When umpires in the 2004 ALCS twice convened after questionable calls and reversed both of them--getting the calls right each time--the credit belonged to Sandy Alderson (right). As executive vice president of baseball operations, Alderson successfully overhauled an archaic culture in which the men in blue often let wrong calls stand rather than risk showing up one of their brethren.
Moreover, Alderson succeeded in defining a uniform strike zone (the QuesTec controversy has abated), improving the pace of play, quietly negotiating a new labor agreement with umpires and implementing measures (quick warnings, less confrontational attitude by umpires) that have reduced on-field altercations. Ready for a new challenge, and with an apolitical nature that might actually disqualify him as the next commissioner, Alderson, a former Athletics general manager and mentor to current Oakland G.M. Billy Beane, agreed last week to become chief executive officer of the Padres.
"I'm flattered when my name is mentioned," Alderson said of succeeding Bud Selig, "but I've never been one to look for the next opportunity. All my life I've been steadfast in my approach that you try to take advantage of the opportunity you have. This is a chance to go back with a team and enjoy all the ups and downs. I missed that."
San Diego owner John Moores brought in Alderson to invigorate a franchise that he said had gone "to sleep" in recent years. He hired the best available executive in baseball. In the major league office it appears that Alderson's old job may be split between two people: Vice president of labor relations Rob Manfred may take on supervision of umpires, and several names have been mentioned for on-field operations.
Who's the ace of the Cubs? Since the start of the 2003 season, it has been righthander Carlos Zambrano (below left).
CARLOS ZAMBRANO¬†¬†¬†¬†IP: 450.1*¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L: 31-19¬†¬†¬†¬†ERA: 2.94
MARK PRIOR¬†¬†¬†¬†IP: 343¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L: 26-10¬†¬†¬†¬†ERA: 2.89
KERRY WOOD¬†¬†¬†¬†IP: 374.2¬†¬†¬†¬†W-L: 23-21¬†¬†¬†¬†ERA: 3.56
*STATISTICS THROUGH SUNDAY
1. Former Pirates manager Jim Leyland, who has the itch to manage again, is the logical successor if Pittsburgh continues to slip and Lloyd McClendon is fired.
2. When the Devils Rays' Joey Gathright was sent to the minors, Tigers centerfielder Nook Logan (right) became the fastest man in baseball, according to most scouts.
3. The Mets may have started 10-9, but shortstop Jose Reyes, with no walks in 82 at bats and a .280 on-base percentage, is ill-suited to be a leadoff hitter.