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Tag:Jim Leyland
Posted on: May 24, 2011 10:14 am
Edited on: May 24, 2011 11:02 am
 

Pepper: Brian Fuentes criticizes manager Geren



By Evan Brunell

FUENTES BLOWS UP: Brian Fuentes, the Athletics closer, had some strong words for manager Bob Geren after losing his seventh game of the year. He's now blown five of seven tie games and Fuentes isn't happy about the skipper's communication skills, saying Geren has handled his communication with the reliever poorly.

"There’s just no communication," Fuentes says. "Two games, on the road, bring the closer in a tied game, with no previous discussions of doing so. And then, tonight, in the seventh inning, I get up. I haven’t stretched, I haven’t prepared myself. If there was some communication beforehand I would be ready to come into the game  -- which I was, when I came into the game, I was ready. Just lack of communication. I don’t think anybody really knows which direction he’s headed."

Fuentes really shouldn't be complaining about being brought in during a tie game on the road. The general rule of thumb is that you deploy your closer with a tie at home or lead on the road, but that doesn't mean everyone has to follow that tenet -- not to mention that rule of thumb is a pretty weak one. You bring in your best reliever for the situation that demands it most, end of story.

That aside, it appears as if Geren doesn't have the right pulse on Fuentes -- or maybe even the bullpen as a whole. Fuentes says it's difficult to adhere to what appears to be a random schedule, instead of being afforded time to stretch and prepare for coming into the game in the eighth or ninth. Again, we're seeing "established" rules for closers with no reason for being established causing problems. In Fuentes' defense, however, he didn't trailblaze these established rules -- he's just following them and it's easy to see how he thinks they're a valuable part of his preparation. From the manager's perspective, though, Fuentes may have very well been the best choice to come into the seventh inning. The problem is when you don't communicate effectively.

"I thought he misspoke," Fuentes said of when he first learned Geren wanted him in the game in the seventh. "I thought it was some sort of miscommunication, but he said, ‘No, you’re up,’ so I got up and cranked it up. You can’t try to guess along with them. Very unpredictable."

Fuentes adds that this hasn't been a situation that's been slowly getting worse; rather, it's fairly recent and Fuentes first became displeased when Oakland traveled to San Francisco this past weekend. Or maybe it's because Fuentes has a 6.48 ERA in 8 1/3 May innings.

"I think the games in San Francisco were some unorthodox managing," he noted. "I thought it was maybe the National league thing, that maybe that had something to do with it, but [Monday] was pretty unbelievable."

Just don't expect Fuentes to be the one to initiate communication. He's going to leave that up to Geren.

"I can’t predict the future. If he decides to take that step, then there will be communication. If not, I’ll make sure I’m ready from the first." (MLB.com)

LOSING CONFIDENCE: Wins and losses don't matter from an evaluation perspective, that much is clear. But for a pitcher, it can be pretty demoralizing to see an 0-7 mark next to his name, like John Danks is dealing with despite a 4.34 ERA that is plenty good enough to keep him in the rotation, as manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It’s getting harder and harder," Danks said. "That's the blunt truth. But like I said, it doesn’t do me any good to sit and dwell on it or feel sorry for myself. I got to come in ready to work and have myself ready for my next strart. That’s how I’ll go about it." (Chicago Tribune)

RANDY POFFO, BASEBALL PLAYER: Before "Macho Man" Randy Savage became a sensation in the wrestling world, he was an aspiring baseball player with a tremendous work ethic who just didn't have the talent to go beyond Class A. But that didn't stop Savage, whose real name was Randy Poffo, from trying. (Sports Illustrated)

SAVAGE HOMER: When Brewers GM Doug Melvin heard that Savage had died, it took him a while to figure out that Savage was the same Poffo who played in the minor leagues. "I think he hit a homer off me," Melvin said, hearkening back to 1972 when the two would have been on opposing rookie-ball teams. Unfortunately, Melvin was unable to verify this, as he could not find boxscores. (MLB.com)

MOVING ON: It's hard to, but Francisco Rodriguez is trying to move on from the much-publicized altercation with his ex-girlfriend's father last season. Rodriguez is off to a fantastic start as closer and appears to have made major strides mentally. (New York Daily News)

MANAGING FOR THE FANS: In case it's not clear for you just yet, Jim Leyland manages for the fans, not with fans. Leyland didn't take too kindly to being second-guessed for taking Rick Porcello out of a game in which he was one-hitting the Pirates after eight innings with 84 pitches. Closer Jose Valverde finished off the win, and Leyland went on a rant Monday about being second-guessed. (Detroit Free-Press)

START 'ER UP: The Cardinals will put Mitchell Boggs into the rotation at Triple-A after the reliever was demoted in a bit of a surprising move on Monday. The transition to the rotation isn't permanent, but it will afford St. Louis some security in rotation depth as well as allow Boggs to fine-tune his secondary offerings. (FoxSportsMidwest.com)

GOING OPPOSITE: David Ortiz seems to be taking a page out of Adrian Gonzalez's book, as Big Papi is going to the opposite field more than he ever has before, banging balls off the Green Monster. Of Ortiz's 27 hits at home so far, 14 have gone the opposite way. Compare that to a full-season total of 16 in 2008. (WEEI)

