There’s a chill in the air and that means that rosters have expanded and the playoff races are officially on. The biggest story has been the red hot Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who are 15-4 over their last 19, including a four-game sweep of the Oakland A’s, and that’s without staff ace Garrett Richards. As if leading all of baseball in the standings wasn’t enough, the Angels also lead the American League in attendance, which should make Angel Stadium a rocking environment the rest of the way and into the postseason.
The other huge story is the Baltimore Orioles, who now have the second-best record in baseball with a patchwork rotation, no Manny Machado, and a shell of Chris Davis. Other big stories lately include the youth movement in Chicago that has pushed the Cubs to a .500 record in the second half after a 40-54 first half, the Milwaukee Brewers’ collapse that has sent the St. Louis Cardinals to the top of the NL Central, and the firing of Houston Astros manager Bo Porter.
The Porter firing is rather interesting. Porter reportedly had problems getting along with general manager Jeff Luhnow. It’s not surprising to see the Astros go a different direction, especially with a window of contention on the horizon with a lot of exciting young prospects, but the Astros played really hard for Porter in spite of the fact that they were never going to be a factor in the standings and were destined to lose close 90 or more games once again.
It is that time of year, however. Managers on the hot seat are going to need some aloe for their backsides and some of them may even be resigned to the fact that their tenure is coming to a close. It’s always interesting to see how managers handle the final days. Some selfishly put players into tough positions to try and get wins to pad their resume, while others will put the organization first and let the youngsters play. More on the managers in a moment, but here’s the weekly injury update.
Dustin Pedroia is out with a concussion for the rapidly-sinking Boston Red Sox, who already cashed their season win total under bet last week. Mike Aviles hit his face pretty violently in the outfield on Monday and could be out for a few days for the Indians. The Detroit Tigers could be without Anibal Sanchez for the rest of the season as he has not resumed throwing from a pectoral muscle injury. Henderson Alvarez is likely done for the season for the Marlins with an oblique strain. The Mets aren’t playing for anything and Daniel Murphy’s calf injury weakens their offense significantly. Not many injuries this week, but roster expansion has made most of them insignificant anyway.
Going back to managers, especially guys on the hot seat. There are quite a few of them this time around and there could be as many as five or six managerial openings when it’s all said and done. Some are because of front office changes. Others are because the team simply hasn’t performed.
The first name on the hot seat has to be Ron Washington. Washington was nearly fired last season after the Rangers failed to miss the playoffs despite winning 91 games. This season, the Rangers have been positively awful, but injuries have played a big part in that. The biggest problem is that the Rangers have quit on the season and that’s a reflection on Washington. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nolan Ryan make a decision on Washington. The Rangers have already quit on the season, so keep fading away.
Another name on the hot seat is Ron Gardenhire. The longtime Minnesota Twins manager is in the midst of his fourth straight 90-loss season and third last place finish in the last four years. With some young blood coming up the pipeline for the Twins, they may opt for somebody that can relate better to the players. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gardenhire scooped up right away if the Twins do part with him. Gardenhire’s Twins play hard, there’s just not enough talent on the team.
Another name on the hot seat is Bud Black. The Padres have been playing a lot better of late and Black has had no luck on the injury front. The Padres already made a GM change and moved around some other parts of the front office, which was sorely needed after years of promising prospects got hurt or busted. With a new regime, Black will probably be let go unless he can lead the Padres to a very strong record by the end of September. Even then, it may not matter. But, the Padres will keep playing hard, as they have been.
Kirk Gibson is almost a guarantee to be fired from Arizona. He’s a guy to fade the rest of the way because it’s unlikely that he will ever find another managerial job given some of his transgressions. Another guy in that same boat is Terry Collins of the New York Mets. He’ll keep burning out his bullpen arms and selfishly trying to salvage his managerial career. Fade him until the end.
Robin Ventura should be fired in Chicago, but the cupboard has been pretty bare for him on the pitching staff. He’s not a good tactician during games, but with his ties to the organization, he’ll probably get to stay. Walt Weiss in Colorado is an interesting case because injuries have derailed Colorado’s season and they played well for Weiss before the injury bug bit. He may get another year to see what he can do.
Handicapping the managers at this time of the year is very important. Managers there for the long haul with patient GMs can play their exciting youngsters, a la Rick Renteria with the Cubs. Other managers will do whatever they can to try and win games at the expense of the franchise’s future. Those are guys to fade late in the season because some veterans have already started making their postseason travel plans for vacations with their families.