Results tagged ‘ Manny Acta ’

Heir Apparents, Part Two

As promised over the weekend, part two of the “Informed Speculation” about the likeliest successors for each American League managerial post where the incumbent to vanish tomorrow. As I offered in the NL version a few posts down, the breakdown of where the 30 current skippers came from, offers the speculator little hope he’s right:

Managers promoted from own AAA team            0

Managers promoted from coaches                     6

Managers already working in organization           5

Hires directly from other organizations               19

That makes identifying those heir apparents a dicey game. Nevertheless:
BALTIMORE: The Orioles believe Brad Komminsk, managing for them at Bowie, is one of the minors’ top prospects. Fans of the 1983-87 Braves will find this more than a little ironic, since they considered him one of the minors’ top prospects as an outfielder. Interestingly, the other guy in the NL thought to be in Komminsk’s class in the same era? Billy Beane of the Mets, better known as Mr. Moneyball. For outside hires the O’s are said to like Phil Garner.
BOSTON: An interesting question now that Brad Mills has moved on. Before Joe Girardi got the Yankee job, there was a brief whiff of a rumor that Boston pitching coach John Farrell was a candidate there. Between his rapport with the staff and his front office experience, he would seem a likely managerial prospect. Tim Bogar is also highly regarded.
CHICAGO: Joey Cora. Like Oquendo in St. Louis, this is only if somebody else doesn’t get him first.
CLEVELAND: I thought Sandy Alomar (Junior) would be a big league manager back when he was the potent catcher for the Tribe, and I still think so. No change is anywhere near imminent – they like Manny Acta’s style.
DETROIT: Oddly given Jim Leyland’s approaching 25th anniversary of taking over the Bucs, I don’t hear a lot about this. Two men who succeeded him in Pittsburgh, Gene Lamont and Lloyd McClendon, would be obvious choices.
KANSAS CITY: John Gibbons. Hiring a recently dismissed, no-nonsense ex-manager as your bench coach, is the standard process for anointing an heir apparent.
LOS ANGELES: Having already spun off one top manager (Joe Maddon), Mike Scioscia might have another one or two. Ron Roenicke is the bench coach, and Dino Ebel has a ton of minor league managerial experience.
MINNESOTA: Since the Twins hired Gene Mauch in the off-season of 1975-76, only once have they looked outside the organization. In fact, only once have they not looked to their own coaching staff – and even then they hired a coach (Ray Miller from the Orioles, in mid-season 1985). Johnny Goryl, Billy Gardner, Tom Kelly, Ron Gardenhire, and who? This would point us at Scott Ullger.
NEW YORK: Another one not likely to be soon addressed. Third base coach Rob Thomson seems too low-key, bench coach Tony Pena too peripheral. They do think highly of ex-Reds’ skipper Dave Miley, who has produced two firsts in four years managing at AAA. Could there be a Don Mattingly reunion? Only if they ask him – before the Dodgers do.
OAKLAND, SEATTLE: No earthly clue.
TAMPA BAY: Could easily be bench coach Dave Martinez. New hitting coach Derek Shelton was a helluva managing prospect in the Yankees’ system.
TEXAS: See the entry for Kansas City above. Clint Hurdle has “Clint Hurdle will replace Ron Washington for at least the rest of the season, Nolan Ryan said,” written all over him.
TORONTO: Nobody’s said anything formally but it’s Brian Butterfield. He’s been training for this since switching from minor league player to instructor in 1984, but he’s still only 52. Unless the Jays feel some burning need for a name to succeed Cito Gaston, or the desire to bring in a 1993 Toronto great like Alfredo Griffin or Huck Flener, it’s Butterfield. The other prospect in this system, though just a year and a month away from the active roster, is Sal Fasano.

 