MOVE THE WALLS: Padres manager Bud Black might be getting sick of the decrepit Padres offense. Black has avoided all comment about possibly moving the walls of Petco Park in, but admitted Monday he thought there was "room for discussion." (MLB.com)

GLOVE MAN: What can't Eric Hosmer do? All the focus has been on Hosmer's offense, but he sports a pretty good glove too. Alcides Escobar thinks so, smiling enthusiastically when asked about Hosmer's defense. (Kansas City Star)

SLOW AND STEADY: Adam Lind still hasn't played in a game since May 7 thanks to a sore back, but that could finally be coming Wednesday. Once Lind returns from his minor-league rehab assignment, he'll return to first base but will see starts at DH mixed in to ease him back physically. (MLB.com)

DAT DUDE: Brandon Phillips' Twitter account is among the best in sports and has turned him into a marketing machine who fans adore. That's quite a ways from the kind of person he was in Cleveland. This is a nice profile of Phillips and how Twitter has impacted him. (MLB.com)

SELLING OUT: The Double-A Dayton Dragons are at 799 consecutive sellouts and if all goes according to plan, July 9 is when the Dragons will take out the Portland Trail Blazers for most consecutive sellouts in sports history. However, 40-60 tickets a game for the 7,230-seat stadium remain, although the team does not appear concerned about that posing an issue. (Dayton Daily News)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 20, 2011 12:29 pm
 

Pepper: Scorching Hafner could hit DL



By Evan Brunell


HAFNER HURT: Indians DH Travis Hafner is hitting like it's 2006, as the oft-injured DH is roaring along at a .345/.409/.549 clip with eight doubles and five home runs in 127 plate appearances.

Sure, that average is over his head, but he's still geared up to have a quality season. It's about time, as Hafner has been one of the game's most overpaid players as he succumbed to injuries following his four-year, $57 million deal signed during the 2007 season. He's been a major reason why Cleveland finds itself in first place, and has helped fend off any type of decline that could have happened once Grady Sizemore hit the disabled list.

Unfortunately, Hafner may be joining Sizemore on the DL with a sore oblique. He was taking swings in the batting cage prior to Wednesday's game when one swing left him unable to swing any more. After being a late scratch, Hafner plans to get the injury checked out Friday with a MRI.

"One of the big things was how it felt [Thursday] morning," said Hafner. "It wasn't worse. That's kind of encouraging."

Obliques are the scourge of baseball these days, and unfortunately for Hafner, he's probably going to have to go on the DL and could be out for a month or more. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

LEYLAND'S BACK
: Jim Leyland still lives in Pittsburgh, but he hasn't been back in the stadium as an opposing manager since 2006, his first year with the Tigers. Leyland, of course, is well known for his 11 years managing the Pirates in the glory days, back when Barry Bonds was manning left field. (MLive.com)

RJM:
A nice story about Ricky Romero and J.P. Arencibia's night on Thursday. Romero went seven strong while J.P. Arencibia crushed a home run that eventually gave the team a 3-1 victory. Both players were reeling from the passing of a two-year-old fan after a battle with leukemia. (Toronto Star)

UNPRECEDENTED:
Jose Bautista's leap from last man on the bench to the best hitter in the game is still tough to wrap one's head around. But it's not the last time such a leap has been made. The closest comparable? Seattle's Bret Boone, who jumped in relevancy from 1999-2001. Of course, the likelihood that Boone used steroids is high, but unless you're really reaching or just hate Bautista/the Blue Jays, the same questions are not there for Bautista. (Fangraphs)

TURNING THE CLOCK BACK:
It's always entertaining to see players wear throwback uniforms. Sometimes these uniforms are preferable to the current set... sometimes they're nice memories or a way of learning more about history. Sometimes, they make us burst out laughing. History's being profiled Saturday when the Red Sox and Cubs wear 1918-era uniforms. (Boston Globe) Here's a look at what you can expect -- the 1918 uniforms of the BoSox and the 1918 road uniforms for the Cubs. And yes, no logo for the Red Sox.

FLIPPING THE BIRD
: Sometimes I wonder if we take ourselves a little too seriously. Andre Ethier, who was slightly irritated with a photographer prior to Monday's game, flipped him the bird before adding the other hand to the equation. Ethier joked about the situation before Thursday's game before issuing a standard mea culpa. "I wasn’t [angry] at all. If you’re going to stand there and take the same picture for 15 minutes, what’s the difference between the first and the 15th minute? It just got kind of annoying. I guess I slipped up, and that temper you guys sometimes like to write about, got ahead of me and I didn’t use my head and use the best judgment in that situation. I made a mistake of it and it’s unfortunate." Don't we have better things to worry about? (Los Angeles Times)

DISLIKED:
Are the Cardinals the most disliked team in baseball? Let's look at the evidence. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

WHERE'S ALLIE?
When talking about Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects (try saying that four times in a row), the conversation invariably turns to Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. Except that Allie is nowhere to be found on the stats pages. That's because he's been at extended spring training, working on his windup and a lack of control. Things have progressed to the point where he is nearing game action. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

LIND ETA:
Adam Lind won't be back with the Blue Jays for at least 10 days and is still a week away from baseball action in his recovery from a sore back. (Sportsnet via Twitter)

