Results tagged ‘ Kenny Williams ’

UPDATED: How Many Franconas Do They Think Are Out There?

Presumably the realization is just beginning to sink in now in Boston – and with the rumors that he’ll be the next one out the door, it must be sinking in at levels higher than Theo Epstein – that the Red Sox are now faced with a task far more daunting, and far more likely to result in disaster, than even playing their games in September turned out to be: Finding somebody to manage the team in 2012 who can merely do as well as Terry Francona did last month.

The Yankees-Tigers meeting in soggy New York over the weekend was filled with baseball people trying just to come up with somebody – anybody – who could handle the pressures of ownership, an intense fan base now driven crazier by eight years of entitlement feelings their ancestors hadn’t known since 1918, and the media. Throw in the startling recent comments by some Boston players and you can add in to the mix the fact that Tito apparently kept the lid on a team full of Prima Donnas and protected them against reality at every turn. Remember, in New York, if you are raised on the Yankees and you feel they have done you wrong, you can switch to the Mets (or more likely, vice versa). I know from my time living in Boston that there are people who proclaim themselves Red Sox fans who maintain a seething hatred – often kept below the surface – towards the franchise. I know of one who believes the team  shortened the lives of many of his male relatives. There are Red Sox fans who gain as much satisfaction from when there is turmoil as when there are titles. These folks can get bent out of shape very, very easily, and a surprisingly large number of them wind up with the area’s newspapers and radio stations.

After three days at Yankee Stadium, I didn’t hear one managerial suggestion that wasn’t fatally flawed. Worse yet, I didn’t hear one baseball person nominate somebody without saying that the nomination was fatally flawed. Some of the names have shown up at the bottom of a column by my old friend Gordon Edes. He writes mostly about Epstein’s future, but the last part focuses on five guys  supposedly already kicked around inside the cramped offices of Yawkey Way:

Among the names that have surfaced in internal discussions are Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr., Rays coach Dave Martinez, Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin, minor league manager Ryne Sandberg and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who has a mutual option to return to St. Louis.

There is also an assumption that DeMarlo Hale, the long-suffering bench coach for the Sox and the minor league manager of the year – in 1999 – will get an interview. The name “Joe Torre” has been thrown around, and despite the fact that he found his office job as dull as it sounded, I’m thinking this is highly unlikely. The name “Bobby Valentine” has been leaked, too – presumably by Bobby Valentine.

But let’s go with the bold print name there first. Tony LaRussa? Seriously? This man went ballistic at least twice this year facing the scrutiny of the St. Louis media. The St. Louis media is three writers and a guy from KMOX Radio. It’s hard to say for whom this would be a bigger disaster: the Red Sox, or LaRussa. As was agreed at Yankee Stadium when this name was floated (almost literally) there over the weekend: by June 1, a “Manager Tony LaRussa of the Boston Red Sox” would have fallen asleep at a traffic light in at least six different New England towns.

The next name would be Sandberg’s. Now let’s review what I wrote here last year at this time when Cubs fans were understandably clamoring for their old hero to assume the reins at Wrigley. The Cubs loved Ryno’s work ethic, his willingness to go back to Peoria and fight his way up the chain, but they saw nothing in his managerial skill set that even made him a rival to Mike Quade. When you are beloved in a town – irrationally, gigantically, statue-sized beloved – and you’re not a good enough candidate to edge out Mike Quade, you’re probably not a good big league skipper in the making. The Red Sox interviewed him a year ago for their AAA job at Pawtucket but before they made up their minds, he took the equivalent post with the Phillies. They seem to have a higher opinion of Sandberg, given his high-profile roles with the big club in Spring Training and again in September, but they’re not looking to retire Charlie Manuel any time soon, either. It could easily be that the Cub snub woke Sandberg up – and if that’s the case, the Sox would presumably be challenged for his services by several teams, and maybe even the Cubs again, now that new ownership is in full control.

