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Showalter rumors way off


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DIAMOND NOTES: May 18

We probably will never know if, as rumored around baseball, Buck Showalter was the choice of the Royals baseball people to be the club's new manager and that owner David Glass was sold on Tony Pena because of Glass' relationship with Astros owner Drayton McLane. We will never know because Royals GM Allard Baird is too loyal to Glass to ever address the issue, and because Baird and everyone who has ever known Pena roots so hard for him that they believe he will become a good manager.

"When I asked him if he had any questions about the job, Tony asked, 'every off day, can I go to the minor leagues with you, and if we're one player away, can we get him,' " says Baird. "That fascinated me. Two ends of the spectrum. He has unbelievable energy, and he brings a lot to this organization. We got down to four candidates, any of whom would have been an extraordinary manager for the Royals."

I stayed awake at night worried that Buck would get the Boston job.
Brian Cashman, Yankees GM, on Buck Showalter

Pena will get a lot of help from his coaches, from pitching coach Al Nipper to bench coach Bob Schaefer to first-base coach Tom Gamboa to former interim manager John Mizerock. Baird is easy to work for because he so respects his people.

There also were some unattributed shots taken at Showalter in Kansas City about things that simply aren't true.

"I checked into everything I heard of about Buck," says Baird, "and they all turned out to be false. It's really a shame that anyone that good, whose history of managing is so strong, would have to take some of those shots."

Showalter was never fired in New York; he quit because Yankees owner George Steinbrenner wanted to fire some of his coaches. "I stayed awake at night worried that Buck would get the Boston job," says Yankees GM Brian Cashman.

The Arizona business is very complicated, but suffice it to say that he put the team -- especially the roster -- in place to win a world championship. "Sure, I learned some things," says Showalter. "I learned things in every job I had. I'll be fine."

Cubs manager Don Baylor is taking a public pounding in Chicago, and reports have surfaced about the possibility of Blue Jays manager Buck Martinez being replaced by his third-base coach, Carlos Tosca, although the Blue Jays have played better of late and their pitching is starting to get healthy and straight.

With five managers fired so quickly into this season, it seems every time a team slides, there are cries for more heads. Or for the heads of coaches. And the players are not being held accountable.

Future looking bright for Reds
Sometime soon, perhaps even by the end of this week, Ken Griffey Jr. will return to the Reds lineup. Perhaps before then, they will sign pitcher Jeff Shaw, and in the next few weeks Joey Hamilton, John Riedling, Lance Davis and Seth Etherton may also return to the pitching staff, as well. With Luis Pineda gunning it in the upper 90s and Scott Williamson not far behind, Reds GM Jim Bowden thinks "we can have as strong a bullpen as anyone"(if Scott Sullivan's 118-game and Gabe White's 85-game paces don't wear them out).

As the Cardinals and Astros began their charges this week, it was clear that each team fears that if Cincinnati gets enough momentum, with their positional talent and bullpen that they must be taken seriously. Especially if the starting pitching falls in place.

In reality, the Reds' starting pitching had a 26-16 record with a 3.28 ERA after Saturday. Chris Reitsma (2.85 ERA) has allowed two or fewer runs in five of his eight starts, and seems to be blossoming. Elmer Dessens (2.45 ERA) has also been solid. Joey Hamilton looked like the '97 Hamilton and will be back soon. Jose Rijo is also 4-1.

As Bowden gets his other pitchers back off rehab, he has the ability to make a trade. If he can convince ownership to take on a contract or two and write it off as part of moving into the new ballpark, he has positional depth to trade. With a good young catcher in Dane Sardinha (currently playing at Double-A Chattanooga), Bowden can trade a good major-league catcher (Corky Miller or Jason LaRue), a producing outfielder (Juan Encarnacion) and a top minor-league hitter (first baseman Ben Broussard, compared by hitting coach Mike Easler to Jim Edmonds), as well as a reliever. And every one is a low-salaried player.

Oh, so sorry: The labor front and Canseco
"What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."
-- Abraham Lincoln

Skunkism I. Baseball continues to be the only entertainment industry where those that run the business continually tell their consumers how bad their product is. So it is since the owners, two days after an unforgettable World Series, chose to try to contract two teams and run their business into the ground. It is amazing as they set up a labor stance that failed in 1994 -- unless many owners consider it a victory that they shut down the World Series -- and have spent seven months trying to vilify the product they theoretically are marketing. As both sides essentially bargain in bad faith, the owners simple strategy is to get to an impasse and implement, daring the players to strike, knowing that since the players would have no choice but to prepare for that strike.

That now has happened. It was unwise for the Players Association leaders to put the players back in the public fire by announcing their strike preparations. They should be working harder to make the consumers understand that the players are asking for nothing, this is one of the few unions that does not demand scheduled pay raises and allows laborers to be fired and asked only for a free market (albeit one fueled by the articificial market steering of arbitration).

Skunkism II. Jose Canseco. Blackballed? Give us a break. A tell-all book? Fine, his steroid claims further discount his 462 career home runs, which given the era translates to about 350 for those who came up in the early 1970s.

Canseco led the AL in at least one category four times. He knocked in more than 95 runs once after 1992, inexcusable for a run-producing player who'd let himself get out of baseball shape so badly that he could only DH. Compare him to Dwight Evans, who won nine Gold Gloves, who given the larger ballparks, smaller bodies and for several seasons in the '70s played with the cowhide experiment that led to so many balls falling apart and softening, and the 462/385 home run difference is no difference at all.