WHO'S OUT IN BALTIMORE? When Alfredo Simon returns to the Orioles' bullpen on Sunday, someone's gotta go. Bet on one of Brad Bergesen or Chris Tillman, as Jeff Zrebiec writes. Both -- especially Bergesen -- have been very poor in the rotation and the team can go with four starters for several days because of Brian Matusz's looming return late next week. (Baltimore Sun)

JOHN SMOLTZ RULE: John Smoltz effected a rule change in minor-league baseball while on a rehab assignment with the Red Sox in 2009. Now, major-league pitchers on rehab starts down on the farm can use major-league baseballs in games. (MLBlogs.com)

TWITTER CLOSED: Tony Sanchez closed his Twitter account amid what we thought were the Pirates being too sensitive about players going on Twitter and expressing a personality. However, Sanchez closed his account on his own (although a stern talking-to from the brass didn't help). Sanchez was benched three games for criticizing umpires. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

GOLD: A pretty neat promotion the Angels are putting on in which fans will get an autographed baseball from a player. Those lucky enough to end up with a gold baseball will then get to meet that player and get four tickets to another Angels game. (Orange County Register)

DL-BOUND: Joe Blanton is returning to the DL and will take Shane Victorino with him. The Flyin' Hawaiian has been hobbled the last few days and now the Phillies have decided they can't wait for him to heal much longer. Don't expect Domonic Brown's promotion, as GM Ruben Amaro continues to hold Brown back. (Wonder if it has to do with service time?) Anyways, expect either Delwyn Young or Ronnie Belliard to get the spot. (CSNPhilly.com)

NO MORE TOBACCO: The call to ban all types of tobacco in baseball only got stronger with the Diamondbacks' CEO Ken Kendrick calling for such a ban. (Arizona Republic)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: May 18, 2011 12:57 am
Edited on: May 18, 2011 5:22 pm
 

Leyland: interleague play has 'run its course'

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Jim LeylandJim Leyland said he knows Bud Selig won't be happy to hear him say it, but he believes it's time interleague play is shelved.

"It was a brilliant idea to start with, but it has run its course," Leyland told Tom Gage of the Detroit News.

With the Tigers prepping for three games with the Pirates, it's tough to argue with the veteran manager.

"And let me emphasize this, it originally was a tremendous idea. But it's not really doing what it's supposed to do," he said. "There are no rivalries for most of the teams. I'm sure it helps the White Sox a little bit when they host the Cubs, but ti doesn't help at Wrigley Field. The Cubs pack it most of the time anyway. The Yankees also pack their place most of the time."

Proponents will point to attendance numbers, but also avoid noting many interleague games are played on prime dates -- weekends after school has let out for summer.

And as for the "rivalries" -- Leyland is right. It's silly that the Reds and Indians play twice in interleague play when there's no real rivalry between the two Ohio teams. Sure, it's nice for the New York teams, the Chicago teams and the Bay Area teams, but does a Marlins-Rays series really bring any extra fans? And that's not even beginning to mention the Padres and Mariners. Of course, without that rivalry, the Padres may actually play National League foe Milwaukee more than they face the Mariners, and who would want that? San Diego faces Seattle six times this season, while it plays the Brewers just five times. But hey, these two teams share a spring training complex and you know nothing builds a rivalry quite like a spring training complex.

Leyland also bemoaned the fact that he'll have two consecutive series in National League parks next month, meaning he won't be able to use a designated hitter for six games, saying it's "ridiculous" and "totally unfair."

Leyland, who has managed the Pirates, Rockies and Marlins in addition to the Tigers, also said he'd like to see the DH either adopted in both leagues or dropped.

"I don't care what they do," he said. "Whatever way they go is fine with me, but the rules should be the same."

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:20 am
 

Pepper: Peavy's encouraging return, young guns



By Matt Snyder


BASEBALL TODAY: See the video above for my takes on Justin Masterson, Zach Britton, Daniel Hudson, the Angels without Kendrys Morales and Jake Peavy's encouraging first start of 2011.

OVERTHINK MUCH? Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had a theory as to why Derek Jeter was struggling earlier in the season. It's that Jeter was pressing due to feeling the pressure of the upcoming 3,000-hit milestone. "I'm not concerned about Derek," Steinbrenner told the New York Post. "Milestones can be difficult. They can be a big weight on a guy." Oh, yeah, and then this: "He's obviously broken through that and is hitting well now." As if right on cue, Jeter went out and had an 0-6 day Wednesday night. So is he feeling the pressure again? Let's all take a deep breath and realize guys are going to have ups and downs over the course of 162 games. You too, Hal.

FIRST OF MANY: Royals prospect-turned-first baseman Eric Hosmer went yard in Yankee Stadium Wednesday night for the first home run of his very young career. To top things off, he came through with the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in extra innings. He's sure to see some hills and valleys throughout his rookie season, but thus far he's been really solid. Cling to that .250 batting average if you must, as Hosmer's sporting a .409 on-base percentage and a .909 OPS, which is outstanding.

BACK ON TRACK: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro started the season absolutely on fire, but then drastically cooled. In fact, he recently had a 12-game stretch where he hit .137 with an abysmal .311 OPS. The Cubs' rivals came to town, Mike Quade dropped Castro in the order and things seem to be back where Starlin likes them. In the past two games, he's 6-8 with a triple, four RBI, three runs and a walk.

