BACK OFF ON A MANAGER WITH BACKBONE
Everyone just calm down. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons (left) is not channeling Billy Martin, and more important, he's not leaving Toronto. Taken separately or together, his run-ins with his players (calling out petulant infielder Shea Hillenbrand in July and challenging pitcher Ted Lilly last week for showing him up on the mound) are not fireable offenses. Said general manager J.P. Ricciardi, "He's signed through 2007, and he isn't going anywhere. He's a good manager and a good man."
There's nothing wrong with a manager getting in the grill of a player who steps out of line. And Lilly was wrong last week to snap at Gibbons on the mound when he got the hook after blowing an 8--0 lead against the A's. Admittedly, Gibbons erred when he pursued Lilly in the runway to the clubhouse, where the two had a physical confrontation in which, according to Ricciardi, no punches were thrown. Gibbons should have confronted Lilly later, when both men had cooled off. The two eventually resolved their differences and moved on. So should knee-jerk critics who want to run off a fair manager with some backbone.
FLAMETHROWER GETS BURNED UNDER PRESSURE
Seattle phenom Felix Hernandez (right), 20, has yet to make the transition from thrower to pitcher despite his great stuff. "When he gets in trouble, he tends to overthrow, and that's when he loses command and movement," Mariners bench coach Ron Hassey said. Hernandez (10--12, 4.81 through Sunday) is fine as long as batters don't reach base. He yields a .221 average with the bases empty. But with runners on, an anxious Hernandez has been raked for a .329 average.
?The Tigers' Jim Leyland may be the AL manager of the year, but there is no defensible logic for batting second baseman Neifi Perez (.261 OBP) leadoff, as he did twice last week.
?Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez's huge second half (.706 slugging percentage since the All-Star break) is well timed. Ramirez (left) can opt out of the guaranteed $22.5 million due him over the next two seasons and, at age 28, stand out among what is now a lackluster free-agent class.
?Not everybody was impressed with the A's during a 20--5 streak in August. Said an AL scout, "It's annoying that they don't hustle, don't run on and off the field and are a little too cavalier about the way they play. But, hey, maybe that works for them."
? Boston's trade of catchers with San Diego-- Josh Bard for Doug Mirabelli--was bad enough, but throw-in relief pitcher Cla Meredith is making the deal look even worse. He tied a Padres rookie record with 202/3 scoreless innings.