- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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When 57-year-old George Bamberger resigned as manager of the hapless Mets last week to be replaced by Coach Frank Howard, 46, he said, "I don't want to suffer anymore." Clearly, he's better off without the Mets. But the Mets also may be better off without him.
Even considering Bamberger's renowned expertise in working with pitchers, it seems strange that Mets General Manager Frank Cashen wanted Bambi back this season. Cashen had to coax him out of retirement for the '82 season, when the Mets went 65-97; he had to persuade him to return this year; and he had to dissuade him from resigning last month. Bamberger's heart just wasn't in the job.
He might have been able to manage a serious contender, a team of veterans on which the most important part of the job is keeping everybody happy. But with a bad team like the Mets, the manager has to transmit a sense of urgency about winning to the players. Bamberger may have suffered with every loss, but the players knew the job wasn't the most important thing in his life. After all, he spent three off days this season in his Florida home and told everyone how enjoyable those days were.
As one Mets employee said a few weeks ago, "How do you think some of these guys will play when they know the manager doesn't care and won't be back next year?"
Pitcher Dennis Leonard of the Royals, whose 6-3 start was his best ever, may be through for the season after surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left knee.... Less likely to impair Kansas City's pennant aspirations was the damaged knee cartilage suffered by Trainer Mickey Cobb. While Cobb was out for four days, Paul McGannon, the trainer with the Royals' Omaha farm team, was brought up for a cup of coffee.... Two Oakland infielders fizzled in brief trials: First Baseman Kelvin Moore hit .193 and Shortstop Tony Phillips .223. Moore is out of a job, and although Phillips will stay at short. Manager Steve Boros feels his weak arm will eventually require a shift to second.... A's Outfielder Dwayne Murphy doesn't like Boros' reliance on computer stats. Says Murphy, "Things are computerized enough. I hate to see it happen in baseball."... Cliff Johnson, Toronto's designated hitter, whacked his ninth homer last week, exceeding last year's output by Blue Jay DHs.
Big-leaguers, aware that bats break more easily these days, are correct when they say bats aren't what they used to be. However, Rex Bradley, the major league rep for the Hillerich & Bradsby bat manufacturers, insists the trouble stems mostly from the way today's players want bats contoured. And Bradley feels that, in a way, the hitting of California's Rod Carew has contributed to the problem.
" Carew wants a bat with the biggest barrel, the smallest handle and 31 ounces," says Bradley. "The good Lord doesn't grow timber like that. Most players want bats like Carew's because they feel it might help them hit like he does."
Bradley says the white ash used for bats "is as good as ever" and that fragility has increased partly because so much wood has to be trimmed for the skinny handles on Carew-type models. "And if you want a big barrel, you need a light piece of timber," Bradley adds. "It's not as dense as a heavier piece. Consequently, it's not as good."
Here are two good young outfielders to keep tabs on: Kevin McReynolds, 23, of the Padres and Ricky Nelson, 24, of the Mariners. McReynolds, a righthanded hitter, last year batted .376 in 90 games in Class A and .352 in 40 games at Double A. After hitting .372 with 12 homers and 45 RBIs in 52 games at the Triple A level this spring, McReynolds last week homered in his first game for San Diego. The lefthand-hitting Nelson, who was batting .343 in Triple A ball before being brought up by Seattle on May 17, set a Mariner rookie record by hitting in 12 straight games.
San Diego's bullpen, which had been 0-10, picked up two victories each from Gary Lucas and John Montefusco.... "He scares me to death," says Atlanta Manager Joe Torre of Pitcher Phil Niekro, 44, who twice in recent weeks has slid into home headfirst.... In the belief that more work may get his sinker to sink again, the Giants shifted Greg Minton from No. 1 righthanded short reliever to unglamorous long man.... Outfielder Von Hayes, who came to Philadelphia from Cleveland in exchange for five players, continues to have problems. Hayes has been nagged by injuries and through Sunday was hitting .179. "The thing that bothers some people is that he's a helmet and bat thrower," Phillie Manager Pat Corrales says. "I don't care for that, either."