MORE HUG-GATE: Wednesday in Pepper we discussed the completely meaningless yet somehow blown out of proportion hug between Albert Pujols and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry laughed about the talk that fateful embrace sparked. Pujols offered up his thoughts on the situation Wednesday afternoon. "I figured that would happen, that they would play with it," Pujols said. "At the end, it's not what you do on the field. It's what kind of person you are off the field. That's the kind of relationship you want to build with somebody you respect. He's on the other side. I'm on our side. I just think it's kind of ridiculous. Three writers came and talked to me about that and the contract. "Are you serious? C'mon." (StLtoday.com) Meanwhile, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says Cubs fans should forget about Pujols for two reasons: 1. He's not signing with the Cubs; 2. They'll be better off in the long-haul for it.

TORRE SETTLING IN: Joe Torre is ready to attend the first owner's meetings in his new role of executive vice president of baseball operations. The first meeting's agenda doesn't appear to have any impact in terms of on-field play, but there is one interesting nugget in this article: Torre's reason to retire from managing was that he couldn't take losing anymore. "It wasn't balanced out by the winning anymore. I hated it," Torre said. "I was more ready not to do what I've been doing for years. When the Commissioner made this job offer to me, I asked him a few times if he thought I could do it. It was the insecurity of not knowing what the job entailed, even though it's baseball-related. But it has been fun and very energizing for me." Good for him. Honestly, he's 70, who needs that kind of day-in, day-out stress at that age anyway? (MLB.com)

I MIGHT BE A SADIST, BUT ... : Grant Brisbee over at SB Nation asked how much money it would take to step into the batter's box and face Aroldis Chapman right now -- keeping in mind that he can hit 105 on the radar gun and has walked nine of the last 14 batters he's faced. The stipulation is that you could wear a helmet but no "Barry Bonds armor." Honestly, I'd give it a go for free just to see what it looked like from there. My biggest issue isn't so much the fear of getting drilled, but the fact that he's left-handed (I'm a lefty and they always had me mentally whipped when I played). Then again, I haven't been hit with a pitch in probably 11 years and never took one more than 90 mph. Maybe I'll take some cash for the fictional at-bat afterall.

CREDIT WHERE DUE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland was going to give slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera the day off Wednesday to give him a few days off (the Tigers have an off-day Thursday) before a weekend series to rest his sore back. Instead, Cabrera waved him off and insisted on playing. (MLB.com) Keep this in mind whenever you hear people complaining about how the guys only play for the money and don't really care about the results. Sitting down would have had no effect on Cabrera's earnings. Since the complainers like to use real-world examples, compare this to having your boss tell you to take the day off and you insisting on staying at work (yeah, sure you would). Oh, and he had a two-RBI double in the fifth to give the Tigers the lead. They would win 9-7.

IN THE CINCY AREA AND LIKE SMOKED MEATS? The Reds have put in a new restaurant called Mr. Red's Smokehouse, and it will open Friday for the first game of the Reds' series against the Cardinals. On the menu, you'll find smoked ribs, turkey legs, pulled pork and chicken wings -- in addition to rotating specialty items. This weekend's item is "smoked Cardinal" (it's actually quail). Click here for a video tour of the new smokehouse.

HAIL DELAY: Via Big League Stew, here's a video of the hailstorm that caused an hour-plus delay to Tuesday night's Twins-Tigers game in Minnesota. Yes, that is golf-ball sized hail and a good amount of it.



IF YOU CARE ABOUT DYKSTRA: I'm pretty well over him at this point, and have been for years. If you are interested in what's become of Lenny Dykstra's life, according to this interview, by all means click through and read it. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com got an exclusive interview with Dykstra's limo driver.

HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN: Roger McDowell's suspension is almost over, as he'll rejoin the Braves Friday and resume his duties as their pitching coach. (MLB.com) I'd encourage fans across America to heckle him and test if those sensitivity classes paid off.

CANADIAN DOLLARS: An interesting discussion here, in that -- as long as the Canadian dollar is valued higher than the American dollar -- players for the Blue Jays are actually earning more money than their contracts dictate, assuming they cash checks in Canada. It's the exact opposite of how it used to be, when players used to get traded to either the Expos or Blue Jays and take a hit. (Slam Sports)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 7, 2011 11:39 am
 

Hot seat warming for some managers

Guillen

By Evan Brunell

The hot seat is getting a bit warmer for managers with tenuous holds on their jobs now that the calendar has flipped to May and teams are getting a far better handle on how the team is performing against expectations.

Back prior to the start of the season, Bob Geren of the A's, Jim Leyland of the Tigers, Mike Quade of the Cubs, Jim Riggleman of the Nationals and Edwin Rodriguez of the Marlins were five managers to keep an eye on. So far, all but Leyland appear to have confirmed their job security through at least the end of the season.

Leyland's not the only one with a hot seat, however. There's two others who need to shape up or will be asked to ship out.

Ozzie Guillen, White Sox

"We suck," Ozzie Guillen said recently about his ballclub, as Chicago has baseball's worst record at 11-22. This is surprising, given the rather deep rotation and a potent offense that is still searching for the match to light the fire. There's nothing redeeming about the ChiSox's season so far, with DH Adam Dunn struggling in his adjustment to the DH role and a bullpen corps that simple doesn't understand how to close a game out. That puts the spotlight squarely on Guillen, who doesn't do himself any favors with his brash, outspoken nature even if it endears him to the media and fans. Bottom line: this is a team who hasn't made the postseason since 2008 and has performed under expectations since. If the White Sox don't turn it around, Guillen's exit could come fast and hand Joey Cora the reins.

