Posted on: June 25, 2008 12:17 am

Who called J.P.?

Cito Gaston looks great.

Relaxed. Happy to be back.

And then there's J.P. Ricciardi. Even on a night when fans were cheering his new manager and his Blue Jays team was pounding the Reds, 14-1, the Jays general manager was trying to put out another fire.

It started Tuesday afternoon. No, it started last week, with Ricciardi's ill-advised critique of Adam Dunn on his Toronto radio show. But it got going again Tuesday afternoon.

Ricciardi, who had been trying for days to apologize to Dunn, said that Dunn had called him (on his cell phone, no less) and that he'd finally delivered the apology. The only problem was that Dunn said he hadn't called.

Could Ricciardi have made up his story about the call? Doubtful, since he had to know that reporters would check with Dunn (who was, after all, in the same stadium).

Could Dunn have made the call and then lied about it? Doubtful, because he seems to want this all to be over with, almost as much as Ricciardi does.

So who made the call? Good question, and one you can bet that J.P. Ricciardi would like an answer to.

Posted on: June 24, 2008 7:48 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2008 7:50 pm

Friends don't let friends ... win games?

Jim Leyland hates managing against his friends, because either you lose or they do. Dusty Baker says the same thing.

"You'd rather manage against adversaries," the Reds manager said today. "It's more fun."

As it turns out, though, there are a whole bunch of friendly matchups around the majors this week. Leyland against Tony La Russa. Baker against Cito Gaston. Bobby Cox against Ned Yost. Cox against Gaston.

Leyland worked for La Russa in Chicago, and worked with him in St. Louis. Yost worked for Cox in Atlanta. Gaston played with Cox, played for him and then coached under him in Toronto. Gaston and Baker were teammates when Baker broke into pro ball in Austin, Texas, in 1967.

"My first game was in Little Rock, and I dropped a fly ball," Baker said. "I cried, and I said I was going home. Cito said, "Don't worry, kid, I'll take care of you. . . . He helped raise me in the game."

So how does Gaston feel about facing both Baker and Cox in his first week back on the job? He doesn't mind it. He has no problem facing his friends.

"I've always felt that if someone's going to lose, let them lose," he said.


Tonight's A.J. Burnett-Bronson Arroyo matchup didn't attract any special-assignment scouts to the Rogers Center, something of a surprise since both starters are candidates to get traded.

While the Jays are willing to move Burnett, they're said to be setting their sights high, looking for an established outfielder (preferably left-handed hitting) in return.

As for Arroyo, it's just as well for him and for the Reds that no scouts were here. He didn't record an out in the second inning and left trailing, 9-1, after the shortest start of his career.


Atlanta advance scout Bobby Wine was at the game, because the Braves play the Blue Jays this weekend. Wine was just happy to be somewhere where a manager isn't about to be fired.

"I was in New York the weekend before Willie (Randolph) got fired," Wine said. "Then I was in Seattle for (John) McLaren's last game. Then I was in Milwaukee for (John) Gibbons' last game (with Toronto). Holy cow, I'm like a black cat."


You've seen the numbers that show the American League is once again dominating the National League in interleague play. The difference between the two leagues isn't lost on the players.

"We know what we're capable of doing against the National League teams," Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels said, after the Phils lost five straight to the Red Sox and Angels.

Did he mean that the Red Sox and Angels are better than any NL teams?

"Hands down," Hamels said. "They're a lot better than the NL teams. Even playing in an NL park."

Posted on: June 20, 2008 7:56 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2008 9:12 pm

Gillick on Cito, and other happenings

Pat Gillick, who won two World Series in Toronto with Cito Gaston as his manager, said he wouldn't be surprised to see Gaston succeed in his second go-round with the Blue Jays.

"I think he can," said Gillick, now the Phillies general manager. "But it depends on what kind of players he's got."

Gillick said he agrees with the idea that Cito was the right manager for the players Toronto had in the early 1990s.

"Absolutely," he said. "Cito did a great job. He had a tremendous rapport with the players. He's certainly a players' manager. People think it's pretty easy, but sometimes it's easier to screw up a good club than to keep them where they should be."


Of the three teams that fired managers this week, you might have noticed that the Mariners were the only one that also fired their general manager.

There are those in baseball who believe that Bill Bavasi lost his job as Seattle GM because he wouldn't fire John McLaren himself. And there are just as many who believe that J.P. Ricciardi in Toronto and Omar Minaya with the Mets are in serious danger, if not now than at least at the end of the season.