Speaking of which, David Martinez and Sandy Alomar, Jr. are the front-runners for the White Sox job. Martinez, the Rays’ bench coach, was GM Kenny Williams’ teammate in Montreal 20 years ago and seems a cinch for the Chicago job unless something goes wrong. If it does, Alomar is a fine baseball man and as a player was a great calming influence on the high-strung Indians of the ’90s, and was just named bench coach for Cleveland. But each has a serious drawback: not only have they never managed in the majors, they’ve never even managed in the minors. How quickly would this start the Red Sox fans’ verbal riots in the event of a 4-10 start? What credibility would they carry among Prima Donna players? If Martinez has a particularly inspirational effect on the terrified Carl Crawford, that might be reason enough to overlook the inexperience, but I’m thinking the Red Sox are still stinging from the well-intentioned but disastrous decision to promote Joe Kerrigan to manager without any previous experience at any level.

So then there’s Mackanin. This is a solid baseball man who had two all-too brief stints as interim manager at Cincinnati and Pittsburgh and never got the serious shot he deserved at either fulltime job. Mackanin knows his stuff, managed forever in the minors, and just turned 60 years old – which is a problem for the Boston position. Francona aged a century at the helm in Fenway, and he had already had an idea about the kind of media pressures he might face, from his unhappy years in Philadelphia.

So there are the problems. Terry Francona’s successor has to be a young, respected man, with a major league track record, an ability to hurdle the media, the fans, and the Prima Donnas. He has to have enough personality to get the benefit of the doubt from the fans, media, and players going in – but not so much that any of them feels he is overshadowing them. And he has to be an improvement on Francona.

Now who would that be? I kinda see a Bob Melvin type in here, but as the Mariners and Diamondbacks each discovered to their chagrin, there aren’t as many of him as they thought, either. The A’s smartly locked him in long-term after he very quietly did a superior job stopping the Oakland ship from sinking to the bottom of the sea this summer.

Anybody else?

Wait – I got it. Give him a month to recuperate and then see if this Francona guy will take the job.

Update: As tweeter Mike Mendez reminded my rain-addled brain: On Halloween night, 2005, Epstein resigned from the Red Sox and sneaked out of Fenway Park in a holiday Gorilla costume. Less than three months later, on January 19th, Epstein’s successor was named – and he got the added title of Vice President. Epstein’s successor was…Theo Epstein.

More Haircuts Of The Now Rich And Famous

If you didn’t see part one please feel free to enjoy Bruce Bochy, Joe Maddon, and Omar Minaya as minor league players, while we move on to a couple of more fun flashbacks.

This would be the 1979 TCMA West Haven Yankees card of one William Nathaniel “Buck” Showalter, who spent his entire seven-year career as a nominal first baseman-outfielder with no power in the Yank system. He batted .292 lifetime during a span in which other Yankee farms produced Don Mattingly and Fred McGriff, and by his second year in the minors, Buck was doing a lot of DH’ing. 
This same West Haven set also includes Dave Righetti, Willie McGee, Joe Lefebvre, Mike Griffin, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, and the fabulously-named pitcher Mark Softy, and was a popular set among collectors in the early ’80s, largely because of Righetti’s early dominance as a starter. Even then they were talking about Showalter as a future manager, and you have to acknowledge, he sure has aged well (it has been often suggested that Mr. Showalter does not age, in large part because he is a carrier of aging).

1980Rothschild.jpg

And now we bring you a couple of pitching coaches. Larry 

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Rick Kranitz never made it to the bigs as a pitcher and Larry Rothschild only had two cups of coffee with the Tigers, but both have had extensive coaching careers – they each worked with the Marlins and Cubs (at separate times; Larry is with the Cubs right now, Kranitz with the Orioles). Both cards are from 1980: Rothschild is from a series of excellent team-produced cards from the Indianapolis Indians from the mid-’70s into the ’80s, and the Kranitz shows him with the Holyoke Millers, the Eastern League farm of the Brewers. Kevin Bass and Steve Lake were among Kranitz’s teammates in the Massachusetts city.
And now we move into the front office, courtesy two of the great Mid West League sets issued by the late Larry Fritsch of Fritsch Cards in the early 1980’s (the cards show Jose Canseco before steroids – no, it’s not just a picture of an empty uniform on the ground, although the only thing about Canseco 1983 was his hair). 