Kirk Gibson, Diamondbacks

Gibson is the only other manager currently with a modicum of a warm hot seat. He's playing for a new GM who didn't select Gibson as manager, although he did retain Gibson once taking control. Still, that fact alone puts him in danger of losing his spot even if 'Zona has played slightly above expectations to date with a 14-17 mark. It's unlikely that Kevin Towers makes a move inseason unless Arizona suddenly bottoms out like the White Sox have done, but Gibson would have to finish .500 or higher to guarantee his job security. Any record under .500 -- and the Diamondbacks will certainly finish with less than 81 wins -- will put him at the mercy of Towers.

And of course, Leyland is another on the hot seat as his Tigers have eked out a 15-18 record to date. Detroit certainly hoped for better but that record is good enough to delay any possible firing of Leyland. If the team sinks into a quagmire, he could be jettisoned, but for now has plenty of leash. While the seven-game deficit behind first place is not pretty, it helps Leyland's cause that the top two teams of the White Sox and Twins are instead scuffling with lousy records and the Indians and Royals, both thought to be non-factors, top the Central.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

Posted on: March 29, 2011 9:55 am
 

Pepper: Battered Brewers breath sigh of relief



By Matt Snyder


With Zack Greinke on the shelf, the Brewers badly need Shaun Marcum -- who missed his previous spring start with shoulder soreness and has some injury history -- to come out of camp healthy. He threw four innings Monday in his last spring outing and felt fine. (Brewers blog )

So that's the good news.

The bad news is the Brewers have been injury-riddled this spring -- they'll start with five players on the disabled list -- and it's exposed the fragile thin layer of major-league talent they have.

There is certainly reason for optimism in Milwaukee, because they have some really good players. They can hit the ball, have good starting pitching -- so long as everyone is healthy, that is -- and what appears to be a capable closer. But when you're trading for Sergio Mitre and Nyjer Morgan in the last few days of spring to shore up depth, that's hardly a flawless team. Injuries can bury this team, the spring should merely serve as a warning.

With the Reds' injury woes, Adam Wainwright going down and Cubs having obvious flaws, this seems like a race that will be determined by the team with the best luck in terms of health. And the Brewers are already starting off on the wrong foot, even if Marcum felt fine Monday night.

SAVING CASHNER:
The Cubs correctly named Andrew Cashner the fifth member of the starting rotation over the former albatross, Carlos Silva. There are concerns with Cashner's workload, however, as he's never thrown more than 111 1/3 innings in a season. As a full-time starter, he should be expected to go over 150. The Cubs have pointed out they will "constantly" monitor his load this season, in terms of pitches and innings, to ensure the long-term health of their former first-rounder. (Chicago Sun-Times )

PEREZ PUKES, IS PEEVED: So Indians closer Chris Perez threw up on the back-end of the mound in the ninth inning of a spring game Monday (Jordan Bastian via Twitter), but then threw out a tweet himself about it, saying, "all right, enough of all this Perez threw up bs, I had low blood sugar and was dizzy, and only water came up."

THE AMAZING ECKSTEINS: I'm not even going to try and do this justice. It's too long and too good. Just read the whole thing. David Eckstein's family has donated five kidneys to each other and another six more are likely to be needed. David hasn't taken a turn yet, but he's "on deck." (The Post Game )

PRIOR DETERMINED: Mark Prior was demoted all the way to Class-A after a spring that saw him put up a 1.17 ERA in 7 2/3 innings of work. He still feels like he's going to help the Yankees at some point this season, and manager Joe Girardi said, "I think he's got a pretty good shot." (ESPN New York )

OH JOSE: Jose Canseco did some nice work on Twitter Monday. Let's see ... he said ESPN is owned by Major League Baseball, so they lie. "You will never know the real truth is you keep listening to the media." (That one was weird for me because I have never, ever been told what I can or cannot write by anyone). And the cherry on top, this gem: "Just remember the media is write 20 percent of 50 percent of the time." That one was aptly followed by him accusing other people of being ignorant. This all came on the heels of the news that Canseco pulled a bait-and-switch at a charity boxing event. Of course, Canseco's whole reason for the tirade was that he wanted to see if anyone was smart enough to figure out what actually happened. And it's all the media's fault. The funny thing is, Twitter is a media that gives Canseco a forum to tell his side. Don't tell us to guess what happened. Don't take a few days to reveal what happened, as it looks like you're cooking up a story, Jose. If there's a different truth, just tell it. But that's the problem, isn't it? (Jose Canseco via Twitter)

MOST DEPRESSED? A website put together a list of the most depressed baseball cities among the 18 teams that haven't won the World Series in the past 20 years. Oddly enough, Washington D.C. checked in at the top. These types of things are pretty immeasurable, really, but I guess it's entertaining enough to look at this point. We're just killing time until opening day anyway by now. (via Ultimate Astros )

MATUSZ STRUCK, STILL OPTIMISTIC:
Orioles starting pitcher Brian Matusz was throwing a simulated game when he was struck in his left biceps by a line drive, forcing him to stop his session well early. It's fortunately just a bruise, as the Orioles aren't even going to go through precautionary X-Rays. He's had a rough spring, but still remains confident for the regular season. (MASN.com )

