Inside the mess with the Marlins (cont.)
Mets manager Jerry Manuel is under the gun, whether it's deserved or not. Manuel's bosses had a close eye on things even before flying to Atlanta Monday to discuss the team's latest issues. Club owner Jeff Wilpon said he didn't go to Atlanta to fire anybody, but it's clear at the very least that Manuel is under evaluation.
If Manuel goes, the Mets will almost assuredly hire Bob Melvin, the ex-Diamondbacks manager who's been serving as a Mets' scout, to replace him. And it's probably not a good sign for Manuel that everyone seems to know this.
The Mets' 19-21 record isn't awful considering they've been without Carlos Beltran. But there are concerns that go beyond that mark. Their attendance is down 17 percent, which is the third biggest drop in baseball (behind only Toronto and Cleveland), and it's to the point where they are handing over Subway Series tickets to the Yankees to fill the stands for games that are normally sold out immediately.
Through it all, Manuel's retained his perspective and humor. "I'm still here,'' he told reporters after emerging from the impromptu meeting.
For how long remains a question.
Meanwhile, there's no real evidence yet that Mets GM Omar Minaya is under the same sort of scrutiny from above, and there are three good reasons for that: 1) Fred Wilpon is a longtime admirer of Minaya's, 2) Minaya's contract runs through 2012 while the Mets have an option on Manuel after the year, 3) firing Minaya would be a much bigger undertaking considering much of the front office was hired by him. Conversely, Manuel didn't have as much control over who comprised his coaching staff.
At least one of Manuel's coaching suggestions was rejected by higherups this winter, as he is said by a Mets person to have tried to bring back former hitting coach Rick Down to serve some role. Former Mets star Howard Johnson is entrenched as hitting coach. But Manuel understood that the Mets go as Jose Reyes goes, and Reyes absolutely thrived in Down's tenure with the team.
Jayson Werth has become such a Philly fan favorite that it may be difficult for them to let him leave via free agency, never mind that he seems to hit a three-run homer every other day. Estimates of Werth's value fall anywhere between Jason Bay's $66-million deal and Matt Holliday's $120-million contract. Overall, he's hitting .336 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs. One executive said that while Werth has an all-around game, he won't get near Holliday's contract because he doesn't have the same track record. But he is still expected to seek a nine-figure deal.
Jose Contreras is doing a nice job closing for the Phillies in the absence of Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson. Chad Durbin has done a nice job, J.C. Romero is building up arm strength, Madson will be back eventually and Lidge said his cortisone shot helped his ailing elbow. But the Phillies may eventually still need to add a reliever.
The Brewers have lost eight straight. Manager Ken Macha said he and his coaching staff are working hard to try to rectify things, but with his contract up after the year, logically his job is in at least some peril now. Ex-Mets manager and current Brewers bench coach Willie Randolph would appear to be the logical replacement.
Trevor Hoffman's brilliant career finally appears to be nearing the end. The Brewers' closer is 1-3 with a 13.15 ERA and has blown five saves in 10 save opportunities, which is even worse than Lidge started last year.
The Royals fired Trey Hillman as manager shortly after giving him something of a vote of confidence, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Ned Yost, a coach with the Braves when Royals GM Dayton Moore was in Atlanta, got the job. Perhaps Yost learned some things from his late-year implosions as manager of the Brewers.
According to an AOL Fanhouse report, there are some negative financial surprises coming for the Dodgers' to affect Dodgers ownership. And that is really no surprise.
In the meantime, GM Ned Colletti may have spurred the team onto better things by mentioning on his radio show that star Matt Kemp needed to play to his potential as a defender and baserunner. Sometimes, stirring things up pays dividends. They've won nine in a row now.
Victor Martinez and Daisuke Matsuzaka weren't on the same page in Boston's defeat Monday to the Yankees, with Matsuzaka continually shaking of Martinez and Matsuzaka later saying too many fastballs were called. And they weren't on the same page later, either. Martinez took offense to Dice-K's suggestion that V-Mart called too many fastballs and pointed out that the pitcher has the ultimate say. Regardless, no star's free agent prospects have taken a greater hit than Martinez's, though he could be viable as a first baseman if he's nothing more than a part-time catcher.
Umpire Joe West's words -- in April he called the Yankees and Red Sox' slow pace of play "pathetic and embarrassing" -- didn't appear to have had any effect on those two teams this week. The series opener on Monday was 3:47 and Tuesday's game was 4:09. Josh Beckett pitched so slow Friday night he almost appeared to be mocking West from afar.
On the plus side, Red Sox DH David Ortiz is making progress and should avoid a release, at least in the near term. In April, he had a .143 average and .524 OPS; in May, the figures are .367 and 1.163.
Mets pitcher Oliver Perez (0-3, 5.94) might be wise to consider a minor-league assignment because he needs to work his way back to the starting rotation.
The Cubs announced Monday that Carlos Zambrano will be moved back to the starting rotation. Zambrano deserves kudos for accepting his assignment as a set-up man even if it didn't work. Now he's in the role of long man in the pen while he works his way back to the rotation and has said he might be willing to accept a minor-league stint to aid the process. While a friend of his called the original transfer to the pen "asinine,'' good for Zambrano for going along with it. Z actually was slightly better in relief. He had a 7.45 ERA as a starter and 6.23 ERA as a reliever.
Smart move by Braves manager Bobby Cox to put Martin Prado in the leadoff role and to move up phenom Jayson Heyward to the No. 2 spot. The change has helped improve the Braves to .500. But the bet here is that Heyward will wind up batting third or fourth before the year's out.
Last year's trade that sent Nate McLouth from the Pirates to the Braves for Charlie Morton (and two others) has been an even one so far: McLouth is hitting .198 for the Braves after a poor half year for them last year while Morton is 1-7 with a 9.68 ERA for the Pirates.
Planning for the 2011 All-Star Game is said to be very far along, meaning a switch of sites from Arizona is very unlikely. Another reason MLB is unlikely to change venues is that it doesn't want to set a precedent of being beholden to local laws, no matter how bad those laws may be.
MLB got what appears to be good news when only an ex-NFL player (and no MLB players) was named as a recipient of HGH when the indictment of Toronto doctor Anthony Galea was handed down Tuesday. There was no mention of Alex Rodriguez, who had been scheduled to be interviewed by the feds. It isn't known yet whether they have conducted that interview.