Toast in Texas?
Tide turns on Showalter; other managers on hot seat
Posted: Thursday September 28, 2006 12:43PM; Updated: Thursday September 28, 2006 2:27PM
A very interesting managerial market could have yet another intriguing wrinkle. A person familiar with discussions within the Texas Rangers hierarchy said there is now serious thought being given to parting ways with manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter's fate is far from sealed, but his job status started to get shakier when articles began to appear in Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers suggesting that his players didn't exactly like or trust him. That led to a recounting of similar feelings in Showalter's previous stops and probably got his Texas bosses thinking.
Firing Showalter makes a lot more sense than overhauling the roster. Rangers owner Tom Hicks needs to read the remedial sports-ownership book, but even he must know it makes more sense to change managers than half the team. The mistake was in extending Showalter's contract through 2009, though it's hard to see why it would be worth perpetuating that error now. I don't have to remind Hicks that he's wasted a lot more money in the past.
This is the first year in a while that all 30 managers will survive the season. But a few may just make it by a day or two. Here are the guys whose seats are hot, warm, lukewarm or still cool:
Hot Seats (Goners)
1. Dusty Baker, Cubs
It's hard to believe, but the ultralikable, three-time National League Manager of the Year isn't that well-liked in Chicago. And more to the point, the evaluation period of the second half didn't go any better than the first. General manager Jim Hendry probably would have earned his own exit had he not signed an extension before the season. Joe Girardi, an Illinois native, ex-Cub and Northwestern graduate who's about to be fired in Florida for no good reason, is the strong leader to replace Baker.
2. Girardi, Marlins
He did a great job but couldn't get along with his bosses. They disagreed over how much input he should have in personnel moves (they thought none), his choices on the coaching staff (they despised his loyal lieutenant Gary Tuck) and various other things. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is a Steinbrenner wannabe, so maybe Girardi becomes his own Billy Martin. In any case, Girardi is days from being fired. Braves third base coach Fredi Gonzalez is Girardi's likely successor.
3. Frank Robinson, Nationals
His bosses are said to be giving the all-time great the silent treatment in D.C., and Robinson has been around long enough to know what that means. But he's a tough guy, requested a three-year extension, is not the retiring type and is going to make firing him as uncomfortable as possible. Maybe Robinson isn't the greatest manager, but the Nationals' standards weren't so high when it came to their general manager. Thing is, Jim Bowden ingratiated himself with new owner Ted Lerner's son. Robinson sucks up to no one.
4. Felipe Alou, Giants
Alou's recent remarks suggest he knows he's in his last year managing the team, and he probably is. The veteran team will get younger in the manager's office, at least. A little younger, anyway. Jim Fregosi has long been rumored to be a candidate, and maybe he finally gets a deserved chance at a comeback.
Warm Seats (50-50 at best to stay)
5. Showalter, Rangers
The idea that the Rangers were going to "blow things up," as one person familiar with their thinking indicated they were planning to do, never made sense. Texas has young talent, just not young talent that wants to play for the controlling Showalter, who's already orchestrated the exits of Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Mench, Laynce Nix and others. Time to stop the madness.
6. Mike Hargrove, Mariners
The firing of coach Dan Rohn, who was reported to be giving unflattering portrayals of Hargrove, was viewed as a positive sign for Hargrove. However, I've heard those same sort of negative portrayals from others in the Mariners camp, others who are still around. Hargrove is supposedly taking part in the search to replace ousted buddy Ron Hassey as bench coach, and that was seen as a good sign as well. But Hargrove was said two months ago by someone close to the situation to be just about done, and it isn't like they've caught fire since then. Lou Piniella and Baker have been mentioned as possibilities if Hargrove goes, but Bobby Valentine might be Seattle's best choice for a turnaround.
Lukewarm Seats (Better get off to a decent start next year)
7. Ned Yost, Brewers
GM Doug Melvin said the Brewers would have to collapse for him to consider a managerial change, and while they've suffered losing streaks of nine and 10 games, they haven't exactly crumbled. Mark Attanasio, the Brewers' relatively new owner, is anxious to win now and surely not thrilled that the team has taken a step backward. It's just a small step though, so Yost survives for now.
