MacPhail's departure a blow to O's (cont.)
Ryne Sandberg, who just got his Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Pa.) team into the playoffs, continues to impress folks and looks like a big-league managerial candidate. Nobody expects Mike Quade to survive with the Cubs, so of course that is the natural spot for Sandberg. Larry Bowa, Sandberg's former teammate with the Cubs and a longtime Phillies watcher, says that Sandberg is ready for a big-league job. It would make sense to allow the new Cubs GM to select the manager, but after owner Tom Ricketts locked up farm director Oneri Fleita with a four-year deal, it wouldn't be shocking to see that become an ownership call, too.
Ricketts is receiving some criticism from competitors for not waiting to hire a new GM before settling other front-office issues. Although Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilken, another one whom Ricketts has said he'll keep, are well-respected and credited with a resurgence in the Cubs' prospect pool, the front office is usually the responsibility of the GM. Ricketts has begun calling around in earnest on the GM front. Regardless, unlike in the case of the Orioles, the Cubs' job is coveted by many, especially younger, less-experienced candidates.
Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune (@PWSullivan) is the first one to include Fleita and Wilken as GM possibilities, interestingly enough. Here's Sullivan's list, which begins with the usual suspect, Rays GM Andrew Friedman. Very good list by Sullivan, which is a nice mix of young and experienced names. One that hasn't made any lists is Walt Jocketty, GM of the Reds, who has had largely successful tenures with two teams in the Cubs' division. Ricketts' actual list isn't known, but Jocketty probably deserves a spot on it. Another name who has been mentioned is John Coppolella, the Braves' assistant GM who would fit Ricketts' desire for someone who's both analytical and from a highly-successful franchise with an emphasis on player development.
The White Sox continue to have an interesting dynamic among their hierarchy. The Sun-Times' Chris DeLuca reported that GM Ken Williams and hitting coach Greg Walker recently got into it after Williams publicly expressed some disappointment in the struggling Gordon Beckham's hitting approach. Club owner Jerry Reinsdorf is said to love both Williams and his ever talkative manager Ozzie Guillen, who have battled each other for years on a number of fronts. One person with ties to the White Sox says that Reinsdorf still "wants to keep'' Guillen. But one high-ranking MLB person said that's something Reinsdorf "will have to sort out.''
Bill Burke's flak, Steve Sugarman, emailed to disagree with my characterization of Burke as Frank McCourt's "buddy.'' As I emailed back, Sugarman didn't challenge the part of the note where a baseball executive called Burke's alleged $1.2 billion bid for the Dodgers as "laughable.'' Once again, MLB people don't see Burke's reputed bid as credible, and view it as a publicity stunt to help either Burke, McCourt or both, whether the two are regular dinner companions or not.
Baseball insiders are concerned about whether Mets owner Fred Wilson can find 10 new partners to invest $20 million apiece. But Wilpon is expressing "great confidence'' in talks with MLB honchos that he can do it.
Jim Crane seems likely now to be approved as new Astros owner. He does not want to move to the American League, but as a new owner, he may not have a choice in the matter. MLB folks are trying to sell him on the AL, where he would have a rivalry with Texas and would benefit from the big gates of the Yankees and Red Sox. Assuming the Astros are coaxed into the AL, an extra wild-card team will be added next year.
The Yankees will surely pick up Nick Swisher's $10.25 million option for 2012. Swisher has had a terrific year after a slow start, though it's hard to understand how he can be second on any zone rating for outfielders, as he is.
The Red Sox haven't given up hope that Clay Buchholz can return from back issues, but it still seems like a long shot. Josh Beckett (ankle) should make it back, however.
Lucas Duda's nice late-season performance has put him into the 2012 mix for the Mets, who will try to find a way to fit into the lineup Duda, Daniel Murphy and Ike Davis (who is avoiding ankle surgery but missing the rest of this year). After a hot start but slower finish, Justin Turner is seen as a utilityman by team higher-ups, so the Mets still haven't ruled out second base for Murphy, who has now suffered two season-ending injuries because he's unfamiliar with the best way to cover second base while avoiding injury.
Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti should be commended for the Dodgers' strong finish despite being out of the race, as Rick Sutcliffe (@Sut_ESPN) pointed out.
The Diamondbacks continue to write one of the best stories in years. GM Kevin Towers is an Executive of the Year candidate as his D-backs continue to amaze, with 13 straight wins at Chase Field now and a stranglehold on the NL West. Ian Kennedy, who was 1-4 in his Yankees career, is now 19-4 and a viable Cy Young candidate. While Towers has done a terrific job, previous GM Josh Byrnes acquired Kennedy in that great three-team trade with the Yankees and Tigers, and Byrnes' temporary replacement, Jerry DiPoto, acquired Daniel Hudson for Edwin Jackson, who was acquired by Byrnes in that same three-team trade.
Most Angels backers strongly disagreed with my pick of Jordan Walden for Rookie of the Year and instead favored Mark Trumbo. They may have a decent point, as Trumbo continues to help an offense in need.
Justin Verlander has been aided by his Tigers offense, winning the last three times he allowed four earned runs, and by his bullpen (closer Jose Valverde is 42 for 42 in saves). But his impact on the pennant race is undeniable, and he has put himself right into the middle of the MVP picture. At the least, he merits strong consideration.