The Nexus Of The Universe

They're always some managers on the hot seat before the season begins Usually that means the team they have isn't expected to do so well during the actual season so when the team does start to struggle like expected, the manager will probably be canned fairly quickly. We all know it's not always the manager's fault. Actually most of the time it isn't. There's only so much the manager can do in baseball since the owner, GM, the actual players, and pure luck account for success or failure. But sometimes managers need to go. And right now on June 13th, I can think of a few scenarios where letting the manager walk might make sense. Either these teams are severely underachieving, just plain terrible, or the team is doing swell but the bad still outweighs the good. Earlier in the season the names that first came to mind were probably Ron Washington of the Rangers, John Gibbons of the Blue Jays, and Dave Trembley of the Orioles.

The O's were thought to be by mostly everyone the worst team in baseball heading into April. Not surprising when considering they lost their best pitcher and best hitter during the winter. But they have not been terrible thus far (32-33) considering what division they're in so Trembley seems to be off the hook right now in the rebuilding project. Ron Washington and the Texas Rangers have had a crazy roller-coaster season already. By the end of their April 24th 8-2 loss to the Tigers (their 7th straight loss at the time), they were 7-16 with a black hole of a pitching staff. Jason Jennings, a pick-up that was made to bring some depth to the rotation, was 0-4 and is now out for the season again. Washington looked completely toast. There was the argument that because he was a player's manager he wasn't pushing his guys hard enough. Fast forward to today and the Rangers have somehow pulled themselves back at .500 (34-34). Because of this under-the-radar resurgence, the seat has appeared to cool down for Washington which is the right thing since he didn't deserve to get fired even if the team continued to struggle. Joe McCarthy couldn't win with the Rangers' pitching staff. It's not Ron's fault that Texas has been maybe the worst team in baseball when it comes to trades and scouting. So now it's time to give him credit for this miraculous run the Rangers have enjoyed.

The last one mentioned in the first paragraph was John Gibbons. And with that I'll start the managers that I can see walking out:

John Gibbons- The Blue Jays are currently 34-34. While that's not terrible, it's disappointing for a team that's been trying desperately to keep the pace with the Yanks and Sox in the AL East. Vernon Wells has not lived up to the monstrous extension he signed a year or two ago, BJ Ryan has looked like a different closer since his big injury last year, and the team still doesn't have that aura that makes you afraid when they come to town. They have some good players but they still haven't proved to anyone that they can truly contend in the AL East for a full season. This is where John Gibbons comes in. Gibbons has maybe the best pitching staff in baseball in his hands yet has taken criticism for leaving his pitchers in the game too long for too many times which can come back to haunt you in August. And take into account all the money this organization has spent and the fact that Gibbons has had two confrontations with players fairly recently. With that said, the biggest problem in my eyes is the overall feeling of this team. Once again, they don't have that dominant tone around them. The Red Sox and Yanks have big proven pieces that have won and performed in the clutch while the Jays are missing that. They seem to be a rather bland team; an average club. Is that Gibbons' fault? Maybe not, since J.P. Ricciardi is the one that spent all the money and built the core. But this team has talent and to a team that has talent but still needs a pick-me-up, a new fiery manager might do the trick. I don't think John is in trouble yet, but if the Jays don't get hot soon it'll get interesting.

John McLaren- I'm shocked this guy still has a job. Regardless if the team's laughably horrendous play is his fault or not, Seattle needs so many fixes right now. And a new manager could only help since things can't get much worse for this organization already. Everything has been dismal. The hitting is putrid, the rotation and bullpen has been epic busts, and even the defense is a train wreck stuck in a tornado in the middle of an nuclear attack. And once again, this may not really be his fault. For every skipper mentioned here, they can just be victims of bad management by the upper office and mediocre players. But when times go this bad and this down the tubes, the manager is the most likely to blame because he's involved with every play in every game. And like Texas, there's no doubt the Mariners have screwed up to the max when it comes to building a solid baseball club for the long haul. But right now, if the guys upstairs want to at least show they care, firing John would say they acknowledge what's going on and will try to stop the bleeding. Normally when your team adds another ace (Eric Bedard) to go with the one you already have (Felix Hernandez), you don't except an utter collapse. But that's what happened and the wheels of change need to start turning. Firing John would be the first baby step.