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In any event, if the White Sox and Nationals make an Adam Dunn deal before Saturday’s 

1983Rizzo.jpgthese are the men who did the dealing. You would’ve seen plenty of Kenny Williams in the majors in the ’80s, and just four years after his stint with the ’83 Appleton Foxes, he had an outstanding season in center for the White Sox. Mike Rizzo, GM of the Nationals, drafter of The Strasburg and The Harper, was a far more obscure figure. This was the middle of his three seasons in the California Angels’ farm system, as a utility infielder. The ’83 Peoria Suns were pretty good, all things considered. Wally Joyner would make his pro debut (but isn’t in the set) and join Devon White, Mark McLemore, Bob Kipper, and a couple of others.

But none of them ever grew up to draft The Strasburg.

2010 Forecasts: AL Central

Having picked Tampa Bay to upend the Yankees in the East, we move to the AL Central.

I’m less
confident about assessing CHICAGO than I am about any other team in the majors.
Here is a team with the terrific burgeoning talent of Gordon Beckham and Carlos
Quentin – yet its success will depend much more on virtual castoffs like Andruw
Jones, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Mark Teahen. Here, if Jake Peavy rebounds,
is a four-man rotation as good as any in the game, but a bullpen where only one
guy (Matt Thornton)
does not
start
the season as a question mark (how could you possibly get as many ex-studs in
one place as Kenny Williams has in Scott Linebrink, J.J. Putz, and
Tony Pena?). The White Sox could
easily win the division, but I would hesitate to bet on it.

Everybody
scratches their head at the quick demise in CLEVELAND – except I appear to be
the only one who’s doing the scratching in surprise that everybody else is so
confused. What do you suppose happens
to a team that is just one game from going to the World
Series, and then fire-sales Cy Young Award winners in consecutive season – and also
gets rid of their
catcher (who just happens to be the second-best offensive weapon at his
position in the game)? While the Indians may see some pay-off from these deals
this year (LaPorta at first, Masterson pitching, and, at least for the moment,
Marson catching), there is no reason to assume that the Indians have simply
corrected a temporary two-year blip. It is plausible that returns to form from
Fausto Carmona, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner could propel this team to the
flag, but it is just as plausible that the bullpen will again be its undoing.
Remember, this is a team that has not had a reliable closer since Joe Borowski
in ’07 (and this requires you to believe that Joe Borowski was a reliable
closer). There is the one wildest of wild cards: the chance that the Kerry Wood
injury is the ultimate blessing in disguise – that it shelves Wood and his
not-so-awe-inspiring 20 saves of a year ago and forces Chris Perez to live up
to his talent. Of course as Winston Churchill answered that clich 65 years ago,
“if it is a blessing in disguise, it’s very effectively
disguised.”

What if
Dontrelle Willis really is back? What if Miguel Cabrera’s career flashed before
his eyes over the winter? What if Scott Sizemore and Austin Jackson are actual
major leaguers? If Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski come up trumps with those
four names, DETROIT should walk away with the division, because the rotation
seems outstanding, and the Tigers may have created its best bullpen (mostly by
default, and even though they’re about to find out what the Yankees did late
last year: Phil Coke can’t really get good lefties out). There are reasons to
suspect Johnny Damon will not be the kind of all-purpose threat he’d developed
into in the Bronx; 17 of his 24 homers in 2009 were hit at Yankee Stadium. It’s
possible Ryan Raburn or Wilkin Ramirez might have to be rushed into the
line-up. Then again it’s possible Alex Avila may force himself into it, behind
the plate.