Helmets And Closers

It’s 30 years now since the last major leaguer stepped to the plate without a batting helmet, and 38 since the helmet became mandatory. The mandatory earflap celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. But batters have used helmets (or plastic cap liners) since the ’40s, and their invention and use pre-dates even the death of Ray Chapman from a pitch in 1920, to Roger Bresnahan, Hall of Fame catcher of the Giants, in 1907.
Defensively, catchers turned to helmets, then cages. The mid-50s Pittsburgh Pirates wore them exclusively, in the field and at bat, pitchers included. While that idea was abandoned, largely based on the argument that fielders had gloves with which to protect their heads, John Olerud used one to protect his skull – at high-risk for damage after an aneurysm – while playing first base. After the awful death of Mike Coolbaugh, struck by a line drive while coaching first in a minor league game in 2007, helmets for coaches became mandatory last year, and by this one, they had begun to look perfectly normal (no matter what Larry Bowa says).
So, here is a question that popped into my head during a recent game: why don’t the umpires wear helmets? Surely the ones at first and third are at nearly as much risk for being hit by a line drive against which they are gloveless, and helpless, as a coach. The argument, of course, is that umps are trained pros, and it’s not like we’ve seen a frequent problem with them getting leveled. Just as we hadn’t seen one with coaches before Coolbaugh.
For that matter, why don’t we bite the bullet on the next most vulnerable in the equation? The catcher’s body is almost 100 percent covered, the plate ump is well-wrapped, and the batter can arm himself in everything short of cyborg components. Why don’t we mandate helmets for the individuals who are the fourth-closest to the violence of the meeting of bat and ball – the pitcher? We haven’t seen enough pitchers knocked down by return fire?
The obvious point against, of course, is that most of those pitcher injuries are to the face. Then again, no pitcher has had the opportunity to use “ducking out of the way” as a reaction to a line drive.
And if there is a cosmetic argument (and, face it, the new articulated helmets look laughable), certainly we have not reached the all-time climax of helmet design. They can doubtless be made more ventilated, be lined with sweat-absorbing material, fixed into a more cap-like shape, and generally be redesigned so as to make their wearer look less like the Great Gazoo.
Besides which, why does a batter with a helmet look right, and a pitcher or an umpire with one look less so?
Because we’re used to it.
NO HELMETS MAY SAVE THEM:

Watching the Nationals first sign, then promote, ex-Royals closer MikeMacDougal, and considering the maelstrom that their bullpen has been, I wondered when Manny Acta would put him into a save position. Friday night, he retired two Mets, including a creaky Gary Sheffield on strikes, on six pitches. Then Joel Hanrahan looked even better in the 9th, yet Acta mysteriously brought his shaky closer back for the 10th, and Hanrahan got lit up like the Capitol Dome.
This is not to portray Hanrahan as Mariano Rivera. But if the man has the tools to do the job and has just done it splendidly — if the question is confidence — get him out of there. Treat him like a real closer (pitch one inning, limit to save opportunities) and maybe he’ll become one. Hanrahan’s previous outing was with the Nationals trailing and the argument that he needed some work was valid, except that that was the day of the San Francisco/Washington day/night doubleheader and this was only the first game. What if Hanrahan had been needed in the second game?
In short, was Acta looking for a new reason to break-up with Hanrahan? Were he and his new pitching coach Steve McCatty setting up Hanrahan to fail? You pull your closer after he looks bad in two non-closing situations?
MacDougal became McCatty’s project in Syracuse and if he succeeds he could mean McCatty has the job long-term. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially if McCatty has helped MacDougal reclaim his career. This is the MacDougal who spent nearly all of last year in the minors, and who was released by the pitching-challenged White Sox a month ago. And you have now destroyed Hanrahan, twice, in nine weeks.
To whom do you go if MacDougal fails? Joe Beimel? Kip Wells? Julian Tavarez? They’re all in that Nats Closer Alumni Association. Ron Villone? He’s been superb in the Washington bullpen, in a role he has performed for twelve seasons now – during which he has racked up is career total of seven saves.
In other closer flux news: Our fellow MLBlogger and Phils’ correspondent Todd Zolecki insistsCharlie Manuel is eternally committedto Brad Lidge. But his colleague Joe Frisaro has asignificantly less-ringing endorsementof Matt Lindstrom by Fredi Gonzalez. In that construction, Fredi, who seems to prefer a little chaos in his bullpen, may get exactly that.
True followers of the Phillies, of course, know that as startling as the statistic is — from perfection over a season to six blown saves in two months — Brad Lidge was hardly perfect last year. The true difference isn’t the number of crises he has created, but the number he has created. As Baseball Prospectus pointed out, his BABIP (Batting Average, Balls In Play) went from .300 during his “bad” year in Houston in 2007, to .302 during his “perfect” one in Philly last year. It’s the homer total that swung wildly: from nine in ’07 to two in ’08, to an astonishing seven this year (for comparison purposes, that’s how many homers Livan Hernandez has given up this year). And the BABIP is now .356?
Tab Bamford has a fascinating idea for the Cubs- but it is one entirely dependent on the idea that Chicago cancelled Rich Harden’s rehab start today only because the feng shui in the stadium was all wrong. The idea that an injury-prone starter with extraordinary stuff might be a better closer than a journeyman with loose-control or a set-up man with pressure issues is, as the blogger notes, not exactly unprecedented in Chicago. Lord knows Lou Piniella has been willing to make this move (Kerry Wood) and its opposite (Ryan Dempster) before.
All of which raises the question: if you’re the Tampa Bay Rays and you have the Red Sox and Yankees to fend off, and you don’t have time to screw around, and you have a healthy supply of starters, and your bullpen has suddenly gone so south that you hesitate to name a permanent closer, why aren’t you using David Price in that role?
BY THE WAY:

