- The hotseat is almost empty:
I’m an advocate of using power and weapons when they’re available, otherwise what’s the point?
This isn’t a capricious suggestion to bully or abuse those that are weaker, but a logical and organized strategy to achieve one’s ends. It only makes sense to make use of everything available to succeed.
That said, the managerial hotseat—a look at baseball bosses in uniforms and suits—who might be in trouble is always fodder for an interesting bit of speculation.
But what happens when there’s a bloodletting in a prior year? When a spate of managers and executives who were accurately judged to have been on notice that their jobs were in jeopardy and have been replaced or survived?
Obviously, the new people taking over aren’t going to be fired unless they commit some heinous act off the field or they’re presiding over a disaster. We’ve seen this twice in recent weeks as the University of Pittsburgh fired their newly hired head football coach Mike Haywood after a domestic violence arrest—Sporting News Story; and the New Jersey Devils fired their first year head coach John MacLean after an atrocious start for a consistently successful franchise—NBC Sports.
If you look at the usual suspects or teams that had issues a year ago, all have been resolved. The Mets, Cubs, Orioles, Yankees, Royals, Reds and others have settled their situations with contract extensions or new hires. The Rangers aren’t firing Ron Washington the year after he won the pennant; the Diamondbacks new GM Kevin Towers kept Kirk Gibson, so presumably, he’s safe. Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are both in the final years of their contracts, so if things go badly for the free-spending Tigers, I suppose there could be changes made, but owner Mike Ilich is very loyal and doesn’t fire people for the sake of it; if a change is made, it wouldn’t be until the end of the season and I doubt it’s going to happen anyway because the Tigers are going to be good.
That said, there are a few baseball people starting the season in trouble or could be in trouble if circumstances are right (or, for them, wrong).
Could there be certain people in jeopardy? Maybe?
Ozzie Guillen, MGR—Chicago White Sox
“What you see here, what you say here, what you hear here, let it stay here when you leave here.”
For time immemorial, this has been a mantra amongst team personnel. Some even have signs up in the clubhouse/locker room to hammer home the point in some similarly phrased context that essentially means, “keep your mouth shut”.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen’s son Oney either hasn’t gotten the memo or doesn’t care.
Judging from this ESPN Story regarding Oney’s Twitter revelations about Bobby Jenks and GM Ken Williams‘s response, Ozzie has to pull the reins on his son if he wants to have any kind of relationship with his boss; if he’d like to remain as the White Sox manager past this season…or even last the season if the team underachieves.
Ozzie can claim that he doesn’t have control over anything Oney does, but this is about the Ozzie’s job; it’s about the clubhouse and that which should not be out in the public sphere.
This is the responsibility of Ozzie Guillen and it’s undermining his job in a myriad of ways. There’s been controversy and conflict with the White Sox since Ozzie took over—they seem to cultivate it—but this is different.
I’ve wondered about Ozzie’s job security before but the club has never appeared to come close to pulling the trigger. This past winter, they were willing to let him leave to take over the Marlins if the two clubs could come to an agreement on compensation. His contract is up at the end of the year with an option for 2012. Ozzie’s a fine manager and an interesting guy; I fully expect him to be managing the White Sox for this season and in the future, but eventually it’s going to get to a point where enough’s enough.
He needs to tell his son to control his keyboard.
Jack Zduriencik, GM—Seattle Mariners
Ah, the fleeting nature of “genius”.
A year ago, Zduriencik was the toast of baseball having “turned around” the Mariners from the 100-loss, dysfunctional nightmare they were in the final year of Bill Bavasi as GM; he and manager Don Wakamatsu led the Mariners—through pitching, defense, aggressiveness and stat zombieing—to a surprising 85 wins in 2009.
The reality though wasn’t as simple as competent management coming in and straightening out the mess. The 2008 Mariners weren’t 100-loss bad—injuries sabotaged them. Were they as good as some (myself included) suggested they’d be? Good to the point of contention? No. Were they a team that would’ve been that bad had they been healthy and gotten expected performances from the likes of Carlos Silva and Erik Bedard? No chance.
On the same token, the Mariners would’ve had to have everything work as well in 2010 as it did in 2009 for them to achieve the heights that were implied from the “genius” of GM Jack Zduriencik.
Cliff Lee‘s acquisition and Felix Hernandez‘s Cy Young Award-winning year didn’t help what might have been the worst offense I’ve ever seen in all my years of watching baseball. To make matters worse, there were the off-field controversies to make the team look like a zoo.
Ken Griffey Jr‘s alleged mid-game nap; Chone Figgins‘s confrontation with manager Wakamatsu; the way Zduriencik appeared to double-cross the Yankees to extract more from the Rangers in trading Lee; the acquisition of the criminally charged Josh Lueke; and the firing of Wakamatsu was an unfair sacrifice for Zduriencik’s own failures have all contributed to the declining reputation.
He was retained, but I have to believe that the Mariners front office seriously considered making a change. A good manager who won’t put up with garbage was hired in Eric Wedge, but the team isn’t good and unless they behave themselves and, at the very least, play competently, Zduriencik will be in trouble sooner rather than later.
Don Mattingly, MGR—Los Angeles Dodgers; Edwin Rodriguez, MGR—Florida Marlins
I think of one thing when I look at the first year manager Mattingly and the 1-year contract of Rodriguez—Tony Perez.
