The Prince Of New York’s Sunday Lightning, 1.18.2009
All the NFL coaching news has gotten me to thinking about which managers are going to start the season in the managerial death wing waiting for a governor’s reprieve. Some of the names may be surprising; some not so much:
Joe Girardi, New York Yankees: With all the money they’ve spent and the expectations as high as they’ll be going into the new stadium, GM Brian Cashman—-as much as he likes Girardi—-isn’t going to mess around; if the Yankees get off to a bad start, Girardi’s getting fired and it’ll be quick. Bottom line.
Dave Trembley, Baltimore Orioles: They have no chance of competing this year in that impossible division (although they do have a shot at overtaking the Blue Jays) and Trembley has acquitted himself surprisingly well since he took over that thankless situation, but even if he survives the season, he’s not going to be there next year if owner Peter Angelos does what I expect him to do, and what I expect him to do is put a full-court press (with money as no object) on Tony La Russa.
La Russa is almost definitely not going to be back with the Cardinals in 2010 (and it doesn’t look like they want him back, stupidly); he’s going to be 65-years-old and would probably want to take three years to try and win it all one more time for a team that’s going to spend some money. Angelos would tell him, “Tony, you tell me what you need to win and we’ll make it happen.” It’s not Trembley’s fault, but the situation is what it is. Players aren’t going to Baltimore to play for Dave Trembley; they’ll go to play for Tony La Russa.
Jim Leyland, Detroit Tigers: You’d think a veteran manager like Leyland would be safe no matter what (he’s never been fired from any of his other three managerial jobs, which is an accomplishment in and of itself), but things have the potential of getting very ugly in Detroit; GM Dave Dombrowski worked with Leyland in Florida and they won a championship together, but the relationship isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy. Leyland used his relationship with then-Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga to usurp and undermine Dombrowski while there and their marriage in Detroit has grown strained with the drastic underachievement of 2008. Leyland wanted a contract extension that he didn’t get and his deal is up after 2009; it sounds like the Tigers are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude toward their manager, which is only going to make Leyland even more grouchy and the relationship between the two worse.
With the moves they’ve made this off-season, their defense is going to be better, but are their results from 2008 going to improve all that much with Gerald Laird, Adam Everett and Edwin Jackson? Unless Justin Verlander returns to form; Jeremy Bonderman and Joel Zumaya come back healthy; and Armando Galarraga repeats his 2008 performance, things could snowball very early. Owner Mike Ilitch is going to have to make a choice and he’s not going to back the manager this time.
Ron Washington, Texas Rangers: Washington was days away from being fired after the Rangers atrocious start last season, but the team rebounded and saved his job. Things sound completely dysfunctional in Texas and no one seems to know who’s really running things. One thing I’ll say about Washington is that the players have never stopped playing hard for him no matter how bad the situation was. If he gets the axe in Texas, he’ll deserve another chance with a team that has a strong veteran presence to police the clubhouse and can withstand Washington’s easygoing demeanor.
Bob Melvin, Arizona Diamondbacks: It won’t be his fault, but it’s possible that if the team gets off to a sluggish start and needs a kick, the even keeled Melvin might get the blame and the boot.
Bud Black, San Diego Padres: Black hasn’t done a very good job, but Connie Mack couldn’t have done much better with the Padres as they’re currently constructed. The only reason that Black wasn’t fired at the end of their brutal 2008 was that the front office knew how bad the team was going to be in 2009 and it made no sense to fire Black and pay him and another guy to lose just as many games as Black will.
If the sale of the club to Jeff Moorad goes slower than expected, Black might survive the season; if things are expansion team-level bad (and they will be), they won’t have a choice but to make a managerial change just to make it look like they’re doing something even though it won’t make a difference one way or the other. If Black’s fired, they’ll install Glenn Hoffman or Jim Lefebvre as manager for the rest o
f the season and let Moorad start over with his own people next year.
- The growing disconnect between front office and manager with the Cardinals:
Talk about dysfunction. Apparently what Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan want to do has no bearing on the intentions of the front office led by John Mozeliak. In recent days, the Cardinals have shifted the discussion of what to do with injured ace Chris Carpenter from the possibility of using him as the closer into Carpenter “preparing” to be a starter. In listening to the participants, it doesn’t sound as if La Russa is very confident in Carpenter being able to start for the entire season and would prefer to use the veteran out of the bullpen if that were to guarantee his availability for the year (or close to it) rather than not knowing from one start to the next if Carpenter would be able to pitch.
It doesn’t help matters that the Cardinals don’t have an established closer and may be forced to go with Chris Perez—-something La Russa clearly doesn’t want to do. If it were up to me and there was still this vacillation of whether Carpenter would be able to give 28-32 starts, I’d move him to the bullpen because not only would it be easier to monitor his workload, he’s got the stuff and the makeup to be a very good closer and it might keep him healthy. Carpenter’s at a similar age (34) as Dennis Eckersley was (32) when the switch was made (by La Russa and Duncan) with Eckersley. They know their pitchers and when it may be time for a role-change for the team’s and the pitcher’s own good. Unfortunately, that’s getting lost in translation with the front office, to the detriment of the club.
- Mets should make a serious move on Ben Sheets:
It’s a fine line to walk with a pitcher who’s as talented and fragile as Ben Sheets, but a team with the hole in their starting rotation might be well-served to roll the dice (within a reasonable financial commitment) on a guy like Ben Sheets. The red flags that have popped up with Sheets concern not just his elbow, but his shoulder; and his injury history cannot be discounted; but if he were willing to come for a 2-3 year deal, he’s worth a shot to see if he can stay healthy with a different organization. This isn’t to blame the Brewers for what happened with Sheets over the past few years, but who knows what a different situation will do for Sheets’s pain threshold?
If Sheets is able to deliver something close to what he did last season—-31 starts; 198 innings; and 13 wins—-wouldn’t that be worth more than what they’re going to have to throw at Oliver Perez to keep him? Or Randy Wolf, who’s little more than a last resort/name to mention as available (and who the Mets don’t really even want); or Jon Garland, who gives up a lot of hits and benefited more from the Angels bullpen than from anything he did on the mound in amassing 14 wins in 2008?
It sounds like the Sheets possibility is being discussed by the Mets brass seriously and if the choice is between Wolf, Garland and Sheets, Sheets on a short-term deal would be the best option (as long as Perez is being so demanding). Would Sheets rather go to the Rangers, where he has no real chance of competing; will be pitching in a danger zone where everyone with a bat is in scoring position; and has no bullpen to back him up? Or the Mets, who have the drastically improved bullpen; a great defense; and he’ll be part of a rotation that includes Johan Santana, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey? It’s a risk, but it’s also a potentially big jackpot for both sides.
- Omar Vizquel would be a good choice for the Rangers:
Vizquel would be able to tutor the touted rookie Elvis Andrus, and his presence would prevent the need to move Michael Young back to shortstop if Andrus needs to go back to the minors. It would be pretty embarrassing to have to shift Young back after this whole mess that came from the decision to move him to third base in the first place; and playing in Texas may bring Vizquel’s bat back from the dead.