Posted on: June 24, 2011 10:19 am
The home team is honoring Sparky Anderson this weekend at Comerica Park.
So are the visitors.
The Tigers will finally, belatedly, retire Sparky's No. 11 in a ceremony on Sunday. The Diamondbacks -- the first-place Diamondbacks -- will show that baseball as Sparky taught it still works.
It's ridiculous that the Tigers waited until this year, until Anderson died in November, to do this. It's great, and perfectly fitting, that they chose to do it this weekend, with Kirk Gibson, Alan Trammell and the team that they have tried to craft in Sparky's image in town to see it.
"Sparky meant the world to them," Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said, and anyone who knows Gibson or Trammell just a little bit knows that's 100 percent true. "He was their mentor, and their idol."
In the three years Trammell managed the Tigers, with Gibson at his side as a coach, they tried hard to teach the game as Sparky had taught it to them. For various reasons, mostly a lack of talent on the field, they lost 300 games and were never in first place after April 17.
Now Gibson is in his first full year managing the Diamondbacks, with Trammell at his side as bench coach. And this time, the Diamondbacks are in first place, ahead of the World Series champions, in the final days of June.
This time, with better talent, baseball as Sparky taught it is working the way it worked all those years for Anderson.
"I think Gibby gets the majority of the credit," Hall said. "I'd also give a lot of credit to [new general manager] Kevin Towers, and to the coaching staff. They're all on the same page like I've never seen a coaching staff."
They play baseball the way Gibson teaches it. He teaches baseball the way he learned it from Sparky.
Is there any better way to honor a Hall of Famer?
On to 3 to Watch:
1. When he took over for Mike Hargrove four years ago in Seattle -- after Hargrove stunned everyone by quitting in the middle of a long winning streak -- John McLaren said: "I have always wanted to manager, but not on terms like this." OK, John, how about these terms? The Nationals have won 11 of 12, and Jim Riggleman just stunned everyone by quitting. Oh, and this time, the team is saying you're only the interim manager until they find a new interim manager, maybe by Monday. Have fun, and bring us a win, in Nationals at White Sox, Friday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field.
2. The last time Tim Wakefield pitched in Pittsburgh, Jim Leyland was the Pirates manager. And Barry Bonds was in left field. The Pirates were a playoff team. And Wakefield was pitching for them. He's appeared in 574 major-league games since then, none of them in Pittsburgh. Now he returns, in Red Sox at Pirates, Saturday night (7:05 ET) at PNC Park. As an added bonus, perhaps Red Sox manager Terry Francona will put Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield, for the first time in six years and just the second time in his big-league career.
3. Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said that Gibson has been looking forward to this weekend's series in Detroit, but mostly because he'll get to see his family. But you've got to believe it means something to him to take a first-place team into town, and you know that the Sparky Anderson ceremony, to be held before Diamondbacks at Tigers, Sunday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park, will mean a lot to him. You also know that Gibson's main goal this weekend is to win games. "That's the way they were brought up by Sparky," Towers said.
Posted on: June 24, 2008 7:48 pm
Edited on: June 24, 2008 7:50 pm
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.
"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.
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
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 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 2:01 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2008 5:38 pm
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.