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Which new skippers will have impact?

Which new skippers will have impact?

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Seven managers with nearly 5,000 Major League games of experience, eight division championships, two league titles and one World Series triumph are about to embark on new adventures.

For five of the seven, this is new territory.

While seasoned big-league skippers Lou Piniella and Bruce Bochy start anew with the Cubs and Giants, respectively, Manny Acta (Nationals) Bob Geren (Athletics), Fredi Gonzalez (Marlins), Bud Black (San Diego) and Ron Washington (Rangers) all begin their MLB managerial careers in 2007.

So just who will have the biggest impact on his team?

That is something to be determined during the course of the 162-game regular season that begins on April 1. But with the Cubs looking to end a 97-year-old World Series championship drought, the Piniella touch that turned the Seattle Mariners into perennial division title contenders between 1995 and 2003 puts him right in the middle of the spotlight.

"My job is to get these guys to play together, play hard and take it to the opposition every day," a charged-up Piniella said during a telephone interview from his Tampa, Fla., home. "The biggest thing, though, is to get them to believe in themselves and develop a swagger. That is something we're going to preach all spring."

After three frustrating seasons managing his hometown Tampa Bay Devil Rays, the tone of Piniella's voice indicates that Spring Training can't arrive soon enough. The Cubs spent more than $300 million during the offseason to give Sweet Lou what he needs to compete for the National League Central title and perhaps play well into October.

"The organization has done a real nice job this winter of getting talent so we can compete against some tough opposition," Piniella said. "Now, it's up to myself, my staff and the players to work hard. I have confidence in my ability and I like our talent level. I'm enthused, I really am."

Soon after managing the Padres to their second straight NL West title, Bochy packed his bags and moved north to San Francisco, where a couple of Barrys -- Bonds and Zito -- could hold the keys to Bochy's continued managerial success.

But there is no Trevor Hoffman to be seen in the Giants bullpen and that could have a pronounced effect on Bochy's immediate impact on the team.

Whereas Piniella and Bochy have 30-plus years of combined Major League managerial experience, none of the other five new skippers have even one game under their collective belts.

Patience must be a virtue for Acta, who managed the Dominican Republic in last March's inaugural World Baseball Classic.

With the Nationals coming off three consecutive last-place finishes in the NL East, two in Washington and one in Montreal, the pressure for instant success isn't nearly as great as in, say, the North Side of Chicago or the West Bay in San Francisco.

At 37 the youngest manager in the Majors, Acta and his youthful team, led by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, will have a chance to grow together.

Black has a tough act to follow in San Diego.

The 49-year-old former Major League pitcher spent the previous seven seasons as the Angels' pitching coach. He had been mentioned as a potential big-league manager for several seasons and the opportunity to manage a team close to his home and family in Southern California made it easier for him to pursue and eventually accept this job.

Inexperience, he said, is overrated.

"When you talk about managing, obviously you hope to have the qualities to lead a team, to lead men," he said. "Hopefully my career as a player and as coach has given me those opportunities to get those skills in order to manage. You have to start somewhere. Fortunately, I'm starting at the top."

In Oakland, the transition from one manager to the next went smoothly the last time it happened and fingers are crossed in the East Bay that it happens again when Geren takes over the reins.

The 44-year-old has seven years of Minor League managerial experience (452-390 record) and should have a great working relationship with general manager Billy Beane. They are best friends and Geren was the best man at the GM's second wedding.

Replacing the Manager of the Year would appear to be a tough assignment for anyone, but familiarity with the players and circumstances surrounding the departure of Joe Girardi should make for smooth sailing for Gonzalez at Florida.

Gonzalez steps into a promising situation as the foundation has been established for future success. Still, there could be some bumps along the way.

"The tough thing is going to be when the honeymoon is over, and your friends, parents and family have to hear how bad you are," he said. "That's what I told my mom and dad -- 'You know your little boy is going to get chastised or called a dummy.' It's going to be tough. But we'll be ready to get through it when it comes."

After four seasons in a Marine-like atmosphere under former manager Buck Showalter, Washington can establish a more laid-back approach in Texasd but still maintain a "take-no-prisoners" mindset.

Washington excels in the teaching aspect of the game and that worked well in Oakland, where the players loved him.

"I'm a player's manager," he said. "I will always be a player's manager because I was a player."

Washington begins his 37th year in baseball with a positive message.

"My whole goal is to get started in Spring Training and take it from there," he said. "Just get them as prepared as I can possibly get them, teach them a great work ethic, make them believe in each other and execute the fundamentals. If we do that, we're going to win. I have no doubt about it."

Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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