8. Buddy Bell, Royals
Word around the Royals is that new GM Dayton Moore very much likes the popular Bell and is now leaning toward keeping him after doing some due diligence and investigating some outside possibilities much earlier. The Royals have responded in recent weeks, and it appears that the only thing that could keep Bell away are his health concerns. He recently had a mass removed from his tonsil area, and word should arrive soon about how serious the situation is.
9. John Gibbons, Blue Jays
GM J.P. Ricciardi backed Gibbons strongly, even emphatically, after Gibbons got into back-to-back altercations with players. From here, Gibbons was wrong both times. But Gibbons has shown potential in the past, and it's Ricciardi's prerogative to give Gibbons a third chance.
10. Sam Perlozzo, Orioles
Baltimore recently announced that Perlozzo is returning after yet another lackluster performance in crab town. No matter the results, Perlozzo is a favorite of owner Peter Angelos, who still thinks he knows enough to call the shots after a decade of bad decisions.
Seat Still Cool (They've got another year, at least)
11. Joe Maddon, Devil Rays
A couple of days after coming under some fire for being too calm, he went absolutely wild in supporting out-of-control pitching coach Mike Butcher by arguing a ball call against Jae Seo as if that was the team's turning point. By Devil Rays standards, this year wasn't their worst. Or their best.
12. Clint Hurdle, Rockies
They're going to be patient in Colorado with Hurdle and their young players. Realistically speaking, the Rockies were a year away anyway.
13. Terry Francona, Red Sox
As long as GM Theo Epstein is in charge, Francona should be safe. Reports out of Boston suggest Larry Lucchino isn't necessarily broken up about young Theo's 2006 struggles. Lucchino was said to have very much enjoyed running baseball operations in November and December, and if Lucchino regains any power, that's when Francona should start worrying.
14. Phil Garner, Astros
Houston made a big run last year and is doing it again this year, albeit a lot later. Garner's much better at running a clubhouse than a game, but there's no indication he'd pay if the Astros' first $100 million team comes up short.
15. Charlie Manuel, Phillies
A dead man walking halfway through the year, Manuel has gotten the Phillies to show a lot more fight than anyone figured they could.
•Mets manager Willie Randolph is going to have to make the hard decision of whether to sit Pedro Martinez for the Division Series or pitch him when he's got nothing. Martinez is used to having a say in everything, but this decision needs to be made by Randolph and the club's other decision-makers.
•Even if Pedro were himself, the Mets aren't exactly flying into the postseason. Carlos Beltran is batting .160 in September and looking a lot less than 100 percent. And the rest of the team isn't doing much better (with the notable exception of budding superstar Jose Reyes). "You'd think the Mets would do well. But they've shut it down," one competing GM said. "Going into postseason play, you better have momentum."
•Speaking of shutting it down, there's the White Sox. A scout said it looked like they quit on Ozzie Guillen the last couple of weeks.
•There's more than a decent amount of scuttlebutt about Barry Zito going to the Padres. He'd be a natural replacement for David Wells.
•Torii Hunter is one of my favorites players and one of the best interviews in baseball, but he should curtail the salary/free-agent talk now. Beyond the fact that the Twins are one of the best stories of the year and a real threat, he's sounding just a little desperate to stay.
•The Royals are finally spending a few pennies of the millions they get in revenue-sharing. They even had a scout watching Daisuke Matsuzaka. They won't sign him, of course, but even the plane trip to Japan is a big step forward.
•K.C. owner David Glass might have been feeling a little guilty for pocketing so many millions in revenue-sharing. He recently handed out fat raises to his front-office folks.
•In speaking about Ryan Howard, one NL GM said, "I don't know how he doesn't win" the NL MVP.
•The Scott Kazmir trade will never be recalled fondly in New York, as Victor Zambrano has been a bust. But while Kazmir was an All-Star this year, he has missed practically the entire second half. And when he tried to throw recently, he had to quit after nine pitches, citing a still-hurting shoulder.
•Gary Sheffield may be a great athlete and a former infielder, but he may also be on the way to proving it isn't possible to become a big-league first baseman in a week. After just a few games, he's in a dead heat with Jason Giambi.