SALT RIVER FIELDS FOREVER: The Diamondbacks and Rockies shared the new Salt River Fields facility this spring and it has been all the rage from pretty much everyone who has seen the place. The attendance has shown the popularity, as the place has drawn pretty staggering numbers. The D-Backs have drawn over 189,000 fans, averaging 11,161 per game. The number is almost double last season's spring attendance for the Snakes. The Rockies have similar figures, bringing in 10,485 fans per game, just about double last season's number. The facility has set all kinds of attendance records, with the Diamondbacks ranking first in spring attendance and the Rockies checking in at No. 3 -- the Yankees were second. (MLB.com )

NO BRACKETS FOR YOU: With the gambling accusations against former clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels, the Mets have refrained from running any NCAA basketball tournament bracket competitions. Manager Terry Collins said there was no specific mandate to avoid it, but everyone just thought it would be a bad idea. They must have known how things were going to shake out, huh? (Newsday )

ON-DECK ACCOUNT: Remember Aaron Guiel? He played for the Royals from 2002-2006 and then a little bit for the Yankees late in '06. Well he plays in Japan now, and he was on deck in a NPB game in Yokohama when the big earthquake happened. He described the event from his point of view to Canadian Baseball Network .

LEYLAND ON 'PLAYER X:' By now everyone's surely heard of ESPN the Magazine's "Player X," in which an anonymous player writes about the sport in which he plays. The latest baseball entry, "Player X" took on Miguel Cabrera, specifically wondering why he doesn't pay someone to drive him when he's out drinking. Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't care for the column, saying: “To me that’s a gutless (jerk) that doesn’t put his name to it. If somebody would have said, ‘Hey, this is Jim Leyland and this is what I say, he should do this or this, then that’s fine. But when you (another expletive) hide behind somebody else’s expense, that’s chicken (expletive) to me." (Detroit Free-Press ) I can see the logic in that. Since my name is on this, I'll ask the same question, though: How do any players ever get a DUI? Miguel Cabrera makes $20 million a year. Why can't he -- or anyone else in the league who has gotten (or will get) a DUI -- pay someone something like $50,000 a year to be his driver? It would make things easier on everyone -- provide a job to someone, avoid the questions of alcoholism, keep guys out of jail, etc. I just don't get it.

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Posted on: March 28, 2011 11:25 am
Edited on: March 28, 2011 11:40 am
 

Managers on the hot seat for 2011

By Evan Brunell

Managing a team is a tall task. Not only do managers have bosses to answer to, but they are responsible for overseeing a coaching staff, promoting good relationships with athletes who will earn far more than a skipper can dream of, winning games and knowing at the first whiff of trouble, the ax will fall not on the player or the GM, but the manager.

Even coaching legends Bobby Cox, Joe Torre and Tony La Russa have multiple teams on their managerial resume, some stops which ended in being let go. Which managers are in similar danger this season?

GerenBob Geren, Athletics
Fifth season
Athletics record: 307-340
Contract: 2011 team option picked up after one-year extension

Geren is just sort of ... there. He doesn't make waves, which is good. He hasn't had any run-ins with players or made headlines, all good things. On the flip side, however, he gets next to no praise for his job done piloting the A's.

Sure, part of that has to do with his tepid success, as the team is 33 games under .500 with Geren at the helm, dropping from 93-69 in Ken Macha's final season of 2006 to 76-86 the next year. In 2010, Oakland split 162 games, marking the first time Geren did not have a losing record in Oakland. That's not the kind of stuff that gets you attention.

But there's another aspect to it, and that's the belief that Geren does what the front office wants. One would think this would be a good trait, as it's often smart to listen to your superiors. But when you're largely considered a placeholder with all the important decisions coming from above ... well, that's why there hasn't been much praise for Geren.

Geren is replaceable, even if he's functional. In a season with increased expectations after moves made that have some believing the A's could win the division, Geren will need to perform. If he doesn't, the front office will have to weigh whether the effect of letting Geren go could improve the team. There's a school of thought that sometimes replacing managers can be responsible for a bump in play. This is where Geren's perceived "yes-man" role could come back to hurt him as he wouldn't have other intangibles -- such as his skilled mastering of clubhouse dynamics or in-game management or player evaluation -- to fall back on to compel Oakland to retain him.

LeylandJim Leyland, Tigers
Sixth season
Tigers record: 424-387
Contract: Final year of two-year contract extension

Leyland burst on scene in 2006 after a six-year hiatus and took Detroit to the World Series before eventually falling to the Cardinals. He would win seven less games the following year, but repeated a second-place finish. 

However, Leyland's Tigers would drop all the way to fifth place in 2008 with a 74-88 mark before rebounding with 86 wins before last season's 81-81 finish. As Leyland has pronounced, it is time for him to show that he can put Detroit in the playoffs as his job is on the line.

Leyland doesn't really deserve blame for the Tigers' slide back into mediocrity these last few years as Detroit has battled injuries to key players along with undeserving players making far too much money when the club had to convince free agents to come to town following 2003's 119-loss debacle. But after an offseason in which the club imported Victor Martinez, Joaquin Benoit and Brad Penny, among others, the expectation in town is to contend for the division title and certainly finish over .500.

