We’re over a month into the season and I figured what better time than to roll out the first chopping block of the ’08 campaign for major league managers. As I mentioned in our season preview, there seems to be a lot of parody in the league this year and while the D-backs and Red Sox are off to solid starts, I don’t think a team will eclipse 95 wins this year.
Despite the tremendous parity, upstart teams and early season surprises, there are a few managers around the league that are running out of excuses. With that being said, I’d like to see the following wheeled onto the block for their execution…ahem termination, excuse me.
Texas Rangers – Ron Washington
The Rangers are off to a 16-20 start and are coming off back-to-back shutout wins over the disappointing Seattle Mariners (read more below). That may have saved Ron Washington for now, who led his club to a 10-18 April, the worst in club history. Sidney Ponson and Vicente Padilla are simply overachieving and will likely plateau sometime soon, getting lit up every five days as they’re accustomed to doing in the real world.
There are some big names on offense, including Josh Hamilton who leads the league in RBIs. David Murphy, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Milton Bradley are some other notables who should provide the Rangers with firepower every night. But the team is batting a combined .264, which is a solid .001 higher than last year and on pace for the second lowest in the last eight years. Given that they’re fourth in the AL going into today, you can attribute that to a slow start across the league. But what’s happening on the other side of the ball is what’s keeping this team from winning more games.
The staff ERA sits at 4.80, thirteenth in the AL. Texas has surrendered the most hits, walks and highest BAA and has struck out the fewest number of opposing batters. Sure, you can point the blame at the Mark Connor. But let’s face it: Ron Washington keeps trotting out Jason Jennings, who is 0-5 with an 8-plus ERA. Jennings hasn’t won more than 9 games since 2004. And his career ERA sits at a healthy and robust 5.00. And why does Kevin Millwood still sit at the top of the rotation? I realize he used to be a big name, but how many times are you going to let the guy stay in the game and get abused as he tires? His numbers suck from the sixth inning on, so throw him five then hand it over to the bullpen. I don’t care if he’s throwing a no-hitter. You leave him in there, he’ll let it get away.
I will say that the bullpen, aside from the excessive use of Joaquin Benoit, has been managed fairly well. But here’s what I propose is done with the Rangers:
One night usher everyone in the organization, from the starting lineup to the interns that make faxes in a back room, into the ballpark. Then blow the park into the high heavens and the organization can just start from scratch. As Rich suggested, you could have Kinsler, Young, Hamilton and Murphy wait outside the stadium, perhaps even lighting the fuse.
While that most likely won’t happen, Washington’s days in Texas should be monitored closely. Next time the Rangers drop 10 in a row, send him packing and don’t ever let him manage another team again. I wouldn’t want this guy coaching my brother’s little league team.
Seattle Mariners – John McLaren
Dude, what are you doing? I realize Mike Hargrove bolted mid-season last year and left everyone between a rock and a hard place, but the grace period has expired. And in my opinion, your time in Seattle has expired, as well. You traded for Erik Bedard in the offseason to solidify a starting rotation that was already littered with established major league pitching. King Felix, Carlos Silva, Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn are all capable of winning double digit games. Bedard and Felix should each win at least 15. You have JJ Putz as your closer. And while the rest of your bullpen may not be worth noting, it’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Offensively, this team has more ability than people give credit for. Ichiro is the best leadoff hitter in the game. Raul Ibanez is one of the most underrated players in the game. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson are 30-40 homer guys despite their lack of ability to hit for average and avoid only playing well in contract years. Jose Vidro needs to play the Placido Polanco card and take some time off before coming back. And instead of having Jeff Clement go 2 for 22 in May, maybe you should look elsewhere for an alternative in your lineup.
I’m also bothered by the fact that Putz has only thrown four times since his return on April 22. I realize the save situations haven’t been in abundance, but the guy needs to work. That may be why he blew a save on May 1 and will probably blow his next save opportunity, as well.
There’s too much talent on this team for it to be 14-22 and lose three straight to the Rangers while being shutout two days in a row. When you haven’t scored for 22 straight innings, maybe you should try something different. Bunting, stealing, hit and run, things like that in hopes of creating opportunities rather than saying a prayer and waiting for them to be delivered.
Sorry, John, but it’s just not working out.
San Diego Padres – Bud Black
Let’s think about this. You have Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, 6-foot-10 Chris Young, future HOF’s Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman, a solid bullpen and you’re staff ERA is ranked eighth in the NL? Combine that with the worst offense in the league and you have problems. The pitching has been the biggest issue because the offense was the second worst in the NL last year and the team still won 89 games. But nonetheless, you’d think adjustments would be made in your team's approach to find ways to score runs.
Bud Black has yet to do that, and he’s paying a dear price. The team is 12-23 and going to have a hard time bouncing back with Arizona playing so well and Joe Torre keeping the Dodgers in the mix. The team is 2-8 in its last ten games, is 6-9 at home and is 11 games back from Arizona. Wowzer. Good luck with alllll that.
My biggest beef with Black is his management of Trevor Hoffman. The HOF closer has thrown just three times in the last 18 games. While his 6-plus ERA is tough to fathom, you can’t help but think that his inactivity isn’t helping to bring that down and get him into a rhythm. Take, for example, yesterday’s one-run loss to the Braves. A tie game in the ninth and a perfect opportunity for Hoffman to come in and hold the fort while also getting some much needed work in. Instead they cough up a run and another potential win.
Like the Mariners, there’s too much talent to be falling behind so far so early. Let’s shake up the clubhouse and get a new guy in there to provide a resurgence of sorts.
Others to monitor closely…
The injury to Pedro and acquisition of Johan Santana will both keep him on ice for now, believe it or not. The Pedro injury is an excuse and Santana is the best left-hander in the game, so that should pile some wins up nicely. But after last September’s collapse, Randolph better keep this train on the tracks. Otherwise, the leash will get shorter and shorter until the blade finally drops.
Toronto Blue Jays – John Gibbons
This pitching staff is awesome, led by Roy Halladay who at times seems like a comic book superhero. Four consecutive complete games and three losses to show for it. Super. This offense stinks, and with guys like Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Scott Rolen and Matt Stairs, you’d think they’d do more. David Eckstein has been a bust at leadoff which hasn’t helped, but this a team that is picked to break through the AL East barrier every year, and fails to do so. Whether Gibbons goes or not, J.P. Ricciardi better watch his back, too.
Detroit Tigers – Jim Leyland
The bullpen has been ravaged by injuries and the starting pitching has been atrocious. A lot of that is not Leyland’s fault, but he can’t continue to let the Tigers lose games. With the second highest payroll and a 15-21 record, the only thing saving his job is a high powered offense and a mediocre division that lands his team only 3.5 games back. For starters, he might want to tell Miguel Cabrera to stop playing like a prima donna. According to Jayson Stark on ESPN.com, a scout had Cabrera clocking in at over five seconds down the first base line. Most guys can jog down the line that fast, which is exactly what Cabrera is doing.
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