Asked how Ricciardi could fire John Gibbons, his longtime friend, one veteran baseball man responded: "You don't worry about friends when your own job's on the line."


That's three managerial firings in four days, with Willie Randolph early Tuesday morning, McLaren on Thursday and Gibbons today.

Tough time to be a manager?

"It's the nature of the game for anyone in this position," said the Angels' Mike Scioscia. "The only job security is performance."

Scioscia's job security, of course, ranks near the top of the list. But then, so does his performance.

"Those guys (who got fired) are terrific baseball men," Scioscia said. "But everybody's going to look at your report card and ask, are you getting the most out of your players?"


Kudos to classy Angels center fielder Torii Hunter, who accepted full responsibility today when reporters asked him about his baserunning blunder Wednesday night. Hunter lost track of how many outs there were, and started jogging back to the dugout thinking the inning was over.

"It was the worst feeling in baseball," he said. "I've talked trash and pulled young guys over when they've done something like that. I was like an ostrich, with my head in the sand. It won't happen again. Trust me. You won't have to write that story again."

Incidentally, Hunter said getting away from the Metrodome's artificial turf has made a huge difference in how he feels this year.

"God knew what he was doing when he made grass -- it's healthier," Hunter said. "It's like organic food vs. antibiotic food. Organic's good for you."


The Yankees are understandably happy with how Joba Chamberlain's move to the starting rotation has worked out, but it remains to be seen whether Chamberlain will be efficient enough with his pitches to work deep into the game against the better lineups in the American League. He needed 100 pitches to finish 5 2/3 innings Thursday against the weak-hitting Padres, and he's averaging nearly 18 pitches an inning in his four starts.

"Some days, 100 pitches might get you eight innings," Yankee manager Joe Girardi said hopefully. "Some days it might get you six or five. The key is that you shut down the other team."

That's true enough, but some are calling Joba the ace the Yankees need in Chien-Ming Wang's absence. You'd like an ace to get you into the late innings regularly, and it could be tough for Joba to do that right now (especially since the Yankees will be understandably cautious with his pitch counts).

Posted on: June 20, 2008 3:06 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2008 3:08 pm

Cito returns

Cito Gaston was the perfect manager for the Blue Jays of the early 1990s, and he never received enough credit for winning back-to-back World Series. He should have gotten another job after the Jays fired him with five games left in the 1997 season.

Now he has. Or rather, now he's gotten his old job back.

And now I can't help but think it's not going to work out.

These aren't the Jays of the early 1990s, a team that was ready to win and needed a manager who would take away the pressure and just let great players play. Gaston was criticized because he didn't make many moves, but with the team he had then, that was his strength. The players knew what to expect, and they went out and performed.

This team is different. There's no Joe Carter, no Roberto Alomar. The Jays can wear those old-time uniforms every day, rather than just on home Fridays, but it's just not going to be the same.

Just as with Willie Randolph and John McLaren, the first two victims in this bloody week for big-league managers, it's hard to make the case that John Gibbons should have kept his job. I never bought the Jays as a threat to win the American League East (not with that lineup), but with a 35-39 record and 13 losses in the last 17 games, they're underachieving.

It's hardly a shock that they made a change, and it won't be a shock if general manager J.P. Ricciardi follows Gibbons out the door (especially after the mess he made with his Adam Dunn comments this week).

No, the question is whether Cito Gaston is as right for the Blue Jays now as he was almost two decades ago.

It's hard to believe he is.

There have been rumblings that general manager J.P. Ricciardi is in trouble

Posted on: June 19, 2008 2:30 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2008 2:44 pm

Answering White Sox fans

White Sox fans are sensitive, and never more so than when their team is about to play the Cubs on back-to-back weekends. So sure enough, I heard from plenty of those fans when I wrote that they'd rather see their team sweep the Cubs twice than make it to the playoffs.

From RedHeadPaleHoser: "Do me a favor; unless you ACTUALLY get a quote from a Sox fan saying we'd prefer a sweep of the Cubs over a playoff berth, don't write it. Don't post it. Don't theorize it."

From Mark: "Your line about Sox fans prefering a sweep to making the playoffs is preposterous. I don't believe that for a second."

From Charles: WHO SAYS THAT? Is that a quote from an actual fan? Can you provide the name of whomever you interviewed for this piece? I don't know ANY White Sox fan who would rather see a lousy six wins against the Cubs over another chance at a World Series championship."

Yes, Charles, I'll tell you exactly who I interviewed. It was Paul Konerko, and here's exactly what he told me: "I've seen polls where our fans would rather sweep them in both series than make the playoffs. That shows you how much our fans care about it."

