December 13, 2013
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Thursday, July 25, 2013
Around this time last year, I wrote on THT Live observing that no manager had been fired through roughly 100 games of the season, and that this was a pretty uncommon event. On the other hand, my writing about this phenomenon turns out to be a pretty common event, because it is happening again this year.
Despite one close call with Don Mattingly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, no manager has yet gotten the boot in 2013. His team having risen from worst to first in the NL West, Donnie Baseball now looks pretty safe. There have been rumbles here and there about a couple other managers, but no hot-seat watch like there was with Mattingly. And there might not be any this season.
That's not guaranteed, of course. I ventured in my original article that we'd get through the 62 remaining games of 2012 without a mid-season canning, but we got two: Brad Mills of the Astros, and Manny Acta of the Indians, just six games shy of season's end.
Before I go farther down that road, let me update and extend my previous table of firings by 100 games, extending by a few years and adding a line for all in-season firings.
Year '13 '12 '11 '10 '09 '08 '07 '06 '05 '04 '03 '02 '01 '00 '99 Firings by 100G 0 0 3 4 3 3 3 0 1# 2 1 7 4 0 0 Firings by 161G ? 2 4 5* 4 4 4 0 3# 4 2 7 5 0 3
* Excludes the resignation of Lou Piniella from the Chicago Cubs.
# Excludes the resignation of Tony Pena from the Kansas City Royals.
Given my swing and a miss last year, it would be wise for me to refrain from making any predictions about what will happen this year. But where's the fun in a measured, conservative analysis? Well, maybe I can split the difference.
For maybe half the managers in the league, one can make at least a sketchy case for his in-season firing without invoking some bizarre PR meltdown. I'll take a quick look at most of them, breaking them down into several categories.
Teams making big acquisitions that didn't pan out: This category includes John Gibbons of the Blue Jays, Ned Yost of the Royals, and Mike Scioscia of the Angels. Yost is probably most vulnerable of the three. Royals GM Dayton Moore made an off-season "playoffs or bust" trade, getting James Shields and Wade Davis for, primarily, Wil Myers. KC has improved this year, but not much and not enough. (And they really wish they had Myers around to fill the space of the released Jeff Francoeur.) Moore might well drop the axe, to avoid the one aimed at his own neck.
The general underachievers: Under this heading I would count Robin Ventura of the White Sox, Ron Roenicke of the Brewers, and Terry Collins of the Mets. The Pale Hose collapse this year could definitely imperil Ventura, favorite son of Chicago or not. Three solid years of losing can't be raising Collins' stock, whatever the woes of the franchise owners, but it's not like the Mets were expected to win. As for Roenicke, firing him on the heels of the Ryan Braun suspension would be a rabbit punch to a reeling fanbase. Not impossible, but really cold if they do it.
Too little, too late?: Ron Gardenhire of the Twins, Dale Sveum of the Cubs, and maybe Eric Wedge of the Mariners fit here. Their teams are looking up this year, while still looking up at .500. Gardenhire has division titles in six of his 12 seasons, probably enough to buffer him. Sveum has Theo Epstein the Miracle Worker behind him, who can't be too disappointed with an escape from the cellar this year.
Wedge is suddenly a special case. After the mild stroke Wedge suffered on Wednesday, Jack Zduriencik would be a cad to fire him this season. The worst I can imagine happening is a mutually-agreed retirement at year's end, if Wedge's medical condition is worse than it currently appears. Get well and stay well, Eric.
The anchor men: Bo Porter of the Astros and Mike Redmond of the Marlins. Porter is safe. The Astros front office expected and accepts the terrible year they're having, and no blame will accrue to the rookie manager. Redmond isn't as safe, because while the Astros have a management with a plan, the Marlins have Jeffrey Loria. If any owner could turn into George Steinbrenner Redux, it's Loria. Then again, he waited one full season to fire Ozzie Guillen. Redmond should survive, and may wish he hadn't.
