Inside Baseball

May 18, 2003

Run Out of Town
The go-go Marlins lead the majors in stolen bases, but they
couldn't save manager Jeff Torborg's job

When they fired manager Jeff Torborg last Saturday night, the
Marlins took away the organization's biggest proponent of speed
and aggressiveness on the base paths, the qualities that had come
to define the team's offense. Florida, which was 17-22 and in
fourth place in the National League East at week's end, led the
majors with 60 stolen bases in 78 attempts--the Angels, with 31
steals in 47 tries, were a distant second in both categories--but
hadn't manufactured enough runs to overcome the lack of quality
pitching. Nevertheless, it appears that Torborg's philosophy will
outlast him.

On Sunday, under new manager Jack McKeon, the 72-year-old former
Royals, A's, Padres and Reds skipper, the Marlins stole four
bases in a 7-2 win over the Rockies. While McKeon stressed that
he didn't want his team to run themselves out of innings, he said
he would employ the same basic philosophy as Torborg. "This is a
club that's got to do the little things: steal a base, bunt the
guys over," said McKeon."If we get a home run, we'll take that
bonus."

"We don't have the big 40-, 50-home-run hitter in the middle of
the lineup, so we advance runners any way we can," says first
baseman Derrek Lee, who has 11 steals in 12 attempts.

Second baseman Luis Castillo had a major league-leading 48 steals
last season, and over the winter the Marlins added another elite
base stealer when they acquired centerfielder Juan Pierre (47
steals in 2002) from the Rockies. In spring training Torborg and
bench coach Jeff Cox stressed baserunning fundamentals--leads and
jumps, recognizing pitches in the dirt, studying pitchers'
pickoff moves and timing their deliveries to the plate. It
worked. In Pierre (17 steals through Sunday), Lee, rightfielder
Juan Encarnacion (9), Castillo (8) and catcher Pudge Rodriguez
(7), the Marlins boast five players among the NL's top 10.

An adept bunter, base runner and singles hitter with virtually no
power, Pierre bats leadoff and finds his game is better suited in
Florida than Colorado's Coors Field. "You could pretty much score
from first on anything hit in the gap [at Coors]," he says.
Pierre has flourished in Florida, and once on base he's a threat
to score, especially with Castillo hitting behind him.

The Marlins may be fun to watch, but here's the rub: A small-ball
philosophy requires a pitching staff capable of keeping the score
down, and Florida had the 10th-ranked ERA (4.23) in the NL.
Worse, over the last two weeks, the club has lost three fifths of
its rotation. On April 29 righthander A.J. Burnett underwent
Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and will miss 12 to 18
months. On the same day lefthander Mark Redman fractured his left
thumb while bunting and won't pitch again before June. Last
Thursday righthander Josh Beckett went on the 15-day DL with a
strained right elbow and will be out for three weeks.

Torborg and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, who was also fired,
overused their young pitchers, especially Beckett, who threw more
than 120 pitches in 10 starts last season. On Sunday, Torborg
said that he didn't think his handling of pitchers led to his
firing. "It was more bottom-line production," he said. "We
[didn't] win enough games."

The challenge of coaxing quality innings out of a makeshift
rotation--replacement starters include rookie reliever Tommy
Phelps and Double A call-up Dontrelle Willis--falls to McKeon and
new pitching coach Wayne Rosenthal, who was the organization's
minor league pitching coordinator. In the meantime, the Marlins
will continue running with little to show for it.

Brothers Battle Slumps
Giambis' Father Knows Best

Growing up, the Giambi brothers were taught to hit by their
father, John, and because both players have struggled at the
plate this season--through Sunday, Jason was hitting .214 for the
Yankees and Jeremy .209 for the Red Sox--fatherly consultations
have been in order on numerous occasions this year. John, a
Southern California bank president, visited New York City two
weeks ago to help Jason and on his cross-country return stopped
in Kansas City to work with Jeremy. After those recent meetings
with Dad, Jason went 6 for 18 with two home runs and five RBIs,
and Jeremy was 7 for 11 with a game-winning RBI against the Royals
on May 7 and hit two solo homers in a 9-8 loss to the Twins on
Sunday.

"I went up there feeling good in the box, and it all starts
there," says Jeremy of his approach to hitting after John's
visit. "We adjusted my hands a little bit and shifted my weight,
but it was mainly about helping my confidence." Added Jason,
"[Our father] built our swings as kids. When we hit he can see
things [and make adjustments] real quick."

COLOR PHOTO: JARED LAZARUS/MIAMI HERALD/AP (TORBORG) The first skipper fired this season, Torborg had a trying 200-game stint in Florida. COLOR PHOTO: RON VESELY/MLB PHOTOS (MANUEL) TWO COLOR PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MLB PHOTOS (HARGROVE AND MCCLENDON)

the Heat Index
BARELY MANAGING

BOILING OVER
Jerry Manuel
MELTING DOWN
Mike Hargrove
OVER-HEATING
Lloyd McClendon
SWEATING

With summer approaching, it's time to get a read on which
skippers are on the hot seat. After Jeff Torborg got the quick
hook in Florida, other firings may be imminent. White Sox G.M.
Kenny Williams hasn't given manager Jerry Manuel a vote of
confidence this year, and it appears that Manuel could take the
fall for his underachieving team. Also, time may be running out
for the Orioles' Mike Hargrove, whose club dropped four straight,
including three to the lowly Tigers, and the Pirates' Lloyd
McClendon, who's even getting blamed for dwindling attendance.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)