Posted on: June 20, 2011 4:42 pm

Way back in '73 (and '72), McKeon 'had a knack'

We remember Jack McKeon with the 2003 Marlins. We remember him with the '99 Reds. We remember him back in his Trader Jack days with the Padres.

Monday morning, our C. Trent Rosecrans remembered McKeon in his first job as a big-league manager, with the 1973 Royals.

Now let's go back one step further, because Art Stewart remembers Jack McKeon as the Royals' first Triple-A Omaha manager, the guy who made such a good name for himself that there was no question he'd be next-in-line to be the big-league manager.

"He immediately won with the young players we sent him," said Stewart, who has been with the Royals for all 42 years of their existence. "And when players came up from Omaha, they were ready to play in the big leagues. He made sure those guys were major-league ready. When you got a guy from Jack McKeon in Omaha, you knew he could play.

"He just has a knack of getting the best out of players."

Among the players McKeon managed at Omaha: Steve Busby, Buck Martinez, John Wathan and Paul Splittorff.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 20, 2011 3:10 pm

Why Jack McKeon has a chance with Marlins

The Marlins aren't the A's. I won't say this week about Edwin Rodriguez what I wrote 11 days ago about Bob Geren.

But just as I said then, the manager does matter.

And just as Bob Melvin walked into a good situation with the A's, Jack McKeon may be walking into a good situation with the Marlins.

"I don't care how old he is," said one scout who just watched Florida play.

The scout was stunned by how bad the Marlins looked, but mostly stunned by what he saw from Rodriguez in his final week on the job.

"I'm telling you, this guy shouldn't be managing," the scout said. "His body language was just terrible. And the team was just going through the motions."

From all indications, the Marlins players didn't hate Rodriguez, the way the A's players had come to hate Geren. The votes of confidence he received last week, including one from Hanley Ramirez, weren't phony.

But the Marlins did stop playing for him. It's hard to know for sure how much of that is his fault, and how much of it comes from a longstanding problem in Florida. Partly because owner Jeffrey Loria has kept the payroll so depressed, the Marlins never have enough strong veteran voices in the clubhouse to help right the ship when things are going bad.

Look what Scott Rolen means to the Reds. Look at what will happen in St. Louis, where you can be sure that solid veterans like Lance Berkman, Chris Carpenter and Matt Holliday, among others, will remind their teammates that good teams overcome things like the Albert Pujols injury.

You can bet Tony La Russa will remind them of it, too, and you can bet his players will listen.

Managers do matter. And even at 80, Jack McKeon has a chance.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 19, 2011 7:39 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 7:46 pm

3 to Watch: The Miller and Maybin edition

Andrew Miller was supposed to be an ace. Cameron Maybin was supposed to be a star.

When the Marlins got Miller and Maybin in the December 2007 Miguel Cabrera trade, everyone in baseball said they'd done well. Everyone with the Tigers said they had done well.

We all know now that it didn't work out that way. We all know now that Miller still hasn't become an ace, and Maybin still hasn't become a star.

And we all know now that not even a year after they fired the manager who was supposed to benefit from that Miller-Maybin deal, the Marlins now find themselves in search of yet another manager.

Meanwhile, Miller and Maybin find themselves at Fenway Park.

Monday night, Miller will make his first start for the Red Sox, the latest team trying to unlock what still seems like enormous potential. He'll face the Padres, the latest team hoping Maybin's power and speed will translate to baseball wins.

This Padres-Red Sox series would be fascinating regardless, with Adrian Gonzalez going up against the hometown team that traded him away, and Anthony Rizzo facing the team that had to include him in that trade for Gonzalez. And with Dave Roberts, the unsung hero of those 2004 Red Sox, returning to Fenway as a Padres coach.

But we know about Roberts and we know about Gonzalez, and we think we know about Rizzo.

We're still trying to figure out Miller, who is either one of those late-developing tall left-handers or one of those hard throwers who never make it. He's getting his chance now with the Red Sox, because Clay Buchholz is on the disabled list and because the Sox didn't want to lose Miller, who had an opt-out in the contract he signed to go to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Miller was 3-3 with a 2.47 ERA in 13 games for the PawSox, and in his last start he struck out 10 in 5 1/3 innings, while allowing just one run.