How the mighty have fallen: Dave Johnson of the Nationals and Joe Girardi of the Yankees stand under this Sword of Damocles. Johnson has less excuse for his team's drop, but he announced before the season that this would be his last campaign helming Washington. There's no point to firing him other than spite, and it won't happen. Canning hitting coach Rick Eckstein earlier this week will have to suffice. (Good thing you saved Stephen Strasburg for this season, right, guys?)
As for Girardi, remember in early May the boom behind him for Manager of the Year? A few months of DL therapy cured that. There was also more recent talk of the Steinbrenner brothers extending Girardi's contract, which expires this year, but that has also faded as the Yankees have faded. Girardi's on the last year of his deal, so his situation resembles Johnson's. Scapegoating him in-season with all his team's injuries would look awful: quietly waving good-bye at year's end is much more likely.
The least of the
That is as close as I will get to making predictions about this year. But there is next year to tempt me also. Does two years of no firings through 100 mean we have entered an era of managerial peace, where skippers know they'll have a few months to prove themselves without having to worry about a quick sacking?
I'm not ready to say that. We had two such years in 1999 and 2000, and the years right after that were almost a shooting gallery for managers. Nothing's proven yet—but if it happens for a third straight year, then I'll venture to say that we have a pattern.
So if you see another article like this, same time next year, you know at least some of what I'll be saying.
Rays 5, Red Sox 1: David Price tossed a one-run, five hit complete game, with a solo homer by Mike Napoli the only real blemish. He needed a mere 97 pitches. That's what happens when you throw 72 strikes. The Sox and Rays are once again tied in the loss column.
Dodgers 8, Blue Jays 3: For the second day in a row a team scores a boatload of runs in the 10th inning. We should probably come up with a name for that. I'm sure the Germans have a name for it with multiple syllables already because they're so good at that. I'm thinking the word "shambles" has to be in it. Like "Exrasshambles" or something. Anyway, the Dodgers are apparently indestructible these days.
Pirates 4, Nationals 2: The "Kill the Win" alarm was buzzing loudly at Brian Kenny's house last night as Stephen Strasburg pitched eight two-hit innings with 12 strikeouts and took the loss. That's what happens, though, when one of those hits you allow is a solo homer and your opponent -- Francisco Liranio -- throws shutout ball into the eighth. Drew Storen has been a hot mess for the Nats all year. The Nats haven't won a game since the break and, my picking them as a team that could make a move in the second half notwithstanding, are now nine freakin' games back.
Athletics 4, Astros 3: The A's take their 11th of 12 games so far this year against Houston, this on a come from behind job powered by a Coco Crisp two-run homer. Someone asked Crisp after the game if the A's offense relies too much on homers. The idea that a team hits too many homers always makes me chuckle. It's like asking someone if they're too rich or too thin.
Braves 8, Mets 2: A win, yes, but an awful loss in the form of Tim Hudson's freak fractured ankle that will put him out for the season. Don't seek out the video of this one, folks. It's Tim Krumrie stuff.
Angels 1, Twins 0: Jered Weaver: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 9K. Pretty much says it all.
Brewers 3, Padres 1: Kyle Lohse with a strong outing. He's quietly been pretty great for the Brewers lately, going 6-1 with a 2.51 ERA over his past 11 starts. The Brewers should probably try to flip him.
Indians 10, Mariners 1: Down goes the Mariners win streak. Scott Kazmir threw one-hit ball for eight innings, allowing nothin' but an unearned run. Michael Bourn hit a grand slam. Asdrubal Cabrera homered and drove in three. Eleven runs scored in this game and it lasted a mere six minutes more than the 1-0 Angels-Twins game.
Cardinals 11, Phillies 3: Another day Ruben Amaro is reported to still be a buyer at the deadline, another day the Phillies get thumped. Sixteen hits for the Cardinals.
Rockies 2, Marlins 1: Yet another nice pitching performance last night. This one from Jorge De La Rosa, who pitched six scoreless. Colorado can force a 2-2 tie in what I like to think of as the 1993 Expansion Series if they win today.