If you’re wondering about the last batter to hit without a helmet, it was Bob Montgomery, Carlton Fisk’s long-time understudy with the Red Sox. He, Norm Cash, and maybe a few others, were grandfathered when the helmet rule finally passed. They wore plastic liners inside their caps. Terrific oddity there considering Montgomery was a catcher.

Closing Argument

If you ever needed a freeze frame on the volatility of closers, you’re seeing it in Washington right now. Joel Hanrahan lost the job quickly, but not as fast as Manny Acta’s closer-in-waiting Garrett Mock. Instead we are told to expect a committee consisting of Julian Tavarez and Kip Wells. Until next week when Joe Beimel will come off the disabled list and either “join the mix,” or supplant those co-closers. And don’t forget that a year ago today, Chad Cordero was still active and supposed to eventually swap jobs with his impermanent replacement Jon Rauch.

It is not just franchises in chaos that remind us of how, if all managers are interim, then all closers (except, perhaps, Mariano Rivera) are temporary. Since Bobby Cox returned to the helm in Atlanta in 1990, this has been the succession (and I’m deliberately ignoring a couple of “closers for a week” like Joe Hesketh).

1. Joe Boever, 1990
2. Mark Grant and Kent Mercker, 1990
3. Mercker and Juan Berenguer, 1991
4. Alejandro Pena, 1991-92
5. Jeff Reardon, 1992
6. Mike Stanton, 1993
7. Greg McMichael, 1994-95
8. Brad Clontz, 1995
9. Mark Wohlers, 1995-98
10. Kerry Ligtenberg, 1998
11. John Rocker, 1999
12. Ligtenberg and Mike Remlinger, 2000
13. Rocker, 2000-01
14. Steve Karsay, 2001
15. John Smoltz, 2001-04
16. Danny Kolb, 2005
17. Chris Reitsma, 2005
18. Kyle Farnsworth, 2005
19. Reitsma, 2006
20. Ken Ray, 2006
21. Bob Wickman, 2006-07
22. Rafael Soriano, 2008
23. Manny Acosta, 2008
24. John Smoltz, 2008
25. Soriano, 2008
26. Mike Gonzalez, 2008-09

And they won stuff during that merry-go-round. Moreover, Gonzalez is formally Cox’s closer at the moment. Yet only last night did he pull out of a tie with Soriano for the team lead.

LOOK-ALIKES

Well here’s the oldest time-waster by a blogger: ballplayers who look like actors. But I think three of these are new; certainly two of them are bizarre.

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Khalil Greene and Sean Penn as Spicoli from  “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” – observed first, I think, long before Greene made the majors.

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But what about Rocco Baldelli of the Red Sox and the actor Aidan Quinn?

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This one jumped off the scoreboard at the Mets-Nats game Saturday. The new official publicity photo of Adam Dunn, and Will Ferrell?

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And my favorite, applying only when he has that lip-curl snarl while at bat, somewhat enhanced by the Yankee colors: Mark Teixeira and Little Steven Van Zandt in his “Sopranos” role of Silvio Dante?

MEANWHILE, WHAT I LOOK LIKE:

A maroon.

I have been pleading for a week for somebody to identify the “classical music” used by the Yankees during their otherwise tedious scoreboard “Great Subway Race.”

Did you know Danny Elfman was a famous 17th century classical composer?

I knew I’d heard it in the Pee Wee Herman movie. That’s because it’s part of the soundtrack of the Pee Wee Herman movie.

It’s “Breakfast Machine.”
 
Well thank goodness that’s over.

The Washington Natinals

So that “Natinals” thing across Adam Dunn’s Washington uniform this past week?

