five-year spans in which their teams were contenders to go to the World Series.
Francona won a World Series his first year with the Red Sox in 2004. That year, first-year Kevin Youklis got over 200 AB’s. In the ensuing four seasons, the only players to exceed the magic 200 AB plateau were Dustin Pedroia in 2007 and Jed Lowrie in 2008. Three players in five years.
For Manuel the results are even more striking. Starting in 2007, the year before the Phillies won the World Series, through 2011, there has not been one season in which a first year player received more than 200 at bats.
Finally, looking at Scioscia’s managerial career from 2000 to 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels, we find that first year players under Scioscia have only fared well in one season. In 2006, three first year players got more than 200 at bats: Kendrys Morales, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick. In not one of the other 11 seasons Scioscia has managed the Angels has a first year player accrued more than 200 at bats in a season.
Like the Rangers, all three of these other teams have been in what could be considered World Series “windows”, years in which they had a chance to go far in the playoffs or were just a year away from being there. In just six years of managing, Ron Washington has managed to give more playing time to first-year players than any other.
So does Wash favor his veterans? No more than any other manager in his situation. And maybe even a little less.