We're still trying to figure out Maybin, too. His numbers this year with the Padres (.254/.316/.404) are decent, but by no means great. One thing I do know: When I saw Maybin last month, he was smiling more than he had in the last two years with the Marlins.

Maybin smiled wide when I mentioned a spring training conversation I had with Miller, who said the two have remained close friends.

They've both been through a lot and they've stayed close, communicating mostly by text message.

This week, they'll meet again.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Jack McKeon was 42 years old when he managed his first major-league game, with the 1973 Royals. Now he's 80, and there's a real chance he'll be back in the dugout, as the interim replacement for Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez. If McKeon takes over for Angels at Marlins, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Sun Life Stadium, he'll be trying to keep the Marlins from equaling a team record with an 11th straight loss (they lost 11 straight twice in 1998, the year of the fire sale). It won't be easy, not with Jered Weaver starting for the Angels. Weaver last lost on May 18 (the Marlins were 24-17 back then), and he has a 1.36 ERA in his last five starts.

2. Miller appeared in 58 games over three seasons with the Marlins, going 10-20 with a 5.89 ERA. He lost his last five starts in 2010, with a 12.74 ERA and an incredible 52 baserunners in 17 2/3 innings. It'd be hard to do that against the weak-hitting San Diego team he'll face in Padres at Red Sox, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. Then again, maybe Gonzalez (.481 batting average in his last 12 home games) will tell his old buddies how much fun it is to hit at Fenway.

3. Bob Melvin began this season working for the Mets, then went to work for the Diamondbacks, before going to Oakland to try to rescue the A's. Melvin helped the Diamondbacks over the weekend, when his A's swept the Giants to help Arizona stay close in the National League West. Now Melvin comes to New York to see his other former employers, in A's at Mets, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. The Mets interviewed Melvin when they were looking for a manager last fall, but Terry Collins has given them no reason to regret their choice. They haven't regretted putting Dillon Gee in their rotation, either. Gee (who starts Tuesday) is 7-0, the longest winning streak by a rookie to open a season since Weaver started 9-0 with the 2006 Angels.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 1:31 pm

Marlins job is the best . . . or the worst

In Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison, the Marlins have some of the best young players in baseball. They have a new stadium set to open next year.

They have a talented and creative front office.

Who wouldn't want to manage this team?

In Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins have an eccentric owner who is always convinced his team should be in the playoffs, but rarely convinced that he should pay for it. In David Samson, they have a club president who, to be blunt, is one of the least-liked people in the game. They have a new ballpark coming, yes, but many people who know the South Florida market are convinced it's in the wrong location and will never solve their attendance problems. And they're in the National League East, quickly becoming one of the best -- and maybe one of the biggest-spending -- divisions in baseball.

Who would want to manage this team?

There are times I think the Marlins job is a great one, so great that I could believe Bobby Valentine would want it, so great that I could believe Ozzie Guillen would leave his "second father," White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, for it.

"The next year or two, they will really be heard from," one baseball person familiar with the Marlins said on Sunday, after Edwin Rodriguez resigned as the team's latest manager. "Those young kids just need to be toughened up."

Those young kids are incredibly talented. Johnson, currently on the disabled list, is mentioned every year as a possible Cy Young winner. Scouts can't stop talking about Stanton, who has as much raw power as any player in baseball. And while Ramirez is in the midst of a hugely disappointing season, he's a 27-year-old three-time All-Star who has already won a batting title.

A month ago, when the Marlins were one game out of first place in the NL East, it was easy to believe that they would stay in the race all year. People were asking how Loria would deal with Rodriguez having all this success, when everyone knew the owner really wanted Ozzie Guillen as his manager.

Then came the collapse, which also tells you something about these Marlins players. One Marlins person complained that players spent too much time "pouting" after Loria ordered hitting coach John Mallee fired last week.

Maybe they do need to be toughened up. Maybe the right manager will turn this team into the playoff contender that Loria has always claimed they should be.

But remember the obstacles. Loria is a George Steinbrenner, but without the big spending. The NL East features the great Phillies and the outstanding (and young) Braves, along with the Nationals (Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann and a willingness to spend big) and the Mets (big problems now, but with the New York market to draw on, big potential ahead).

This is either the best job in baseball, or the worst. I'll let you know when I figure out which one it is.