So there. Still got a problem?

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 19, 2008 2:01 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2008 5:38 pm

What next for the M's?

First the general manager. Now the manager.

It's been quite a week in Seattle, hasn't it?

The Mariners aren't as big a soap opera as the Mets, but they might be an even bigger mess. One scout who just watched them play said the only way to get things turned around would be to trade Ichiro. Don't expect that to happen.

Already Bill Bavasi is the ex-GM, and John McLaren is the ex-manager (replaced today by Jim Riggleman). What's clear now is that almost anyone else wearing a Seattle uniform could be gone, too. Erik Bedard, Carlos Silva (if anyone will take his salary), maybe Miguel Batista, maybe even J.J. Putz (if he can prove that he's healthy). They can't trade Richie Sexson, but they could release him.

Interim GM Lee Pelekoudas explained today's firing of manager John McLaren by saying the M's "owe it to ourselves and our fans to do everything we can to win as many games as possible."

No they don't. They're 17 1/2 games out. They're not coming back. They need to tear apart this team so they can start all over.

Posted on: June 17, 2008 8:29 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2008 9:32 am

Hamels: 'I don't agree with the AL'

Another American League pitcher fell victim to National League rules today, when the Red Sox put Bartolo Colon on the disabled list with a back injury suffered while swinging and missing on Monday night. At least Colon isn't as important to the Sox as Chien-Ming Wang is to the Yankees. In fact, the Red Sox were simply able to put Daisuke Matsuzaka into Colon's spot in the rotation.

But there's another side to this whole DH/no DH question, and Phillies left-hander Cole Hamels expressed it.

"I don't agree with the American League," he said. "I don't want to be in the American League. I don't want to face a No. 9 hitter making $8 million."

When Hamels beat the Red Sox Monday, he twice escaped trouble by striking out Colon with two on and two out.

It doesn't hurt that Hamels is a good hitter himself, with a .316 average this season (although he's a more pitcher-like .176 for his career).

A few other Tuesday thoughts:

Did you notice that the Tigers' Marcus Thames has homered in five straight games, with six home runs total in that span? Well, Red Sox first baseman Sean Casey noticed. "I think if you give that guy 500-some at-bats, he'd have a shot to hit 40," said Casey, Thames' ex-teammate with the Tigers. "He's in the top five as far as the longest balls hit by guys I've played with. I'm a big fan of his."

The Mariners have a lot of work to do in the next month, but scouts from opposing teams say they should be able to start the rebuilding process by trading away pitchers Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard. The pitching market should be interesting to watch in July, with quite a few teams looking but also quite a few decents arms available (C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Paul Byrd, among others).

While several other American League teams bemoan their lack of speed (White Sox, Indians, Tigers, to name three), the Red Sox are seeing the impact of AL steals leader Jacoby Ellsbury. "He's brought a brand of baseball that we're not accustomed to," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "We talk about preparing for the Angels, Tampa Bay and Minnesota, teams that run and put pressure on you. Now other teams are having to prepare that way for us. We've always been good, but we've been big and slow. We went through periods where we didn't hit, and we looked big and slow."


Posted on: June 17, 2008 9:21 am

What a Mets mess

It was time for the Mets to finally make their decision on Willie Randolph -- but not like this.

It had reached the point where the Mets really couldn't avoid firing Willie Randolph -- but not like this.

You wondered how the Willie saga could get worse. Well, it got worse, and now this is Omar Minaya's legacy with the Mets.

When Minaya himself gets fired -- and doesn't that seem all the more inevitable now? -- the secretive cross-country flight and post-midnight massacre will be the way he's remembered. The Mets GM made a move he was totally justified in making, and yet he did it in a way that made him look indecisive and undignified at the same time.

Minaya has to be fearing for his own job, and not just because the Mariners reminded us Monday that general managers also take the blame when overpaid teams underachieve. Mets ownership can't be happy with the way their team is being ripped this morning.

Is ownership at fault, too? Of course, but that doesn't matter. Owners don't get fired.

Managers do, especially managers who watch their team blow a seven-game lead with 17 games to play. The Mets could have fired Randolph on that evidence alone, and a baseball man who knows MInaya well told me that the GM wanted to do exactly that. The owners, who had just given Randolph a contract extension, apparently said no.

Too bad they did, for all involved. The Mets could have avoided the mess they made over the last couple of weeks.

And it is a mess, a bigger mess today than it was yesterday. And that hardly seems possible.

Category: MLB
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