Tony Perez was hired to manager the Cincinnati Reds by GM Jim Bowden in 1993; the team was floundering after high expectations and, after a 20-24 start, Bowden fired the inexperienced Perez and replaced him with Davey Johnson. Bowden suggested he wasn’t happy with the moves Perez was making, but there were also allegations that Perez was only hired for his Reds ties and to take the heat off of owner Marge Schott after her racially-offensive statements were revealed.
Regardless, Perez was treated shabbily.
With Mattingly and Rodriguez, could something similar happen if their teams’ seasons are going down the tubes?
Mattingly has no managerial experience and a good, veteran Dodgers team. I think he’ll do well given his baseball intelligence, affability and that the veteran players won’t want to let Donnie Baseball down. But a bad start in a tough division exacerbated by managerial gaffes? Who knows? There’s always a “quick-fix” veteran type manager like Jim Fregosi floating around who’d love a short-term job with veterans the type which the Dodgers have; and don’t even dismiss Joe Torre coming back if he’s told Donnie’s gone whether he takes the job or not.
With Rodriguez, there was an air of “oh, whatever, let’s just keep the guy we’ve got and see what happens”. The Marlins again flirted with Bobby Valentine; they openly tried to get Ozzie Guillen; Rodriguez did a good job after taking over for Fredi Gonzalez last year and is getting his shot, but the Marlins have a couple of factors that might make a quick move possible: they have talent, high expectations and a petulant owner who makes rapid-fire, emotional decisions.
If the Marlins are 17-23 after 40 games don’t—do…..not—be surprised to see Bobby Valentine managing that team in June.
I’m saying it now.
Joe writes RE Daisuke Matsuzaka:
Yes, Dice-K is not the best #5 ever. But being “disappointing” and being “bad” are different. He is still a decent pitcher. And certainly an above-average #5 in this day and age.
He’s not a decent pitcher and I suspect you wouldn’t say he was if he were wearing a uniform other than that of the Red Sox. For every great start he provides in which he throws 8 no-hit innings, he’s awful in about four others.
If you factor in the posting money and his contract, the Red Sox paid $100+ million for him and he’s been—on the whole—mediocre at best; then you look at his attitude and complaining, that he’s a wild, back-of-the-rotation starter and you have a lot of money wasted. If Matsuzaka deserves credit for anything, it’s that they signed Hideki Okajima ostensibly because he was lefty and Matsuzaka’s friend (not necessarily in that order) and got a very good reliever.
It doesn’t matter much because the Red Sox are so good, but they’d love to be rid of Matsuzaka and plug in someone cheaper and better; and that they could easily find someone cheaper and better is a reflection on Matsuzaka more than anything else.
Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the NESN column comparing the Red Sox to the 1927 Yankees and Dice-K:
Thanks for the laugh, which is what I did when I read that NESN headline (and story). My friend, a Red Sox fan, said to me the other day, in reference to Dice K:
“I eat my liver every time I have to watch him pitch.” The whole thing is ridiculous on so many levels.
Does he have his liver with fava beans and a nice Chianti? Might as well make it elegant.
And Jane’s posting today—Those Red Sox People Are So Amusing—is reason number 9,897 that I worship Jane Heller—she gave me a shout out!!
Kyle Johnson writes RE Terry Francona:
Interesting to see you listed Joe Torre as a better manager than Terry Francona. Any particular reasoning behind that?
I like Francona as a manager, but the assertion that he’s the “best” manager in baseball? I don’t think so.
To me, the title of “best” should go to someone who makes a significant difference in the team’s fortunes through sheer force of will. Tony La Russa is one such manager.
As successful and well-liked as Francona has been with the Red Sox, I don’t see him as a difference-maker for a bad team. He had a terrible team with the Phillies and the results were predictably terrible. He’s had a very good team with the Red Sox and has won two championships.
The other managers I mentioned had a longer experience and less of a cocoon in which to manage. In his final years as a manager, Torre’s reputation was such that the players seemed to be thinking, “well, we’re supposed to make the playoffs” and would turn it on until they did make the playoffs. Vince Lombardi had that.
Francona is still an implementer of front office edicts. He does as he’s told. He’s entrenched now, but that doesn’t alter the perception that other managers could and would win with that roster. The ancillary aspects of the job in Boston—handling the media, knowing his place and making mostly good strategic maneuvers—don’t eliminate this truth that he was hired to placate Curt Schilling and to follow the orders of the front office that Grady Little didn’t.
He’s a good manager; it’s worked, but only partially because of Francona.
Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the NESN column:
This is the sorta thing that keeps me going as a writer. I mean, it’s just more proof that you can make a living writing crap.
Either that, or by doing what one’s told in terms of content. Maybe there was an editorial demand to come up with something so over-the-top that it elicited this kind of response.
It’s aggravating when we’re putting out quality stuff and this type of nonsense is treated as credible on a supposed entity for sports “news” like NESN.
Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE the 2011 Red Sox vs the 1927 Yankees:
I dont know how many games the Red Sox will win, but the 1927 Yankees outscored opponents by 376 runs. Today’s equivalent run differential, with the addtl eight games, amounts to 395.
The Red Sox, strong as they appear, wont come close to that:
1998 Yankees 114 wins…..+309 runs
2001 Mariners 116 wins….+300 runs
1975 Reds 108 wins…. +254 runs
You mean the numbers back up my rant?
I’m not sure how to deal with this. Like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, I’m just a caveman and your numbers frighten and confuse me.