If that doesn't happen, Leyland could easily take matters into his own hands and simply walk away. But if the Tigers are flailing early on, management would likely not hesitate to make a move despite Leyland's stature in the game. 

QuadeMike Quade, Cubs
First full season (second overall)
Cubs record: 24-13
Contract: First year of two-year contract plus 2013 team option

Quade had a rough start to his managerial career, even if his record stands at a sterling 24-13. Quade had the luck of replacing Lou Piniella after Sweet Lou's sudden departure from Chicago. Quade then battled his way from being an unknown to beating out franchise icon Ryne Sandberg for the permanent job, causing Sandberg to leave town in a huff.

Quade's reward? Attempting to bring a World Series to the North Side for the first time in over 100 years and already having to manage a clubhouse fight between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez. Good luck!

So why is Quade on the hot seat, especially since he has two guaranteed years on his deal? Because if the Cubs don't perform, the money allocated to Quade will be little enough to not be of concern. If Chicago is careening toward 100 losses, the public backlash will be too great for GM Jim Hendry to ignore.

On Quade's side is a relative luxury of uncertainty surrounding the team. The Cubs could feasibly land anywhere between 75-85 wins, and both 90 wins and losses can't be discounted either. Quade would have to really bomb to get cut, but what's worth monitoring is how the front office stands up to what could be an irate fan base should Chicago dip under .500.

RigglemanJim Riggleman, Nationals
Second full season (third overall)
Nationals record: 102-135
Contract: Final year of two-year contract with 2012 team option

Riggleman is a manager who is just sort of there. The Nationals didn't harbor any illusions that Washington would contend, so Riggleman has essentially received a free pass on the Nationals' record since taking over.

It certainly helps that Riggleman is thought to be among baseball's lowest-paid skippers. However, given the Nationals' increased expectations of winning, starting in 2011, Riggleman could be considered a lame-duck candidate -- especially given GM Mike Rizzo just received a contract extension through 2015. Given Rizzo picked Riggleman both to be interim manager and to remain as permanent skipper, it speaks volumes that the long-time manager does not have more job security.

A strong showing will certainly force Washington's hand in picking up the team option or negotiating an extension, but given nothing has happened to this date, it's clear that management is waiting to evaluate Riggleman's performance on the field.

The Nationals are unlikely to reach .500 this season, even as they talk game about making improvements to the team. A .500 record is a more realistic goal for 2012, but given the pronouncements and optimism of the front office, Riggleman could end up taking the heat if the team plays slightly worse, if not to, talent level.

RodriguezEdwin Rodriguez, Marlins
First full season (second overall)
Marlins record: 46-46
Contract: First and final year of contract

The Marlins wanted Ozzie Guillen, that's no secret.

Edwin Rodriguez ended up being the consolation prize to finish out the season after Fredi Gonzalez's dismissal. But even his 46-46 showing wasn't enough to land him the inside track on being Florida's permanent manager.

Florida certainly tried to find a new manager, but no one -- at least, no one they wanted -- was biting. So Rodriguez became a consolation prize and agreed to a one-year deal with Florida, which positions him for a quick exit should the Marlins fail to start the year with anything less than a .500 record. Owner Jeffrey Loria has always had idiotic expectations (as Joe Girardi and Gonzalez can attest to as well), and the positioning of the Fish as a "sleeper team" will only pressure Rodriguez more to get off to a fast start.

A trigger-happy owner with unrealistic expectations for his team, which searched far and wide before settling on bringing back Rodriguez, who agreed to a one-year deal -- which certainly has to have a low salary attached to it -- is a recipe for landing on the hot seat. In fact, of all the managers listed, Rodriguez is the best bet to be handed his walking papers.

Potential replacements

It's rare for a team to make an outside hire in midseason to pilot a team. Most teams opt to go with interim managers, filling from the bench or third-base coach spots (like Quade) until they can better evaluate at the end of the year. There are exceptions, as Buck Showalter can testify to. To that end, it's tough to predict with any certainty who would fill managerial spots in season. However, Bobby Valentine has been a hot name and given his repeated linking to the Marlins vacancy would have to be the prohibitive favorite to take over Florida should Rodriguez be handed his walking papers.

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Posted on: March 10, 2011 9:57 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Pepper: Rites of spring


By C. Trent Rosecrans

Every spring we get excited and pick winners for every division, count out teams, give a couple of other teams a free ride to the World Series and then sit back and are surprised when it doesn't happen.

The thing is, in baseball and in life, things change quickly and can change drastically.

Since the start of spring training games -- a little less than two weeks -- we've seen the Cardinals and Brewers lose some of their luster in the NL Central and the Phillies go from 110 wins to a struggling offense. We've even seen Carlos Zambrano be the calm, collected, sane member of the Cubs staff.

It's a rite of spring to project and to then react and overreact to anything we see on the field in these four weeks of meaningless games. And even when meaningful games start, there's enough time for injuries to happen, players to return and players to emerge to really know what's going to happen at the end.

And that's the fun of it. We don't know. You never know.

Sure, we can all expect a Red Sox-Phillies World Series, but there's no guarantee that'll happen. But if it does, I guarantee the road there will be completely different than we all imagined. And that's why this game is so great. You just never know, even if you think you know.

FEELING 'HITTERISH': Nationals über-prospect Bryce Harper has been nearly as entertaining off the field as on it, as he coin a new term on Wednesday.