Willie Randolph- If you live in NY, you've been hearing all this by now. All Met fans were ready to chase Willie down the Long Island Expressway with their torches and pitchforks even before Wagner's week of implosion (3 blown saves this week. He's given up 6 runs in his last 2.1 innings). And now that Wagner has decided to follow in his fellow teammate's footsteps in sucking, Willie is teetering on the edge of oblivion. Met fans have already made up their mind. Ever since the days of Bobby Valentine (who‘s still in Japan), the Mets have had a hard time finding a manager that fits with the organization and is a fan favorite. The Mets are 31-34 which is 4th in the division with the Braves. After the mind-blowing failure that was September of last year, the Mets had to get off to a hot start. Getting Johan Santana certainly looked like the boost this team needed. But that's the amazing thing: They've been worse than last year. Just imagine if they didn't get Johan Santana (which then Willie would probably be gone already) and just banked on getting Pedro back healthy. Speaking of Pedro, he's not that Pedro of old anymore. He's an average hurler now. But that's one of the very large problems this team has. Beltran and Reyes are now getting bashed on a daily bases, Aaron Heilman can't come into a game without giving up at least 2 homeruns, and the clubhouse has no leader. That mystique they had in 2006 when they always came back and won has evaporated. With all this said, I don't think firing Willie would help at all. First of all, who are you going to get to replace him? The Mets aren't just going to get any manager because they want a good name and they prefer someone tied in with the Mets organization. Yeah, Keith Hernandez fits that bill but he's never managed before and what would he do different to help the team? If this keeps going on into July, then I can see kicking Willie out and trying to save this team for 2009. But I wouldn't fire him yet. Although it looks like he might go very soon.

Ozzie Guillen- The White Sox are doing rather well right now. Even though they just got swept by the team full of DH's (Tigers), they're still in first place and eight games over .500. And while that little temper tantrum by Ozzie seemed to help the team get on a little run for a week or so, I keep wondering how much longer this will go on before the players, fans, or Kenny Williams has enough. I know Ken loves Ozzie and has always had his back, but even Ken was angry over him being thrown under the bus by his own manager; as he should be. And while that little outburst did seem to pick up the team, remember they got hot via pounding the Royals and Twins. This wasn't the Red Sox and Angels. The Twins and Royals are a combined 58-76 with an ERA of 4.67. If the team needs that before every easy stretch of the schedule, something is obviously out of whack. So do I think Ozzie should be fired now? Of course not. But it's an interesting situation to watch. If the team starts going down a slippery slope and losses control, Ozzie could very well lose control. And if that happens one too many times, he's out.

Clint Hurdle- Pulling the trigger now after the team's sudden climb to the World Series would be foolish. This team has the young talent and the firepower on all sides of the game to succeed in big spots as shown be last year's last minute dash to the finish line. Add the fact that the NL West is largely wide open now since the D-Backs have cooled down a ton. With that said, maybe that miracle run was a flash in the pan. Just a freak occurrence of a team getting all the breaks and taking the momentum with them game after game. I think this team can win like that again. They're young and have done a great job with player development over the past few years. But right now, that doesn't matter. They're 26-40 and have looked like the Rockies we all came accustomed too before last year: The team that could bash them out of the park but with no pitching. I like Clint Hurdle a lot actually. He's a really good baseball guy, a nice individual altogether, and it was nice to see him and that team have their chance in the spotlight last year (he's also a big Doors fan, so that automatically means he rules). If nothing happens this year, I can see letting him go in the off-season. But after the run last year, nothing is out of reach for this team.

Ned Yost- If this team is going to become a serious contender, this is the time to do it. When they still have Prince Fielder, Ben Sheets, and this core in tact. They've been pretty solid so far (35-31), but that's not good enough for a franchise that looked so good last year in the 1st half and then did their best "ice cream in the sun" impression. If they don't make the playoffs this year, it was a disappointment. And Yost would be to blame. If I remember, he did have a quarrel with a Johnny Estrada last year during the collapse. Then again, Estrada has been known for being a pain in the butt sometimes (which is a big reason why he's on the Nats right now) and the bullpen is so bad that he can only do so much with it. Banking on Eric Gagne to close for the year is in the "Dumbest Decisions Of The Year" discussion (coming soon). On the other side of the coin, the pitching overall hasn't been awful and once again this team's time to be serious is now. Maybe they need a good kick in the pants to jumpstart the mood of the clubhouse a little more. The jury is still out on this one. The Brew Crew are a weird franchise.

So there are six managers, one from each division, that will be worth watching over the course of the season. While organizations have shown that they are less willing to fire managers because of the parody in baseball these days and because they don't want to eat their contracts, if some situations keep going the way they are now then heads will roll. This baseball season has been anything but normal already, so never throw anything out the window.


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