Cubs 7, Diamondbacks 6: Chicago had a 6-0 lead, blew it, but then Nate Schierholtz -- who had five RBI overall -- drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th. Basically any team could've had Schierholtz before the season began. No one wanted him but the Cubs. He's hitting .277/.334/.521. How's your team's right fielder doin'?
Rangers 3, Yankees 1: Matt Garza makes his Texas debut and allowed only one unearned run in seven and a third. Homers from A.J. Pierzynski and David Murphy.
Reds 8, Giants 3: Mike Leake somehow survived six innings of one-run ball despite allowing 12 hits. He also went 3 for 4 and scored a run. Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco each drove in two. The Reds finish their season series with the Giants having taken six of seven. I suppose that doesn't totally make up for last year's playoffs, but it's something.
Tigers 6, White Sox 2: Anibal Sanchez joins the parade of great starting pitching performances last night, tossing six scoreless. Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter homered.
Royals 4, Orioles 3: Two homers for Eric Hosmer. More like Eric Homer, amirite? God, I don't know why I keep doing that. More coffee please. Good morning everyone.
5,000 days ago, a big trade happened in the National League— the Rockies sent struggling starting pitcher Darryl Kile to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Kile had first emerged as a pitcher with the 1990s Houston Astros. With a big curveball in his arsenal, Kile made the All-Star team in 1993 when he was just 24 years old. He remained a quality pitcher, winning 19 games behind a nice 2.57 ERA for the 1997 Houston squad.
Due to his performance, the Rockies figured Kile would be the perfect pitcher to brave their high altitude environment. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s almost impossible to understand what they were thinking. Kile’s bread and butter was his curveball. Breaking pitches flatten out in the thin Denver air. He was the worst possible pitcher for them to invest in.
It didn’t take too long for Kile to become the great cautionary tale of how breaking pitches break down in Denver. In 1998, he led the NL in losses with 17, thanks in part to a high 5.20 ERA. That isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. If you adjust for Colorado’s crazy run environment, Kile’s ERA was actually league average, with poor run support resulting in his loss total. True, but he’d been far better than average just the year before. Average was quite a step down. He needed his curveball back.
Things got worse the next year for Kile. He won just eight of his 32 starts, with his ERA ballooning up to 6.61. Denver or no Denver, that’s just bad. Even more disturbing was his collapsing walk and strikeout numbers. In his last year in Houston, he walked 97 batters in 255.2 innings while fanning 205. Just two years later, even though his innings pitched total had declined to 190.2, his walks had leapt to 109, while his Ks cratered to 116. Folks, this was a pitcher who had lost all confidence and was now constantly nibbling at the edges. That caused the drastic shifts in his bases on balls and strikeouts—and these changes occurred at home and on the road. Once he lost confidence, Kile lost confidence at all elevations.
Which leads us to Nov. 16, 1999—5,000 days ago—when the Rockies cut their losses and unloaded him. They traded him with Dave Veres and Luther Hackman to St. Louis in exchange for four players, the only one of note Jose Jimenez.
Though Jimenez had a few decent seasons as Colorado’s closer, the Cardinals got the better end of this deal. Immediately upon arrival in St. Louis, Kile got to re-experience the wonder and glory of a curveball that actually curved. He won 20 games for the 2000 Cardinals, and followed that up with 16 more in 2001.
Tragically, Kile died during the 2002 season due to an unknown heart ailment, but at least he’d been able to regain his game by then—and the trade 5,000 days ago allowed him to do that.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversaries and “day-versaries” (which are things that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better items in bold if you’d rather just skim.
Click for more...
I’ve been in Cooperstown since 1995 and have seen a variety of turnouts for Hall of Fame Weekend, including a throng of 50,000 for Mike Schmidt and Richie Ashburn and the record turnout of 80,000 for the 2007 induction of Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn. In stark contrast, this year’s turnout will undoubtedly be the lowest of that span; I would expect fewer than 5,000 for the induction of three deceased greats, longtime umpire Hank O’Day, Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert, and 19th century catcher Deacon White.
