Manager changes to a team have had adverse (and numerous) effects on ball clubs over the tenure of the MLB. Teams cut managers loose during the offseason, add another one and it can end up being the best move they made, propelling them to a decade of elite MLB status; the opposite being the newly brought in skipper is given the boot and sent out the door in 1-2 years, the team spiraling into years of winless seasons. And then there are those times when an organization hits the panic button mid-way through a season, cutting ties with a manager and bringing in an interim. Those are always and have been the sign of abandoning ship, the official waving of the white flag.
In this past week, there were three clubs waiving those flags of embarrassment: the Blue Jays, Mariners and Mets. Willie Randolph, as we all know by now, was let go at midnight after a game by Omar Manaya. This naturally has enraged Mets fans, disgracing the Mets organization and their subpar beginning to the '08 campaign.
The Mariners cut ties with John McLaren, who had led the Mariners to the worst record in baseball during a season that was sky high with expectations. A new ace, Eric Bedard, new pickups and signings and this team to the untrained eye looked to be full of potential. But then Richie Sexson showed his lack of value, as did Adrian Beltre, and the rest of the M's went nowhere but in circles, leading them to a loss of a manager.
Like the Mets, the Blue Jays have been underachieving this season, much like the past few years. They've had the players but haven't been able to put anything together in the tough AL East, which has gotten even more tough this year with the upstart Rays and O's. Enter Cito Gaston, the manager that led the Jays to titles in '92 and '93, and maybe, just maybe this team can get going again. They've snapped their losing streak and are being led by someone who knows the game and the organization that is signing his checks.
In other news, there are the Cubs suffering from injuries to Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, the White Sox still scorching hot (offensively) and those damn Yankees well over .500. Teams like the Diamondbacks are in searh of wins after getting swept by the Twins over the weekend, a team that once was the hottest in the Majors. News of a possible retirement from Curt Schilling lit SportsCenter up like a roman candle for a few days -- and they're still buzzing over that one.
But back to those Yanks. They've been getting loads of production and wins since the return of Jorge Posada. A-Rod and the lineup are hitting extremely well, and the pitching has picked up slightly with the implementation of Joba Chamberlain - despite the fact he hasn't picked up a win yet. Leading the charge in the rotation is Andy Pettitte, who hasn't given up a run in his last 19-innings pitched.
Pettitte's Stats: 13 IP, 9 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 13 K, 2-0
Behind the Cubs and the very surprising St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central are the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew are 6.5 back of the Cubs, with a record of 41-34, good enough for 1st in the NL West or 2nd in the NL East. The Brewers are on a two-game win streak and have won seven of their last 10 games, mostly due to the stellar production of Prince Fielder. Fielder hit five home runs this week, even one of them being an inside the park shot. Fans in Milwaukee got to see Fielder chug his way ‘round the bases in just over 16-seconds, which was documented by the goons up in Bristol.
Fielder's Stats: 8/22, 9 R, 8 RBI, 3 BB, 5 HR, .363 BA
One of the reasons that the AL East is so much tougher this season is not only the Tampa Bay Rays, but also the Baltimore Orioles, who right now sit two-games over .500 at 38-36. The O's have a few stars, like Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, who lead the team to a few solid rankings, most notably in stolen bases (2nd). They also feature players like Aubrey Huff, who lead the team in home runs and are propelling the O's to their 6th spot in slugging. The O's haven't been an easy out all year long, making the path to a division crown oh-so much harder for the favorites in Boston and New York. Huff, as mentioned just a bit ago, had a monster week hitting well over .400 and hitting four-home runs.