Posted on: June 19, 2011 12:25 pm
Edited on: June 19, 2011 1:14 pm

McKeon may be Marlins' interim answer

Eight years ago, Jack McKeon took over the Marlins at midseason and led them to a championship.

Now the Marlins may turn to McKeon again.

In the wake of the surprise resignation of manager Edwin Rodriguez, the team will seriously consider bringing the 80-year-old McKeon back as an interim manager, a source said Sunday. McKeon still works for the Marlins, who were caught by surprise by the team's sudden collapse, and then by Rodriguez's abrupt decision to resign.

"This was a shock," a Marlins person said Sunday.

The Marlins were 10 games over .500 and just one game out of first place on May 26. Now they're seven games under .500 and 12 1/2 games out of first. They've lost 17 of their last 18 games, including the last nine in a row.

But while there was strong speculation that owner Jeffrey Loria would fire Rodriguez, the team was caught by surprise when Rodriguez made the decision himself before Sunday's game at Tampa Bay. The Marlins then announced that bench coach Brandon Hyde would manage the team Sunday, and that the Marlins would search for an interim replacement.

McKeon, who managed the Marlins through 2005 and then stayed on as a special assistant to Loria, would fill that role.

Having McKeon manage the team now would allow Loria time to chase a high-profile manager to take the Marlins into their new stadium next year. Loria is known to covet White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who obviously isn't available now but could be after the season.

Bobby Valentine has also been a Loria favorite.

McKeon wouldn't be the oldest manager in baseball history. Connie Mack was 87 years old when he last managed the Philadelphia A's, in 1950.

Contacted Sunday by the Miami Herald, McKeon said he hadn't yet talked to anyone about the job.

"I'd have to check with my wife and see what she says," McKeon told the Herald. "But, no question, I could do it."
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 13, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 8:10 pm

Holliday ranks top in big week for returns

Sunday night, after the Giants activated Pablo Sandoval from the disabled list, I asked on Twitter which of the five big-name players coming off the DL this week would have the biggest impact on the pennant race.

One problem: I missed two of them.

There aren't five big-name players that could come off the DL this week. There are seven.

Seven players who have combined for 17 All-Star appearances, six batting titles, one MVP and two runners-up, four Gold Gloves and 15 Silver Sluggers.

And I didn't even include Jason Heyward, who began a rehabilitation assignment with the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett team, and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.

Anyway, I'll ask the question again: Which one will have the biggest impact on the pennant race?

And I'll try to answer it:

1. Matt Holliday, Cardinals, left quadriceps, last played May 31, could return Thursday. When Holliday missed seven early-season games with appendicitis, the Cardinals scored just 18 runs and went 2-5. He's missed the last 11 games, and they've scored 49 runs and gone 5-6. They're a first-place team that scores plenty of runs when he plays, a sub-.500 team that struggles to score when he doesn't. Fortunately for the Cardinals, it looks reasonably certain that this Holliday absence won't last much longer.

2. Travis Hafner, Indians, right oblique, last played May 17, could return late this week. Even with Hafner, the Indians may not be good enough to hold on in the American League Central race. But it's clear that without him, they've got no chance. The numbers are skewed a little by the strong pitching Cleveland has faced since Hafner went out, but it's still stunning to see that they were shut out just once with him in the lineup -- and six times in the 24 games he has missed. The Indians were hitting .271 as a team when Hafner got hurt. They've hit .224 as a team (with a .289 on-base percentage and a .346 slugging percentage) without him. The Indians will go as far as their talented young hitters can take them, but those young hitters are hurting without Hafner's presence in the lineup. Hafner is due to begin a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday at Double-A Akron. The Indians have told him they'd like him to stay there three or four days.

3. Joe Mauer, Twins, bilateral leg weakness, last played April 12, could return Thursday. If the Twins weren't already nine games out, Mauer would top this list. If they were still 20 games under .500, as they were a couple weeks back, he'd be farther down the list. The Twins aren't nearly the same team without Mauer, but his impact on the pennant race is limited by how bad they've been without him -- and by the continuing uncertainty about how effective he'll be when he returns.

4. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, back inflammation, last played May 29, expected to return Tuesday. The Marlins, finishing up a brutal offensive homestand that cost hitting coach John Mallee his job, obviously need a boost. Ramirez, a one-time National League batting champ, could obviously provide it. But will he? Ramirez hit just .210 in 48 games before going on the DL. Even with that, the Marlins were just two games behind the Phillies when Ramirez last played. They're seven games out now, and he'll be back for the start of a four-game series in Philadelphia.
5. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, right ankle weakness, last played May 10, returning Monday night. If he hits .172, as he did before the Tigers put him on the DL, he's the least important guy on this list. If he's a .300 hitter, as he has been for most of his career (including last year), he's as important as anyone, and might be enough to make the Tigers clear favorites in the AL Central.

6. Pablo Sandoval, Giants, fractured hamate bone, last played April 29, will return Tuesday. The way the Giants struggle to score runs, some will make the case that the Panda is as important as anyone. I dropped him down only because the Giants went 25-16 in his absence. Yes, Buster Posey is out of the lineup now, but the Giants are above .500 since he's been out, too.

7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, abdominal surgery, last played April 9, expected to return Tuesday. The Nationals without Zimmerman might be the worst offensive team in the game. The Nationals with Zimmerman could hope to escape last place by passing the Mets. It's hard to say Zimmerman will impact the pennant race, except by making the Nationals a significantly tougher opponent.

Posted on: June 3, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 9:11 pm

Sabean is emotional, but this is time for reason

OK, we get it. The Giants are upset that they lost their young catcher and cleanup hitter.

No one who likes baseball should be happy that Buster Posey got hurt.

And yet the discussion about what to do about plays at the plate is one that is absolutely worth having. Some people say that we wouldn't be talking about it if this were Eli Whiteside instead of Buster Posey, but that's irrelevant, because this is something we should be talking about.

But it's time to talk about it calmly. It's time to get over the emotion of the moment.

That's what Joe Torre needed to remind Giants general manager Brian Sabean, after Sabean's radio tirade Thursday. And that, according to sources, is exactly what Torre was expected to tell Sabean, when they spoke Friday.

After Sabean spoke with Torre, in Torre's new role as baseball's executive vice president, the Giants issued a statement saying that their general manager had spoken out of frustration, and also that Sabean was trying to reach Cousins to speak with him.

The frustration is understandable. And Sabean is an emotional guy. Baseball could use more colorful GMs like him.

But baseball doesn't need GMs issuing veiled threats to players on other teams.

"If I never hear from [Scott] Cousins again, or he doesn't play another day in the big leagues, I think we'll all be happy," Sabean said Thursday on KNBR, the Giants' flagship radio station.

He also said that the Giants will have a "long memory."

Meanwhile, according to Jim Bowden on Twitter, Marlins outfielder Logan Morrison said Friday that Sabean's comments were "ignorant and inappropriate," and "immature and unprofessional," in an appearance on MLB Network Radio.

But it's not just Sabean. Earlier this week, while covering the Giants' series in St. Louis, New York Times writer Tyler Kepner suggested on Twitter that "spending two days around the Giants, I get the strong sense that I would not want to be Scott Cousins the next time those teams play."

Again, we get it. The Giants are upset. But focusing on how angry they are does them -- and us -- no good.

What we do need, over the next few months, is a reasoned discussion of the best way to protect catchers.

A few things to keep in mind:

-- Plays at the plate are totally different from plays at other bases. Tony La Russa compared it to plays at first base, but those are almost always force plays and plays at the plate (especially those involving collisions) almost never are. Others have compared it to plays at second base, but the second baseman or shortstop never stands in between the baserunner and the base.

-- If you want to totally eliminate collisions, you'd also need to totally bar catchers from blocking the plate (or even standing in the baseline in front of the plate). There seems little sentiment for that drastic a change.

-- Yes, Cousins could have avoided the collision. But even with many of the rules changes proposed, there's a real chance he wouldn't have been called out, because Posey was close enough for the plate for the runner to assume that the catcher would be in the way.

-- One reason Posey was hurt was that he put himself in the worst possible position -- on his knees.

-- Teaching catchers to make swipe tags and avoid collisions isn't really a solution, because that's exactly what the Giants taught Posey.

-- The real danger of blocking the plate may not be a horrific ankle injury like Posey's. As we learn more about concussions, you wonder if catchers blocking the plate in the traditional way (and falling backwards and potentially hitting their heads) are in even greater long-term danger.