Evans played in two World Series, and in both 1975 -- with his catch of a Joe Morgan flyball that rivalled Willie Mays in '54 and Devon White in '93 -- was Boston's best player, finishing with a .300 series average. Canseco's only postseason defensive memory was an embarrassment in the 1990 World Series in Cincinnati that outraged A's manager Tony LaRussa at the time, and his postseason career offensive totals were 19-for-102.

Puhleaze. The notion of a second rate DH being in the Hall of Fame ahead of a superior player who was the best defensive right fielder I saw in 25 years is an affront to the sport. So go write the book, or have someone else write it, and get some Miami talk show host who wouldn't know baseball from dog racing to moan your failure to make it to Cooperstown.

Evans was a better player than Canseco in every single phase of the game. The funny thing is that Canseco is a good guy and was liked by his teammates ... he just wasn't a very good baseball player the last 10 years of his career, which made him one of the biggest wastes of talent of his time.

Around the majors

  • The White Sox have shopped Carlos Lee for a starting pitcher. As is, the White Sox are heavily right-handed and have Jeff Liefer waiting in the wings. They talked to Oakland about Cory Lidle, were turned down and now Lidle is on the DL with a sore shoulder ... Funny, hey.

  • The Rangers and A's are in the right places. But Texas, because of its solid starting pitching, has played better of late despite injuries to Juan Gonzalez, Pudge Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, et al. Oakland as struggled because Tim Hudson is in a three-game slide and Mark Mulder is struggling to get healthy again to go along with Barry Zito. The pitching just hasn't been good enough to get to closer Billy Koch.

  • It was thought all along that Texas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Scott Boras Enterprises, would take one of Boras' two prime college pitchers, Jeremy Guthrie of Stanford or Bobby Brownlie of Rutgers. But they may take a positional player, and are looking hard at two of the fastest rising high school outfielders in John Mayberry, Jr. out of Kansas City, and Jeremy Hermedia of Marietta, Ga. Mayberry could get picked sixth by the Royals, and Hermedia is considered by some teams the best bat in the draft. Why not pitching for the Rangers? They think they are loaded in the high minors, with Colby Lewis, Joaquin Benoit, Aaron Myette, Mario Ramos, Rob Bell, Travis Hughes among the best. Funny. When owner Tom Hicks fired former GM Doug Melvin, he said, "I have reviewed the minor leagues and I don't like what I see."

  • Pudge Rodriguez will soon learn whether or not he needs surgery for his herniated disc, which raises several issues about his free agency. And don't forget, Rodriguez was nearly traded to the Yankees for Jorge Posada and Tony Armas -- but remained with Texas by signing an undermarket deal. Posada, meanwhile, is now arguably the best catcher in the AL.

    Everett
    Everett

  • In defense of Carl Everett: "Carl is Carl, I know, but the reason he wasn't ready to start the season," says one Boston coach, "is that the Red Sox wouldn't let him have the knee operation he needed because they were afraid if he were operated on, they couldn't trade him."

  • Comparisons are fun. Seattle hitting coach Gerald Perry, who once worked with Shea Hillenbrand in the Boston organization, likens Hillenbrand's hitting to Phil Nevin.

  • Todd Stottlemyre is aiming to return the second week of June -- and start in Yankee Stadium in front of his dad, Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre.

  • No, the Mets organization is not worried about its offense. But, yes, they are worried about Edgardo Alfonzo's lack of power. Through 42 games, Alfonzo has no homers.

  • The Mariners take infielders and put them in the outfield all the time, but when Red Sox manager Grady Little put Jose Offerman in the outfield, there was consternation in Boston.

    "Middle infielders are athletes," says Little. "Anyway, the two best infielders I've ever seen go back on balls are Terry Pendleton and Offerman."

  • It seems increasingly likely that Donald Watkins will buy the Angels, and has hired former Angels club president Richard Brown as a consultant. Watkins would also be wise to hire Dennis Gilbert away from the White Sox.

    Burroughs
    Burroughs

  • If you're wondering about Sean Burroughs' lack of power (he has one homer in 30 games), he is bothered by a shoulder impingement, an injury that remains from last season. "Sean just can't get full extension," says Padres GM Kevin Towers.

  • In this season in which the Devil Rays have been stuck in transition, Steve Cox has become a first-rate hitter and first baseman and has finally been given a full opportunity to show his talents.

  • Reports of angry AOL stockholders at their meeting this past week raises the question of whether or not the demanded belt-tightening might not impact the Braves and their ability to 1. add players for the stretch run and 2. sign both Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine after this season.

  • One opposing manager: "The Cubs may look lifeless and everyone may blame Don Baylor, but they are old and they are slow." Moises Alou and Fred McGriff combined are under .200, and just the idea that Todd Hundley could dislocate his thumb twice seems preposterous. Players believe they lost a lot of life when Matt Stairs, Eric Young, Rondell White and Ricky Gutierrez all left.

  • Hats off to Mark Grace for taking the inevitable Erubiel Durazo replacement with dignity.

  • Byung-Hyun Kim not only worked 12 times in the first 17 days of May and has all those gaudy numbers, but he averages 3.8 outs per save. Last year, the leader in outs per save was Derek Lowe (3.63), followed by Kim (3.58) and Danny Graves (3.38), according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

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