WANTED: A FEW GOOD MANAGERS
This is an article from the June 27, 1988 issue
In Seattle, the Mariners fired manager Dick Williams on June 6 and on Sunday were still looking for a full-time successor. In Anaheim, California Angels owner Gene Autry, whose current skipper, Cookie Rojas, doesn't seem likely to be around come October, was reported willing to trade shortstop Dick Schofield to Montreal at the end of the season to snare Expo manager Buck Rodgers. And in San Diego, Padres vice-president of baseball operations Jack McKeon had to leave the front office and take over for the fired Larry Bowa because the team couldn't find another suitable replacement. Why?
"Finding the right manager is more difficult than ever," says Oakland Athletics general manager Sandy Alderson. "To fire someone for the sake of firing him often leads to an interim appointment that becomes a full-time hiring for sentimental reasons and further prolongs your leadership problems. So unless there's someone out there you know you want—as was the case with us and Tony La Russa when we let Jackie Moore go two years ago—it's usually better to wait until the end of the season."
The pool of prospects is so shallow that Boston Red Sox general manager Lou Gorman says, "Developing managerial candidates is unquestionably a big industrywide problem." There are three principal reasons for the dearth of prospects:
1) The way minor league skippers are perceived and paid. "It's hard to attract ambitious prospective leaders to a $20,000-a-year job," says New York Mets vice-president of baseball operations Joe McIlvaine, whose team is one of the few that hire minor league managers with the thought of moving them up the ladder. "There's too often the tendency to think of those guys as minor league instructors and nothing else."
2) Unlike other major sports, baseball doesn't draw heavily from the college coaching ranks. Bobby Winkles, who moved from Arizona State to the Angels, and Dick Howser, who worked at Florida State before taking over the New York Yankees, are among the few college coaches to become managers in the majors. "There's such antipathy between the college and professional ranks, and we're in such bitter competition for high school and junior college players, that it may be a while before there's peace," says Alderson.
3) Ambition, particularly in coaches, is considered a grievous sin in baseball. So managers tend to hire friends for those positions rather than potential leaders. As a result, only a few coaches are now mentioned as managerial prospects: Jim Lefebvre of the Athletics, Mel Stottlemyre of the Mets, Gene Lamont of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Mike Roarke of the St. Louis Cardinals, Cito Gaston of the Toronto Blue Jays, John Vukovich of the Philadelphia Phillies and Tommy Helms and Tony Perez of the Cincinnati Reds.
The only prospect who is on almost everybody's list is Jim Riggleman, who manages the Double A Arkansas Travelers in the Cardinals organization. But it may take a couple of years before he gets his first chance.
WHY IT MAY BE A NO-NAME ALL-STAR GAME
Fan loyalty is fine, but it can go too far. An Oakland rooter reportedly drove nails through a board in a precise pattern so that he could take a large stack of All-Star ballots and punch out the holes for all the A's players at once. In Cincinnati, press-box attendant Bob Caldwell punched out more than 10,000 ballots while passing time during games. "I wish I hadn't done the first 2,000," said Caldwell, who voted for a variety of players, not just Reds. "I made some picks I'm not making now."
After the second round of voting, three A's were leading at their positions: outfielder Jose Canseco (507,525 votes), first baseman Mark McGwire (405,302) and—believe it or not—catcher Terry Steinbach (210,528). Even Steinbach, who spent 3½ weeks on the disabled list and was hitting .219 at week's end with three homers and 12 RBIs, found the returns perplexing. "I haven't been following it that closely, so I don't know who is having a good year, but I was surprised," he said. "I think this shows our team is starting to get a lot more national exposure." That's one way of looking at it.
A STAR IS REBORN
Don't be surprised if St. Louis's Whitey Herzog, who will manage the National League All-Stars, picks Atlanta Braves pitcher Bruce Sutter for the team. If he does, it won't be just because the only other Brave having an All-Star season is first baseman Gerald Perry, who is competing against the likes of the Mets' Keith Hernandez, the Expos' Andres Galarraga, the San Francisco Giants' Will Clark and the Houston Astros' Glenn Davis for a spot on the team. (The National League is so loaded at first that when Herzog was asked whom he was going to pick, he replied, "Has anyone picked four pitchers and 11 first basemen?")
Sutter is the best comeback story in baseball. After undergoing three operations on his right shoulder and not pitching for almost two years, at week's end he had a 1-2 record with 10 saves and a 3.07 ERA. He has been successful in nine of his last 11 save opportunities. "He's worked so hard, he's now getting guys out more with his rising fastball than the split-finger," says Braves general manager Bobby Cox. "The split-finger hasn't got its old consistency yet. But we've gotten him at 91 on the [radar] gun, which is harder than he ever threw before."
If justice is served, Herzog will have at least three Pirates on his team, third baseman Bobby Bonilla and outfielders Andy Van Slyke and Barry Bonds. Bonilla has been among the leaders in homers and RBIs all season; Van Slyke is one of the 10 best all-around players in the league; and Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland says, "Bonds keeps making improvements that are staggering, both offensively and defensively." Through Sunday, Bonds was hitting .393 batting first and had scored during the first inning in 19 of the 58 games he had started in the leadoff position. "I try to beat the pitchers to the punch," says Bonds. "They don't usually throw that nasty pitch in the first at bat."