When the
A’s still played there KANSAS CITY was the club on whom the Yankees palmed off
the guys they didn’t want any more. Funny that this year’s Royals start Chris
Getz and Scott Podsednik, and have Josh Fields on the
bench and Brian Anderson in the convert-to-pitching Skinner Box. The excuse that the Royals are the quintessential victim of the small market/big
market divide is nonsense: according to the Forbes figure filberts, the Royals
profit about ten million a year, gain at least thirty million more from revenue
sharing, and the franchise is worth three times what David Glass paid for it a
decade ago. So the free agents brought in to surround the American League’s
best starter, second or third best closer, fifth or sixth best first baseman,
and third or fourth best DH – are Rick Ankiel and Jason Kendall? It’s pitiable:
with a little investment from management the Royals could contend in this
division.

Manager
Ron Gardenhire of MINNESOTA knows 447 times more about baseball than I do. But
there is one fact that has been irrefutable since Tony LaRussa began to use
relievers on schedule, rather than when needed: Bullpen By Committee Does Not
Work. Gardy steered out of the skid just in time last night, designating Jon Rauch as his closer after weeks of saying he’d try the committee route. 
Do not be fooled by
reminiscences of the “Nasty Boys” – the 1990 Reds had 50 saves, 31 by Randy
Myers, 11 by Rob Dibble, 4 by Rick Mahler, 2 by Tim Layana, and 2 by Norm
Charlton. The Reds would trade Myers within a year and Charlton within two.
Minnesota’s committee could have been Jeff Reardon, Rick Aguilera, Eddie Guardado, and
Al Worthington, and it still wouldn’t have worked. There are reasons to fear this team might not be competitive -
the tremendous home field advantage that was the Metrodome is gone (although
depending on how the wind current works – see “Yankee Stadium, 2009″ – it could
turn Joe Mauer into a 50-homer man). The new double-play combo is also symbolic
of some serious problems. It is made up of two very nice men named J.J. Hardy
(who was run out of Milwaukee even before the ascent of Alcides Escobar), and
Orlando Hudson (who has been run out of Arizona and Los Angeles and who somehow
lost his job to Ronnie Belliard in the middle of the pennant race last
year).
It is also
the direct result of what must be viewed as two disastrous trades (Jason
Bartlett and Matt Garza to Tampa for Delmon Young, and Johan Santana to the
Mets for Carlos Gomez – now swapped for Hardy – and nothing of even impending
value). Nothing would please me more than to see the Team They Tried To
Contract rear up and fulfill its potential. I don’t think they have the front
office personnel to pull it off.

PREDICTIONS:
I like Detroit to get more lemons out of the slot machine of chance that is
this division, than I do Chicago. Thus, the Tigers, close, over the White Sox.
Minnesota and Cleveland will spar for third place and whether the Twins get it
will largely depend on how Target Field “plays” as a new home. Kansas City is
last again, which offends me, because there is as little excuse for this
perpetual state of suspended animation as there would be in Cincinnati or
Milwaukee or maybe even Denver and Tampa.

 

The Great Gazoo and Happy Hour

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OK, so there it is. That’s what the new super-sized batting helmet debuted tonight in Denver by David Wright evokes: Fred Flintstone’s little green prehistoric Shark-Jumping visitor from outer space.

That, or the old cliche about the life-of-the-party guy, who winds up wearing a lampshade.
Wright, who looks pretty young as it is (he’s not yet 27), probably looks five years younger with the oversized, 100-MPH resistant plastic chapeau. Hard to say if this is going to make it more appealing to players or less so, but early on there does seem to be one practical issue. Wright tried to steal second in the third inning tonight and went-in headfirst; the new helmet seemed to exhibit a different center-of-gravity and flew off Wright’s head and scuttled in front of him. It is conceivable that a player sliding in that way might actually collide with his own helmet – and I can’t remember ever seeing that happen with the standard helmet.
Then again, why is a guy just back from a beaning and a concussion sliding headfirst?