Huff's Stats: 9/20, 5 R, 6 RBI, 3 BB, 4 HR, .450 BA
Despite being on a three-game losing streak, and losing six of their last 10 games, the White Sox are still in first place out in the AL Central. With the Twins right on their tail, the Chi-Sox have brought more tenacity and consistency to the ball park than last year, and as of late it has been seen in the lineup. In the month of June, they've scored 10-runs or more seven times, even averaging 5.7-runs per-game in their last 10 - sadly not getting enough out of the pitching in that stretch. Leading the way for the Sox's deadly offense right now is guys like Nick Swisher, Joe Crede, A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome and most importantly, Jermaine Dye, who has now reached 16-home runs on the year, with five this past week.
Dye's Stats: 10/24, 7 R, 12 RBI, 1 BB, 5 HR, .416 BA
MLB Player of the Week: Jermaine Dye
Thursday afternoon in Boston was fun filled with the parade passing through the city for the Boston Celtics. The C's captured their 17th NBA Championship Tuesday night in dominating fashion. The game ended at 131-92, the 39-point margin being the most in a Finals clinching game. The Celtics and Lakers played a close opening quarter of basketball -- a quarter featuring Bryant repeating his play in Game 5 with multiple three's and a quick start for the likes of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett.
It was 24-20 after the first, and it was never that close for the remainder of the game. Boston clobbered the Lakers in any and all statistical categories, roaring past the Lakers and having a bit of fun near the end of it - see Rivers' Gatorade shower for exhibit A.
This week's three key players for the NBA are from the Celtics, because honestly, no one showed up for the Lakers to be honored here.
Ray Allen's Stats: 26 Pts, 8/12, 4 REB, 3 STL, 2 AST
Kevin Garnett's Stats: 26 Pts, 10/18, 14 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK
Rajon Rondo's Stats: 21 Pts, 8/20, 8 AST, 7 REB, 6 STL
NBA Player of the Week: Rajon Rondo
Winning has been a trend for Kyle Busch so far this year. He's gotten four wins -- that benig more wins that he had in the last four years combined -- and even picking up hate from Earnhardt Nation along the way. The only thing he had lacked coming into Sonoma on Sunday was a win on a road course.
He left Sunday with his fifth Sprint Cup Series win of 2008; his first on a road track. The most interesting part of his win was the fact that he started 30th due to a poor qualifying run. Busch took the lead after a restart from Juan Pablo Montoya - last year's winner at Sonoma - and never relinquished it, and never was even challenged.
Tiger Woods had to take it to Sudden Death on Monday to finally win the U.S. Open -- an event his doctors and trainers told him he shouldn't have participated in. Woods hit a birdie putt on 18 on Sunday afternoon to push the Open to a playoff against Rocco Mediate. On Monday, he hit another birdie on 18 to send things to Sudden Death, where Woods was able to get it done in one-hole.
The ramifications of his remarkable, yet painful showing at the Open are that he is out for the remainder of the year for surgery on his knee. Woods was seen in serious pain numerous times during the five-day U.S. Open and it's obvious that because of him playing, his knee was wrecked to the point that he must undergo yet another surgery. And this may carry with it serious changes in his game for the rest of his career. For all we know, he might not be the Tiger we know when he returns.
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It's gotta be fun being in the city of Chicago nowadays. Both the Cubs and White Sox are winning, and in very exciting ways. This past week the two teams got together for a three-game set at Wrigley, and next week will do it all over again at U.S. Cellular. Both teams have their issues; injuries for the Cubs, pitching for the White Sox. But it's obvious that both teams have big names and ones that can crank the ball for their team. Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome played well this week for the Cubs, leading them to wins over the White Sox. Even guys who were disposed of from other teams like Jim Edmonds chipped in heavily - for him, it was two home runs in one inning during one game. Leading the way for the white and black was practically the entire lineup, but none more dynamic than Jermaine Dye. Dye reached 16-home runs for the year this week, having a multi-home run game and topping out at five for the week. Maybe the most impressive part was that he threw in seven-runs along side 12-runs batted in. Certainly he can make himself a lock for the AL All Star roster if he can continue his hot streak.
SIFS Player of the Week: Jermaine Dye