Even though the Detroit Tigers have failed to score runs at anything close to their league-leading 1987 pace, their pitching has kept them in the race in the American League East. At week's end they were in second place, only one-half game behind the New York Yankees, even though their ace, Jack Morris, was only 6-8.
The biggest surprise for the Tigers has been Jeff Robinson, who was 9-6 with a 5.37 ERA last year, but was 8-2 with a 3.38 ERA after beating the Orioles last week for his seventh win in eight starts. Another pitcher to look out for is 24-year-old lefthander Steve Searcy, who had 95 strikeouts in 87⅖ innings through June 16 with the Triple A Toledo Mud Hens. Reports indicate that Searcy is ready for the Tiger rotation, a move that will allow general manager Bill Lajoie to continue shopping pitchers Walt Terrell or Eric King for a No. 3 hitter.
Some scouts believe that Morris isn't throwing as hard as he used to, and others think he isn't using his slider enough. Morris says, "I've thrown more pitches than anyone in baseball over the last 10 years, and right now everyone's laying off the tough forkballs and sitting on the fastball." But manager Sparky Anderson says Morris is "the one guy I'm not worried about." Anderson expects Morris to go on a big winning streak soon, just as he has done in each of the last five years.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
The Baltimore Orioles are having unexpected trouble signing 12th-round draft pick Pete Rose Jr., and he may go to junior college because he considers Baltimore's offer—the typical signing bonus for a 12th-round pick is $12,000-$15,000—to be too low. Meanwhile, former Los Angeles Dodgers vice-president Al Campanis, acting as an agent, tried to get $100,000 from the Mariners for his grandson Jim, a catcher selected in the third round. "If an agent had ever asked Al for $100,000 for a third-round pick," says one Dodgers official, "he'd have told him to go home and get a job." Jim eventually signed a one-year contract with the Mariners on June 13 for an undisclosed amount, presumably well below his asking price.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The Atlanta Braves may be in last place in the National League West, but they have two big-name players in their minor league system: Eddie Mathews, who pitches for the Double A Greenville Braves, and Ted Williams, who catches for the Class A Sumter Braves. The 26-year-old Mathews had nine saves at the end of last week, but the 21-year-old Williams was batting only .136....
On June 11, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Glenn Braggs, frustrated by striking out three times, slammed his bat against a large bone mounted on the wall of the White Sox visitors' clubhouse and broke it. Players have used the bone, which may be the only one of its kind, for at least 25 years to hone their bats. Milwaukee manager Tom Trebelhorn, who's known for being evenhanded, benched Braggs, saying, "I'm not going to take his money, but I will take away his job for a day." ...The Red Sox need power hitters so badly that they've offered outfielder Brady Anderson and four other players to Baltimore for shortstop Cal Ripken, and pitcher Jeff Sellers and Anderson to Toronto for outfielder Jesse Barfield....
When Oakland Athletics pitcher Dave Stewart went 1-5 in a seven-game stretch after an 8-0 start, his pitching coach, Dave Duncan, said, "Rumor has it his pants were too tight." Stewart explained, "Every year in spring training they make my pants too tight. After a couple of washings, I can't get my leg up, and that's a major part of my mechanics."
BETWEEN THE LINES
HITTING A HIGH NOTE
The retractable roof at Olympic Stadium in Montreal got stuck on June 9, so the Expos ended up playing three games against the New York Mets in the open air—all of which they won. Some Montreal fans suggested that the Expos leave the roof open to keep the winning streak going, but stadium officials closed the roof June 12 to prepare the stadium for a performance of Aida later that week. "I don't know what was so special about Aida," said Expos public relations man Richard Griffin. "We had Carman the next night." As in, pitcher Don Carman of the Philadelphia Phillies, who started against Montreal in the second game of a doubleheader June 14.
THE IVY LEAGUE
In a game at Wrigley Field on June 15, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Barry Bonds hit a long fly ball beyond the reach of Chicago Cubs centerfielder Dave Martinez, and the ball got lost in the ivy covering the wall—or at least that was what appeared to have happened. Second base umpire Bob Engel called the hit a ground rule double, but when he and Martinez searched for the ball in the thick vines, they couldn't locate it. That prompted Pittsburgh manager Jim Leyland to storm out to second base to protest the call, arguing that the ball might have gone over the wall and into the empty bleachers. After an animated conversation, Engel and Leyland marched out to center and, with the aid of Martinez, finally found the ball in the ivy.
•Through Sunday, the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden had more RBIs (8) than the combined pitching staffs of six other National League teams, and the Mets pitchers had as many RBIs (15) as the Orioles second basemen (15).
•Oakland's Dennis Eckersley, who got his 20th save June 10, is the fifth pitcher in history to have had both a 20-win season and a 20-save season. The others are Johnny Sain, Ellis Kinder, Mudcat Grant and Wilbur Wood.
•Dennis Rasmussen, now with the San Diego Padres, has been traded five times for players who among them have 401 homers and 472 pitching victories.
•Through Sunday, the Boston Red Sox had outscored their opponents 141-91 in the first three innings, but had been outscored 194-156 from the fourth inning on.
LOOKING FOR NO. 200
So far this year, six pitchers have gone into the ninth inning of a game with a shot at the 200th big league no-hitter of the modem era. But such flirtations with fame should occur less often in the next two months because no-hitters are more likely to happen in the first and fourth quarters of the season.
April 1-May 20
May 21-July 5
July 6-August 20
SOURCE: STATS INC.