That wasn’t a misspelling. That was an alias.
Membership on the Washington National League team right now would make any player try to pretend otherwise. Firsthand exposure to the Nats shows that ex-General Manager Jim Bowden has left another franchise in tatters, at least in the short-term. The outfield is a defensive mess, the infield wobbly, and the ace of the pitching staff makes his second major league start tomorrow.
Elijah Dukes nearly got himself killed on David Wright’s first-inning fly ball at CitiField this afternoon. Sunglasses still perched atop his cap, Dukes missed catching the ball by about three inches, and missed getting conked in the noggin by the same measurement. The presumed good news is that if Lastings Milledge was still playing center for Washington, the ball would’ve landed 40 feet behind him.
Dukes’ glasses were down in time for him to see, but not catch, Daniel Murphy’s fading fly in the sixth. Dukes slid, and the ball hit him in the glove. Murphy was credited with a single, presumably because, given how he plays the outfield, Dukes’ glove is considered part of the field of play, and not an actual piece of equipment.
Even Nick Johnson threw away a Mike Pelfrey sacrifice bunt in the third, and just for good measure back-up catcher Wil Nieves tried to gun down David Wright by throwing the ball to Dukes in the sixth. Starter Daniel Cabrera gave up five runs – only one earned, though the six hits and four walks were his problem.
This is not to say the Nationals are hopeless. No one who has seen him doubts Jordan Zimmermann is the real thing, and even with only Dunn to protect him, Ryan Zimmerman went 2-for-5 and was robbed of a third hit only by a Daniel Murphy slide that actually worked. Jesus Flores is one of the game’s most unsung two-way receivers, and Joel Hanrahan may have straightened himself out.
One of the intriguing questions facing new GM Mike Rizzo and the able and somehow-still-sane manager Manny Acta is whether or not to offload some of their supply of generic, identical outfielders (the A) Austin Kearns, Josh Willingham kind, and the b) Dukes, Lastings Milledge kind) and give Justin Maxwell a serious look in center. The recuperating former top prospect smoked a Brian Stokes fastball in the ninth off the top of the wall in right-center (in any other park it would have been an easy and a frightening homer). On the off-chance that Dukes might be convinced to pay attention and handle leftfield, and accepting Dunn as a necessity in the line-up, why not try Maxwell in center, and see if anybody wants any of the others.
The current Nats are going nowhere, and as the stories of Flores, Zimmerman, Zimmermann, and Hanrahan suggest, Acta and his coaching staff seem to be able to draw quick results out of younger, more focused players.
THERE’S BEEN A WILBUR HUCKLE SIGHTING

Well, not really, but his name came up on the field before the Mets and Nats played, and it permits me to address the dumbest of my Dumb Obsessions, and solicit your help.
Huckle was one of the two earliest products of the Met farm system to be summoned to the majors, from the low minors, in September, 1963. The other, Cleon Jones, was absolutely overmatched (.133 in six games). But Huckle fared far worse. A shortstop, he didn’t get into a single game, and never got another chance. His remaining claim to fame would be as Tom Seaver’s first professional roomate (Seaver said he never saw him awake, not once in any hotel room they shared – Huckle was an early riser who was dedicated to long walks at dawn).
I had heard of Huckle, but never of his fruitless cameo, until today. Photographer Steve Moore insists he was at several Mets’ games (and has the scorecards to prove it) with Huckle listed on the roster. Huckle would thus becomes the 51st member of the Bill Sharman Society, my list of players who can be proved to have been on major league rosters, but who never played in a major league game. The Elias Sports Bureau calls them “Zombies” but that doesn’t quite capture their sad fates. Sharman, of course, is the basketball Hall of Famer who originally doubled as a top outfield prospect for the Brooklyn Dodgers. After a stellar season in the minors, he was summoned to Ebbets Field in September, 1951, and spent the rest of the year on the Dodger roster. He never got a moment’s action – although one of the games he didn’t play in was that featuring Bobby Thomson’s famous homer.
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Wilbur Huckle, in spring training with the Mets in 1964 (no, there wasn’t an ion storm – age has withered the negative and thus my only copy of the print).
In any event, if you have any nominations for the Sharman Society, put them in the comments and I’ll be happy and grateful to research them.
NO REASON FOR YOU TO CARE DEPARTMENT:

But there are flaws in every new ballpark and I suspect the Mets will address this one, eventually. This is the view from what would otherwise be about fifteen of the best seats in the press box.
Again, not a complaint, just a laugh. And a possible explanation if a reporter tells his office he really didn’t see the pitch. Or the batter. Or the umpire.
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