Jeff Francoeur has vowed never to wear the new helmet, for aesthetic reasons, and of course he will not be made to, as the revised version will only be mandatory in the minors. It is interesting to note that in the gradual advance of helmet use, only one attempt was ever beaten back. The Pirates tried to entirely replace caps with helmets – at bat, in the field, on the bench – in the ’50s. By 1957 they were back to a mix of plastic and fabric.
All this again begs the question: batters must wear them, now coaches must wear them – why not umpires, and given that line drives to their heads travel a shorter distance at a higher speed even than batters, why not pitchers?
WHITE SOX FIRE SALE FOLLOW-UP:

I am reliably informed that the message Chicago GM Kenny Williams sent to the other 29 general managers Sunday night and Monday morning not only invited them to bid on any of five to ten veterans (two of whom Williams actually moved), but urged them to contact him quickly because, and this is a loose quotation, “I intend to be the first guy at Happy Hour this evening.”

Jim Thome And Other Personnel (Fifth Update)

Vin Scully just announced on the Dodger broadcast that the team has obtained Jim Thome from the White Sox for a player to be named later. If they’ve dropped somebody from the roster, Thome would be playoff eligible. Every Blue player and fan would be happy, except, presumably, James Loney. The Chicago Tribune says the price is infielder James Fuller (24 years old, in A-ball, not much of a resume) and the Sox included some money to pay off the last month of Thome’s current deal.
Half an inning later, Vin waxed poetic about how nice it would be to see the Thome trade posted on the Dodger Stadium scoreboard when his producer instead showed a shot of Jon Garland in the Arizona Dugout. “He is being told he has just been traded to the Dodgers.” Again, with the option present to make him playoff-eligible, one assumes LA will clear roster space tonight (one would not be advised to invest heavily in the roster security of Charlie Haeger, James McDonald, or maybe even Juan Castro).
Meanwhile in Denver, the Rockies have announced they’ve gotten Jose Contreras from Chicago in time to put him on the post-season eligibility pile.
At some point in his long and varied playing career, White Sox General Manager Kenny Williams probably witnessed an on-field special promotion night performance of “Captain Dynamite.” It is hard to imagine today, but this gentleman would get into a box which also contained some explosives (and, honestly, if they’re in the box with you, exactly how many, and how powerful, do they really need to be before you begin to think this is a bad way to make a living?).
And then they’d blow up the box.
Captain Dynamite would then stagger to his feet, and wobble back to his trailer, no doubt shouting “Somebody answer the damn phone,” as he did.
The point of the act, of course, was that while one assumed Captain Dynamite knew what he was doing, even the realization that he probably had long since maximized the bang-for-the-buck without getting himself killed, did not take away any of the guilty thrill. It was the threat inherent in the performance that kept Captain Dynamite going, and self-detonating.
This brings us back to Kenny, who according to various reports (here’s Jon Heyman’s) spent the day after his White Sox washed out here in New York, advising other GM’s that he had waivers on most of his veterans and was willing to move them all, whether before or after tonight’s post-season roster “deadline”: Thome, Contreras, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Octavio Dotel, and Scott Linebrink. After their embarrassingly flaccid performance at Yankee Stadium, during which they sank to 6-and-19 on the road, some members of the Chicago traveling party hinted to me that Williams would either get rid of anybody he could, or at minimum, use the threat of a fire sale to try to wake up his guys. Hitting coach Greg Walker had already met with his batters and warned them to start compiling smart AB’s, or lose playing time. Manager Ozzie Guillen was greeting old friends with variations on the announcement “We stink.”
As noted above, Thome went to the Dodgers, waiving his no trade clause as he did. He and Dotel become free agents in a month, Dye has a “mutual option” for twelve million, Contreras was thought to have little return value (a 5.42 ERA is not automatically considered a liability in Colorado), Linebrink is owed nearly eleven million over the next two years, and Konerko has a year to go, owed twelve mill. And while each of the hitters might spark up a contender’s line-up, Dotel looked like a mop-up man during a game in Boston, and Linebrink turned a close game into a laugher in just a handful of batters yesterday in the Bronx. For the White Sox, hopefully the scare will be effective, because the likelihood of a salary off-load seems pretty low.
ELSEWHERE:

Absolutely fascinating that the Mets, who deliberately kept some of their prospects in the minors even as gaping holes opened in their line-up, were the first out of the box to announce an intriguing September call-up. He’s catcher Josh Thole, who after hitting .300 in the Florida State League, improved that to .328 in the Eastern League. Take a look at his numbers and one will jump out at you. There may not be much power there, but in 384 at bats, he struck out only 34 times. Hard to guess how much they’ll play him in preference to Brian Schneider and Omir Santos, but I don’t think they called him up the first day of roster expansion (and announced it the day before) to have him warm up pitchers between innings.
In a sense, Arizona actually made a critical September call-up last week – but didn’t realize how critical. Daniel Schlereth, still considered the closer of the future, returned to the D’Backs  just in a time to watch the team’s only two veteran relievers exit, suddenly. Jon Rauch went to the Twins, and Chad Qualls was lost for the year with a dislocated kneecap. There seems no reason not to give Schlereth save opportunities or at least 7th or 8th inning duty over the last month. Juan Gutierrez might be Qualls’ successor (on the slim resume of two save opportunities) but it is unimaginable that an Arizona team driven by ex-Player Development guru A.J. Hinch would rather see if Gutierrez can claim the job for next year rather than Schlereth. If you’ve been trying to figure out what the Snakes are actually going to do, don’t bother scour those who cover the team. As usual, the obvious question (“Hey, A.J.? Who closes if you lead 4-3 in the ninth tomorrow?”) seems to have eluded everybody until about 9:30 eastern time when Nick Piecoro finally blogged that Gutierrez would get the first call, but he might also work in Schlereth. And Esmerling Vasquez. And Blaine Boyer. And Clay Zavada. The Arizona radio guys said it would be Gutierrez, maybe Zavada against lefties. There was much more in the Arizona websites about Luis Gonzalez’s new job in the front office. Sigh.

As it happened, Arizona used Boyer in the seventh inning while trailing 3-2. Then Justin Upton homered to tie it, and in came first Schlereth and Vasquez in the eighth in crunch time, and each pitched effectively. Vasquez continued through the ninth, and after Arizona went up in the 10th it was Gutierrez, working an almost effortless inning for the save.

Meantime, the Marlins managed to sneak Cameron Maybin into playoff-eligibility by bringing him back from New Orleans, and DFA’ing reliever Luis Ayala. Maybin hit .319 and cut his K’s to 58 in 298 at bats in New Orleans, and who memorably batted a gaudy .500 in the last eight games after his late-September call up last year. An update here: turns out Maybin actually isn’t a September call-up. Florida DFA’d pitcher Luis Ayala tonight and added Maybin before the midnight deadline and would thus be post-season eligible.
One last note. Can’t remember anybody who thought the Yankees didn’t rip off the Pirates last July when they stole Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh for “some minor leaguers.” The third of them, Daniel McCutchen, made an effective big league pitching debut Monday, joining Russ Ohlendorf (11-9, staff leader in wins) and Jeff Karstens (flashes of brilliance, then crap, then injury) on the Pirate roster. It means
that outfielder Jose Tabata, the high-upside crapshoot of a prospect, doesn’t even have to succeed for this to indeed be a ripoff – for Pittsburgh. Nady may never play again, and nailing Thome on a ground out on Sunday lowered Marte’s ERA to 10.57.
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