From the Washington Post:

"I feel really confident in myself. There's guys who are going to come after you. I want to hit right now. I'm feeling hitterish. I'm trying to go up there and get some hacks in. I'm not going to be here for a long time. I want to try to go up there and get my hits in."

So, what's the definition of "hitterish" Adam Kilgore asked?

"You wake up in the morning, and you're feeling hitterish, you're going to get a hit that day," Harper said. "That's what it is. If you get a hit every day, you're feeling hitterish, for sure. Wake and rake."

Harper had an RBI single in his only at-bat on Wednesday and is hitting .357 this spring (in 14 at-bats).

BELTRAN BETTER: Carlos Beltran won't play in a Grapefruit League until next week, but he does feel "a lot better" and has not been "shut down." He took batting practice and played catch on Wednesday.

The Mets are looking at Willie Harris and Scott Hairston in right field if Beltran can't go, and are also giving Lucas Duda extra work in right field to prepare him to play there if needed. (New York Daily News)

GARLAND GROUNDED: Dodgers starter Jon Garland is expected to start the season on the disabled list after leaving Wednesday's game with a  strained oblique muscle on his left side. He had an MRI on Wednesday and the team is expected to announce the results today.

The team has already lost starter Vicente Padilla for at least the first month of the season after surgery to repair a nerve below his right elbow.

The injuries mean the once-pitching rich Dodgers are down to four starters, although the team won't need a fifth starter until April 12. John Ely and Tim Redding would likely be candidates if Garland and Padilla are still sidelined. (Los Angeles Times)

GOOD ADVICE: Maybe the Dodgers could get that old guy to take the mound -- the one working with Ted Lilly on Wednesday. That guy was Sandy Koufax.

"He still loves to watch baseball, loves the art of pitching," Lilly told MLB.com. "You know he was great. But he's also smart, he's passionate about pitching, he understands and sees things. Sometimes they are little things.

"I enjoy learning about baseball and talking about it with someone like Sandy Koufax, and I enjoy talking about it with Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland. There are always ways to move forward, even if they are small."

ZOOM GROUNDED: Tigers manager Jim Leyland is planning his bullpen to start the season without Joel Zumaya, who has been sidelined with pain in his surgically repaired right elbow this spring.

"I don't think right now, from within camp or by trade, that you can replace a healthy Joel Zumaya -- and I emphasize a healthy  Joel Zumaya," Leyland told MLB.com. "So you have to just keep looking and try to come up with somebody, mostly from within."

The Tigers did go out and spend a lot of money on a set-up man, Joaquin Benoit, so the path leading up to closer Jose Valverde isn't barren. Ryan Perry is expected to handle seventh-inning duties, which he was expected to shoulder with Zumaya.

SALAZAR IMPROVING: Several Braves players said they feared for the worst after minor league manager Luis Salazar was hit in the face by a foul ball on Wednesday. 

"A ball hit that hard, at that short a distance, can certainly kill somebody if it hits them in the right spot," Chipper Jones told David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "I'm so glad to hear that he's conscious and breathing on his own."

Salazar was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Brian McCann and was airlifted to an Orlando hospital. MLB.com's Mark Bowman reports Salazar suffered multiple facial fractures, but did not suffer any brain damage. He was able to interact with family members later Wednesday night.

D-BACKS COACH BREAKS FOOT: While not nearly as serious as Salazar's injury, the timing does take away several light-hearted remarks I could make, but Diamondbacks third base coach Matt Williams may miss the beginning of the regular season with a broken foot.

Williams took a line drive off the foot while throwing soft toss to his son, Jake, on Monday. He's expected to miss two-to-three weeks. (Arizona Republic)

FIRST AT FIRST: Indians catcher Carlos Santana played his first-ever professional game at first base on Wednesday.

Santana cleanly fielded all nine chances he got at first and also had a double in the Indians' 9-2 loss to the Padres.

The Indians are searching for ways to keep his bat in the lineup and keep the young catcher healthy. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

PILING ON: A New York  storage company is joining in on making jokes about the city's easiest target -- the Mets.

In an ad on the city's subways for Manhattan Mini Storage, it says, "Why leave a city that has six professional sports teams, and also the Mets?" (New York Times)

WHEN HIDEKI MET RICKY: New A's slugger Hideki Matsui has connected with team icon Rickey Henderson, whom Matsui admired growing up in Japan -- and the feeling is mutual. (MLB.com)

HIGH PRAISE: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera says 19-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos is the best pitching prospect he's ever seen.

"I like everything about him," Rivera told ESPNNewYork.com. "The makeup and how he keeps his composure. I notice situations and how you react in situations. Where you make your pitches in tough situations, where you spot your pitchers, he has the ability to do that."

WHITE RETIRES: Former West Virginia and Miami Dolphins quarterback Pat White has retired from baseball.

After White was released by the Dolphins last September, White signed a minor-league contract with the Royals and played in the Fall Instructional League. On Wednesday, the team said White did not report to spring training.

The Dolphins drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft. He was also drafted by the Angels, Reds and Yankees. (Associated Press)

RISING WATER: It's been raining here in Cincinnati, but check out just how much -- this photo from Reds assistant media relations director Jamie Ramsey gives you a big-picture view of just how high the water is on the banks of the Ohio River.

He adds another picture of flood gates set up around Great American Ball Park. (Better Off Red)


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