Managers who could be on the hot seat (cont.)
Fredi keeps winning everything but approval
Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is effusive when it comes to his players. "I love my players,'' he said in an interview earlier this season with SI and one other entity.
But Loria has seemed less effusive when it comes to his very fine manager Fredi Gonzalez. "Fredi's the manager. Period. He's been the manager for four years,'' Loria said, restating facts rather than offering an opinion on the skipper who led a team with a $36 million payroll to 87 victories last year and is off to a 6-4 start this season.
Loria told Marlins writers late in spring that he wanted to see more "pep'' from his team, a comment that seemed to reflect on the manager. And Loria didn't back away from that remark in his interview with SI, either. "I thought we were a little sluggish,'' he said in explanation of his late-spring remark.
Gonzalez, a chronically hard worker and perpetually upbeat guy who was the choice of the Marlins' top baseball people Larry Beinfest and Michael Hill, seems not to let the lukewarm assessments by his owner affect him or his work too much. He also probably knows that if he's fired before his contract expires following the 2011 season, the Braves would might welcome him as legendary manager Bobby Cox's logical replacement. Gonzalez was a longtime coach for Cox before going to Florida.
There have been uncomfortable moments though, like when word leaked out early in the winter that Loria was in contact with Valentine during the season. Loria suggested there was nothing to that. "Bobby already answered that ... I've known Bobby for 25 years,'' Loria said in response to a question about that situation. Valentine has indeed denied that his phone conversations with Loria included any suggestion he'd take over for Gonzalez.
Gonzalez has done an exceptional job with a young team filled with inexperienced and in some cases immature players in his tenure in Florida. And outwardly at least, he doesn't appear to be bothered by less than enthusiastic reviews from the Marlins' owner.
Loria is known to have been dissatisfied with the Marlins' 2009 season, though others around the Marlins seem perfectly pleased with the job Gonzalez did to keep them in contention into the final week. Gonzalez's efforts even earned him some Manager of the Year support (including a third-place vote from me). But Loria doesn't appear easy to please. He fired Joe Girardi after Girardi won Manager of the Year honors, though that was more about a personality conflict.
Loria didn't seem too impressed by the Marlins' first win of the year, a 7-6, 10-inning affair that Loria called "like four hours in the dentist's chair,'' after the game, the second of the year. The Marlins are now 6-4. But the pressure is definitely on Gonzalez.
The Marlins do an exceptional job putting together a team on a shoestring budget, thanks to superior scouting and smarts, and Loria said he loves what the Marlins accomplished this winter (even though they were the one team that made no new acquisitions), and loves the fact "we kept all our guys.''
When he said that, he meant the players.
Reyes not ready to bat third
Jose Reyes told Mets writers he wasn't feeling comfortable enough yet to bat third, which is holding up Manuel's grand plan to move him from leadoff in Carlos Beltran's absence. Manuel doesn't appear anxious to put the star in an uncomfortable spot, and Minaya is in agreement to wait for Reyes' OK.
"He's got to feel it,'' Minaya said. "He's not fully there yet.''
Reyes is known as a great team man, and one former Met expressed some disappointment Reyes isn't accepting the assignment immediately.
"The Jose I remember was not afraid of a challenge,'' the ex-Met said. "For him to say he's not ready, that's not his makeup. The bigger the moment, the bigger the man.''
Reyes has been known as a great kid and hard worker who was the first to show up for extra work. Assuming nothing's seriously wrong, the great hope is that he returns to his old form. In the meantime, he should report to the No. 3 spot in the order, which would allow Manuel to bat the talented Angel Pagan leadoff until Beltran returns.
"I don't know why he isn't anywhere near the guy he was in 2006 or 2007,'' the former Met said. "He's the one person they can't replace. It's not Wright or anyone else. It's Reyes. As he goes, they go.''
Hudson's case needs better examples
Orlando Hudson's suggestion that racism could be behind some black players not getting jobs this year doesn't take into account that Jermaine Dye turned down a $3 million offer from the Cubs and Gary Sheffield "burned bridges in every town he played in,'' according to a former teammate. (That's not completely true, as Cox is at least one person who didn't despise him in Atlanta.) But Hudson's going to need better examples than that to prove his case.
Dye and Sheffield weren't close to the only players who found this market trying. Jarrod Washburn, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz have yet to sign, Nomar Garciaparra and Frank Thomas wound up retiring and a vast majority of players had to settle for one-year deals, especially older players.
Hudson is also likely thinking of his own experience, which has been to sign two straight one-year deals. But Hudson also turned down an offer from the Diamondbacks of $24 million over three years after the 2008 season before he first hit the free-agent market, and he has likely been hurt by a re-evaluation of the value of good but not great second basemen.
The reality is that several teams were anxious to sign Hudson, including the Mets, because is known to be a great guy and clubhouse influence. The Mets badly wanted to be rid of Luis Castillo so they could add Hudson, but the value of second baseman (and Castillo, frankly) has dropped to the point where no one wanted Castillo for anything more than pennies on his $6 million salary. That's not about race but finances.
Around the majors
Torii Hunter said he intends to play only a couple more years and won't try to hang on as a DH. He said his two young boys want him home. Besides, he said, "Defense is what got me to the big leagues.''
According to one scout, youngster Brandon Wood (.batting .100) is "really hurting the Angels.'' The scout said Wood's problem has been trying to pull outside pitches.
Andruw Jones looks terrific for the White Sox, according to one scout, who said he'd even consider putting him in center field and moving Alex Rios to right field. That scout said he'd make Juan Pierre the DH instead. "His routes to the ball are terrible, and his arm is laughable,'' the scout said.
Robinson Cano hitting two home runs on Jackie Robinson Day was a beautiful thing.
Andre Ethier, who joined Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx as one of the very few players ever to have four walkoff home runs in a season, provided the walkoff single in L.A.'s 6-5 win over Arizona Thursday night. Ethier now has 10 walkoff hits.
Jorge Cantu's record-setting start with an RBI in each of his first 10 games is amazing. Just bringing him to Florida in the first place represents another great job by Marlins people, who have a knack for finding bargains. Cantu was released by Tampa years back.
Congratulations to Houston's Brad Mills, who's no longer a winless manager.
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