-- The Giants have run into plenty of catchers themselves, most notably when J.T. Snow did it while making the last out of the 2003 Division Series against the Marlins. Of course, in that case, catcher Pudge Rodriguez had the ball, held onto it, and wasn't hurt.

It's a hugely complex issue. It's a discussion well worth having.

And, as much as possible, it's time to take all the heated emotions out of that discussion.

Posted on: May 29, 2011 8:59 pm
Edited on: May 29, 2011 9:15 pm

3 to Watch: The first-place Diamondbacks edition

Nobody ever remembers who was in first place on Memorial Day, and for good reason.

The last three World Series champions didn't lead their division on Memorial Day. Of the 30 teams that won division titles over the last five years, only 15 were in first place on Memorial Day -- and two of those were only tied for first.

So first place on Memorial Day means nothing?

Well, it's better than first place at the end of April, and we always make a big deal out of that. It's better than first place one week into the season, and we always seem to think that's significant.

In fact, if the Diamondbacks had begun the season 14-2, we'd be calling them the surprise of baseball.

Instead, they've won 14 of their last 16 -- the first team to win 14 of 16 at any point this year -- and they'll reach Monday's Memorial Day meeting with the Marlins as the first-place team in the National League West.

Don't tell them it doesn't mean anything. Before Sunday, the Diamondbacks hadn't held first place since late in the 2008 season.

Don't tell Zach Duke it doesn't mean anything. As outstanding Diamondbacks PR man Shaun Rachau pointed out on Twitter, this is the first time Duke has been on a first-place team at any time after April 10 -- because he spent his first six seasons with the Pirates.

The Pirates have been something of a surprise themselves this year, but they still haven't held first place by themselves for a single day. And they haven't been in first place on Memorial Day since 1991.

A few more facts about the Diamondbacks, and their Kirk Gibson/Kevin Towers-fueled revival:

-- They're 18-9 in May, best in the National League and second only to the Red Sox in the majors.

-- With two games remaining in the month, the D-Backs still have a chance at the third 20-win month in franchise history. And no, neither one came in the 2001 championship season. Arizona went 20-8 in August 1999, and 20-6 in June 2003.

-- According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Duke became just the second pitcher ever to throw seven shutout innings and hit a home run in his first game for a team. The other was Jason Jennings, who threw a complete-game shutout and hit a home run in his big-league debut for the Rockies.

-- We shouldn't forget that Towers built the bullpen that helped the Padres to their surprise 2010 season (although he wasn't there to enjoy it). Now, Towers has rebuilt a Diamondbacks bullpen that was a major-league laughingstock in 2010. Arizona's bullpen ERA is 3.33, which isn't anywhere close to last year's 5.74.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. The Diamondbacks were one of baseball's best teams in May. Anibal Sanchez was one of baseball's best pitchers, with a 3-0 record and 1.53 ERA for the month. So it's fitting matchup for the final day of May, with Sanchez starting for Florida in Marlins at Diamondbacks, Tuesday night (9:40 ET) at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks starter is Ian Kennedy, who is 3-0 with a 2.02 ERA in May.

2. The last time the Rangers saw the Rays, they were facing David Price in Game 5 of the American League Division Series. That night in St. Petersburg, the Rangers had Cliff Lee on their side, and they won. The Rangers will see Price again, in Rangers at Rays, Wednesday afternoon (1:40 ET) at Tropicana Field. No Lee, but Colby Lewis will start for Texas. One thing in the Rangers' favor: Wednesday is June 1, and June was Josh Hamilton's month last year (.454, 9 home runs, 31 RBI).

3. The Pirates haven't been in first place, but they have been significantly better than they were last year -- especially on the road. Last year, they were just the third team in the last 50 years to fail to win 20 games on the road, joining the 1962 and '63 Mets. The Pirates went 17-64, matching the '63 Mets for the worst road record in the 162-game era. The Pirates are 15-13 on the road this year, heading to New York for a series that includes Pirates at Mets, Wednesday night (7:10 ET) at Citi Field. Their starter Wednesday is Kevin Correia, who leads the majors with six road wins. Zach Duke led the 2010 Pirates in road wins, with three.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com