This is a matter of some interest to me, since Frank Robinson is the manager of my city’s new ballclub, the Washington Nationals. It’ll be his fourth season as the manager of what used to be the Montreal Expos.
The pattern’s unmistakable. Here are his tours of duty as a MLB manager, and his records in chron order, with the second season with each team bolded:
Cleveland Indians, 1975-77: 79-80, 81-78, 26-31.
San Francisco Giants, 1981-84: 56-55, 87-75, 79-83, 42-64.
Baltimore Orioles, 1988-91: 54-101, 87-75, 76-85, 13-24.
Montreal Expos, 2002-04: 83-79, 83-79, 67-95.
He’s been really quite good in his second seasons with his various ballclubs, but it’s been all downhill from there. Needless to say, I worry about the same thing happening here. He’s never gotten to manage a club for an entire fourth season, but given the absence of a Nats owner, he’ll almost surely get the opportunity now, in the summer of his 70th birthday. But the record sure doesn’t look encouraging.
It’s not that I’m totally down on Robinson as a manager. I’m still in awe of the job he did with the O’s in 1989; that team won 87 games on smoke and mirrors. But in his second year with a team, he seems to get as much out of them as he’s going to get, ever, and after that, whatever pixie dust he sprinkled on them to, for instance, turn Jeff Ballard into a staff ace, wears off again.
So: will it be the same with the Expos/Nats? Or will he finally manage to buck his lifetime trend this season? I’d love it if he did.