Without any live headliners, attendance figures to lag for the upcoming Hall of Fame Weekend, which runs through Sunday. That might dampen the enthusiasm of some, but not this observer. I still love Hall of Fame Weekend. Even though there are only 36 Hall of Famers coming back this year (a drop-off from the 44 who attended last year’s Barry Larkin/Ron Santo induction), there is still significant headlining talent, with Hank Aaron and Rickey Henderson on the docket and Cal Ripken, Jr. scheduled to make his first appearance since his 2007 induction. Ripken will be reading from Lou Gehrig’s plaque, as Gehrig and several Hall of Fame inductees from the 1940s (who never actually had induction ceremonies) will be officially honored on Sunday.
There have been some last-minute cancellations. Luis Aparicio, Tom Seaver, and Doug Harvey, all expected to attend as of last week, have had to cancel their visits to town. Additionally, the Hall of Fame lost two of its longtime members over the winter, as Stan Musial and Earl Weaver died within hours of each other in mid-January.
While the number of Hall of Famers coming to the village has dwindled, a few non-Hall of Famers will be putting in Cooperstown appearances, including Ralph Branca, Pete Rose, and Rusty Staub. If you’re a fan of the 1969 Mets, you’ll also have a chance to see the battery of Jerry Grote and Jerry Koosman (both pictured here), who will be appearing at the same location.
From the ranks of the broadcast media, Bob Costas, Greg Amsinger, and Peter Gammons, all representing the MLB Network, will be in town; Amsinger and Gammons will co-anchor the Sunday induction. Plus, women’s softball star Jennie Finch will be making the trek. So there are still plenty of celebrities who can be seen without having to deal with the long lines and overcrowded scenes that sometimes plague HOF weekend in busy years.
For many fans, the opportunity to meet players and purchase autographs is the number one priority of the weekend. There will plenty of chances, with multiple signings taking place at a number of venues on Main Street and Pioneer street. Here’s a rundown of which players will be signing where during the weekend:
CVS Pharmacy (Main Street)
Barry Larkin (private signing)
Paterno Brothers (Main Street)
Safe At Home (Main Street)
Tunnicliff Inn (Pioneer Street)
*denotes non-Hall of Famer
One of the highlights of the weekend remains the Awards Presentation, scheduled to begin on Saturday at 4:30 pm at Doubleday Field. The awards program, now in its third year of existence, has become a popular and emotional event that honors the winners of the Spink and Frick awards. The late broadcaster, Tom Cheek, and veteran writer Paul Hagen will be honored this year. In addition, the Hall will also salute Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the procedure now known as Tommy John surgery. John himself, a 288-game winner over 26 seasons, will also attend the awards presentation.
A personal favorite of mine, the Parade of Legends, will take place on Saturday night after the Awards presentation. The parade begins at 6 pm near the Cooperstown Fire Department and proceeds down Main Street, culminating with the Hall of Famers stepping out of their open-air cars and making their way into the museum for a private party. The parade is one of the best and most spontaneous events of the weekend, so if you’re in town, don’t miss it.
Here is a tip for getting the best vantage point. Since large crowds tend to gather right in front of the museum, where the Hall of Famers step off their cars, you might want to put yourself one block away at the corner of Main and Pioneer streets, in the vicinity of Pioneer Park. (The park features a Chamber of Commerce information booth.) From there, you’re likely to have a much better chance of an unimpeded view of the Hall of Famers.
And that brings us to Sunday, the final day of the weekend. Free and open to the public, the induction ceremony will begin at 1:30 at the Clark Sports Center. (The forecast calls for a 50 per cent chance of scattered thunderstorms, with temperatures in the mid-1970s.) After the ceremony, diehard fans of the game will gather at Tillapaugh’s Funeral Home for the annual meeting of the Society for American Baseball Research. The SABR meeting will start early this year, commencing at 5:00 pm.
So if you’re a fan of baseball, and particularly a fan of the game’s history, there is truly something for you. We’ll do our best to keep you posted throughout the weekend. While others will be talking about steroids, we in Cooperstown will be celebrating the legends of Our Great Game.